I may be biased, but I think it takes a unique kind of person to excel in marketing. There’s a specific blend of skills and personality traits that equip someone to do the job well. Unfortunately, that particular combination may be difficult for others in the organization to tolerate, especially if they are risk-averse or not as open to change. No great surprise, most marketing pros typically clash with the CFO and CIO roles.
If you find yourself in the market for an agency or an internal CMO type of team member, you’re going to want to interview for these specific traits to make sure they can get the job done. But you may also have to steel yourself to deal with them on a daily basis if you tend to be more methodical and measured in your day-to-day activities and decision-making.
A study by Russell Reynolds Associates looked at over 5,000 data points, comparing CMOs with other C-suite roles and identified these trends and commonalities among those who shared the role. They found that CMOs have an extreme leadership and behavioral profile that included these attributes:
Growth minded: Marketing people love metrics, goals and chasing after a defined target. The drive to cross the finish line is admirable but may need to be tempered if it clouds bigger picture judgment.
Bold/risk taker: This trait is essential, but it can cause a lot of anxiety in the C-suite. It’s always been a vital aspect of most marketing professionals, but in today’s environment, it’s essential.
Rule-bender: CMOs are not particularly beholden to rules and guidelines. They’re used to being in undefined territory and having to figure it out as they go along. They’re far less about convention than many others in their organization. Limits and boundaries are more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule.
Tenacious: Stubborn, persistent, unrelenting. While not entirely flattering, these are words that are often used as descriptors for those who choose marketing as a vocation. To be successful, they have to be willing to stick with a new idea or unconventional tactic to give it time to work.
People people: People tend to like CMOs and other marketing types. They’re outgoing and inclusive. They want everyone to come along for the journey, and they can usually persuade their peers to do just that.
Imaginative: This trait probably doesn’t come as a surprise. But actually, this skill isn’t so much about the marketing itself but instead about the organization’s overall business position, and the creative problem solving that is needed today.
Curious/abstract thinker: Marketers ask a lot of questions, and some of them feel a little random or unrelated. Don’t shut those down. Seeing how seemingly disparate elements influence one another or connect is one of their unique gifts. It helps you identify opportunities that others will miss.
If you’re a marketing professional, I’m guessing that you recognize yourself in at least some of these skills and traits. You probably also recognize that there are aspects of how you show up at work that may cause your peers to struggle with your methodologies. One of the ways we can get to the goal line quicker is to find ways to bring the rest of the team with us as we move closer.
If you plan to hire someone to handle your marketing (either as an employee or as a business partner) or you just want to get better at marketing yourself – these traits are the common denominators that will get your company the exposure and growth you want. But you have to decide if your organization is ready for the disruption that comes as part of the package.
This was originally published in The Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.