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Best Practices When Hiring a CMO


A superstar chief marketing officer (CMO) helps your business runs more smoothly on many fronts, including advertising, sales, customer service, social media, pricing, research, and strategic planning. In fact, other than the CEO, the CMO can add the most value to your organization out of all C-suite hires, according to Forbes magazine.

However, Forbes also points out the glaring issue with hiring a CMO: The job has fairly high turnover, with most CMOs at mid-sized companies staying just 4 years. And that’s actually an improvement from a decade ago, when CMOs were leaving companies every 2 to 3 years.

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Marketing is a highly competitive field, so you’ll have to give your CMO tempting reasons to join your team and stay for the long term. Here are some best practices to follow when hiring a new CMO.

Make Your Mission Clear

From the moment you start the CMO hiring process, your marketing mission should be evident. It should be front-and-center in your recruitment messages, and if candidates go to your website they should see a clear company mission statement.

Why is this so important? Because your CMO is a brand ambassador for your company, and every good candidate will want to be crystal-clear about what brand they’d represent. Before they ever consider responding to an employment ad, they want to understand what you’re all about.

If your company abides by certain ethics, say so. Make your mission obvious. Are you a tech company that wants to lead innovation? A family-owned charitable organization? A small business looking to expand? Great CMOs care about these details.

Make their marketing mission clear too. Advertise something specific like, “We’re seeking a CMO to help us expand new beauty product lines and find fresh audiences in the upper Midwest.” These details will connect with the right kind of CMO candidate.

Hook the Right Fish

There are many talented marketers out there, but you need the right kind of marketer for your business. A deep background in market research could be terrific if research is your priority, but what if you really need a social media guru? That means you need someone who loves Snapchat more than spreadsheets.

To make sure you settle on the right candidates, make a priority list of the most crucial skills of your ideal hire. Decide on a few dealbreakers, and accept that there could be some trade-offs as you winnow down your pool of candidates.

Advertise the position in the places your ideal CMO is most likely to go, beyond just the newspaper and LinkedIn. Seek out a professional recruiting services firm that’s well-versed in hiring for executive-level marketing positions.

Consider Culture and Personality Fit

Did you know personality mismatches are one of the top reasons people leave companies quickly? Sometimes it dawns on a new hire that they just don’t fit in, and they bail.

Make sure each candidate’s personality would be a good fit for your organization. Allow them to meet people they’d interact with on a day-to-day basis, and invite people who are not usually part of the hiring process to stop by for a meet-and-greet.

Your CMO will work with lots of people - far beyond just your C-suite executives - for the kind of company collaboration it takes to reach marketing goals. Ensure they’re a good match for your company culture.

Offer Competitive Pay

It seems obvious to say, “Offer competitive pay,” but many companies stumble when deciding on a CMO salary. You could shoot for the stars pay-wise to attract a top candidate, then regret paying top dollar later. Or you might offer laughably low pay that turns away talented applicants from the outset.

When negotiating CMO pay, follow these best practices:

  • Examine market rates for CMOs in your area and industry. Pay as much as your company can reasonably afford. Don’t lowball it.
  • Make allowances for obvious pros and cons of your business: the appeal of your location, ability to telecommute, benefits package, and so forth.
  • Treat internal and external candidates the same, to avoid the boomerang effect.
  • Don’t “go with your gut” on pay or you could make biased decisions.
  • Don’t base your decision on their current pay, previous pay, or reputation of a former employer. It’s illegal in some states to ask about previous pay, and generally not a reliable indicator of a CMO’s worth anyway.

Work With Experts

Your next CMO is out there, perhaps bored with their current job and ready to be a C-suite superstar at your company. To find them, connect with a professional recruiting service that can send a set of excellent candidates your way.

SelectOne specializes in job suitability - making great matches between executives and companies. Rather than filling your inbox with generic, ho-hum candidates, SelectOne shares potential hires that you can get excited about.

Get in touch to schedule a consultation today.

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