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Ask the Headhunter/ General Management

Should CMO Be A Job?

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by Nick Corcodilos
Contributing Writer
CMO.com

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Last week CMO.com's Tim Moran asked readers whether they’d be interested in a CMO job at six well-known, sizeable companies (“Hey, It’s A Job”). What struck me is that four of the six jobs have been open three months or longer. One has actually been open since 2009, but manned by an interim exec. Now, filling any C-level job can take quite a bit of time. But what puzzles me is why any major corporation would not have a succession plan in place for a key position, and why it can’t (or won’t) fill a CMO job for months (or even years).

I don’t buy the notion about a lack of talent available. We’re in what’s arguably the biggest talent glut America has ever seen—many great executives are on the street, and others know they’re at risk and willing to talk about making a move. The population of potentially available candidates is significant.

So why are these jobs going begging? I wonder if they are. I wonder if someone is thinking twice about filling them.

In “The Case for Establishing a ‘Digital Strategy’ C-Level Office,” Tim Bourgeois raises a difficult issue: “…it’s time for CEOs and boards to give serious consideration to establishing a ‘Chief Digital Officer’ (‘CDO’) office or equivalent.” And maybe that’s exactly what they’re ruminating on. Contrary to what Moran suggests, maybe CMO shouldn't be a job anymore. To put it another way, is the CMO role adequate to tackle the larger digital initiative in certain companies?

Bourgeois goes out on a bit of limb, but he makes a point that should make us nervous and excited at the same time: “Spend 15 minutes calculating a ballpark estimate for what you’re spending on digital initiatives (marketing, product development, technology), and what areas of the organization are impacted. If spending exceeds 5% of all expenses, and more than three functional areas of significance are involved, then the need for a CDO becomes rather obvious.”

Is the CMO role what a company needs today to drive sales? Or are CEOs and boards of directors asking tough questions about whether marketing should just be part of a larger digital strategy? Who should control that strategy?

I dunno. But if I were the headhunter working on any one of those CMO jobs, and I wanted to do right by my client, I’d be sitting that client down and asking it to figure out what’s bigger—marketing or digital?

If you’re a CMO right now, should your next step be to change your M to a D? Could you even handle a CDO role? If you’re a CEO, what’s your vision for marketing and for digital? Come by the and tell us. 

About Nick Corcodilos

Nick Corcodilos writes "Ask The Headhunter," a weekly blog on CMO.com in which he shows you how to tackle the daunting obstacles that job hunters and managers face when trying to work together. From time to time, Corcodilos also will provide feature stories offering insights into various management career strategies, In addition, his newest books, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, How to Work with Headhunters and How Can I Change Careers?, are available as PDFs.

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