“By nature, CMOs are a hopeful and optimistic bunch. They tend to believe that they can succeed anywhere. But CMOs are as different as musicians. If you are a classical pianist, you probably will not shine in a jazz trio. If you play flamenco guitar, blues may not be the right style for you. Pity the CMOs that do not have the self-awareness to know where they will excel." -- Brian Kardon, CMO, Lattice Engines
Brian’s right. With high turnover throughout the marketing suite, heightened pressure to produce immediate results, and a parade of new digital marketing tactics that can distract from strategy as much as enable it, a marketing leader can ill afford a bad fit. Now more than ever, it’s critical for marketers to assess whether the job they are interviewing for is a good fit for their skills, background, and style. Doing this requires an understanding of what “type” of marketing leader you are and how your experiences and preferences make you a better--or worse--match for specific job opportunities.
Based on a series of interviews with CMOs across companies that are digitally native and those with more traditional marketing approaches, we have identified four distinct types of marketing leaders:
- Strategist: A macro-thinker responsible for long-term direction and innovation.
- Business developer: A sales partner focused on generating leads to drive revenue.
- General manager: A P&L manager with broad business management responsibilities.
- Marketing specialist: A builder of a concentrated marketing capability in the organization.
The first step in making sure you are interviewing for the right job is to know what kind of marketing executive you are. A surprising number of executives have had their careers happen to them--responding to recruiters and following former managers--rather than approaching their career transitions actively and planfully. It’s up to you to make sure your next role is a good fit.
Lattice Engines’ Kardon continues:
“I am often surprised by the choices CMOs make: the ‘strategist’ who joins a start-up and has no interest/ability in hands-on execution, or the ‘demand gen specialist’ who is told to ‘go build our brand and make it cool.’ The key is to know thyself and try to find environments that replicate past successes. Seductive words from headhunters, the allure of a well-known company, and the belief that you can be successful on unfamiliar turf is a formula for failure.”
Often, getting the job is the easy part. Making sure you are a success depends on the degree to which your abilities and style match what the firm is looking for.
Interview Yourself First
Understanding and articulating which type of marketer you are requires honesty and self-awareness. Following is a self-interview guide with 10 questions designed to help you think through the type of marketing executive you are. As you answer the questions, remember: The key is to identify what you are, not who you wish you were. One of the causes of job failure is that the marketing leader steps into a role that he wants, despite the fact that he doesn’t have the experience or skills. This is a risky move, and while it may work, the odds of success are lower.
Broadly, the self-interview requires you to classify the roles you have had in the past (experience), what you are good or not good at (abilities), and how you prefer to work (style). Following are 10 questions designed to help you think through what type of marketing executive you are.
Next Page: 10 questions to ask yourself.
- Which role types (summarized above) have I primarily held--strategist, business developer, general manager, marketing specialist, or some hybrid?
- What are my key career accomplishments, and what do they suggest about the type of marketer I am? (Examine not just what was accomplished but, just as importantly, how.)
- What is the next logical career progression that leverages and builds on my experience?
- What skills am I usually better at than other people? (e.g., analysis, selling, developing creative, commercializing initiatives, improving operational performance, setting strategy, internal partnerships, etc.)
- What do I really love/hate to do? (e.g. analyze, solve strategic problems, work with operations to cut costs, interact with customers, etc.)
- Am I stronger at building something from nothing, refining something, or breaking something in order to fix it?
- Am I more of a change-maker or a peacemaker?
- Do I prefer working on long-term initiatives or driving quarterly results?
- Am I more of a big-picture thinker or more focused on details? What does this say about the type of role and context where I will be most successful?
- Is it important that I work for a firm where marketing is a leader in developing strategy and initiatives and has been determined to be a driver of corporate success? Or do I prefer to work for a company where marketing plays a key integrating and supporting role?
Applying What You’ve Learned
Ideally, you will reflect on these questions at the beginning of your career transition process. Knowing what kind of role you are best-suited for will help you clarify your value to your network, attract the right roles, and effectively position yourself for them.
As your conversations get under way, you can further assess the fit by asking what types of CMOs and marketing leaders the company has had in the past: strategist, business developer, general manager, marketing specialist, or hybrid. Find out how previous executives were good matches for the role and in which ways they fell short. You may even identify ways to work with the management team to adapt the role to your skills.
Once you have articulated what kind of executive you are, you may find yourself expanding your selection set by making trade-offs in favor of job fit. For instance, you could look at titles different than those you’ve had in the past, investigate line management or chief revenue generator roles in addition to marketing leadership roles, or consider an industry with leadership roles that better fit your disposition.
Again, it all comes down to this: ensuring you’re a good fit for the job--and that the job is a good fit for you.