With CMO job-tenure numbers fluxuating from one industry category to another, the important information-technology CMO category appears to have expanded significantly to at least 60 months, according to an interview with a leading CMO executive recruiter featured in a new report from IDC.
Tom Seclow, the North American lead for Spencer Stuart’s Chief Marketing Officer practice, told IDC’s Richard Vancil, whose practice centers on IT, that different factors are working together to expand CMO job tenure. Seclow generally sees an improving role for CMOs due to technology advancements.
“There is no question that the marketing function has changed dramatically because of the emergence of technology, particularly in digital, social, and mobile,” Seclow said. “We see the increase in tenure as the marketing function continues to evolve, and in more and more companies, the CMO has earned a true C-suite seat at the table.”
Seclow noted that CMO job tenure can vary dramatically according to industry–automotive, communications, and restaurant categories are all mired at a short job tenure around 30 months, for instance, while CMOs in tech firms tend to average around 60 months on the job.
But what explains the lengthening CMO job tenure at tech firms?
“In many technology businesses, the leaders come up from product and engineer ranks and not from marketing,” Seclow explained. “We’ve speculated that marketing expertise in those companies may be more valued than in other businesses where marketers are more plentiful.”
Vancil cautioned that the counterpoint to the good news of lengthening job tenure is that the rising expectations and pressure on CMOs are elevating, too. “There’s more pressure on the job role for more performance,” Vancil told CMO.com.
Seclow and Vancil are in agreement that CMOs–at least those CMOs at tech firms–are becoming more businesslike and, as such, are increasingly gaining higher positions in their respective businesses. “There is no question that technology and leveraging data to make decisions have given CMOs value and, along with it, a rise in job tenure,” Seclow said.
He explained that CMOs are increasingly earning a “true C-suite” seat at their businesses; he attributed much of their growing influence to their roles as de facto customer/consumer advocates within their businesses. As CMO roles become more substantial and are accompanied with added general management responsibilities, Seclow said he believes more CMOS will be adding to their job tenure.
Good measurement capabilities also can be an important ally for CMOs, Seclow indicated. “With tools to measure marketing initiatives and their direct impact on the business,” he said, “CMOs have data to support their contributions.”
All of this raises a fundamental question posed by CMO expert Kimberly A. Whitler: “Is longer tenure good or bad for firm performance?”
In an interview with CMO.com, Whitler, an instructor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business who contributes to CMO.com and Forbes, pointed to academic research based on CEO tenure that maintains being too long at the job can produce rigidity, which may negatively impact a business’ performance. “So,” she asked, “at what point is longer tenure perhaps not so positive?”
That is an important question CMOs should be prepared to answer more and more over the coming months and years.