The Road to the C-Suite: Top Qualities That Marketers Should Master

Posted on by Kaylee Hultgren

What does it take to reign supreme as a modern CMO in today’s multifaceted business world? What should marketers aspiring to reach the C-Suite focus on in terms of career advancement and developing specific skills? We posed these questions to three CMOs, and their advice centered around a trio of themes that marketers ought to prioritize: customer-centricity; developing business acumen specific to your brand; and embracing agility. Here are insights from chief marketing officers Amy Summy of Labcorp, John Sheldon of SmileDirectClub and Lisa Stockmon of Banfield Pet Hospital.

Amy Summy, CMO of Labcorp:

I’m passionate about really taking the time to understand the business language. Your business leaders don’t really speak in marketing lingo. Think about how you connect what marketing does to how the business operates, and how they think about growth, revenue and acquisition. Marketers have different skills. Some are super creative, some are very analytical—there’s so many different types. Be passionate about whatever you are.

Personally, I always naturally go to the customer. One of my first questions here was, who are our customers? Not the companies that we sell to, but the people. What makes them tick, and how do you get to them? However, I don’t feel like there’s a specific playbook. If you’re at Pepsi, you might be a different type of marketer versus here at Labcorp. It’s figuring out what your company needs and then leaning into that.

For more from Summy, read the full profile here.

John Sheldon, CMO of SmileDirectClub:

To me, it really comes down to three pieces. Number one is you’ve got to listen to your customer, in every possible way. Some of the ways that I do that at SmileDirectClub is I watch, on a weekly basis, videos of visits to our SmileShop to see what that experience really looks like—obviously with the consumer’s permission. Another thing we do: I sit on two hours of phone calls, just listening to customer care calls. And then lastly, our social media listening team is feeding me reports and insights throughout. You need to be able to listen to your customer, take that and then go do something about what you learn.

The second is deep analytical skills. Marketing has become more analytical over the last 20 years, since the dawn of ecommerce. So, making sure that you’re sharp on your analytical skills, knowing what statistical significance means and making sure your team is doing proper test design—all of those elements are crucial. And then lastly, stay creative—amidst all of what I just said, which is much more about observing and analytics. The ability to break through is about doing something interesting and creative. Empowering your creative team to do breakthrough work, to do something distinctive and interesting that’s going to get people’s attention, still matters a lot in marketing. It’s all those things together that can make for a successful upgrade into the CMO seat.

For more from Sheldon, read the full profile here.

Lisa Stockmon, CMO of Banfield Pet Hospital:

You have to be open minded. You have to be approachable, and you have to always remain strategic. One of the things I tell my team is that you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable—and how do you welcome that? How do you begin to approach it with wonderment? There’s been so much change in the last 20 years. It’s about staying on top of the change that’s going to come about in the next 20 years.

For more from Banfield, read the full profile here.

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