Which CMO Are You?

Today's marketing world is led by a unique blend of chief marketing officers—all embracing different strategies to lead their marketing departments and interact with customers based on either their individual personality traits, experiences throughout their career, or the role of marketing within their particular organizations. Despite some of these differences, most CMOs today fall into one of three categories: the copycat, the play-it-safe leader, and the risk-taker. Read on to determine which type of CMO you are and how to capitalize on your strengths to best lead your marketing department and interact with customers.

The Copycat

The copycat CMO has been around the marketing block and has established tried and true best practices to create successful marketing campaigns. Copycats are confident that the strategies that were successful for them three years ago can still be effective in reaching customers today. The "one-to-many" methodology is still viewed by copycats as a valuable tool in relaying the company's message. These traditional CMOs prefer to communicate via email and phone and meet with customers and prospects walking the floor at trade shows and face-to-face events.

Best Practice: While leading by example and experience can be an effective tactic, it is still crucial to embrace new ways to establish customer relationships. Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and make sure you're taking advantage of the tools and technologies available that could benefit your organization's marketing efforts.

The Play-It-Safe Leader

These modern-day CMOs recognize that traditional tactics and channels still play an important role in reaching customers, but rather than taking the one-to-many approach, these leaders use the one-to-one approach, implementing strategies to understand and reach that one customer. They are investing in technologies that help personalize their customer communications and allow them to have a dialogue with a prospect or customer based on those individual interests and desires. Social media is their friend, and is used to monitor and engage in conversations that are happening around their brand.

Best Practice: As this type of CMO, you take the practical route in many ways, which likely makes your strategies and behavior predictable and consistent. While it might not make sense to take a risk on every decision, try sticking your neck out for a technology or approach that you feel strongly can improve your organization's marketing efforts. If it doesn't work out the way you intended, you can always quickly correct it and move on.

The Risk-Taker

These forward-thinking CMOs are not afraid to try new technologies, channels, or messaging. They strive to be on the cutting edge of marketing tactics and not only lead their companies, but the industry as well. Eyes are focused on both customer acquisition and retention . These CMOs go beyond just engaging in one-on-one dialogues via social media channels. These innovators go one step further by not only monitoring what customers are saying within their community, but actually creating the community in which to have and lead an open discussion.

Best Practice: While leading innovation is a worthy task to take on, be sure the tactics—and most importantly, the investments—that accompany these risks are thought out beforehand. Don't make all your marketing efforts a new experiment. Keep in mind the tactics that have worked in the past and look for small ways to make them better and more effective.


While these three different types of CMOs have unique marketing strategies and leadership styles, there are some commonalities that all marketing leaders should be mindful of to be successful both within the organization and to customers and prospects. For one, remember to focus. There can be many moving parts and distractions, but you should always stay focused on the high pay-off activities for the business and your customers. Keep in mind that it isn't always about marketing (as much as we, as marketers, would like to think so!). Work with the other departments within your organization to keep in mind your audience and ultimate goal—it's about your customers and prospects and their experience with the company as a whole. To that same point, know your market, your prospect, your buyer, and your customer. No matter which category of the aforementioned CMO personas you fall into, keep a grasp on these fundamental, yet critical, tactics to continuously improve the customer experience and ultimately, marketing success.

Marchai Bruchey is the chief customer officer at Thunderhead.com and is responsible for customer experience, acquisition, retention, and success. Previously she served as senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Chordiant Software. Prior to that, she worked at KANA Software.

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