How to Become a Chief Marketing Officer

The Chief Marketing Officer, or CMO, position is the pinnacle of the marketing profession. Here, we break down the path to success.

5 min read

For aspiring marketers, the role of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO for short) is a dream job. It’s the most prestigious marketing job there is: fast-paced, respectable, and extremely rewarding. 

CMOs oversee all of their business’s marketing efforts, working to deliver high-impact integrated marketing campaigns that drive business growth. They create the brand vision, manage budgets, and make the big decisions. Plus, they’re handsomely compensated: the CMO role is the highest-paid position in marketing. 

It’s clearly a desirable job, but how do you get there?

Today, we’re here to give you the insight you need to chart your path to a CMO role. It might take a few years, but rest assured – the journey is just as fun as the destination. 

What is a CMO?

A Chief Marketing Officer is the executive tasked with leading an organization’s marketing. They oversee everything from brand management to digital marketing. The best CMOs build for long-term growth while never missing their targets, designing and implementing strategies that speak directly to customer needs. They have notable leadership responsibilities, and they’re also responsible for marketing budgets: overseeing spending on advertising, content strategy, and other promotional activities. 

What Qualifications Should a CMO Have?

The Chief Marketing Officer role is a dynamic, exciting position that’s extremely attractive to ambitious marketers. But what does a Chief Marketing Officer resume look like? 

CMOs almost always have a Bachelor’s degree, often in marketing, business administration, or a related field. Many hold an MBA. While these qualifications are important, they’re not necessary. Today, there are many paths to the CMO position, and becoming a CMO is more about leadership skills and delivering results than educational achievements. 

What is the Career Path for Becoming a CMO?

CMOs are seasoned professionals with at least 10 years of experience in marketing. It’s expected that a CMO candidate will have been continuously promoted into positions of increasing responsibility. 

For many marketers, the route to the CMOs office might look something like this:

  1. Marketing Specialist or Coordinator
  2. Marketing Manager
  3. Marketing Director
  4. VP of Marketing
  5. Chief Marketing Officer

The path to becoming a CMOMany marketers move companies to accelerate their career progression, with smaller companies often offering a faster progression to the top job.

Many CMOs have spent time in departments that work closely with marketing, such as product and sales. They may possess skills including strategic planning, digital marketing expertise, data analysis, and more. Many are even seasoned digital marketing blog writers.  

7 Practical Tips and Advice to Become a Chief Marketing Officer

The best CMO candidates bring a distinct blend of attributes that help them stand out from the crowd. The CMO position won't just be given to you; you need to make the case that you’re uniquely qualified for the job. Here are seven practical tips you can adopt to give yourself the best chance of success:

1. Learn AI (Quickly)

AI isn’t just the future – it’s the present. The CMOs of tomorrow will be the leaders who understand how to leverage AI technologies to optimize workflows, enhance productivity, and gain a competitive edge. 

If you’re an ambitious marketer, learning AI will significantly accelerate your career, propelling you toward the CMO position far faster than your peers. Start experimenting with generative AI tools such as Jasper that have the potential to streamline content creation. 

2. Become a Master Delegator

As a CMO, you don’t do all the work yourself. Rather, you manage other people who do the work for you. That might sound easy, but as any leader will tell you, it’s a skill unto itself. 

To be an effective CMO, you need to learn how to build high-impact teams you can delegate work to. As your career progresses, observe the leaders above and around you, using these insights to shape your own leadership style. Delegation is a key skill for any executive, but it’s one that can only be built through putting in the reps. 

3. Build Your Personal Brand

Ambitious marketers should promote their personal brand with the same fervor they promote their business’s brand. Today, the best place to do that is social media. 

Use social media platforms to demonstrate thought leadership and build relationships with influential leaders in your industry. The key to success is taking a niche approach, focusing on content centered around your area of expertise. Your goal is to become the go-to person in your space and build an unassailable personal brand. 

Your chances of becoming a CMO are greatly increased if you have a strong reputation in your business community. Those relationships aren’t built at the country club anymore – they’re built on social media, and today, the opportunities are limitless. 

4. Become a Data-Driven Marketer

If you have ambitions of making it to the top of the marketing profession, you need to learn how to incorporate data into your decision-making process. 

We’re not saying you need to become a stats genius – rather, you must become comfortable with inferring meaning from data and making strategic decisions based on what the data says. If you can master the skill of data-driven storytelling, your marketing messages will become hard for anyone to ignore. To elevate your analytical skills, we suggest becoming proficient in the following tools: 

  • Google Analytics: Allows you to track website traffic, understand your audience's behavior, and gain insights about your site's performance.
  • SEMrush: Provides comprehensive data on your SEO efforts, including keyword rankings, backlink tracking, and competitive analysis.
  • HubSpot: Offers a full stack of software for marketing, sales, and customer service, with a completely free CRM at its core. It helps businesses attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers.
  • Ahrefs: Toolset for backlink research, organic traffic research, keyword research, content marketing, and more.
  • BuzzSumo: Helps you discover what content performs best for any topic or competitor in your space. It's great for identifying key influencers and trends.

5. Follow The Best Marketers in Your Space

Every industry has well-established thought leaders who are respected luminaries in their field. One day, your hope should be that you’ll share a stage with them, but for right now, you’re just going to follow their journey. 

Thanks to social media, the world is much smaller these days. Once you’ve identified the best marketers in your industry, join their conversations, replying to their posts on social media or emailing in a question to their podcast. This is part of building your personal brand, and you can gain social currency from being associated with respected leaders. Your eventual goal is to be invited to a webinar, mastermind, or podcast to share your thoughts. 

To get you started, here are some of our team’s favorite marketers:

6. Develop Soft Skills 

CMOs are rarely a company’s best copywriter or paid ads manager. Instead, they have a well-rounded skill set with extremely well-developed soft skills including communication, leadership, and strategic thinking. 

Working to better these through education will stand you in good stead, but in reality, the best way to hone your soft skills is through practice. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in situations that make you feel a little uncomfortable – that’s where real growth happens. 

7. Stay Up-To-Date on Trends 

Marketing is a cutting-edge field with plenty of rewards for bold innovators who lead the way. By keeping abreast of the latest trends, from the growth of AI to the changing role of social media, ambitious marketing professionals can help better position their business for the future while demonstrating their strategic skills. 

The options are endless here: choose the ones that best reflect your personal learning style. You might consider pursuing an executive education program in marketing, subscribing to marketing newsletters, or joining an active community of expert B2B marketers in your field. 

How to Score Yourself as a CMO

CMOs have to perform at a high level. Once you land the coveted CMO job, there’s no time to rest on your laurels. Instead, you need to be relentlessly focused on hitting your goals. 

To hold themselves accountable, many top CMOs actively score themselves every month or quarter. Create a scorecard that displays the most important KPIs your business tracks each month and use it to judge your performance and identify areas for improvement. 

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your fellow executives, as well as your team, and ask for feedback. The best leaders aren’t afraid to be vulnerable and view honest feedback as key to their continued success. 

Take the First Step on Your CMO Journey 

Most marketing professionals never make it to the CMO role. There’s nothing wrong with that: there’s a great career to be made in mid-level marketing positions. But if you want to become a CMO and call the shots, you have to be prepared to put the work in. 

Pursue relevant educational opportunities – whether that’s a formal degree or staying up to date on the latest marketing trends. Pursue leadership opportunities, volunteering to manage new projects or lead small teams. And focus on growing your network, seeking out mentorship opportunities both within and outside of your business. 

GoDelta is here to partner with you in your journey. We’ve helped hundreds of companies develop and execute data-driven integrated marketing strategies, and we’re ready to do the same for you. 

Get actionable marketing and product insights from The LATEST