Mike Proulx VP and Research Director


CMOs at B2C companies are only slightly more likely to report to the CEO (54%) than to an intermediary such as the chief commercial officer or chief customer officer (46%), Forrester’s survey data shows. If you’re a CMO, this may not seem ideal — but reporting structure isn’t the most important factor determining CMO success, says VP and Research Director Mike Proulx. He explains what is on this week’s Forrester podcast.

The episode starts with Proulx describing why so many CMOs are “tucked” beneath a non-CEO executive. Among the reasons are poorly designed job profiles (“the CEO doesn’t necessarily understand what the CMO does and has a hard time clearly articulating the function itself,” he says) and changing business needs in a precarious economic climate. “CEOs continue to rank their CMOs lowest in their ability to drive growth,” Proulx notes, adding that changing market trends can drive the need to bring in new leadership.

Yet not all the news is bleak. Proulx is quick to note that the CMO role still offers a lot of upward potential. He points to data from Spencer Stuart, a leadership consulting firm, that shows that 77% of CMOs who leave their roles are either promoted or take on similar or bigger roles at other companies. This challenges the notion of short CMO tenure being a negative, he says, and shows that “the CMO role is a bigger and better platform that allows CMOs to move on to greater spans of responsibility.”

But for CMOs to be successful, they need to extend their mandate beyond marketing. “CMOs who don’t show up as strategic generals get marginalized,” Proulx says. “It comes down to deep business experience, not just classic marketing.” This holds true whether you are a tucked CMO or not, since what matters more than reporting lines, he adds, is a CMO’s proximity to the CEO. Proulx describes the conditions that create CMO-CEO proximity, beginning with aligned expectations of the role. CMOs will want to tune in for the full description of these conditions that lead to more successful CMO-CEO relationships.

Be sure to stay tuned to the end of the episode, when Proulx explains why the future of the CMO role looks especially bright and shares some final words of advice for CMOs.