May 8, 2018

What Makes a Successful CMO?

In my experience as a hospital chief marketing officer (CMO) and in working at AB&C with healthcare CMOs, I’ve found a number of attributes that serve a person well in this role. On Innovation Enterprise, which provides leading-edge ideas and information on a variety of key business channels, Rose Johnstone identifies a number of these attributes from the business world that apply to the healthcare industry.

Drivers of new technology adoption
The best CMOs know that innovative digital strategies require complete integration within their team, with a constant focus on improving communications and efficiency. One of our clients uses Slack, a cloud-based collaboration tool to share information, aid workflow and communicate without meetings among team members—or even partners!

The customer is always the focus
The opportunity for brands to personalize each customer’s experience has boomed through the use of new technology strategies. The best CMOs not only understand just how important this is, but can also foresee the positive correlation between a customer-centric approach, increased loyalty and revenue growth.

Understanding the importance of meaningful data measurements and how to use them
An innovative and creative marketing strategy is great, but it is nothing without clear key performance indicators (KPIs) and meaningful metrics to analyze and benchmark. Leading CMOs know that it is vital to understand the exact return on investment (ROI) for each initiative, whether it is increased revenue or simply more brand awareness.

Cross-company alignment
It isn’t just the sales team that should be working side by side with marketing—and leading CMOs understand the importance of looking beyond their traditional job verticals to create a mutual sharing of progress and initiatives, from the development team to the boardroom. As a constant source of innovation, a strong CMO understands what the next growth areas are and can play a crucial role in the evolution and diversification of the organization. A CMO at one of our large health-system clients is continually “in the field” (service area) meeting with providers, patients and caregivers to ensure their needs are being met by their experiences with the brand.

Transparent and agile leadership from the ground up
It has never been easier to measure the impact of marketing campaigns than it is today. Good CMOs use the sea of data to offer their organization real-time feedback, whether positive or negative, and establish a transparent strategic marketing direction for growth.

To these, we offer some of the personal traits of successful CMOs we have worked with and for.

Agility is perhaps the modern CMO’s greatest asset. In a world where trends “go viral,” marketing teams must be able to instantly divert from, or add to, a particular strategy. The days when marketing plans were curated months in advance are well over.

A sense of humor will infuse a department with the ability to manage change and pivot if necessary. And despite loud denials, many egos are engaged in marketing. Humor helps navigate them and maintain a balance during true “crisis” situations.

Those who embrace lifelong learning as a requirement for the job are successful. Keeping current, especially in healthcare, is essential for any CMO.

Those who make decision-making a mandatory skill will succeed. This may sound obvious, but too many CMOs aim for perfection, which Winston Churchill so brilliantly observed, “is the enemy of progress” and is often impossible to achieve. Marketing at its core is spaced repetition. Getting lost in the weeds instead of focusing on the forest erodes marketing’s ability to drive business. Being able to “pull the trigger” and make a decision in a timely manner is critical.

A system thinker who can take seemingly disparate data and information from multiple sources, and synthesize it into a cogent strategy, is a real differentiator among CMOs.

Another great resource on this subject is the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development’s publication Bridging Worlds: The Future Role of the Healthcare Strategist.