There was a thread in the DGMG Community not too long ago about the difference between VP of Marketing and CMO. It’s actually a really interesting question because it’s one of those things you don’t think about when you’re not at the C-suite level (yet).
It can be different at every company based on size and scale. And the water can even be muddied further by what title the founder wants to give to the main marketing leader. But if you asked me for the true distinction between the two, this is the definition that always sticks in my mind:
The CMO thinks and acts like an executive. Not just marketing. But a company executive.
Yes, they are still responsible for marketing, but they also have a seat at the executive leadership table and are truly “running the business” not just “managing marketing.”
The VP meanwhile is obviously privy to major company developments and has some input into the goings on of the business — but their day-to-day focus is on running the marketing team.
The reason I wanted to highlight this is because the CMO way of thinking isn’t limited to the C-Suite. It’s a mindset you can instill now as Manager, Director, Associate, whatever. When people ask me, “how can I move into a marketing leadership role?” — this is how. Start thinking and behaving like a marketing leader and you’ll find yourself in a leadership role sooner rather than later.
So what does this look like in practice? It means stepping back from your marketing day-to-day and thinking about the business as a whole. What role does marketing play in the overall business? What role should it play? How should marketing be measured and managed in that context?
Also, in most leadership teams there is collaboration. So start looking at where you can contribute to other teams outside of marketing. For example, as a marketing leader, you might have valuable opinions on the sales process. Or the CS leader might have valuable opinions about what you should be doing in marketing. The whole business is discussed in leadership team conversations — Marketing. Sales. CS. Product. Engineering. Finance. Recruiting. You need to be as aware of their strengths, deficiencies, and areas of opportunities, as you are your own team’s.
If you want to grow in a marketing leadership role, the earlier you can begin to think like an executive the better.
That’s for sure one lesson I wish I learned earlier in my marketing career.
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