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What Are the Most Important Qualities of an Effective CMO?

What Are the Most Important Qualities of an Effective CMO?

Christine Moorman and Jennifer Veenstra

Marketing leaders agree effective CMOs must be able to represent the voice of the customer.

What makes a CMO effective? The August 2017 CMO Survey posed this question to a sample of 349 top marketers. Ten potential roles were provided and respondents were asked to rank their top three on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being the most important (Table 1). Based on interviews with top marketers, CEOs, CFOs and CIOs over the last year, the list was developed by Deloitte to understand why CMOs often are not successful in the C-suite. 

The role most frequently ranked 1, or most important, by survey respondents was “being the voice of the customer at the leadership table.” What does this mean in terms of actual behaviors? Being the voice of the customer does not mean mere representation of the customer. Instead, it means offering multidimensional customer insights that guide company decisions. It means having a deep, research-based view of customer needs, journey and purchase experiences, usage experiences as well as retention and referral behaviors. It means understanding competition from the customer’s point of view, not from the structure of an industry report. Finally, it means understanding the value of different customers. Marketing leaders in consumer services, retail/wholesale, education and health care sectors placed the greatest emphasis on this role (Table 2).

Aggregating across all three ranks, “playing a key role in company growth activities” was most frequently ranked a top-three role. Our research shows this is important because growth is a measurable outcome against which marketing can demonstrate the value of its customer insights. To become an influential and credible voice among their C-suite partners, marketing leaders should leverage customer insights to drive business growth decisions. However, the C-suite does not always ask CMOs to drive growth nor evaluate them on growth metrics. To move the needle, CMOs need to craft metrics that connect marketing’s impact to key growth indicators. Consumer packaged goods, tech/software/biotech and energy industries rated this role as most important.


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Christine Moorman is T. Austin Finch Sr. Professor of Business Administration, Duke University, USA, and Founder and Director, The CMO Survey.

Jennifer Veenstra is managing director of the CMO Program at Deloitte Services, LP.