Are hamsters really outliving CMOs?

We’re kidding, right? CMO tenure can’t really be shorter than the lifespan of a hamster. Can it?

Well, depending on how healthy your hamster is, the answer is very likely yes. CMO tenure fell last year to just 40 months – its lowest level since 2009. (And in case you’re wondering, a healthy hamster can live until it’s four or five years old).

But after pulling just a few job descriptions we found for CMOs, it’s not difficult to understand why. Expectations for Chief Marketing Officers are at an all-time high and bearers of the CMO title have their hands full:

  • Facilitate growth, sales, and marketing strategies
  • Increase revenue generation
  • Reduce costs
  • Perform risk mitigation
  • Prepare overall marketing strategy
  • Develop programs with quantifiable objectives to measure results
  • Implement and manage marketing budget
  • Leverage data and analytics to drive insights
  • Modify or redirect business intelligence strategy
  • Oversee and direct the efforts of the marketing team
  • Promote the organization in a positive light at industry conferences, speaking events and through relevant promotional channels
  • Develop segmentation, competitive analysis/market intelligence, prospecting, lead generation, product and market development, pricing, promotions, communications and budgets, sales force effectiveness, strategic planning, services units and revenue retention and growth
  • Oversee the development of new product
  • Develop and measure key metrics around the business including user acquisition, conversion rates, engagement rates, satisfaction and / or renewal rates

So, since we appear to be measuring average CMO tenure in months, we have to ask – how the heck can anyone make a meaningful impact on those mandates in that kind of timeframe? And with that kind of pressure, it should come as no surprise to agencies operating with CMOs in these environments, that expectations to perform are likely even higher.

So what should CMOs be expecting from their agencies and how can agencies support their client CMOs in this kind of pressure cooker environment?  Here are five ideas that could help make a difference:

Focus on the business

OK, no brainer. But it’s very easy to develop a myopic focus on a project at hand rather than the broader aspects of the business.  So the question agencies should being asking, is what’s really going to make a difference here?  What metrics is the CMO really looking at?  And is the agency 100% focused on delivering against those metrics?

Understand what the CMO really has to deal with

If you’re in any doubt as to what a marketer has to deal with – take a look at the laundry list of responsibilities a CMO is charged with.  Dealing with an agency – or agency issues – is just one piece of the puzzle in delivering a whole range of results expected by the CEO. Typically CMOs are looking for agencies to take things off their plates – not add to them – so agencies that are natural problem solvers and collaborators likely to rise to the top.

Be thought leaders in change

Where’s the marketer’s business going?  Where’s the agency business going?  And how can those evolutions maintain a parallel path to ensure success? Day-to-day demands often have agencies focused on delivery, but CMO’s are looking for clear, concise, well-reasoned thought leadership that helps them evolve their vision within their own businesses. 

Manage complexity

Multiple brands, a myriad of distribution and communication channels, multiple projects often managed by multiple agencies, shifting business priorities and rapidly evolving consumer habits mean CMO’s often have to switch focus and priorities on a dime, while ensuring their organizations grow profitably.  Agencies must adapt to these scenarios, while providing leadership, insight and perspective that support CMO environments.


Above all, agencies need to deliver flawlessly – both in strategy and production so their CMOs can focus on driving their businesses and stay ahead of the competition. Issues around strategic thinking, delivery, cost or timing only take away from the CMO’s real role and their perspective on how you’re adding value to their business.

If this has you or your agency thinking you need to step up your game – you’re probably right.  So what can you do to help? And what steps could you take that would make a meaningful difference?


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc  offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

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