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Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Career Guide

What is a chief marketing officer?

A chief marketing officer is a top-level executive responsible for an organization’s marketing activities. Their role is pivotal in establishing market presence and driving business growth. They ensure the company’s message is distributed across channels and to targeted audiences to meet sales objectives.

These executives help shape a company’s public narrative and manage its reputation in the marketplace. They develop and oversee marketing and advertising strategies, steering the product development and market research efforts. Their ultimate goal is to grow the business by driving brand recognition and customer engagement.

Duties and responsibilities

The CMO is responsible for planning, developing, implementing, and managing overall marketing and advertising strategy. Their duties include overseeing the development of branding initiatives, online and offline marketing campaigns, and market research programs. 

They also supervise internal marketing teams and coordinate with sales and product development departments to ensure alignment between these functions. These professionals often have a hand in setting pricing strategies, identifying new customers, and deciding how best to reach them.

Work environment

The work environment of a CMO is typically an office setting within corporate headquarters. As a top executive, they frequently engage in high-level meetings with other department heads and executives, including the CEO and board members. They often oversee a team of marketing managers and specialists and work closely with other departments to align marketing strategies with company objectives.

Typical work hours

The work hours for CMOs are generally full-time, and due to the seniority of the position, it’s common for them to work more than the standard 40-hour work week. 

Long hours and travel may be required, especially when coordinating marketing efforts for new product launches or major company initiatives. As with most executive roles, the expectation often extends beyond traditional business hours and may include evenings, weekends, and some holidays.

How to become a chief marketing officer

Becoming a CMO requires a combination of advanced education, extensive marketing experience, and leadership skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for this top-level marketing position:

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

Start your journey by earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as marketing, business administration, or communications. This foundational education should give you a broad understanding of business principles, consumer behavior, and marketing strategies.

Step 2: Gain marketing experience

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, gain practical experience in various roles within the marketing sector. This could include positions in sales, marketing coordination, product management, or marketing analysis. Experience across different areas of marketing will give you a comprehensive understanding of the field.

Step 3: Earn a master’s degree (optional)

While not always necessary, earning a master’s in business administration (MBA) or marketing can be highly beneficial. These programs offer advanced instruction in business strategy, managerial finance, brand management, and leadership principles, preparing you for the responsibilities of this role.

Step 4: Take on leadership roles

Before becoming a CMO, you must demonstrate your ability to lead. This usually means moving into senior marketing roles such as marketing manager, marketing director, or VP of marketing. These roles require strategic planning, team management, and budget control — crucial skills for an executive position.

Step 5: Stay updated and continue learning

The marketing field is constantly evolving, with new strategies, technologies, and channels emerging regularly. Stay updated on industry trends and continue to build your skills through professional development courses, workshops, or certifications. 

Notable certifications include the American Marketing Association’s Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) and Certified Marketing Executive (CME) from Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI) certifications.

Online courses are a convenient and flexible way to build your marketing leadership skills and add shareable certificates to your resume and LinkedIn page. Consider taking one of these courses to give yourself a competitive edge:

Step 6: Apply for CMO positions

Once you have the right blend of education, extensive marketing leadership experience, and up-to-date knowledge of the industry, you’re ready to apply for the job. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your achievements and leadership in marketing. Be prepared for in-depth interviews that will assess your strategic thinking, problem-solving abilities, and leadership style.

How much do chief marketing officers make?

CMO salaries can vary greatly and are influenced by various factors. Education level is a key determinant; a master’s degree, particularly an MBA, is often required for senior-level roles. 

The company’s size significantly impacts compensation, with larger corporations typically able to offer higher salaries due to larger budgets and more substantial revenue streams. 

The industry is another significant factor, as certain industries, such as technology or finance, often pay more than others. Experience is also essential, with more seasoned professionals usually commanding higher salaries. 

Geographic location is another crucial determinant, as those in regions with a higher cost of living or a high concentration of businesses typically earn more.

Highest paying industries

  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services – $208,000
  • Finance and Insurance – $205,500
  • Manufacturing – $204,900
  • Information Technology – $203,200
  • Healthcare – $200,400

Highest paying states

  • California – $215,200
  • New York – $212,600
  • New Jersey – $210,800
  • Massachusetts – $209,400
  • Virginia – $207,900

Browse CMO salary data by market

Types of chief marketing officers

Different business environments and industry trends require these executives to specialize in various areas of expertise. In this career guide section, we’ll explore several types of CMOs.

Brand CMO

Brand CMOs excel in brand strategy, positioning, and creative development. They deeply understand the market, the competition, and the customer, which they use to shape the brand’s identity and reputation. Their primary focus is to ensure the brand resonates with target audiences and stands out in the marketplace.

Product CMO

With a strong product management and development background, these professionals work closely with the product teams to define and implement product marketing strategies. CMOs in this specialization are experts in understanding customer needs and translating them into product features and benefits.

Growth CMO

Growth CMOs concentrate on driving revenue and market share growth. These CMOs typically have a strong foundation in performance marketing and a data-driven mindset. They focus on optimizing the customer acquisition funnel, scaling marketing initiatives, and improving customer retention.

Digital CMO

Specializing in leveraging digital marketing channels, professionals in this role deeply understand digital marketing strategies, including social media, SEO, email marketing, content marketing, and digital advertising. Digital CMOs aim to maximize the company’s online presence and digital marketing return on investment.

Customer-centric CMO

Customer-centric CMOs prioritize the customer experience in all marketing decisions. They focus on building strong customer relationships, improving customer satisfaction, and promoting customer loyalty. These professionals often work closely with the customer service and product teams to ensure a consistent and positive customer experience.

Data-driven CMO

Making decisions based on data and analytics, these CMOs are adept at interpreting complex data and deriving actionable insights from it. They often work closely with data analysts and scientists, using data to inform their marketing strategies and measure their effectiveness.

Integrated marketing CMO

Integrated marketing CMOs focus on creating a consistent and unified customer experience across all channels and touchpoints. CMOs in this role work to align the company’s various marketing efforts, from traditional advertising to digital marketing to public relations, to ensure they all contribute to a single, coherent brand message.

Top skills for chief marketing officers

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a CMO. The following descriptions provide insights into the abilities anyone aspiring to this role should focus on developing.

A comprehensive understanding of both traditional and digital marketing strategies is crucial for any CMO. They must understand how to leverage various marketing channels and tools to build effective strategies that drive growth and profitability. This understanding forms the foundation for setting marketing goals, planning campaigns, and measuring their success.

As C-level executives, they need exceptional leadership abilities to lead large teams, make strategic decisions, and guide the overall direction of the company’s marketing efforts. This requires skills like strategic planning, team building, decision-making, and inspiring and motivating their team.

The ability to interpret and analyze marketing data is invaluable for these professionals. They need to make sense of complex data from various sources to understand market trends, measure campaign performance, and make data-driven decisions. Accomplishing this requires a sound understanding of marketing analytics tools and performance metrics and the ability to translate data into actionable insights.

The digital landscape is constantly evolving, making it crucial for them to stay updated with the latest digital marketing trends. This includes understanding the role of social media, content marketing, SEO, PPC, AI, and other digital marketing elements in today’s marketing ecosystem. An informed grasp of these trends allows these executives to adapt their strategies to the changing digital environment and maintain a competitive edge.

A CMO is fundamentally responsible for managing and enhancing the company’s brand. They accomplish this by understanding what the brand stands for, ensuring all marketing efforts align with the brand’s identity and values, and working to improve brand awareness and reputation. Professionals in this role must be able to guide their team in creating campaigns that reflect the brand’s essence and resonate with the target audience.

These executives are responsible for effectively communicating the company’s marketing vision and strategies to their team, other executives, stakeholders, and sometimes even the public. Therefore, superior communication skills are vital in building strong relationships, managing conflicts, and driving the team toward shared goals. They must also listen effectively, facilitating open communication within their team and fostering a creative and collaborative environment. 

Chief marketing officer career path

For those aiming to become a CMO, the journey often starts with a position in a marketing department. Entry-level roles such as marketing coordinator or marketing assistant offer the chance to gain fundamental marketing skills, understand the operations of a marketing department, and get familiar with various marketing channels.

After gaining experience, individuals typically progress to roles like marketing specialist or marketing manager. Here, they handle more responsibilities, such as leading specific marketing campaigns, managing a segment of the marketing team, and making strategic decisions based on market analysis.

The next level involves a senior management role, such as a marketing director. In this role, individuals oversee larger teams, devise strategic marketing plans, and collaborate closely with other departments. They must demonstrate strong leadership and decision-making skills, driving their teams to meet marketing and sales goals.

The role of a CMO represents the peak of a marketing career. This role requires a deep understanding of the market, trends, customer behavior, and the competitive landscape.

After a successful tenure, some professionals might move into CEO roles, leveraging their understanding of the customer and market to lead the entire organization. Others may leverage their expertise as independent consultants, advising other companies on their marketing strategies.

With the rise of digital marketing, data analytics, and customer experience management, these executives are now responsible for not just traditional marketing but also areas such as digital strategy and customer engagement. 

A successful candidate for this position must have a combination of skills, including strategic thinking, creativity, and a deep understanding of data and technology. One emerging trend is the CMO’s role in leading digital transformation efforts, ensuring the organization’s marketing strategies align with changing consumer behaviors and technology trends. 

Additionally, given the growing importance of customer data, these professionals are increasingly involved in data privacy and security discussions.

Employment projections for CMOs

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track data specifically for CMOs but includes them in the broader category of top executives. The employment for top executives is projected to grow 6 percent through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. 

However, given the importance of marketing in driving business growth and the rise of digital marketing, the demand for executive-level marketing professionals might grow faster than the general trend for top executives. It’s important to note that this growth can vary widely by industry, and those with an advanced understanding of digital marketing, data analytics, and customer engagement are likely to have the best prospects.

Chief marketing officer career tips

Stay current with marketing trends

Staying updated on the latest trends and developments is crucial in the rapidly evolving marketing field. In this role, you should have your finger on the pulse of new marketing strategies, technologies, and consumer behavior trends. Regularly read industry news, research, and reports to stay ahead of the curve.

Develop a data-driven mindset

In today’s digital age, marketing decisions should be driven by data. Cultivate a data-driven mindset within your team by using analytics tools, setting measurable goals, and using data to inform your strategies and decisions. Remember, the goal is not just to collect data but to extract actionable insights from it.

Cultivate a strong brand vision

One of the primary responsibilities of these executives is to establish and maintain the company’s brand vision. This includes defining your brand identity, values, and voice and ensuring this vision is consistently communicated across all marketing channels and touchpoints.

Build a professional network

Building a professional network can significantly enhance your effectiveness in this role. It can lead to collaborative opportunities, broaden your knowledge base, and connect you to the marketing community. Here are a few professional associations and networks worth considering:

  • American Marketing Association (AMA)
  • Association of National Advertisers (ANA)
  • CMO Council
  • LinkedIn Groups for CMOs
  • Forbes CMO Network

Continuous learning

The marketing field is constantly evolving, making continuous learning a necessity for any CMO. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Attend marketing conferences: Events like the CMO Summit, Adobe Summit, and ANA’s Masters of Marketing Conference can provide valuable insights and networking opportunities.
  • Participate in professional development courses: There are numerous online platforms offering courses in marketing strategy, digital marketing, data analytics, and other relevant topics.
  • Read extensively: Keep up with marketing books, blogs, podcasts, and thought leadership articles. They can provide new ideas, insights, and inspiration.

Foster a culture of innovation

Here’s how to keep your marketing strategies fresh and effective:

  1. Foster a culture of innovation within your team
  2. Encourage creativity, experimentation, and risk-taking
  3. Remember, sometimes, the most groundbreaking marketing campaigns result from thinking outside the box

Align marketing goals with business objectives

Ensuring that your marketing goals align with the overall business objectives is essential. Regular communication with the CEO, CFO, and other key stakeholders can help maintain this alignment and ensure that your marketing efforts contribute to the company’s strategic goals.

Master the art of storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool. You should be able to craft compelling narratives about your brand that engage your audience and create emotional connections. This can significantly enhance your brand’s appeal and differentiation.

Prioritize team development

Your team is your greatest asset. Invest in their professional development, nurture their skills, and create a supportive and collaborative environment. As a leader, your role is not just to direct, but to inspire and empower.

Balance long-term strategy with short-term results

While it’s important to have a long-term marketing strategy, it’s equally crucial to deliver short-term results. Striking the right balance can be challenging but is key to maintaining the confidence of stakeholders and the momentum of your marketing efforts.

Where the CMO jobs are

Top companies

  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Procter & Gamble

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • SimplyHired
  • LinkedIn


What educational background is typically expected of a chief marketing officer?

They usually hold a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business administration, or a related field. Many CMOs also have an MBA or a master’s degree in marketing. This advanced education provides a solid grounding in business principles, strategic planning, and market analysis, all essential for this role.

What are the key responsibilities of a chief marketing officer?

They oversee all marketing initiatives within an organization. Their responsibilities often include:

  • Developing marketing strategies
  • Setting marketing goals in line with the company’s objectives
  • Managing the marketing budget
  • Overseeing marketing campaigns across various channels
  • Measuring campaigns’ effectiveness

They also play a critical role in understanding customer needs and market trends.

What skills are essential for a chief marketing officer?

These executives need a blend of strategic thinking and creative skills. They should analyze market trends, understand customer behavior, and develop effective marketing strategies. 

Excellent leadership and communication skills are also vital, as they lead the marketing team and communicate with other senior leaders. Additionally, they should have a strong understanding of digital marketing strategies and tools.

What role does a chief marketing officer play in a company’s growth?

A CMO plays a significant role in a company’s growth by driving customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty through effective marketing strategies. They work to increase brand awareness, market share, and revenue. By understanding customer needs and market trends, they can identify new opportunities for growth and guide the development of products or services to meet these needs.

How does a chief marketing officer work with other departments?

Collaboration and communication are vital aspects of this role. These executives collaborate closely with other departments to ensure alignment between marketing strategies and broader business objectives. They may work with sales to optimize lead generation efforts, with product development to ensure that products meet customer needs, and with finance to manage the marketing budget.

How involved is a chief marketing officer in digital marketing?

This role in digital marketing is typically substantial. They oversee digital marketing strategies, including search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing. CMOs also need to understand how to leverage data analytics to measure the success of these efforts and make data-driven decisions.

What role does a chief marketing officer play in brand management?

Brand management is a crucial part of the role. They are responsible for ensuring that all marketing activities align with the brand’s identity and values and contribute to a consistent brand image. They also monitor brand perception among customers and in the market and implement strategies to strengthen the brand’s position and reputation.

Does a chief marketing officer need a strong understanding of customer behavior?

Yes, a strong understanding of customer behavior is crucial. They need to understand the company’s customers, what they want and need, and how they make purchasing decisions. This understanding informs the development of marketing strategies, the positioning of products or services, and the creation of effective marketing messages.

What is the relationship between a chief marketing officer and a CEO?

They often report directly to the CEO and play a critical role in the company’s senior leadership team. These executives provide updates on marketing performance, contribute to strategic planning, and help to drive the company’s growth. The relationship between the CMO and CEO is often close, requiring effective communication and alignment on the company’s vision and goals.

How does a chief marketing officer use data in their role?

Data plays a vital role in their work. They use data to understand market trends, customer behavior, and the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. 

These executives must analyze this data to make informed decisions and use data analytics tools to measure and report on marketing performance. In this digital marketing era, the ability to use data effectively is crucial for the role.