Become a Vital Resource as a CMO With These 5 Crucial TraitsB2B Digital Marketer

Those in the CMO position don’t often last — but why? Learn the five traits every effective CMO should have to stand out and blow profits out of the water. 

At first, my instinct was, “I guess not everyone is good at the job.” But as I started observing this churn, I began to realize that some of these people were rockstars at what they did with proven track records. So what was going wrong? What happened?

As the digital age has changed the way we market, it’s also changed the CMO role. Whether you’re looking to hire a good CMO or become one, it’s essential that you stay on the cutting edge of what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s the reality — marketing hacks aren’t going to benefit you in terms of growing your career or business. There will always be one more marketing course or book or program, but they aren’t the answer. 

On an episode of The Sales Evangelist podcast, I talked about the five vital traits every high-growth CMO needs to master.



  • Wondering why CMOs are churning out of companies and not staying long? They likely lack some of the essential traits to give them an edge and keep them valuable to the company.
  • From strategies to revenue, the role of a CMO isn’t just marketing — if you don’t understand the modern buyer’s journey, you’re just throwing money at the wall to see what sticks.
  • A good CMO should be the most in-demand guest at an analyst meeting. Deep market knowledge grows a company (and provides job security).



1. Eat, breathe and live business strategy.

CMOs need to be talking about strategy. They need to be asking questions like: 

  • Where is the market going?
  • How is the market evolving? 
  • How is the business changing? 
  • What are the macro and micro trends that are impacting us as a business? 
  • What’s coming down the road?

As CMOs, we have to be able to look at the market from a strategic perspective, not just from an analytical one. Anyone can write up a report and explain what’s happening, but a high-growth CMO will then be able to bring insights from it to others and show how they will really impact the business.

In many ways, I spend time with my clients talking about strategy and not about marketing at all. Because, ultimately, the strategy will inform your marketing.

2. Know your ecosystem.

I prefer the term ecosystem over industry. Why? Because ecosystem better describes how interconnected businesses are and the coopetition that happens between companies. One day we’re competing directly, but the next day we’re working arm in arm with one another. 

So why understand your ecosystem? Well, for one thing, it directly connects to the earlier point about strategy. If you don’t understand the ecosystem, you won’t understand the strategy. 

Consider the difference between these two approaches, as a CMO is speaking with the CEO:

“We just need to spend more on Google Ads and ratchet up the budget. I’ll also need to add six more people to my team.”


“I  had a conversation with a CTO in our industry about the issue, and then I talked to a fellow CMO, and here’s what I heard. By the way, did you see this news release and this competitor’s announcement? Now, here’s my analysis on how we can apply the situation to our growth.”

In the latter scenario, any CEO, no matter the industry, is going to say, “Where have you been all my life?” The first conversation is the norm. Anyone can say that. But the second conversation is more than just articulating the need to brand and market; it conveys a deep knowledge of the ecosystem and offers real value, not just the mentality of throwing more money at a problem.

3. Learn the new buyer’s journey.

The hard truth is that, according to a study by Gartner, the average B2B buyer is more than 50% through their buying process before they even call a vendor. Most people have been trained to use a funnel that’s predicated on starting the process with a phone call, but it’s simply not like that anymore. The buyer’s journey is completely different now.

Just 10 or 15 years ago, businesses went to trade shows to rub shoulders with peers and meet vendors. Now in the age of dark social, a buyer can join a group of CIOs, ask around and soon someone will start talking about a product or a company. But there’s no attribution and therefore no way to track it. The vendor is not involved at all.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good your graphics are or how good your messaging is. If it’s out of sync with how the buyer is actually thinking, who the buyer is and where they are in their buyer’s journey, you won’t reach them.

A CMO that doesn’t understand this is an ineffective CMO. Pour as much money into marketing as you want, but it won’t make a difference if it’s not reaching the buyer where they are.

4. Become revenue-driven, not lead-driven.

I’ve abolished the whole concept of an MQL. Why? Because, at the end of the day, do you want MQLs, or do you want revenue?

Sure, maybe you got 1,000 leads this month after only 600 last month. Wow, how exciting! But will any of them convert or are they all junk? Maybe half the people didn’t even know what they signed up for because it was just good copy or you tricked them with a free Amazon gift card or giveaway. They might not even be close to your ICP, but, hey, you got your MQLs in! Right? Wrong.

In today’s world and today’s market, the concept that marketing’s primary job is to drive MQLs isn’t really what’s going to move a business forward. A great way to figure out what will drive revenue is for marketing and sales to collaborate more. Having marketers shadow sales is such a valuable exercise because you get to see what actually works and what really doesn’t. 

5. Foster great executive relationships.

It all comes down to this — how much value are you bringing to the other executives around you? This is why being a strategist and understanding the ecosystem are critical skills for building productive relationships. Bringing valuable information to other executives only strengthens the overall success of the company. 

Sure, you could report to other executives the way you do to your boss by delivering reports and numbers. But there’s going to be no strength there, no real ability to be a partner in growing the business. 

No matter if it’s your boss, the CEO, the VP of Sales or the CRO — as the CMO, you should be cultivating these relationships because it only leads to better performance, better growth and better results.

What’s the Bottom Line for Marketing Professionals?

The role of CMO can make or break a company, but when the job becomes a revolving door, it can spell disaster. Whether you’re looking for a high-growth CMO or looking to become one, these five traits are absolutely essential for success. 

There has never been a better time to get into marketing and going in with these strengths and strategies will put you (and the company you work with) in the perfect position to dominate your industry.

It's time for legendary marketing.

I knew that Mark could help us based on his background and high standing in the video streaming ecosystem, but I was not prepared for the depth of his contribution. Working closely with our marketing and sales leadership, Mark expertly guided us in creating a new category called ‘Video Experience Automation Platform.’ This was a missing component to our previous efforts where we strived to clearly define how what we did was different and, better. As a scientist and technologist, it is rare to find a business and marketing leader with the command of a market and technology, which is why I can recommend Mark highly.

Abdul Rehman image
Abdul Rehman
CEO & Co-Founder, SSIMWAVE

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