In my last blog, I reported that CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) of public corporations last 26 months in their positions on average. That is short! The same is true for CMOs of startups.
Why such a short lifespan?
I think much of it is due to the rapid changes that technology has been making on the marketing function.
Try this on for size: In their December 3, 2007 column in Business Week, Jack and Suzy Welch wrote "Marketing is an increasingly complex science of data-mining, number-slicing, and niche-segmenting." This was in response to a reader's question "What are some of the best approaches to improving marketing?"
In other words, marketing has become much more than traditional marketing. It is more complex than the tired business school version that says marketing is "Product, Pricing, Promotion and Production." Savvy corporate MBAs already know the avalanche of complexity has arrived. So do the Google boys and their competitors.
Why is this important to a startup CEO?
Well, for one reason, because in the end the CMO of your customer is your customer.
You have to make the CMO in your targeted customer company at least more successful (and preferably a hero) with your social network or your gadget or your service. The CMO is central to all businesses. When the person in that job (for the next 26 months) is a hero, then so is the CEO and entire company. If the CMO flames out or cannot deliver, then everyone loses, including you and your entire startup.
Another reason is that the startup CMO's job is has also become much more complex for new enterprises.
I see the primary job of the startup CMO is to find customers. The job of the leader of Sales or Business Development is to convert those customers into invoices. The customers are increasingly a wide range of corporations each of which is seeking to appeal to different groups of end users. It makes a map of relationships look like a bowl of spaghetti.
So respect your CMO's challenge. Learn as much as you can about what makes a CMO a success or failure. Pick the best you can find. And get ready for a wild ride as your CMO starts looking for customers.
BOTTOM LINE: Startup life continues to get more complex daily in this booming global economy driven by Internet exploitation. Allow for that in your expectations of what the CMO has to do to succeed. Allow room for a lot more innovation and unexpected creativity than you can stomach. It will make traditional CEOs feel squeamish. And even serial entrepreneurs are shocked at how much change is going on with CMOs. And then think about your customers and their CMOs. When you understand their problems, you are on to a powerful knowledge base that you can use to help your CMO quickly convert your customer's CMO into invoices. That special skill will add a powerful element to your unfair competitive advantage.