How to become a Chief Marketing Officer?

5 minutes

On Thursday, 9th of November 2023, Manchester marketing recruiter, Andy Larkin, held ou...

On Thursday, 9th of November 2023, Manchester marketing recruiter, Andy Larkin, held our first panel event in the North West. 

With so many companies launching and growing in Greater Manchester and beyond, we’re seeing a demand for Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) in the region. As a result, this was the perfect time to hold an event discussing how to become a CMO. 

Marketing professionals in attendance heard from our experienced panellists:

Together, they discussed:

  • What is a Chief Marketing Officer?
  • Their first CMO job
  • Identifying the business you want to join

Read on for the key takeaways from the morning.

What is a Chief Marketing Officer?

Andy began the conversation by asking our speakers to define the CMO role as they know it. 

Of course, you know the dictionary definition - “Reporting to Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Marketing Officer is responsible for leading the marketing department, defining the marketing strategy, and overseeing the execution of marketing campaigns.” 

However, it was insightful to hear from those who have taken on the title themselves.

Definition and delivery

For David Hendry, the role can be broken down into two parts – definition and delivery.

  1. A CMO is responsible for defining what a brand looks like, feels like, sounds like and how it resonates with the audience.
  2. A CMO can take this knowledge and position a product to reach the target audience, whilst delivering the best value to customers.

This is the essence of the role that will often stay the same, no matter the business you join.

Size of the company

David went on to share how the Chief Marketing Officer’s job description and responsibilities may vary depending on company size.

“It takes different personalities and skill sets to fit into each size of company."

For instance, if you’re looking at a job description for a start-up, the role will often involve the set-up of the marketing department for business development. You will be asked to carry out the product positioning, build out the team and engage marketing and advertising agencies.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to work for SMEs, the role will be much more focussed on growth. Within these organisations, the product will already have a good position in the market, and it will be your responsibility to grow the business into new markets.

For even larger, global companies, your focus as the CMO will be on brand management and maintaining the business’ reputation.

Finding your first Chief Marketing Officer role

Finding your first CMO job can be daunting. Joining the C-suite and the board is a whole new world, requiring completely different skills. Andy asked each of our panellists how they found their first opportunity and what they experienced in the role.

Joining a family-owned company

Lei Sorvisto has over 16 years of experience in marketing, having grown her career from Marketing Manager through to Chief Marketing Officer at Auto Trader and Hybrid Theory. Lei’s first CMO role was with family-owned company, Polar Electronics. 

Joining a family-owned business has its own, unique set-up. For instance, although Lei was a part of the C-suite, she wasn’t a part of the board due to the familial structure. This presented opportunities to learn how to communicate effectively with the board and demonstrate the value of marketing.

An unusual career path

David’s experience spans across a number of different skills and job titles, from marketing through to digital transformation consulting. The route to his first Chief Marketing Officer role was anything but typical, with no clear path from Marketing Manager through to Marketing Director. 

The key to David’s role was his curiosity and desire to always learn. As a result, the CMO role at a start-up with lots of opportunities spoke to David.

Moving from global businesses to a start-up

Charlotte Hyde started her career in Manchester-based global communications agency, Weber Shandwick. From there, Charlotte moved to VELUX where she transitioned internally from PR to social and then brand. This led her to most recent venture with ohne, where she was promoted from Brand Director to CMO in 2023. 

“I think I’m better when I care about the company I work for."

The majority of Charlotte’s career was spent in large, global organisations, so the move was a new experience. She was becoming disillusioned by the bigger corporations and wanted to join ohne as a start-up in a space she was passionate about. As a result, she reached out to the Founder directly on LinkedIn to see if she could support their growth as the Brand Director.

Identifying the business for you

Following on from David’s comments around business size earlier on, Andy invited Charlotte and Lei to give their perspectives on marketing in start-ups versus bigger organisations. They also highlighted the differences required for B2B organisations versus B2C brands.

Why join a start-up?

Having joined ohne very early on in their growth, Charlotte largely echoed what David had said. She quickly realised that her role was more than marketing and brand, but also encompassed business strategy. As a result, Charlotte found herself focussing on product market fit.

“That experience has been invaluable."

Taking on this role presented new challenges that Charlotte had never in her career, and so it was the perfect opportunity for her to learn new skills and grow as a marketer.

The CMO’s role at a start-up

Charlotte was able to delve into more about the role Chief Marketing Officers play in a start-up.

As with any C-suite marketing role, there’s the strategy part. In early-stage businesses, there is a desire to chase every opportunity. As the CMO, it’s your responsibility to guide the board’s decision making and follow the green shoots of success.

However, in start-ups, there’s also the operation side. You must be more hands-on in your role and support on the execution of the marketing activities. In Charlotte’s case, she was the only marketer for a period, so this was also her responsibility.

The CMO’s role at bigger organisations

Lei shared that within bigger organisations, it’s important for marketing leaders to have strong stakeholder management skills. This is even more important when private equity or investors are involved. In these cases, there are different stakeholders that you need to communicate with. 

Usually, the largest budget is allocated to the marketing department. As a result, the stakeholders want to see the return on investments.

Join our next marketing event in Manchester! 

Thank you to our speakers for sharing your insights on the Chief Marketing Officer job and supporting the marketers of Manchester in developing their careers. If you missed out, but would like to join us next time, please register your details below.

Searching for your next marketing job in Manchester?

If you’re looking for a new role in the North West, be sure to reach out to Andy Larkin for career support. Or, upload your CV here. 3Search is the biggest digital marketing recruitment agency in the UK, promising to deliver the best recruitment experience you will ever have.

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