When a company chooses a CMO, they are making a decision that can literally make or break the company. A CMO is at the frontline of the business; they find, communicate with, and learn from customers, pull in revenue, fill the sales pipeline, and define the face of the brand that the world gets to see.
As such, it’s no surprise that big problems arise when you hire a CMO with an overly narrow set of marketing experiences. You can’t be an effective CMO if you don’t have a solid understanding of all the various marketing channels, how they work, how they interact with and support other channels, and how to use those channels to achieve a specific set of goals.
They need to have spent time in the weeds, to understand how things mess up, how things get hidden or obfuscated, and how different things work in different scenarios. Narrow is bad, broad is good, broad and deep is best.
For example, if a CMO candidate comes from a brand-centric background, all their marketing challenges may seem like brand nails ready for their brand hammer. If the CMO comes from a traditional advertising background, they may have no clue what to do with online marketing disciplines, and instead throw money after print, TV, and radio…all channels they feel comfortable with, but that tend to perform like crap in our digital world and often can’t be effectively tracked.
So why do SEOs make the best CMOs? Because there is no other discipline in existence that includes more breadth and depth across both technical and marketing disciplines. Period.
A skilled SEO will almost certainly be knowledgeable about, and very likely proficient in:
- Copywriting and editing
- UX and UI design
- Server configuration and optimization
- Page load speed optimization
- Competitive and market research
- Analytics (data collection, manipulation, and visualization)
- Conversion rate optimization
- Paid search, display and retargeting
- Paid social
- Social media marketing
- Affiliate marketing
- Mobile (apps, PWAs, etc.)
I don’t know a rock solid senior SEO who isn’t comfortable with most if not everything in the above list, and a few more things besides.
Beyond that, SEOs tend to have extensive experience with presenting to executives, as well as a deep understanding of business metrics. They know project management, use dozens of different tools to gather and leverage all manner of data, and are as comfortable speaking to devs as they are executives and boards. They also likely know how to hire, how to fire, and how to manage teams internally and contractors/agencies externally.
Some SEOs are also well versed with traditional outlets such as print, radio, TV, and billboards, though that skillset tends to be less common (and for good reason, since SEOs are data driven marketers and hate mediums that aren’t easily tracked and measured for ROI). They may also be experienced in email marketing, marketing automation, podcasting, and numerous other disciplines besides.
The point is, if you want someone in a CMO role who actually understands marketing across all the key facets, and who knows how those disparate elements play well together, then you want a skilled senior SEO in that role…but there’s a catch.
You see, most CMO roles want someone with an MBA and an Ivy League pedigree, but many of the best SEOs don’t even have a college degree (or if they do, a BA at best), because you STILL can’t learn SEO in-depth at a college worth attending. You learn it hands-on, by doing things in the real world, testing and measuring and getting better over time.
Because of that, the field of SEO tends to attract intelligent, driven, self-motivated tinkerers. They know how to get shit done, how to operate outside the standard playbook, and how to drill down to the heart of something and figure it out.
Hell, I’d put a senior SEO with 8-10 years of solid experience up against any MBA on the planet, and I’d be shocked if the SEO didn’t come out ahead no matter how you sliced it.
If you’re hiring for a CMO role, maybe it’s time to change your approach.