CMO succession planning process

Succession planning steps for marketing executives

As CMO, your goal is to set your organization up for success. The CMO succession planning process may be the most lasting aspect of the legacy you leave.

No one to fill the role

In a recent global benchmarking study, Deloitte and the CMO Club found a surprising number of organizations lack an immediate CMO succession plan. Asked if they have a direct report who could step into the CMO role tomorrow, a full 61 percent of respondents said “no.” Interviews with 401 marketing executives on a variety of marketing, talent, and organizational issues found significant skills gaps that could leave many marketing organizations both underserved and open to a leadership void.

Every leader should have a successor. As CMO, your goal is to set your organization up for success, make an impact, and leave it better off than when you joined. Finding and preparing your successor may be more art than science, but a well-considered plan brings vital structure and rigor to the process. With a strong CMO succession plan, your team can build on the progress you made together and continue your legacy.

Red chair

Discovering and preparing successors

Preparing the next generation of marketing talent for leadership is a perennial challenge shaped by complex considerations and few definitive answers: Are rising marketing leaders getting the developmental experiences they need? Are they being groomed for the demands of tomorrow and not just today? Are they engaged? Adding to this complexity, marketing has become increasingly specialized, often requiring deep expertise in marketing strategy, technology, creative, analytics, and everything in between. This can make it harder to identify and develop holistic leaders who can step up quickly into the CMO role.

Transitioning from individual contributor to manager requires careful preparation under any circumstances. To find and prepare your successor, first consider looking for a candidate with the innate disposition and leadership skills to follow through on the vision you have already set in place. As you identify CMO candidates, help them gain experience beyond their current role and expertise, especially if they currently hold a “siloed specialist” role. Involve candidates in broader projects or simply bring them into discussions you have across your organization on a typical business day. Engaging potential successors in day-to-day activities of the CMO role can shine a real-world light on effective leadership in your organization and how a strong CMO can support overall business strategy and customer goals.

Women thinking

Avoid the ‘leadership vacuum’

Leadership roles today are often driven by complex business dynamics, big agendas, and intense pressure to deliver results. While that may leave little time to focus on training and professional development, as CMO you owe it to yourself, your direct reports, and your organization to prepare individuals for their next move up the ladder, so they are well equipped to continue and build on the successes of your team. A strong CMO succession plan may very well be the most lasting aspect of the legacy you leave.


CMO Benchmarking survey: The CMO’s impact

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