written by
Brik De Maeyer

10 Key Steps To Becoming A Leading Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

Content Marketing 8 min read

How do you kick off a new Chief Marketing Officer role or a new job as a digital marketing head? Someone asked us this question recently, and we wanted to answer it.

In case you're wondering, yes, there is a difference between a CMO and a VP of marketing or another digital marketing leader. The Chief Marketing Officer role is more strategic and analytical, while the VP is more tactical.

However, there's so much crossover with these two job titles. Most CMOs help manage tactical operations, and most marketing VPs help set the marketing budget.

For that reason, we're covering both the Chief Marketing Officer role and the digital market head's responsibilities together.

If you're wondering how to get started in your new position, these 10 steps are the answer.

Table of contents:

  1. Set goals and KPIs — and track them in one consolidated dashboard
  2. Fix issues with conversion tracking
  3. Allocate your budget and resources
  4. Improve how MQLs are passed on to the sales team
  5. Smooth out your self-serve funnels
  6. Test and fix lead capture
  7. Strategize traffic acquisition
  8. Supercharge your content operations
  9. Start new content partnerships
  10. Lower your CAC with paid advertising

1. Set goals and KPIs — and track them in one consolidated dashboard

If you're stepping into a new Chief Marketing Officer role or leading a digital marketing team for the first time, the first step should always be to set goals and create a strong foundation.

Let's say that up to this point, the company you're working on has only ever achieved 40 new subscriptions per day, and the goal is to hit an average of 100 new subscriptions per day within one year.

There are a lot of different KPIs and metrics you'll need to track as you and your team work towards achieving this goal.

Here are some of the metrics and KPIs that matter to digital marketers:

  • Returning visitor metric
  • Brand awareness metric
  • Web traffic sources
  • Total website visits
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Funnel conversion rate

There are dozens of individual metrics that you'll be analyzing when it comes to individual content pieces, campaigns, and funnels. But in the beginning, work on collecting the big picture metrics in a single dashboard, like Geckoboard.

2. Fix issues with conversion tracking

Once you've got all of your key metrics in one dashboard, it's time to solve any issues with conversion tracking and attribution modelling. This will allow you to accurately analyze existing spend and results across channels.

You'll need to test and update conversion tracking code in every tool and system you use, including but not limited to: Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, your email marketing software, your landing page software, and your sales pages.

Make a list of the individual tools you're using and the funnels that are already set up, and check that conversions are being recorded accurately.

3. Allocate your budget and resources

With conversion tracking up and running, you can now make decisions on how you'll allocate:

  • Team member's time
  • Agency and freelancer resources
  • Budget for content
  • Budget for paid advertising

You should analyze existing spend on tools, agencies, freelancers, and advertising platforms and make adjustments accordingly. Knowing what is getting ROI, what isn't producing ROI, and what may contribute ROI in the future will help you decide which channels and activities to aggressively pursue.

4. Improve how MQLs are passed on to the sales team

The next step is to address any issues with how MQLs are handed over to the sales team.

Here's how TechTarget defines MQL:

A marketing-qualified lead (MQL) is a website visitor whose engagement levels indicate that he is likely to become a customer.

Trust us, there can be a ton of issues with the process of delivering MQLs to the sales team. Here are some common problems:

  • Marketing isn't vetting leads and passing over any company that downloads a gated asset
  • Marketing and sales disagree on the criteria for vetting leads
  • The system for delivering leads is slow and manual, causing sales to delay in their response to a lead
  • Sales treats all MQLs the same, regardless of the estimated level of intent with which the lead entered the funnel
  • Leads can receive nurture sequences from marketing simultaneously with follow-up sequences from sales, causing a bad experience for the lead

To fix these issues, test the process from multiple campaigns and funnels, and talk with both the sales and marketing team about any issues already known to exist.

5. Smooth out your self-serve funnels

The above step applies to companies with sales teams. But what about self-serve purchases, where the customer decides to make a purchase and enters their credit card information online?

There are plenty of issues to fix there as well. In either case, the fact is that you should address problems at the bottom of the funnel before you make moves to add top-of-funnel traffic and leads.

If your company offers products and services with a self-serve purchase, here are the things you should test, analyze, and improve.

  • Improve UX on sales pages, landing pages, product pages, and pricing pages
  • Set up a/b testing and analyze heat maps on all of the above pages
  • Check that campaigns and funnels flow to personalized offers based on how they entered the funnel
  • Setup retargeting based on how deep into the funnel the prospect went
  • Improve campaigns meant to drive repeat purchases

6. Test and fix lead capture

At this point, you've got your goals, your metrics tracking, your conversion tracking, your budget, and the bottom of your funnel all set up.

Now it's time to move onto solving any problems in the middle of your funnel. While most B2B companies only make use of email marketing and chatbots for lead capture, B2C companies use other strategies too.

Here are all of the ways your company might be capturing leads:

  • Email marketing optins and freebies
  • Chatbot or live chat on your website
  • Website forms to request more information
  • Text message optin
  • Facebook Messenger bot

Test and optimize the lead capture systems already in place, and add new ways of capturing leads if you're concerned that the current systems don't reflect how your target customer wants to engage and the channels they most prefer.

7. Strategize traffic acquisition

While inexperienced Chief Marketing Officer and VPs of marketing might jump straight into driving more traffic, you know better. You know that without strategic goals and proper tracking, more traffic won't actually contribute more sales.

But now that you've improved the lower half of your funnel, it's time to strategize how will bring more qualified traffic to the top.

Depending on your company, you'll use some or all of these:

  • Organic social media - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Employee advocacy - (Especially important in B2B) Get employees to post about the brand and their work with the company
  • Content marketing - Blogs, podcasts, videos
  • Paid advertising - PPC and SEM for sales pages or free optins

When deciding what to prioritize, it helps to review your KPI dashboard and attribution models. It's typically smart to both double down on what works and also try something new (so long as it aligns with your strategy and the channels your target customers use).

8. Supercharge your content operations

Content marketing drives long term traffic and growth. Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (that's 19.7% vs 2.5%).

Undoubtedly, you'll include organic content and organic social media in your traffic acquisition strategy regardless of your plans for spending on paid advertising.

When your company's content operations is inefficient, your results with content suffer.

Fortunately, there's a lot that you as the head of digital marketing can do to improve your content operations, including:

9. Start new content partnerships

When you join a new company, you might find that content partnerships have gotten de-prioritized due to so many other tasks and to-dos.

Content partnerships can help you affordably access new audiences while increasing the perception of your brand. They can take the form of high budget video campaigns or side-project products. Or they can simply be a joint webinar or a guest blogging opportunity.

If no one on your team has their eye on fruitful partnerships with non-competing companies who have a similar audience, then it's time to assign this responsibility. Content partnerships are one of the best ways to beat your competition when it comes to accessing your target audience.

10. Lower your CAC on paid advertising channels

While content marketing and content partnerships are smart activities for traffic acquisition, long term growth, and brand awareness, you'll still likely want to engage in paid advertising for immediate growth.

The reason Monday.com was able to grow to a $1.9 billion evaluation despite heavy competition in the task management software market largely because they knew where their CACs (customer acquisition costs) were favorable. They aggressively attacked YouTube ads and Instagram ads, while other B2B SaaS companies play in the LinkedIn space, where the CAC would have been much higher.

Without low CACs, you can't experience that sort of growth — at least not sustainably.

The best thing you can do is to play in advertising spaces that are less competitive for your niche. Discover which platforms offer the lowest CAC, and use them to grow. Continually work at lowering your CAC by increasing order value, improving your targeting, and optimizing your funnel.

Success in a new Chief Marketing Officer role

In order to step into your new role successfully, you need to attack the right tasks at the right time. In essence, the order of operations looks something like this:

  • Set goals
  • Improve tracking
  • Analyze current results
  • Reallocate budget and resources
  • Optimize the bottom and middle of the funnel
  • Setup a content marketing machine
  • Grow aggressively with paid ads

If you onboard to the responsibilities of your role in a strategic process, you'll not only feel less overwhelmed, but you'll achieve greater success.