Modern Marketing

Does it matter if you work for a CMO or VP of Marketing?


In 2007, Jon Miller (my current boss and VP of Marketing at Marketo), posted an article about the difference between a CMO and a VP of Marketing.  I did not read the article at the time, but did stumble upon it about a year ago.  When I first read the post I thought it was written by someone who wanted a different title than what was written on their business card.  However, this was before I worked for Jon and began interacting regularly with the CMOs at our customers’ companies.

In this blog post, Jon lists out the major difference of the CMO role versus that of the VP of Marketing.  The chart he provided can be summarized by saying a VP of Marketing is a more tactical role, focused around building brand, responding to sales requests and selecting collateral, and that a CMO is a more strategic role, with measurable results, that executes synergistically with sales to grow revenue.

When I first read the post I didn’t see much of a difference.  The way I saw it, executing the tactics of a VP of Marketing role would create the position described as the CMO.  And I would likely still assume this unless I saw some CMOs in action.

Just today, I received emails from Jon about marketing’s role in April sales, the revenue goals for May through year end, plans on how to increase margin, and questions about improving campaign execution based on historic results.  What I did not receive from him were forwarded emails from our Sales VP, questions about the next email I was going to send, or about the next company party or outing.

As a Director of Marketing this difference has become very important to me, since this difference drives the growth of our department and attitude of our team.  Recently, instead of recruiting an email or PR manager, our most recent team hire was a Marketing Operations Manager.  Another example can be seen in team meetings, where directors and managers bring dashboards, not a list of completed tactics.  These team meetings include discussion about how buyer’s behaviors are changing, not about how someone will respond to a magazine ad or why we should copy what another competitor is doing.

It also affects the work that I do.  My objectives for this quarter are focused around reporting effectiveness and accuracy, launching thought leadership and ideas (not just product), my plan for scaling opportunities (not leads), and how we cross-sell our product (including metrics to measure success).

Unfortunately, you can’t tell from the title if the marketing leader is a CMO or VP.  Instead, you need to dig a little to find out these answers.  When selecting an employer, ask the marketing executive:

  • About their objectives and how they are measured.  You will want to decipher if these are aligned with the objectives of the VP of Sales.
  • The success of the current directors.  High turnover at this level often indicate shortcomings of more senior marketing management.
  • How your success will be measured.  If your goals are tactical, or there is no way to measure them, it may indicate a less strategic approach.
  • Investments made in technology.  B2B companies without CRM and marketing automation systems often have a hard time measuring the success of their programs and can’t prove the ROI of marketing dollars spent.
  • The lead management process.  A process that is not defined, or that does not rely on marketing, is likely one of a VP type of mentality.  Lead management processes must be in place to identify problems or bottlenecks in the process as well as measure program success.
  • Third party validation.  This one is hard to find.  Here at Marketo, Jon was named one of the Top 10 CMOs by the CMO Institute.  He is joined in this top ten list by other marketing masters, including CMOs at Harrah’s and Kodak.  This type of validation helps you to know you are working at a company driven by strategic marketing and sales goals.

By making sure you work for a CMO you will be creating your own success, as you will have a more exciting and challenging role. Plus, you will be better prepared to become a CMO as you move forward in your own career.