I-Wen Chiumaginot, Senior Manager of International Intelligent Selling, explains her experience working with great marketing leaders and what it takes to become one.
Leadership in marketing is something I’ve thought about a lot. I worked for Dell in marketing for 10 years, and in my current role at Salesforce, I collaborate closely with marketing executives. As a result, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to work with, and learn from, marketers at the top of their field. Here are some features of the most inspiring, and effective, marketing leaders I have worked with.
In today’s data-driven world, we all have information, statistics, and reports at our fingertips 24/7. However, accessing this information is only part of the challenge we face; great marketing leaders cut through the noise to find the signal, digesting data quickly and smartly to identify the right metrics by which to measure their success.
Many marketers are proud of the big budget they own but not all can articulate their campaign ROI. Effective leaders want to be certain that they aren’t squandering money on unnecessary actions — even when the budget is not a constraint. They’re smart about metrics, they know which KPIs to use to drive the right behaviours from the sales or marketing teams, and which ones to use to evaluate the impact of their strategies.
We are living in a customer-centric age, and every business needs to maintain a laser focus on the needs of their customer. Great marketing leaders understand the importance of putting their customers first — not only in terms of empathising with their solutions or product’s end-users but also in terms of supporting the internal customers, such as sales teams, that marketing interfaces with. They don’t make their marketing plans in silos, but rather in partnership with sales leaders’ priorities.
Marketing leaders should have a unique vision for their company and its messaging, but just having this vision isn’t enough — they also need to communicate it clearly to their team. Turning one individual’s blueprint into a common goal that can be nurtured and realised by a wider group of people takes skill. The exceptional marketing leaders I’ve known can communicate what motivates them in such a way that it engages and inspires their team, too.
Marketing doesn’t operate in a silo; it’s part of a cross-functional business strategy. Successful leaders realise that marketing is part of a relay race; their job is to get a winning lead before handing off the baton to sales, who can convert that lead to opportunity.
Many of the inspiring marketing leaders I have worked for have a diverse professional background, with experience in sales, business operations, finance, or IT that feeds back into their perspective on marketing. Agile, cross-functional workforces are becoming the norm in the current climate, and successful leaders must harness the talents of all departments and functions to convert a prospect into a loyal customer.
Strategies, technologies, and customers are always changing, and leaders need to keep up with a rapidly transforming world. In the past few years, technologies that once sounded like science fiction — AI, chatbots, big data — have become widespread, and marketing professionals have had to evolve to keep up.
Many top marketing executives and CMOs at big tech companies started in Marketing 1.0, and we’re at 5.0 now. The world doesn’t stop changing, and great marketing leaders don’t stop growing and evolving, either.
This focus on life-long learning and personal development extends to hiring: successful leaders look beyond a candidate’s CV and focus on their ultimate potential. They have a growth mindset and focus on diversified, transferable skills that candidates might possess – previous experience is just a bonus.
One of the most inspiring things about successful leaders is that they’re never too busy, or too senior, to help someone else out. In my whole career, I’ve only experienced one or two directors who wouldn’t spend time on people beneath their job grades.
Instead, most leaders will go out of their way to schedule 1:1s with their reports, and the inspiring marketing leaders I’ve known are also humble. They look at front-line employees as people they can learn from, and in turn, those employees look at others in the same way. Being humble and remaining open to the ideas of others — no matter their level — is a great way to nurture an innovative mindset and get the most out of a team’s talent.
A customer-centric age requires new strategies and processes. Marketing leaders need to adapt their messaging and lead through change. This is a data-driven climate, but one where human qualities like leadership, resilience, vision, and compassion are crucial. Great marketing leaders are great communicators, but even more than that, they’re lifelong learners. For today’s marketing leaders, the journey towards a better tomorrow is just beginning.