Career Path To Cmo, Are You A Commodity?

By Russell Lundstrom

April 7, 2023

Career Path, CMO
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What is the career path to the highest levels in marketing? 

You know the Director, VP, or even CMO?

Let’s assume you are junior to mid-level now. 

If you focus on marketing strategies, as 99% of all marketers do, then you might be shooting yourself in the foot.

Obviously my Facebook feed is loaded with marketing ads. I would suspect yours is the same.

What do you see?

Strategy ad, after strategy ad. 

Same on Youtube. 

The latest hack, strategy, platform, Ai, secret this and secret that.

As marketers we are obsessed with new, shiny, and secret sauce that we think gives us the edge in serving our sales masters.

Necessary, maybe…

But the career path to CMO isn’t about he who has the most strategies wins.

Let’s play a game…

Say you have a headache, and you know you need some aspirin.

You prolly go to Amazon and put in your search, sort by price or review and buy. 

Or, go to Google shopping and do the same.

You look for the same product at the best price. That is what the internet is for right?

You do it, I do it, we all do it.

Doesn’t matter the product, as long as you know what you want.

When you know what you want to buy, the product is now a commodity. Price is the only determining factor. Maybe availability, or color, but you’ll buy from anywhere that meets your needs.

Now, instead of a headache, let’s say you have a shooting pain down the left side of your body.

What do you do?

You certainly do NOT go to Amazon and start searching for left-side-shooting-pain… 

What you do is go to Dr. 

Who has to diagnose your symptoms and try to figure out what is wrong.

The bigger the problem, the more of a specialized Dr. you will need.

And the more expensive the solution will be

Medical specialists, like a neurosurgeon, as we all know, make a hellofva lot more money than your run of the mill internist (no offense to Dr.s, my wife is one).

Let’s connect the dots.

As a marketing pro, just having a bunch of strategies in your toolbox (which btw, is a never ending hamster wheel, but that is another story) is NOT going to get you to CMO.

See, most CEOs are concerned with the long term vision of their business.

They just know they need marketing.

Not what marketing, just marketing.

And their marketing problem is a shooting pain down the side of their body.

It hurts.

You could be the aspirin, bring your latest secret marketing hack in and stop the pain today.

But the cause is still there. It will hurt again when the aspirin wears off. 

It always wears off.

Almost all marketers are obsessed with being an aspirin.

It isn’t about the aspirin, it is about the diagnosis and then prescription that is the most valuable solution to a CEO.

So if you are focused on strategies, the aspirin, well, sorry, that’s low value. A commodity. 

The path to the highest levels in marketing is being the specialist who can come into any business, diagnose and then prescribe the solution.

Maybe it is aspirin, maybe it is Ben Gay. 

Maybe the solution is physical therapy. 

Who knows? Every business is totally unique.

CEOs typically do not know what they need. They just know they need marketing.

If you don’t have a diagnosis and prescription process you are just a commodity. Your marketing value is equivalent to an aspirin.

CMOs are highly trained and specialized doctors.

The question you need to ask today is, as I’m a fan of questions over answers, is do I have a process for diagnosing a business and can I prescribe a solution that is as unique as the business itself?

Answers below, how many doctors do we have out there?

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