Linda Fisk, Co-Founder and CEO of LeadHERship Global.
The road to the top position in a company, the chief executive officer, is shifting from a decade ago. The types of skills that today’s CEOs need to cultivate in order to excel include: strong communication skills, the ability to collaborate closely in a team, operate with genuine empathy and build high-performing teams. Other skills that are of foremost importance for today’s CEOs are listening carefully with genuine empathy and communicating openly in order to elicit public trust as the face of the company.
To thrive as a CEO, a leader needs to be an astute student of business but also an exceptional leader, adept at the “softer” leadership skills. Requirements for today’s CEO have shifted with more value placed on being a team player, a collaborator, a good communicator and a strategic thinker. The CEO of today needs to be capable of multitasking continuously, leading in a team-oriented style, successfully coping with stress and pressure and carefully managing the performance of their team, providing protection from burnout.
Marketing has not typically been a route to the top position in an organization. However, marketing is often the area that is responsible for crafting the company’s brand, communicating its values, creating a sense of identity and connecting with customers in a tangible but personalized and authentic way. With the ability to track, measure and report performance in every aspect of sales and marketing, marketers are now able to show tangible evidence of their ability to accelerate profitability and growth. And, in the new digital-first world, marketers are expected to be tech-savvy and have a deep understanding of — and connection to — the company’s customer base. That’s a powerful combination in today’s complex business environment.
Today, with the increasing importance of digital and social connection to the customer, CEOs that rise to the top through marketing have not just become a possibility but also an imperative in many companies. Here are three reasons why marketers climbing to the top have a significant competitive advantage:
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• Experience with sales enablement and driving revenue through new sales channels: Marketing has now broadened in scope as new consumer channels and touchpoints have emerged, and e-commerce initiatives are now typically falling to marketing. Marketing is expected to drive revenue through direct and digital channels, often as the primary sales channel. The lines between traditional marketing and sales functions are continuing to blur with social technologies, digital interactivity and mobility becoming integral to consumer and business connections. Because marketing and sales must respond seamlessly to new opportunities, marketing leaders now often serve as the CEO’s single point of contact for revenue generation.
• Experience cultivating and managing the customer journey: The customer journey should be built around the individual and should encompass every interaction with your prospective and current customers, across all of your channels and touchpoints. It is the role of marketing to enhance your odds of converting prospects and continuing to engage customers through a well-coordinated, customer-centric marketing strategy. And, because marketing is tracking, measuring and reporting on the outcome of every interaction and every touchpoint across channels, marketers have powerful insight that can and should influence strategic business decisions.
• Experience developing a customer-centric culture through listening: Effective and meaningful communication, both within an organization and with key customers and stakeholders, is vital in an innovative, dynamic and growing business. And, while it is critical for leaders to learn good communication skills, it may be equally important for leaders to learn how to be a critical listener with a focus on learning from customers. Critical listening allows a company to provide needed support for its customers while trying to understand their perspectives, which can lead to breakthroughs, innovations, product enhancements and new lines of revenue. Marketers know how to cultivate this kind of customer-centric culture, listening to customers for key insights and developing a long-term relationship with them through effective communication strategies.
Overall, promoting transparency and managing customer communities and public conversations are increasingly critical skills, especially as leaders manage a workforce that has grown up in the digital age and expect immediate access to information. For all these reasons and a dozen more, marketers are now able to show tangible evidence of their ability to accelerate profitability and growth and compete for the top position in the company. What path should executives follow as they strive to reach the next level? Marketing seems like a really good choice.