The 10 Actions a Regional Company Should Take When Hiring Their First CMO

Mid-Market companies need to fully understand the importance of this position. It can either boost or cripple their company.

Most Regional companies began as a small company. Typically, much of their success came prior to hiring a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). However, once there is a significant level of success, hiring a CMO becomes a customary move and is warranted.

Turnover in the CMO space is very high and quick. The average CMO today only remains at his/her job for three years. As in every other profession, there are great ones and there are bad ones. In this article I will discuss the key issues a CEO or HR Department must focus on when hiring their first CMO.

1. Fear Not: Don’t be intimidated. Never allow them to bully or imply your lack of understanding. Remember they are vying for the job, not you. You may not have a marketing degree, but logical answers don’t need a degree.

2. Ignore the Resume: Sounds ridiculous right? While credentials are important and need to be verified, they are not as important as outlook, analytics, perspective, attitude, and the willingness to learn and collaboratively lead.

3. Be Direct: Have them convey clearly what they believe their best assets are and have them clearly explain what they will add to your company. Don’t settle for high level executive mumbo jumbo. It’s BS! Make them clearly convey what their positive addition will be to your company.

4. Ask for a Plan: If the applicant delivers a complete plan to you on the spot, don’t hire them. If they seem 90% sure they have a plan, don’t hire them. These actions show they have a preconceived notion of their intentions before he/she learns everything they need to know about your company to devise and execute a well formulated plan. This likely comes from a previous company’s playbook that is either outdated or irrelevant to your specific company.

5. Test: Have a challenging scenario ready and pose it to them. Allow them to walk you through step by step how they see it unfolding and playing out. Do not coach them. Answer any questions they have that are necessary for them to answer the test but don’t assist them by giving them any leading answers. If any portion of their explanation seems curious, confusing or uncertain, stop and ask them for further clarification on that point before allowing them to move on in the discussion.

6. Media Specific: Don’t allow them to be a diabolical schmoozer. If they claim to have vast advertising and media experience, make them prove it. See which media mediums they were personally involved in. Question their knowledge of contracts, rates, commission structures, ratings and any other form of media measurement your company feels is a necessity to understand. Simply having marketing experience doesn’t mean that they have any knowledge of the entire media ecosystem.

7. Challenge: It’s your company and while you may not be a marketing or media expert you certainly are qualified to challenge an applicant. Challenge their prior experience, the sectors they actively played a role in and then ask for referrals from previous bosses and coworkers from each of those areas. Don’t let them gloss over it. That’s a red flag! Being a jack of all trades usually makes them a master of NONE!

8. Existent Personnel: Ask them to explain their position on collaborating with your existent staff, agencies and consultants. If they lead you to believe that they will rid the company of most or all your present staff without knowing the company’s issues and present employees’ individual duties and strengths, then they believe they are the savior. Don’t hire them.

9. Follow Up: Make sure to have your HR Department follow up on every claim and reference they supply. Don’t go by first impressions. Remember all new brooms sweep clean. Dive into their past working relationships and dive deeper into their past successes and failures. We all have both. Make sure they’re capable of delivering what they promise.

10. Hire a Consultant: If for any reason you or your HR department feel ill-equipped to handle these interviews and topics then hire a media consultant. One with vast experience in marketing, personnel management and media planning and buying. While no company likes the added expense of a consultant, it may be penny smart and dollar stupid not to do so.

The role of CMO is more important now than it was a decade ago. Many C Levels don’t understand how much of the company’s direction and future they will eventually control. Finding a good one isn’t easy but it’s worth the effort.

Once you determine which applicant is right for the job make sure they are allowed enough time to properly learn the company culture from the inside out. Monitor their education by consistently checking on their progress and testing them. Don’t assume they are educating themselves. They may decide on their own that they know better and start to make changes and alter the company direction before they fully understand what made your company successful and where it needs to go to continue to succeed.

Hiring the first CMO is a huge step for any regional business. The time and effort invested interviewing will pay big benefits later.

Author: Frank Gussoni

President & Founder of A3 media. We're Type A. We transform media from an expense into a smart investment.