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Back in 2016, Gartner predicted that today’s CMOs will be the CEOs of 2020. Fast forward to a couple years later, and it’s already happening. Though always playing a key role in the success of a company, the CMO was not commonly thought of as a CEO contender. As organizations become more customer-centric, tech savvy and budget-conscious, a talented and forward-thinking CMO with a firm knowledge of other aspects of the business has the right experience to lead the company.

Often called the intellectually ambidextrous person of an organization, CMOs need to know several critical things to get in line to lead:

1 – Customers are at the center of everything

Just as consumers have changed both in their expectations and the way they access information, understanding your customers, both present and future, has become a moving target. But how do you ensure you’re reaching the right audience? By understanding and developing your buyer personas down to the last nitty gritty detail. Buyer personas equip you to attract the prospects and customers you want – those prospects that are most likely to convert and that will benefit most from your product or service, to become the most profitable customers for your business. Because CMOs need to know and understand who your target buyers and most profitable customers are, they can rally the entire organization around that focused market.

2 – Experiences must be consistent across the buying journey

The entire customer buying journey – a series of interactions customers have with a company when making a purchase decision – plays a crucial role in customers’ purchase decisions. Whether it’s through email marketing, case studies or bylined articles, brands need to work across multiple functions to deliver a coordinated, consistent and memorable experience to their customers. This cohesive journey is one that a CEO should understand and buy into, but it’s only possible if your company’s data is integrated across every channel.

3 – Data is essential

The buzzwords of effective marketing center on originality, authenticity and honesty. Those are all good things, and your customers will take notice of such transparency. But the forward-thinking CMO needs to understand – and use – data to create personalized campaigns to meet customer retention, lead generation, profitability and revenue growth goals. This also expands into other functions of the business and positions the CMO to lead beyond the marketing department, such as sales, which counts on personalization and advanced data to help close deals.

4 – The right financial KPIs matter

For a CMO to be considered for a CEO role, they need to have a grasp on the fiscal numbers that matter to the business. The board of directors and leaders at companies don’t care about the impressions or even leads marketing generates – they care about the revenue brought in. Forward-thinking CMOs are already familiar with the right financial KPIs and ensuring goals are meant as they’re measured against these deliverables.

As the role of the CMO rapidly evolves, CMOs are more primed than ever to become the next CEO. With this needed understanding of the changing market forces, the CMO becomes even more valuable to a company.