Great marketing leaders are the engine behind a company’s long-term growth, brand development, and business success. They operate as “internal entrepreneurs” who bring creative ideas to the table, rally others behind a common vision, and execute in high-stress environments.
What traits do all the best leaders share? We dive into seven characteristics, how you can work on them, and steps to becoming the best version of yourself.
Common Traits of Great Marketing Leaders
A high degree of creativity with brilliant insights are table stakes these days. What sets great marketing leaders apart? Below are 7 of those differentiators. Not only do these people exhibit these qualities consistently, but they are also refining these capabilities to become an even bigger influencers in their organization.
As competition heats up, the most customer-centric organizations will win. Every business must be attuned to its customers’ successes, struggles, needs, and wants. The best marketing leaders spearhead this critical conversation with the customer.
They are constantly researching everyday problems their target market faces. From here, the marketing leader knows to prioritize the customer first. While every decision should make logical and financial sense for the company, it should also benefit the customers.
Customers do not only mean external people. However, the great leaders know how to service internal customers, the marketing department, and cross-functional departments, including sales, customer service, logistics, and other relevant areas. They do not form marketing plans without consulting the other groups. The best leaders ensure everyone in the company is synergized.
2. Analytical and Data-Driven
Marketing leadership is not all about creativity. An organization needs a leader who makes sound, data-driven decisions, specifically ROI. When marketing professionals evaluate proposals, programs, or campaigns, the numbers should always check. Top leaders ask: will this marketing initiative be worth the investment to create and implement it?
In today’s digital age, we have infinite data and knowledge at our fingertips. The best marketing leaders understand how to navigate through the noise, focus on what matters, and make reliable decisions that benefit their customers and organization. They also know the most relevant metrics to analyze when assessing the results of a marketing campaign.
The best leaders understand how to influence others. Before marketing leaders influence anyone, they invest time in discovering others’ needs and passions first. A great leader’s empathy reflects in the quality of their work. Because they know the needs and wants of others, the best leaders will provide useful solutions and services.
Not only is this true with internal team members, but the concept applies to customers. The best leaders only proceed with a marketing strategy that solves a customer’s need. Without empathizing with customers, the initiative cannot be effective. Every piece of marketing content will speak directly to a customer’s desires, wants needs, and fears.
Top marketing leaders not only understand how to form a strong vision, but they also know how to gain the buy-in from stakeholders within the organization. Through all the noise, the best marketing professionals define a clear end goal, rally others around the cause, and executes to perfection.
When leaders develop the vision and marketing strategy, they make it unique. No other competitor will have the “secret sauce” because the plan is specific to the company’s mission, core values, products, services, and culture. The message inspires employees to be their best selves, produce the best quality work, and serve customers relentlessly.
A vision is nothing without a communication plan. Once the company forms the vision, the marketing leader instills it in every employee within the organization, from the CEO to the entry-level team members. The best leaders will make this vision clear. They will also leverage the motivations of others to ensure it sticks.
The top tier of marketing leaders has a unique ability to instill confidence and calmness in high-stress situations. They serve as an “anchor” for the organization through uncertain times. This confidence is infectious and spreads throughout the company. Whether the marketing leader has the answer or not, they will do whatever it takes to deploy the necessary resources and build meaningful solutions.
Marketing leaders understand that everything always doesn’t go according to plan. To account for this, these valuable professionals are flexible with their creativity, time, and accessibility. Marketing is constantly shifting, and the best marketing leaders ensure their organization is flexible with these changes. They always have a game plan to respond quickly and effectively to these shifts.
7. Collaborative Approach
Humble marketing executives recognize they do not have all the answers. The best marketing leaders consult their team members because they recognize others know things they do not. Any elite marketing leader has a “dream team” around them. Through a dynamic marketing landscape, the marketing leader operates as an “orchestrator” behind this team.
If you seek additional inspiration to become a great marketing leader, here are some quotes to get your motivations flowing:
“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.”
— Roy H. Williams
“Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go.”
— Seth Godin
“You can’t tiptoe into social media. You have to jump into the pool. People have a natural fear of it. But the scary part is not being there. Your customer is already there.”
— Dave Saunders
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou
“Branding demands commitment: commitment to continual reinvention, striking chords with people to stir their emotions, and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.”
— Sir Richard Branson
“Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead
“If you’re looking for the next big thing, and you’re looking where everyone else is, you’re looking in the wrong place.”
— Mark Cuban
“How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”
– Seth Godin
“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”
What About Fractional CMOs?
As you can imagine, all the same traits apply whether a CMO is full time or fractional. That said, for a detailed article explaining exactly what a Fractional CMO is, see our article titled “What is a Fractional CMO?” And f or a detailed article on Fractional CMO services, see our article titled “Fractional CMO Services.”
How to Become an Effective Marketing Leader
You now understand what a successful marketing leader looks like. Now, it is time to put everything together. Below are actionable steps to becoming an established leader in your organization.
Focus on Self-Improvement First
Before you influence others, you must conquer yourself. Becoming a better leader starts with the individual. Perform a self-audit of your strength and weaknesses. Identify traits from this article that you want to improve upon. Outline a game plan of how you will work on both your hard and soft skills.
Identify Opportunities to Add Value
As you become a better leader, focus on the skills that will provide the best return for your company. Does your organization need someone who understands a type of software program? Perhaps you could work on your interpersonal communication skills to drive more sales. Reverse-engineer this concept by speaking with leaders in your organization and understanding what the business needs.
Work on Your Emotional Intelligence
As mentioned above in the positive traits, emotional intelligence is the heart of marketing. You must understand your customers, employees, and other external stakeholders before you provide value. The best thing to do here is work on your active listening skills first. Instill a sense of patience within you so that you can gain the goodwill of others.
Strengthen Your Emotional Stamina
When your organization goes through tumultuous times, it needs someone who will be a “rock.” For the company. The best marketing leaders provide confidence and calmness within uncertain situations. Train your mind to be ready for anything so you can provide creativity, vision, and humor during those critical moments.
Improve Your Self-Awareness
Your personal brand is your collective strengths and weaknesses. To serve your organization in the best way, you must understand both the “good” and “bad” about yourself. Take a moment to reflect on what your skills and weaknesses are. Ask the people around you for honest feedback so that you can be the best version of yourself. Double down on your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and delegate those responsibilities in the meantime.
Instill a Growth Mindset Within Yourself
True marketing leaders understand they can always be better. They constantly throw down a challenge for themselves to grow and become the best version of themselves. The top marketing leaders see criticism and failure as an opportunity to learn valuable lessons. When marketing leaders maximize their talents, the organization will benefit in the long run.
Be a Mentor and Resource for Others
The best marketing leaders improve their organization, but this growth starts with the people. Pinnacle leaders collaborate closely with everyone across the organization. People always feel confident in approaching a good marketing leader because there is mutual trust. The top marketing leaders always extend a hand to mentor, teach, or support their employees.
Start Thinking More Strategically About Your Company
The top marketing leaders do not hyperfocus on their tasks and responsibilities. Instead, they constantly study the company’s market, competitors, and industry trends. They then reverse-engineer these factors into their work. By leveraging the unique skills and talents of cross-functional departments, top marketing leaders guide their organizations toward sustainable marketing success.
The top tier of marketing leaders sees the world differently. They invest in marketing strategies that are not only high converting but also underpriced in terms of attention. Foster a continuous innovative mindset by writing down your creative ideas and dedicating time each day for uninterrupted brainstorming.
Seek Out More Responsibility
If you are early in your career or still have room for growth in your organization, this strategy is an effective one. Develop your communication skills and initiate conversations with other departments. Ask for additional project opportunities from your supervisor. This inquiry could lead to you contributing to a marquee project and developing your team leadership skills.
Final Wrap Up
When it all comes down to it, the top marketing leaders are customer-focused, analytical, empathic, confident, adaptable, and collaborative. They understand how to convert an idea into a solution that improves the lives of others. Through the good and the bad, the effective marketing leader will guide their organization to the promised land. To recap, there are things you can do right now to be an influential marketing leader:
Find opportunities to add value
Hone your emotional intelligence
Improve your emotional stamina
Work on your self-awareness
Carry out a “growth” mindset
Be a mentor for others
Think more strategically and creatively
Seek more responsibilities