Work Smarter with your CEO and Board

Watch now: Work Smarter with your CEO and Board


Building a better relationship with a CEO and Board can be fraught with hurdles but it is an imperative for the C-suite. This is especially true for the CMO. 


Arguably, no other executive role has more to prove than the marketing leader. Perhaps because of the historical connotations of the marketing department’s lack of objectivity or its opaque strategy and decision-making, a common complaint for marketing chiefs is the lack of trust displayed by their boss. Some CMOs still report to the COO or CFO, even today. 


In today’s data-driven environment, however, this perception is outdated and so unfair. Marketers have worked hard to inject measurability into their work and as a department has evolved considerably over the last 20 years to keep apace of transformation, digital channels and customer behaviour. That last trend is important to highlight: marketers are closest to the customer and have the opportunity to leverage this relationship to draw closer to the CEO and Board.


To discuss this, and more, two experts across the business and marketing landscape joined HotTopics Editor Peter Stojanovic for a panel discussion at The Studio for marketing leaders: Work Smarter with your CEO and Board.




  1. Building a better relationship with a CEO takes time
  2. CMOs: The riskiest executive on the team
  3. CMO, CEO trends take flight


Ready to discover more? If you liked these highlights, click the button below to watch the full roundtable debate.


Building a better relationship with a CEO takes time


Holly has 30 years of experience in executive search, working closely with CMOs, CEOs, Boards and more to find the perfect fit for organisations time and time again. She has also founded an initiative to support more diverse Boards, seeing the positive impact such groups have on the culture and profitability of their businesses. 


For Holly, what a CEO wants and needs are not mutually inclusive.


“Often, when I speak to new CEOs, they’re surprised at how lonely it is [at the top],” she revealed to the in-person and virtual audience of B2B CMOs. “They want insights and an external perspective, support and guidance in terms of decisions.”


They want these on their own terms, however; they don’t typically want to be challenged. 


What do they need, then? “It’s about enabling them to see the limiting factors in their decisions, their blind spots,” Holly continued.


If CMOs can deftly balance sharing insights and action points as guidance rather than directive, over time the CEO will learn to trust you and the marketing function. This is especially true for CEOs and Boards looking to become more customer-centric.


CMOs: the riskiest executive on the team


Quantexa is a big data and enterprise intelligence provider, working with many tier 1 organisations globally, and most recently a unicorn. Its CMO Matt Hooper is in that sweet-spot outlined by Holly whereby a technology firm has grown by listening to its marketing department—an official proxy for its myriad customers. Matt shared his experiences with the audience.


“CMOs have the riskiest jobs in the C-suite,” he said. “There is consistent research reporting high levels of dissatisfaction between CEOs and CMOs—why? It’s because of an industry-wide misalignment of responsibility, execution and performance.


“Marketers have to check the dynamics of their CEOs and Boards as soon as possible, even during the interview process, by laying out your strategy and evaluating their appetite.”


Building a better relationship with a CEO and Board takes time. For those in stable positions, turning around a poor working relationship is more difficult, but not impossible. Both Holly and Matt felt CMOs can be the glue of the organisation, by bringing the customer to each department—HR, finance, IT and strategy—and tying that together into brand and reputation.


CMO, CEO trends take flight


Having a seat at the board table is fundamental. The panel covered the presence of the Chief Revenue Officer, and if and how that trend impacts the role of the CMO. 


What’s more, Holly revealed that a recent PwC study found 40 percent of CEOs think their business models will become obsolete in 10 years because of generative AI. The need for good partners and strategic thinking has never been more important for the CEO, and CMOs should take note.


Closing the panel, both Holly and Matt doubled down on two key industry trends marketers ought to own: brand and reputation. Hyper-relevant for both customers and shareholders, the opportunity for marketers to be “guardians of the brand” is a “sure-fire ticket” to building a better relationship with a CEO and Board.


Watch the panel discussion above to build a better relationship with a CEO and Board.


To learn more about The Studio Marketing Leaders, click here.

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