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CMO to CEO: How Marketing Leaders can Make the Ultimate Transition

Feeling replaceable is tough.

Unless you’re moving up.

That’s what Katie Bullard, president of DiscoverOrg, did. Throughout her career, she has been shrewd enough to actually hire her replacements so she can move on to bigger roles. That’s pretty boss.

Lucky for you, Katie will be guest hosting our next series of #TakeoverTuesday episodes! You’ll have the chance to hear her chat with some of the industry’s most influential professionals. 

Today, we speak with Katie about key maneuvers to go from CMO to CEO.

Here’s what we’re unpacking today:

  • Getting out of your comfort zone
  • Helping others succeed
  • Aligning your decision-making with the CEO and board

This post is based on a podcast with Katie Bullard. If you’d like to listen to the full episode, you can check it out here and below. 

Say yes to opportunities outside of your comfort zone

Stretching outside of your normal role may be just the thing you need to do to make a successful vertical or horizontal move. The old adage, “you never know until you try,” holds a lot of truth in this situation.

If Katie had never taken the calculated risk of accepting a CMO position, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

There are, however, a few pro tips to adhere by when stretching outside of your league:

  • Be upfront about your weaknesses. If you’re asked to consider a position like Katie was, be completely transparent about the aspects that you do and don’t have experience in. This will speak to your dependability.
  • Be honest when you need help. A little trial-and-error can be effective, but make sure to reach out for help when there’s more on the line.
  • Stay curious. Your curiosity will help you tackle a role that you don’t have much experience in. Always be willing to learn new things.

Saying yes to opportunities outside of your comfort zone may seem scary or unrealistic. Nonetheless, demonstrating that you have the capacity to stretch yourself shows that you can take on a variety of responsibilities.

Help others become leaders

Afraid that the new young hire is going to pass you up?

You shouldn’t be as long as you have your priorities in line. Katie emphasizes that helping her team prepare to fill her shoes has allowed her to take higher positions. By creating an environment where your team can function smoothly without you, you create the space for promotion.

A high-functioning marketing team – to Katie – looks like…

… a thought out plan. Sales and marketing are aligned.

… common goals for all teams.

… people well-versed in the metrics that they’re in charge of.

More specifically, a well-oiled marketing machine at DiscoverOrg under Katie’s direction looks like a $7 return on every dollar they spend. Now that’s efficiency.

It was clear that Katie was ready to move into the president’s position thanks to her high-performing team of marketers. How do you start training your replacements like Katie did?

Her tip to you is to be honest with leadership in telling them if you’re the only person in the organization that knows how to complete certain tasks. Let them know you would like to start training and mentoring a new “you” in order to take on more responsibilities.

By helping others become leaders, Katie has not only moved up in her organization but has built a network of mentees and advocates for herself.

Look through the lens of the CEO and board

If you’re looking to move from CMO to CEO, you need to think like a CEO.

When you’re making decisions for your team, imagine what the CEO and board would do. This is an effective strategy when you’re responsible for delivering results for the organization. If you are peering through the lens of the CEO, you’ll be more prepared to move into that type of position.

What are the questions they’ll probably ask? Will they like the responses?

Make the ultimate transition

The only person holding you back from moving up in your organization is you. 

Taking control of your professional destiny takes…

… saying yes to opportunities outside of your normal role.

… helping others become leaders and your replacements.

… seeing through the lens of your CEO and board.

Take it from someone who’s been there.