Everything You Need To Know About CMO Burnout


discover the causes of cmo burnout

Being a CMO for any company is no easy task. Responsible for the holistic growth of businesses, the chief marketing officer is responsible for developing long-form strategies for branding and advertising. The position requires creativity, analytical skills, and the ability to communicate with both CEOs and customers. 

In short, CMOs are like superheroes—they dedicate all of their powers to the greater good of companies. 

But even Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne feel burned out sometimes. Jumping off buildings and protecting the world from evil villains gets exhausting after a while. CMOs can feel the same way as company pressure increases and deadlines draw closer. 

a CMO is like a superhero for businesses today

CMO burnout is becoming a real issue. According to a survey conducted by blind, professionals in the marketing and communications spaces reported the highest levels of burnout both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 83% of marketers indicated high-stress levels in their post-pandemic careers. Citing the lack of a work-life balance as the top reason for burnout, it is clear that CMOs are burning the candle at both ends. 

More specifically, many chief marketing officers have reported a lack of control over their work. This includes CEOs and other leaders expecting CMOs to manage data outside of their job descriptions—including sales metrics.

Related read: The Fading Role of the CMO: What Marketing Leaders Should Do Now

Stephanie Chavez, our fearless President at Zen, explains how this plays a key role in CMO burnout. 

“This mismatch between what we think we’re being hired to do and what the rest of the C-suite thinks we’re being hired to do is part of why the CMO average tenure rate is just 40 months, the lowest it’s been since 2009,” she says. 

President of Zen Media, Stephanie Chavez, speaks on the stress of CMOs

So how can these misunderstandings be eliminated? The first step to alleviating the stress of CMOs is better understanding what the relationship between a CEO and CMO should look like.

The Relationship Between CEO and CMO

The CEO and CMO should work together like peanut butter and jelly. Both positions need to complement each other’s efforts to drive the company forward. 

The CEO communicates with stakeholders and organizes all operations involved with increasing sales. This role delegates projects to fellow team members, enhances shareholder value when possible, and oversees the company’s finances. They lead the holistic direction of the company.

The CMO drives revenue growth through the implementation of marketing tactics. They focus on fine-tuning the business’s overall brand by analyzing customer feedback. Their mission is to improve the company’s long-term market position while working with both the sales and creative teams. 

In a perfect world, the CEO understands that a marketing strategy’s value should not be based on how many clicks a Facebook ad receives. While numeric data is important to tracking business growth, there are many elements of successful digital campaigns that cannot be quantified. These can include the creation of high-quality content, consistent branding, and B2B PR hits.

However, problems occur when a CEO micromanages their CMO to implement more performance marketing strategies. 

Our CEO, Shama Hyder, perfectly explains this issue

“Micromanaging for metrics may make you (and the board) feel safer, but it hardly ever tells the full story,” Hyder writes. “All marketing is not performance marketing. Most prospects will see your ad but won’t click on it. They will read your white paper, but they won’t have a conversation with sales right away. They will read your company profile in Forbes, but they won’t message you telling you they did so. They will become consumers long before they turn into customers or clients.”

The CMO needs to play the long game. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Boosting ROIs and converting leads takes time. 

“It isn’t magic. It is marketing,” Hyder adds. “It is harder than ever to stand out from the noise these days. It takes time to create and maintain respect, relevance, and recall. And, as I always say, recall drives revenue.”

These misunderstandings are what lead to CMO burnout, as well as their strained relationships with CEOs. 

Preventing CMO Burnout

Okay, we get it: CMO burnout is a real issue. But how can we prevent it? 

Although we cannot change the expectations of CEOs overnight, we can change the ways we work and react to stress. Here are a few ways to say “goodbye” to burnout.

Changing Your Workflow

change your workflow to eliminate stress

We all have different ways that we manage and complete our work. Sometimes, it is important to revisit our habits and ask ourselves if they are sustainable. If not, change them up! 

What are some tasks that could be automated with the newest technologies? Are there some things you can delegate to other members of your team? Is there a specific time of day when your mind needs a break? Write out your daily schedule and see how you can increase your productivity and energy levels. 

Set Smaller Goals

Our friends at Forbes recommend that CMOs set smaller goals for themselves when working on pr campaigns. Instead of completing an entire week’s worth of work in one day, split your tasks up. This will alleviate daily stress by making your goals more attainable. It will also allow you to keep up with deadlines and pay attention to the little details. 

Take Breaks

a CMO taking a break during the workday

This one sounds obvious, but it is true. Taking breaks during the workday can improve CMO’s physical health. Every time you finish a task, take five minutes away from the computer. You can take a walk outside, eat a snack, or talk to your coworkers. As long as you are getting up from your desk, you are doing something right. 

Research shows that workplace breaks can reduce afternoon fatigue and improve productivity later in the day. Rather than staring at a computer screen for eight hours straight, give yourself time to relax and socialize. This is the first step in finding your work-life balance.

Try New Communication Strategies with CEOs

We talked about how CEOs value numbers. Although it is not in the CMO’s job description to focus on these types of analytics all the time, it can be a good idea to communicate these numbers first. When sharing your digital marketing plans with your company’s leaders, try translating your goals into actionable items backed by hard data. Likely, it will be easier for your CEO to understand where you are coming from when numbers are involved. 

“Part of your job as a CMO is to be a translator because it’s just the simple truth that marketing is widely misunderstood even by those who are close to it,” Stephanie Chavez says.

Are you still feeling overwhelmed? Do you need a team to help with your PR and B2B marketing needs? Let’s talk.


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