Advice for New and Aspiring CMOs

Resource Center > Advice for New and Aspiring CMOs

Resource Center > Advice for New and Aspiring CMOs

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About the Author

Nina Hambleton

Nina Hambleton is the Growth Marketing Manager at Intelligent Demand. She leverages her background in SaaS, Sales Enablement and Training, and thought leadership marketing to develop effective strategies for ID and Growth Driver.

On the Growth Driver episode Path to CMO: Insights and Advice with Aaron Ballew, we dove into the nitty gritty details of what it takes to become a CMO. Aaron and co-host John Common discussed how there is no one path guaranteed to get there, and critical advice they’ve learned over the years. From unexpected career pivots to the terror that comes with accountability, this episode was jam-packed with real-world examples of where this advice takes life. 

About the Show

Growth Driver is the podcast where the best minds in B2B are coming together to rewrite the growth playbook. Powered by Intelligent Demand, Growth Driver was built to be a content community, inviting leaders across industries to take part in the overhaul B2B growth so desperately needs. 

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The many ways to become a CMO

PhD engineer turned marketer Aaron Ballew is living proof that there is no “one way” to becoming a CMO. Some start as specialists, others take the generalist route of marketing; and some forge a path new altogether. 

For people like Aaron Ballew, it was the feedback loop that encouraged him to continue down the path of marketing. He notes, “But like you, like me, like everybody, we’re broader than just that thing we happened to choose when we were 17.” Not all CMOs are born marketers or decide that’s where they want to end up in their career. Some even argue that those with an “unconventional background”, gathering experience in non-marketing fields, become better marketing leaders than those with marketing-concentrated resumes. 

What new and aspiring CMOs need to know

Whether a specialist, generalist, or other-turned-marketer, there are a few best practices any marketer should try to live by to optimize their impact in leadership roles. It starts with understanding that yes, leaders are accountable regardless of what happens; but being accountable should never justify limiting a team’s ability to test, try, and learn. Aaron says, “However good you think you are, however right you think you are, you limit the potential of your team if you use yourself as like the gating factor.” 

Learning when it is best to step in or apply personal methodologies or frameworks can be especially challenging for new leaders. Aaron’s strategy for staying grounded in these moments is focusing on your role as a facilitator, trying to guide the team to confront the right questions. As long as those questions lead to reasonable decisions, you can confidently know your team is headed down the right path. 

What kind of CMO do you want to become?

Of all the kinds of CMOs out there, the only kind you don’t want to be is the gatekeeper. The marketing leader that stands in the way of their team’s efficiency or opportunity for creativity not only limits their potential for success, but can erode culture, trust, and communication. Innovation happens when there’s an opportunity to swing for something bigger than what’s “tried and tested.” By definition, following any preexisting process or framework is not innovation and puts a ceiling on creation problem solving. 

Whatever your path to CMO may be, accept the risk that comes with accountability rather than freeze in the terror. There is no one way proven to become a CMO, but there are proven ways to become an amazing CMO. 

About the Episode with Aaron Ballew 

Stories of ascent and success don’t get more compelling than those penned in the high-stakes environment of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). We’re taking an honest look at the path to becoming a B2B CMO, followed by a deep discussion about what it takes to be successful as you enter the role and make the right impact.  

This episode is tailor made for 3 types of folks:

  1. You want to become a CMO 
  2. You’re currently a CMO and feeling some version of imposter syndrome
  3. You’re a head of sales or a CEO who’s ready to uplevel alignment at your company

If you fit into any of those categories, grab a cup of coffee and a pencil–consider this episode your map to navigating the path of leadership, strategy, and success as a marketing leader in a B2B context. 

We’re diving into the gravity-of becoming a CMO with Aaron Ballew, PhD engineer turned marketer and CMO at 

About our Growth Driver Guest, Aaron Ballew

Aaron Ballew has been the CMO at Split.Io for just over 2 years. He came to SPLIT from Ping Identity where he was VP of Demand. Before that, he held senior roles in demand gen, portfolio marketing, segment strategy. Interestingly, Aaron started out in engineering–with a PhD. He has the shortest LinkedIn about section we’ve ever seen: Real data with a human touch.

Key Moments from this Episode

2:34 – Advice for new CMOs 

13:49 – The different kinds of CMOs 

22:02 – Changes to expect going from VP to CMO 

33:23 – Be wary of artificial conviction as a new leader 

39:36 – Marketers must do more than try to make sales happy all the time 

49:23 – Not all captured demand is demand you generated yourself 

53:24 – The reason so many companies over-index on demand capture 

59:27 – How to adapt to the new mandate for efficient growth as a new CMO 

1:05:03 – ⚡️ Lightning round!