Understanding Different Marketing Roles: CMO, Marketing Director and Marketing Manager

February 28, 2023

by Lara August, Founder and CEO

I see business owners confused about what to expect from people in different marketing roles. Most often they are complaining that there is a deficit in some area of their performance, when really, they are doing a fantastic job given their educational level and experience.

Here is an overview of what different levels of marketing staffing typically look like, along with their salary ranges and a simple explanation of the various expectations you should have for each level.

CMO – Chief Marketing Officer

$100,000 – 160,000+ annual salary

  • The C means participation at the leadership level
  • Entrepreneurial contribution at the highest level of company goal setting
  • Peer to other departments at the leadership level
  • Should not require management
  • 20+ years of experience
  • Background in both marketing and business
  • Got there by doing high level consulting, by investing in significant education (MBA), working with a startup or by amassing experience through job switching
  • This title, and even this position, is rare within companies under 50M in revenue. Less than 12% have a CMO.

Marketing Director

$75,000-130,000 annual salary

  • Requires big picture input from the leadership level on company vision and goals
  • Manages others, but also requires management and performance feedback
  • 10+ years of experience
  • Develops plans and marketing budgets
  • Runs programs
  • Can do several different aspects of the work (depending on background, might be more into data, writing or graphics)
  • Often worked their way up from a manager level within the same company
  • May have switched jobs and companies a few times, amassing education and experience

Marketing Manager (various titles… these are the doers)

$45,000-75,000 annual salary

What to expect:

  • Requires management and mentorship from an experienced marketer
  • Can run select programs based on specific training and experience
  • Often focused or specialized in one or two of these areas: social media, SEO, Google Ads, email marketing, content marketing, graphic design, copywriting, etc.

Do not expect them to:

  • be GREAT at more than one thing
  • be GOOD at more than two things
  • succeed without additional training and mentorship
  • develop a marketing plan
  • develop a marketing budget
  • manage people – they manage marketing activities
  • contribute at the leadership or strategy level

The most common frustration that we see from business owners is disappointment with their marketing managers. They are often expected to be operating at the director level or higher, but don’t have the training or experience to be able to contribute at those levels… yet! Use these general guidelines as a framework to fairly evaluate your marketing staff, and please love on your marketing team for their capabilities — not their shortcomings, especially if it’s your expectations that are not set correctly.

In my next post, I will share concrete steps that you can take as a leader to help your small marketing team advance.