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A successful CMO has many roles, including leading an organization's marketing department, establishing marketing strategies, and tracking successes and failures. How can a CMO create a highly successful career, and what tools, strategies, and approaches can help you be successful? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Mitchell.

Kate Mitchell

Kate Mitchell

For almost 20 years, Kate Mitchell has been a change agent in senior marketing and sales roles, predominantly in the media space. As a rising star at Discovery, she was tapped to help launch Oprah Winfrey’s Network, changing the path of her career and uncovering her passion for building. After 7 years with Oprah, and at a time when digital, data, and tech were necessary for client success, she left her position as head of sales to be the Chief Revenue Officer for the digital first start-up, Gallery Media Group (a Gary Vaynerchuk company).

Continuing to write her own story, Kate took a role in 2020 to be the CMO of Majestic Steel, applying her experience in leading sales and marketing teams to a competitive trillion dollar industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to "get to know you" a bit better. Can you share your personal backstory with us?

Yes, of course. My career started out in media sales. As I rose through the ranks at Discovery, I realized that what made a strong sales person was a strong marketer. I’ve had the opportunity of working with household names like Oprah Winfrey and Gary Vaynerchuk in industries from television to steel. Throughout, my approach was always the same: what does the customer want and how do we communicate that to them?

What do you think was a pivotal moment that led you to becoming a CMO?

In media, the lines between sales and marketing are thin. You’re constantly looking for creative solutions to market your client’s message on your own platforms. I struck a partnership with Amazon and Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2016. That was more of marketing than sales partnership and I knew the power of the deal was finding the right balance of the two.  

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading Marketing at Majestic?

When I joined Majestic as CMO, they weren’t doing any paid marketing or lead generation. And by they, I don' mean just at my company, but in the larger steel industry at large! Met with some skepticism, we did a small test on Google and within five business days had a 50x return on the ad spend. Many people don’t fully understand how to harness the power of B2B marketing; depending on the product and industry, it’s an amazing source of revenue potential.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

Erik Logan, President of OWN and Hapro. At a pivotal time in my career, he pushed me to be the leader I am today. At a fairly young age, I was tapped to lead our sales team at OWN. Without his guidance and sound advice, I wouldn’t have succeeded in the way I was able to. “Run with the bad, walk with the good”, “Do the next right thing”, “Instill confidence”, and “Be still. Listen. Move slowly” are all lessons I carry with me today.  

Can you please give us your favorite "Life Lesson Quote"? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”  When I found success early in my career, some would say it was luck. I’ve never believed in luck, but I’ve always been prepared.

Can you share with us three strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others build these within themselves?

Decisive: you can gather evidence, listen to others, even take your time. But as a leader you have to be decisive; otherwise, no one is going to get on board.

Efficient: I’ve never believed in working harder, just smarter. The amount I’m able to check off my personal and professional to-do list daily is more than most… but that doesn’t exhaust me, it energizes me! 

Storyteller/Presenter: I grew up on the stage, dancing for almost 20 years of my life. It trained me to be a very comfortable and confident presenter to any crowd size.   

Which skills are you still trying to grow?

Patience. This one can apply to all facets of my life! I’ve never been a patient person, likely tied to the strength of efficiency. When fostering talent, patience is necessary. When dealing with more complex problems, patience is necessary. This will be a trait I’ll always be working on.  

Fantastic. Having reached this space, what do you believe are the five things you need to be a highly successful CMO?

1 . Decisive: Oftentimes you need to convince others around you what you should be doing, externally and internally, for your brand and business. I’ve found that when you’re soft or too gray about the path forward, you lose the team’s buy in. Listen but be decisive.

2 . Revenue Generator: Part of being a marketer is being able to creatively see the opportunities for revenue expansion. At OWN, we launched the Super Soul Sunday podcast, a free library of content we already had delivered to a new audience of consumers on a new medium. At Majestic it was starting our first lead generation platform that currently performs at over 100x ROAS. The more opportunities you bring for growth, the greater seat you’ll have at the table.  

3 . Influential: When OWN launched as a cable channel, Oprah wanted it to be her daily talk show 24/7. That is not the way cable works, as it’s very hard to be something for everyone. With a lot of research and guts, I successfully influenced her and the executive team on shifting the direction of the network to be a leading destination for African American women. It remains to be just that almost 10 years later.

4 . Objective: removing bias can be very hard in marketing. My sales background has pushed me to be more objective: look at the facts, not what you “think” is right. I’m very aware that we all carry bias with us in our lives, but the more you can shed that in your professional life, the more chances to be a better leader open to all voices. 

5 . Not being precious: We can sit in a room and debate for months on end about what color, text, model etc should be used, but that preciousness does nothing for your business unless you let the consumer in. You can like ‘said copy’ but if it isn't helping you to convert customers, you have to move on.  

Are there any underrated skills or qualities that you encourage others not to overlook?

I’m biased, but I think all marketers should have worked in sales at some point. And to that point, some of your best marketers may be sitting in your sales teams.  

What are some of the main issues that CMOs commonly struggle with? What can be done to address those challenges?

Once you do the hard work: build the foundation, branding, communication etc, most feel the need to move on to the next role. The average CMO tenure is 24 months. Some love the constant change, some can find it exhausting. I believe the more CMOs are brought into key business decisions at the executive level, the more they can contribute to the company long-term. Don’t keep CMOs in a box—they are the ones with a pulse on your consumer.  

What do you believe is the most effective way to stand out and make an impact as a CMO?

In today’s world, it’s all about ROI. Marketing used to be considered a “soft skill” for the company; subjective, and at times not even necessary. Today it drives revenue, leads sales strategy, and is a key function for the health of a business. If there is one metric that you focus on, let it be that.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good, what would it be? You never know what it can trigger!

This is a practice we have in our household and on all my professional teams: look for the good first, then the bad. We are so quick to judge each other that we often miss positive intention, creative thinking, and thoughtfulness by immediately pointing out what went wrong. This only creates a rippling negative effect. Instead, look for the good and you lift everyone up around you.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names read this column. Is there a person with whom you would love to have a breakfast or lunch, and why? You never know, they might just see this!

Reese Witherspoon. I strive to strike her professional balance of friendly yet tenacious. As women, we are often bucketed as either too soft or too hard. I’m seeking that middle ground and thinking maybe she has it!

Stephanie Hood
By Stephanie Hood

Stephanie Hood is an experienced marketing professional and Editor of The CMO. With nearly a decade spent as Marketing Manager at Discover Holidays and Executive Editor at VIVA Lifestyle & Travel, she built her career leading editorial and marketing teams and strategies that turn six-figure budgets into seven-figure profits. She now enjoys connecting with the world's top executives to learn their secrets to business success, and shares those insights right here with her community of like-minded professionals. Curious what she’s uncovered? Be sure to sign up for The CMO newsletter.