The other day, a prospective client asked us what they should look for in a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). This prospective client is a very early-stage startup, but one with very big and ambitious plans. They have a fairly detailed business plan, and the founder/CEO only recently pulled the trigger and quit a full-time gig to run his startup. They’re pre-revenue, only have a rudimentary version of their product, and they are on the hunt for investors to help get them off the ground.
This startup is clearly planning as much as they can, and working to move forward methodically. And at some point, they’re going to need a CMO, and the CEO asked what he should look for. Here’s how we suggest he- and other early-stage startups approach it:
- Figure out when the time is truly right. You don’t necessarily need a CMO before you’ve developed a product that’s worth selling. You will DEFINITELY most need a CMO when it’s time to scale. Which means you need a solid product, not just an MVP. Hiring too soon might be a waste of precious resources, while hiring too late could be a grave misstep.
- Look for someone who understands technology. Marketing has become as much about the technology we use as it is about the strategy and the creative. CMOs need to be able to talk to your company’s CTO; they need to understand how your customers are using technology, and then find ways to use those technologies to spread your company’s message. They also need to understand reporting technology. So much is trackable today–there’s so much data available. CMOs don’t necessarily need to know every aspect of every technology, but they do need to have enough understanding to know how to pull things together in order to master all of these facets.
- Look for someone who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty. Marketing is a team sport. There’s no one person who can possibly do everything, nor are there enough hours in the day. The result is that it’s not uncommon for CMOs to be master delegators. There’s nothing wrong with that–when you’re in a larger organization and your CMO is commanding a large team. When you’re in a startup, though, everyone needs to pitch in and do their part. The CMO who knows how to get stuff done–either individually or through other people–is indeed a rare, valuable find.
NOTE: Even if you’re not ready to hire a CMO, you still need to promote your company! Check out our Rocket Packs for Startups to see how we can help.
Image above of the CMO T-shirt, available for purchase here.