When Should I Hire a CMO?
Look for these 3 prerequisites.
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Last month, I was invited to speak at SaaSOpen in NYC on the subject of CMOs.
Specifically - when is the right time to hire one?
Let me preface this by saying that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on a bunch of different factors.
What stage is your business?
What marketing resources do you already have?
How much budget do you allocate towards marketing?
But ultimately it comes down to a single question:
Too many early-stage founders rush into hiring a CMO without first thinking through what exactly they expect to get out of it - and are then left with a very expensive resource writing blog posts.
Here are some thoughts on when is the right time to bring on a marketer into the C-suite. But first - a message from my awesome sponsor.
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I work with a lot of early-stage founders in a strategic advisor/fractional lead marketer capacity.
And when they ask me "is now the right time to hire a CMO?" I'm looking for three prerequisites.
If these are not in place - it's 99% likely that it’s overkill right now.
1. Do you have (or can you hire) executional resources to work on marketing?
Why? Your CMO is a strategic hire. They are building the ship - you need people to work the oars.
2. Do you (or are you willing to) spend at least 10% of ARR on marketing activities?
Why? Hiring a CMO with no budget is the equivalent of hiring a chef and not giving them any ingredients to cook with.
3. Have you achieved PMF? And do you know what customer you're targeting?
Why? Your CMO shouldn't be used to figure out the foundation of what will make your business a success - that's the Founder's job.
On their own, these prerequisites are a good sign a CMO can provide value. But alone they may still not be enough.
What we need to answer is whether a CMO is needed to provide value right now. And for that, you should look for what I call a ‘trigger event’.
This is a specific moment in time that indicates there is internal pressure that can only be relieved (and unlock greater business growth) with the presence of a strategic marketing leader.
It could be anything, but here are the three I see most often:
Your company is going through a moment of change. Could be an acquisition, a pivot, rapid growth, a product launch, an increase in competition, or an investment round - whatever it is, you need a CMO who can help navigate choppy waters.
Lots of movement; not much momentum. You have a tactical team in place that’s doing a lot of stuff… but it’s falling short of delivering results. This is usually a symptom of entrusting mid-to-low-level marketers with developing a strategy that goes underfunded.
You sell (or plan to sell) into enterprise. Selling a 7-figure solution is not the same as transactional SaaS. Long sales cycles, short windows of opportunity and a complex buying committee require someone who can create demand alongside sales.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether hiring a CMO is the right move.
It is totally contextual to your company. And often what an early-stage founder REALLY needs is either a:
Marketing Consultant who can come in on a short-term basis to help answer critical questions and provide coaching.
Fractional CMO who can build a strategy with the view of onboarding a full-time hire in the medium/long term and offer flexibility around commitment/price.
Fractional Marketing Director that can straddle the line between strategy AND execution.
Hiring a CMO is a BIG commitment. Salaries can start from $250k per year, not including bonuses, equity and benefits.
So if you're going to hire one - make sure you know WHY you're hiring one and WHY it has to be right now.
There are a couple of ways I can help you.
I run a strategic marketing consultancy firm called B2B Better. We offer fractional CMO/marketing director leadership, run marketing sprints and coaching for solution providers. Want to book a free, no-strings-attached strategy call? Just click this link.
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