When is the right time to hire a Chief Marketing Officer for your startup? It's a burning question for many founders, especially technical founders with less experience in sales, branding, strategy or marketing.
This post will walk you through a checklist of questions to ask yourself, so you'll know if you're ready to hire your first CMO.
1) When you've reached product market fit.
In the earliest days of a startup, you're iterating and changing your product, your approach, and maybe even your target market rapidly. Hiring a senior marketer before you've reached product market fit may not make sense, because a CMO is really a strategic role. Their expertise lies in creating a long range strategy and managing the people who need to execute on that strategy; not in short term growth hacks, experiments, or A/B testing. Hiring a CMO too early is likely to frustrate her (and you!) because the constant moving targets of an early stage startup make it really difficult to produce sustained results.
2) When you are ready to scale.
Once you've dialed in your product market fit, you've figured out who you're selling to, and have a pretty good idea why they're buying, you're ready to scale. This is a good time to start looking for a senior marketing executive. A CMO will be able to work with a stable, shipping product, and a defined market, to create a long term approach to brand voice, distribution, channels, partnerships and more.
3) When you need to address multiple sales/marketing channels.
If your business model requires multiple sales and marketing channels, you may be ready for a CMO earlier than some of your peers. CMOs are experts at managing trade shows, developer relations, B2B marketing, and partnerships--all of which may be of key importance for many B2B startups, especially in the SaaS space. If you're a B2B SaaS company, you may need to hire a CMO within the first year that you're shipping product.
4) When you need strategic marketing every day as part of your executive team.
Ideally, your CMO will become an invaluable part of your core executive team. A strong CMO can use her expertise to help inform product decisions, finance, fundraising, and many other areas of the company. When you find yourself asking in exec team meetings, "What impact will this decision have on our growth, partners, or customer satisfaction?", it might be time to hire a CMO.
5) When you have 3 or more 3 full time marketing roles in the company.
The first marketing hire in most early stage startups is a community manager or customer success manager. Usually, the next is a social media manager, and then the third hire often has a mix of paid ads and analytics to measure all of the efforts of the various marketing people. Sometimes these roles enter the company in a different order, but typically these are the first three marketing-related hires in a startup. And typically, each of these folks have <5 years of experience.
Once you reach this critical mass, it's time to look for a senior leader, who can manage the team, tie together the brand voice, ensure consistency across every channel, set KPIs and create the overall strategy for your marketing efforts to scale.
6) When you can afford it.
Unlike a young engineer, or a recent college grad in business or marketing, a CMO will usually not accept equity to offset a substantially lower pay rate. Top marketers truly are worth their weight in gold and they know they can command this pay scale elsewhere.
But no other role in a young company has quite as much impact on the bottom line revenue as the senior-most marketer. This person tells the story of your product, and what it can do for customers, to the entire world. They create and nurture the face and the voice of your company. Given the fact that the average salary of a CMO is a bit over $164K, availability of funds is a major consideration. Generally, most startups can afford this kind of pay rate once they've raised a Series A, or exceeded $10M in revenue.
"But I'm not there yet..."
That's OK. If you haven't reached yet all of these milestones, but you're in need of marketing assistance with branding, strategy, content, marketing automation, social media or pitch decks, we're here for you! CYNSCH was created specifically to fill this gap between just starting up, and being ready for a full time Chief Marketing Officer.
We are experienced at both operating and consulting with early stage startups. We understand and can work within your budget constraints. We've been there and done that; we've taken ideas from concept to product to team, to seed round and beyond--and even a few exits along the way.
The CYNSCH team operates like your "part time CMO", so you can focus on building your product and team, and leave the marketing to us. Let us help create a marketing strategy that will focus your target market, fill your funnel, and translate to real revenue growth.
Contact us today to schedule your FREE Needs Assessment Consultation!