A chief marketing officer (CMO) is an essential role within any startup. The right CMO can build out your marketing team, improve brand awareness, and drive sales. Hiring for this role, however, can be a bit complicated, especially for startups. Many startup CEOs have a hard time accurately assessing the right time to hire a CMO. In many cases, the CMO is brought on too early or the wrong person is selected for the role. 

      When should you hire a CMO?

      At a certain point, a startup CEO’s knowledge of marketing is no longer adequate for the business’s growth. When you’re first starting, the CEO or COO may do a great job managing the marketing side of the company. As the business grows, however, the marketing becomes more complex and questions arise that require a more experienced marketing perspective. When your business reaches this point, you’ll notice competitors pulling ahead and your growth flatlining. A CMO can come in and revitalize the business and reignite growth. 

      Another clear sign it’s time to hire a CMO is if your team is telling you they need more leadership. Talk to the marketing managers and get their insight. They may require more direction and industry experience to move the business forward. If your marketing staff needs a leader, it could be time to hire a CMO.

      Choosing the best CMO for your startup

      Now that you’ve determined you need a CMO for your startup, it’s time to figure out what kind of CMO would be best for your company. Below are five tips that will help you find the right person.

      1. Figure out what kind of CMO you need

      CMOs can specialize in different aspects of marketing. For example, there is the storyteller CMO who will perfect your brand voice and image. The storyteller will help you connect with customers and will build an excellent brand strategy through content marketing, partnerships, and events. 

      The analytic CMO, on the other hand, is more experienced in market analysis. The analytic CMO is experienced in growth marketing and will know how to track trends, measure campaign success, and create lead generation funnels.

      Understanding business needs will help you determine which areas of the marketing strategy you need to improve. It’s difficult to find a CMO who is the full package, often referred to as a unicorn. As long as you understand your biggest areas of need, however, you should be able to find someone to fill your most pressing marketing gaps. 

      • Choose someone who knows how to structure teams

      No matter the main experience and skill set of your CMO, you need someone who can strategically structure the various marketing departments. During the interview process, ask candidates how they’d structure your teams and have them work together. A few teams that fall under the CMO’s control include content marketing, customer relationships management, brand marketing, marketing communications, and product marketing. Your business may have a few more or could be missing a unit that would drastically improve sales. A CMO should be able to come in and structure the groups into a cohesive working whole. 

      • Ask for specific referrals

      During CMO recruiting, don’t just ask colleagues for CMO referrals. Simply asking for a CMO referral will get you a wide assortment of contacts. Get specific with your needs and say, “Do you know any CMOs who are expert storytellers with experience in brand building and customer outreach?” The more specific you can be, the more likely you’ll be to find a qualifying candidate. 

      • Get insight from a marketing professional

      You may think you know what your company needs, but it’s easy to miss the mark when you’re busy focusing on other aspects of the business. Pull in a marketing professional to gain more insight on marketing talent and demands. You may be surprised by the assessment you receive from the marketing advisor.  

      • Perfect the job description

      A big reason startups fail to attract the CMOs they need is because of a poor job description. Before posting anything, review the document to make sure expectations are set and realistic. Don’t be too broad with your description either. If you have specific areas of marketing that need attention, cater the job description to fill that role. This will help you narrow your CMO search and it’ll also make it easier for recruiters to find you the right person for the job. 

      Why CMO Turnover is so High and How to Retain Marketing Talent

      A chief marketing officer (CMO) is the person responsible for managing the marketing side of your company. This c-suite position ensures your company mission and vision is being accurately conveyed to the public. They also keep the marketing strategy on track so your business continues to reach a larger audience. A successful CMO will ultimately have a big impact on your company’s revenue and overall profits. 

      On paper, these roles seem like a great opportunity for an experienced marketing manager to come into an organization and drive results. More often than not, however, a CMO is hired only to discover the role is not as described. The disconnect between CMO expectations and role responsibilities is just one of the reasons why this position has one of the highest c-suit turnover rates. According to Forbes, the average tenure of a CMO is 44 months; that’s less than four years. Turnover isn’t good for any position but especially not at the c-suite level. 

      Common mistakes that drive away a CMO

      The first step to retaining your CMO long-term is understanding the main causes of turnover. Below are two of the main reasons CMOs do not stay long at a company. 

      Lack of CEO support

      Prior to hiring a CMO, the CEO is often the one assisting with the marketing plans. When a CMO is brought on, it can be difficult for the CEO to relinquish this important responsibility to a new leader. A majority of CEOs also don’t fully grasp the intricacies of marketing and everything that goes into strategy development, yet they expect a CMO to generate revenue. The problem is, it’s incredibly difficult to translate a marketing campaign into dollars earned. 

      A marketing campaign increases brand awareness and gets people talking about your company’s services or products. This is known as demand generation. In the long run, this can lead to a bigger profit as more people know about your brand and what you have to offer. Short-term, however, there’s not a good way to show on paper how the marketing strategy is increasing sales. To some CEOs, the lack of revenue data appears to be evidence that the marketing strategy isn’t working. When in fact, they’re trying to measure the wrong thing. Instead of profit, a CEO should be looking at engagement and brand awareness.

      Limited authority and trust

      Many CMOs have faced limited authority within a company. Even though the position is at the c-suite level, CMOs find themselves micromanaged by the CEO or other leadership positions. Again, this goes back to trusting in the professional you hire for the role. A chief marketing officer is highly experienced with a solid background in marketing. Being micromanaged by the CEO or COO is a frustrating position for the CMO. Not only is it frustrating, but it also makes it hard for the marketing officer to do their job. When you’re constantly requesting approval to take a new step, it feels like your position is being undervalued.

      How to keep your CMO Leadership

      Now that you understand what could be driving a CMO away, let’s look at what you can do to retain your CMO. 

      Understand the role

      At its core, the CMO role is responsible for demand generation. Demand generations is the use of targeted marketing campaigns to drive interest in a company’s products and services. Marketing campaigns and advertisements require money to be successful, but you might not see this marketing money immediately or clearly translate into revenue. Keep this in mind and remember to pay attention to customer engagement and audience growth. 

      Encourage sales support

      Obviously growing your audience is good, but most business leaders want to see hard numbers. In this regard, encourage the vice president of sales and the chief revenue officer to work with the CMO to support marketing efforts. The sales description of the company and services needs to mesh with the image marketing is putting out, so having these two departments work together is in everyone’s best interest. 

      Follow through on what you offer

      Review the job description of the CMO and make sure it’s the role the person will really be receiving. If the job description says you’re looking for someone to build a marketing strategy that will drive growth but then you limit the person to marketing communications, your new CMO is going to be dissatisfied. Not only that, but you won’t be getting the results you really want for your company. When you hire a CMO, be ready to relinquish marketing responsibility and strategy management to the role so your company can really expand. 

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