What Does A Startup CMO Do?

The Primary Responsibility of A Startup CMO

The primary responsibility of a Startup CMO is to build and maintain a strong relationship with customers.

As a startup evolves and grows, the role of CMO evolves, as well.

In early stages, say when you don’t have a product fully built, the Startup CMO should build interest in people by communicating to the world about the problem and how the startup is solving it. He should reach out to potential buyers through different channels.

A good example to follow is Marketo, they had some 16000 people ready to buy their product when they launched, they built interest in people through blogging and other activities. Once the product is launched, a Startups CMO will engage with the customers and collect feedback from them to improve the product. Once the product achieved product -market fit, any CMO will supervise the lead generation, brand building, and other business growth activities.

The Startup CMO

Purpose: The Startup CMO Drives Growth

The purpose of the Startup CMO is to acquire and retain the various types of customers a startup might have in the most cost effective way possible and as fast as possible. (Examples: Investors, users, advertisers, clients, consumers). The CMO is the professional who responsibility it is to make sure the the business grows by share of market and/or by share of wallet.

How he or she does accomplishes that purpose depends entirely on what kind of company it is, how much money is in the budget, and what kind of imagination he has. Those are really the main limitations.

It’s worth mentioning that the role in tech startups has considerable overlap and input to the role of the CTO as analytics and testing around product design are now much more significant factors in customer retention. At a minimum, a good understanding of analytics and data analysis for in-product factors affecting retention as well as external factors affecting customer signup, is vital.

Their Main Responsibilities

Being a Startup CMO requires having a different range of skills. Of course, his responsibilities will vary depending on the company but generally speaking CMO has to combine analytical, planning side with creativity and interpersonal techniques. Why? To complete the main duties which would be:

  • Creation of marketing strategy – at this point CMO will be obliged to run a successful analysis of the target group, target market specifics. With creation comes a creative idea for the company’s actions in a long term. For example, whether it’s better to go for traditional advertising or agree with those who suggest new solutions such as investing in event management software or experiential marketing. Then, when the strategy has a shape, clear purpose, tools, methods and precise actions the CMO need to implement it in the company.
  • Implementation of the marketing strategy – to do it efficiently, CMO need to perform a clear introduction to a new operation plan for the whole team. Later on, based on his leadership and interpersonal skills, he needs to delegate the duties to separate teams and individuals.
  • Control of the results – once the strategy is implemented and everyone is working toward the common goal, CMO needs to keep everything under control. Therefore, his duty is to check on the current results, analyzing reports from given periods to find out whether the strategy is efficient or not. Also, at this point, CMO would start making repairs in the strategy or improving it in order to make the effects even better.
  • Maintenance of communication – CMO needs to control the information flow in a company. It enables the whole team to stay updated with current changes in projects and make work more efficient. Also, an important aspect to take care of is the communication with external subjects of the company – stakeholders, suppliers and so on.
  • Creating a company’s corporate culture – Chief Marketing Officer also needs to create internal rules that will create a unique workplace environment. Ways of dealing with problems, interpersonal politics – such factors will have an impact on the atmosphere at work, a company’s employer branding.

In terms of what a CMO does, they lead marketing strategy. In smaller Startups, they’ll probably be “doing” a fair bit of marketing themselves. In larger companies, they’ll be ensuring that their team is continually developing its strategy, executing well, and achieving the milestones required to keep the company growing.

They’ll typically own a combination of:

  • PR
  • Lead Generation
  • Demand Generation
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Sales Development (increasingly common, as more companies realize it’s a marketing, rather than Sales role)
  • Outbound Prospecting
  • Event Marketing
  • Branding / Messaging

Two Primary “Types” of CMO

Type A) The more traditional CMO, who tends to more heavily lean towards branding/PR/marcomms, and have a background in branding and the arts. They tend to believe that marketing is an art, more than a science, and put a strong emphasis on creativity above all else. They tend to continually be looking for the “next big campaign/idea”.

Type B) The new data-driven CMO, who tends to more heavily lean towards lead gen/demand gen, and have a more scientific background. They tend to believe that marketing is a science, and put a strong emphasis on targets & metrics. They tend to be continually looking for areas of improvement, more so than revolution, and run small experiments to test their ideas rather than planning out “the next big campaign”.

Increasingly, I’m seeing less of Type A in SaaS. These people are increasingly being forced out of their roles: CEO’s / stakeholders are tired of not having data to assess the performance of a CMO, and with marketing technology as it is, there’s not really an excuse for this anymore. Type B’s tend to lead most successful SaaS companies’ marketing.

Type A is more common in consumer facing tech startups, however, as branding is a much bigger problem for them. Although even in those instances, the science of marketing is becoming much more important, and they’re becoming more “Type B” over time.