How to hire a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or a head of marketing in a b2b startup?

Updated on
April 26, 2024

When CEOs hire a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or a head of marketing, the process is fraught with critical decisions that could impact the entire business trajectory.

Two common mistakes that can hinder the success of both the hired executive and the company are:

1. Hiring for the Wrong Specialty:

Marketing is an expansive field with many sub-disciplines, such as product marketing, brand marketing, and demand generation. Each of these areas requires a unique set of skills and experiences. A common mistake is when CEOs hire a marketing leader whose experience does not align with the company’s primary marketing needs. For example, if a company’s strategy is heavily reliant on demand generation through digital channels but hires a CMO whose strength lies predominantly in brand marketing or creative direction, there may be a mismatch in expectations versus capabilities. This misalignment often results in underperformance in key areas that drive business growth.

2. Ignoring the Impact of Average Contract Value (ACV) Experience:

The size and type of contracts a company deals with can significantly influence its marketing strategies and tactics. A marketer coming from a high ACV environment (e.g., $400k) is likely to have expertise in nurturing fewer, larger deals, often working closely with a sales team to support long sales cycles. On the other hand, a marketer from a lower ACV environment (e.g., $10k) typically focuses on generating a high volume of leads and is skilled in strategies that attract a large number of smaller deals. Hiring a head of marketing without considering the ACV experience can lead to strategies that do not resonate with the business’s sales processes or customer acquisition goals.

Understanding these complexities is crucial. Marketing leadership roles demand not only a broad understanding of various marketing functions but also an ability to strategically align these functions with the company's business objectives. CEOs should evaluate potential hires based on their specialty and previous experience relevant to the company’s market and sales dynamics. Additionally, recognizing the necessity to balance strategic oversight with expertise in specific marketing areas is essential. Often, building a diverse team that collectively covers various specialties under the leadership of the CMO can be an effective approach.

This comprehensive evaluation helps in selecting a marketing leader who is not only skilled but is also the right fit for the company’s current stage and future growth plans. It reduces the risk of short tenures and maximizes the likelihood of achieving desired business outcomes.

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