Update: didn’t imagine this would go trending on Reddit and Medium (front pages of respective sections) so, thanks for reading and sharing.
“Can you help me a find the best CMO in the world?”
“I’m looking for my next role as VP Marketing. Can you connect me to a founder?”
These are some of the questions I have been asked most frequently in my startup marketing career, even though HR was never my job.
I have seen the (marketing) ins and outs of about 800 known startups that are based in New York, London and Tel Aviv, whether as a CMO, advisor, partner or just a friend.
As a natural side effect, both founders and potential CMO’s ask me for mutual introductions very often, while I don’t have any financial incentive to do so.
Yet, I spend at least one hour each day communicating and introducing them to one other. The efforts are doubled on weekends.
- Helping out makes me happy. I have built a good network, and as Reid Hoffman, the founder of Linkedin says — if you have a network, help them out.
- Landing a satisfying lead role in marketing is increasingly becoming difficult without the right connections.
- It’s difficult for entrepreneurs to connect with legitimate leaders in marketing.
In 2018, I made 22 introductions between well-established founders (that have secured at least an A round or a seed round by very promising investors), and their potential marketing leaders.
I don’t necessarily keep tabs on the fruits that come out of these introductions, as I ask not to be involved with the different communications and follow-ups between the sides. I often learn about the outcomes from my different news feeds (such as people updating their role on LinkedIn or Facebook.)
But it’s not all sunshine and butterflies. There is one thing that keeps popping up between both sides, which is what inspired me to write this post.
The problem is, that a CMO is generally expected to be someone that should know everything. From events, to digital, to social, PR, paid campaigns, organic SEO, marketing automation, and more.
Since these CMO’s are overseeing team members and freelancers that do all those things, they are expected to be seasoned in each, so they could lead the teams. Despite how much sense this might make in theory, this expectation is far from realistic in practice.
This problem is typically worse the younger the startup is. That is because the CMO has one of the most critical jobs in the make-or-break status of a startup (naturally, that is if the product is already done, otherwise the tech team still has the most important job on their court.) If no traction occurs, (or even if it does — if no retention comes) well that’s just bad news.
This makes the startups’ HR reps publish irrational job requirements for their VP Marketing\CMO roles. This also makes the potential CMO’s agree to everything at first, even lie about their abilities — but everything gets easily discovered within the first month of work.
How can we help expedite the process of hiring marketing leaders, and also make all sides of the bargain efficient, fast and effective as possible?
I have taken the liberty to prepare a cheat sheet, that rates the most common requirements and qualifications I’ve seen founders advertise for their marketing lead roles. I also asked some CMO candidates to over their two cents on what they were asked to know in their interview.
I’ve rated the qualifications on a scale of 1–5, 5 being the most critical for a marketing leader to know.
Here are the few qualities that I think a CMO can’t do without (rated 5):
- Team Management — you should have experience with that, otherwise you’re a marketer and not a VP/CMO-material.
- Creative Leadership — being an experienced manager isn’t enough when running marketing teams. You need to be very, very creative and dynamic. Unlike many aspects of coding, not all possible solutions are available to find on GitHub or Reddit. Sometimes you gotta make crap up and hope people will take it. Rewards do come from creative risks.
- Marketing Automation — From 2019 onwards, a marketing leader must be experienced with marketing automation tools. I don’t know of a way to scale an operation without it anymore. I myself used to work with HubSpot as a certified partner, but they are far from being the only player around.
- Content Marketing — I was careful not to mention any specific marketing channel as a 5, such as SEO or PR, but I think that most marketing work today is based on content, and so a marketing leader should be experienced and optimistic about content marketing.
In red I have colored whatever is ranked the lowest — 2, which are as follows:
- Collateral Creation — I don’t think that a CMO\VP should be spending their precious time actually creating and writing marketing collateral. There are plenty of cheap solutions to outsource the actual writing or production of these.
I did rate “Collateral wireframe” a bit higher because the leader should know how to prepare the basics\wireframe of the docs.
2. Product Marketing — this is a great added value, but it’s not fair to ask the CMO\VP to be an experienced product marketer as well. Product marketing is this whole technical aspect of it that’s not necessarily relevant to high level marketing.
3. Sales — I love separating sales and marketing, especially when employers try to land them on the same poor employee. Do not demand your high level marketers to lead the sales team and initiatives as well.
However, it’s important that both teams function together in harmony using the same automation tools and analytics.
Regarding events, while it could sound logical to send your VP marketing or CMO to any event so they could spread the word, for me that’s not how it works. Every day your high level marketing leader didn’t spend on building a wide net that can captures a huge audience at once, is a waste.
Sending them to grab potential leads by the hand and beg for attention is really not the best use of their knowledge, and could fit better with sales people.
Lastly, what did I mean by “If only skill — then 5”?
When it comes down to the most interesting part, which is the potential CMO’s experience with specific marketing channels such as SEO, PPC or PR, many founders hope to see one individual with vast experience in all of them.
So if a candidate for marketing has experience in all of them somehow (which leads to lower quality in understanding of each channel), I rated them a bit lower since they are all together.
However, if a person only has one of those skills as a main expertise, let’s say he’s one of the best SEO-oriented VP Marketing on the planet, then his SEO skill will be rated 5 in importance and other skills will have a 0.
Empowering the ecosystem
Let’s make 2019 an awesome year for all sides of the ecosystem. I’ll be happy to hear your feedback and thoughts of additions and changes to my rating system.