The 9-point blueprint for becoming a great marketer

Tim Soulo (CMO @ Ahrefs)
The Startup
Published in
6 min readApr 16, 2019


Hi. I’m Tim, and my official job title is “Chief Marketing Officer and Product Advisor” at Ahrefs, an industry-leading SEO tool.

I’ve been “CMO” for four years now. It’s a fancy title that calls to mind leading huge marketing and sales teams — but the truth is, I was a one-man show for a large part of my stint so far. (I even wrote about this journey, but that’s a separate story.)

In other words, while I’m perfectly happy rolling up my sleeves and doing everything myself, the problem is just that: I’m incredibly used to doing everything myself.

You can probably guess how the story goes from here. As our marketing department expanded, I carried on doing what I was good at…and not so much what the “executive” portion of my fancy CMO title suggested.

Like managing my team, for example.

I managed to get by like this until I was almost confronted by many members of the team about their career progress. Or more specifically, their uncertainties and worries about their futures in the department.

So I rolled up my sleeves and, with a little bit of input from the team, came up with the following 9-point blueprint on how a marketer’s “value” can be calculated.


0. Knowledge of the product.

The rule I’ve repeated so often that it almost doesn’t need to be said anymore:

If you don’t know the product better than any single one of our customers, you can’t be a good marketer for it. Don’t wait till other team members educate you on our product; study it on your own.

1. Successfully completed projects.

Whenever you’re given an assignment, it has to be completed. Forgetting about things, putting them off for later, procrastinating, pushing back deadlines — these are all bad things. Getting stuff done is extremely important.

Be your own manager — don’t wait for me to confront you about your own to-do list.

And on that note of getting stuff done, learning to be productive is one of the best things you can do. Here’s a little help getting started:

2. Quality comes first, but pace and efficiency matter, too.

At Ahrefs, we value the quality of our work over how fast it gets done. With that said, perfectionism is as big of an enemy to getting things done as procrastination is.

A good marketer can find that balance between quality, pace and efficiency to deliver great results. (“Quality” can often be an ambiguous term, so this will be based on input from the more experienced members of our team, feedback from our community or simply ROI.)

I wish I could give you more tangible pointers when it comes to finding that balance between quality and pace, but this is one of those things that you have to figure out for yourself and learn to master by going through the actual process.

3. FSO factor — Figure Shit Out!

To complete a project successfully, you’ll have to either possess quite a bit of domain expertise or be able to learn fast and figure shit out as you go along.

Being able to come up with great solutions to unfamiliar problems without involving anyone else on the team is highly regarded. The more other members of the team have to babysit you and control the quality of your output, the less valuable your work is.

4. ROI

Dead simple. Your work has to either bring new customers to our company or help retain existing ones. You can write the best article in the world, but if it doesn’t get traffic or doesn’t convert readers into customers, it has no value for the company. (Since we’re not big fans of tracking ROI of each little thing we do, here “ROI” means “as perceived by other members of the team”.)

5. Original ideas

In most cases, you’re told what to do based on existing product development and marketing roadmaps. But skilled professionals can easily find high output tasks by themselves or be highly creative and proactive about the tasks that were given to them. Take full responsibility for any task that you’re in charge of and figure out ways to maximize output while minimizing resources used to complete it.

One exercise that helps to come up with original marketing ideas beyond your normal scope of work is to always think about the bottom line — that is, the company’s growth.

  • What else can you do to get us more customers or retain existing ones?
  • What could be hampering our customer acquisition or retention?
  • What marketing stunts can have a positive impact on our brand?

…so on and so forth.

By constantly asking yourself these questions, you’ll inevitably find great opportunities to act upon.

6. Unglamorous work

Not all marketing work is butterflies and rainbows. Tedious, uninteresting stuff that has to be taken care of pops up all the time. People who truly care for the success of the company will volunteer to do whatever needs to be done.

And when I say “done”, I never said that it can’t be outsourced in some way or other. You have to be efficient, remember?

7. Applicable marketing knowledge

There are tons of books, courses and blogs on all aspects of marketing, SEO and copywriting. If you don’t find the time to read or study on your own, you’ll always be many steps behind those who do it.

Let me give you a few recommendations:

8. Network

Quite a few marketing stunts that I was able to pull off were made possible because I knew certain people or was able to land an introduction from a common friend. Always look for ways to connect and keep in touch with interesting people. If you’re actively working on points 1–6, you’ll also find that other people will naturally want to connect with you.

9. Teamwork

Don’t be self-centered: your work should help the entire company succeed, rather than you alone. It’s not a zero-sum game and you’re not competing against your teammates — you’re in the same team. So help others whenever you can, which will only make our team stronger.

By the way, “help” does not equate to “do work for them.” Help teammates by politely pointing out their mistakes and teaching them how to fix things.


This blueprint now sits in our Notion board for the entire team to reference.

Some context is needed, of course: Ahrefs is a SaaS tool for SEO and we practice what we preach, which means that we have a strong focus on SEO and inbound marketing in general.

Our marketing strategy revolves around creating conversion-minded content that people actively seek out for their educational value. In layman’s terms, we create high-quality blog posts and videos about SEO that rank highly in Google and YouTube. Many people who consume our content end up becoming our customers.

This means that we get leads every day without exhausting our resources planning complicated marketing campaigns or spending a ton of money on paid advertising.

The traits that make for a great marketer in my eyes may differ from yours, depending on the structure of your team and what your business values are.

With that said, I wonder if your list would look too different from mine.

Do you find this blueprint relevant?

What would you change or add to this list?

I’d love to hear from you.


Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to hit that clap👏 button a few times ( 👏👏👏👏) to help others find it :)

For more in-depth marketing articles, visit the Ahrefs blog.