Your start-up is gaining momentum. You and your co-founders are close to perfecting your product offerings and roadmap. All of your hard work of cultivating a healthy sales pipeline is beginning to pay off and potential investors are starting to pay attention.
This is a pivotal time in the life of your business. Game-changing growth is in your sights. As you and your founding team prioritize and reconcile long-term transformative goals and resource requirements with short-term needs, you are no doubt facing tough investment decisions.
Some new resource requirements may appear straightforward while others fall into the category of "it depends". For many start-up founders, knowing when to hire a chief marketing officer falls into that grey area. "I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer," says Dan Hermann, CEO and co-founder of Paint Nite. "As the model starts to set, the concept and direction becomes more proven, and you have real capital resources, you need a CMO who knows how to unite the chaos under a unified brand."
Marketing experts can help identify when tactical planning and execution is no longer sufficient and a senior executive is needed to institute a more formal marketing presence and function. "In our experience, the right time to hire a CMO is when you have the right amount of investment, your brand is starting to compete against known industry leaders, and your business needs a strategy in place to support high-growth targets across markets, industries, and geographies," says Miriam Chrisof, founder and principal at JustJump Marketing.
You have money in the bank "Funding is always the trigger event to hire more members for a strong leadership team and VCs often demand additional hires to build out your company's leadership," says Christof. Your investors will want your business to have a strong, experienced start-up CMO in place to drive the kind of growth that maximizes their investment in your business. "A strong CMO hire will know how to communicate to a broad audience with real process, metrics and documentation in place," says Hermann.
You need to grow a strong brand for your company The start-up CMO will help you grow your brand in competitive markets by making the right investments that are aligned with the reputation you want to build with your customers. "I saw a start-up invest really well in direct response and skimp entirely on branding. They lost out to a competitor who did both well," says Nancy Joyce, CMO at Paint Nite. As your stage gets bigger, you also need a public face to your business. A start-up CMO lends credibility to public relations through the creation and delivery of brand-based messages and coaching for your executive team. "A CMO should be the point person when it comes to analyst and press relationships, which are crucial at this stage," says Christof.
You need to scale your business Once you have set significant growth expectations with your investors and in your market, you have to execute. "A CMO is an important part of your leadership team and provides valuable guidance when it comes to your marketing and sales operations," says Christof. Acting as the voice of the market to the leadership team, the CMO will identify competitive growth opportunities as well as put the right strategy, people, programs, processes, and technology in place to accelerate your aggressive growth goals. "When I interview CMO candidates I'm listening for effective marketing channels that I have never heard of, how the effectiveness is identified and measured, and I am listening for how they are staying current with the changing trends," says Hermann.