The role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has rapidly evolved in recent years, especially for high-growth startups playing to win in competitive markets.
Marketing is more central than ever in influencing trajectories toward hockey-stick success.
To gain insights on thriving as a modern CMO, we recently spoke with Casey Armstrong, CMO of ecommerce fulfillment startup ShipBob and former VP Marketing at BigCommerce. With over a decade of experience leading data-driven marketing teams, Casey shares his approach on:
- Achieving alignment around business outcomes
- Structuring for agility and instant impact
- Hiring priorities and fractional resources
- Capitalizing on windows of opportunity
As an ambitious startup CMO himself, Casey offers tangible advice for driving growth during key phases of maturity. He details how marketing leaders can architect traction through strategic revenue focus, methodical team building, and seizing moments when the stars align.
Read on for Casey’s key lessons that today’s leading CMOs must embrace on the path from early traction to scaling rapidly.
Learning this helps marketers become better leaders. It shows how to build teams that drive results.
4 Revenue-Driving Tactics for CMOs
The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) holds the responsibility for formulating and executing marketing strategies and blueprints.
They focus on advancing the company's products or services and supervise all facets of marketing, encompassing market research, product enhancement, advertising, public relations, and sales management.
Here are 4 revenue-driving tactics for CMOs growth and build teams that drive results:
- Focus on revenue impact and ROI
- Hire marketing roles
- Hire a fractional CMO
- Capitalize on unique opportunities
Focus on Revenue Impact and ROI
CMOs need to focus on what impacts revenue and ROI. ROI means return on investment. They should identify what really drives sales. These are key marketing levers that have a direct correlation and impact on revenue and profitability.
For example, areas like SEO, paid advertising, email marketing, and content marketing are often strong drivers of leads and sales. CMOs should analyze performance in each area to determine the initiatives delivering the highest ROI. Rather than counting vanity metrics like clicks and impressions, CMOs need to connect marketing efforts to real business impact by tracking leads, conversions, and revenue influenced by programs under their purview.
As CMO, it's crucial to understand the entire sales process and customer journey. This enables tying marketing campaigns to what ultimately drives deals to close and revenue to flow in. With this revenue focus, the CMO can invest budget and resources into the highest performing programs that contribute most to growth and productivity. This revenue-driven approach is what defines marketing leadership skill and strategic value in the C-suite.
Optimize the Marketing Funnel
Savvy CMOs architect a high-performing marketing funnel to generate a predictable stream of qualified leads to drive revenue growth. This requires identifying each stage of the customer journey and mapping specific messaging and programs to guide target personas through the funnel.
Optimizing both online and offline efforts, CMOs oversee tailored content, promotions, advertising, and experiences to influence awareness, consideration, conversion, and loyalty among best-fit customer profiles. Examining performance through the funnel, they double down on highest converting pathways and close leaks where opportunities are being lost. With continual testing and analysis, CMOs hone the strategy and execution at each funnel stage to accelerate deals in the pipeline.
Build an Agile Marketing Capability
As customer behaviors, competition, and market trends evolve rapidly, CMOs must architect an agile marketing capability. This means implementing structures, systems, and processes to respond quickly to marketplace changes and new opportunities for growth.
Key facets like workforce structure, budget allocation, partnerships, technology stack, and data architecture must deliver the speed, flexibility, skills, and integration to adapt fast. By taking an agile approach versus conventional rigid planning models, CMOs empower their departments to iterate dynamically, learn continually, and optimize return on marketing investment. Leading with an agile foundation, CMOs orient their function as a responsive, high-impact business growth engine.
Hire Marketing Roles
Hire Marketing Roles That Drive Revenue Impact
As CMO, it's crucial to hire marketers who can drive instant impact and revenue contribution. This means prioritizing roles that connect directly to sales and profitability over nice-to-have marketing functions.
For example, if your current goals center on scaling SEO traffic and expanding paid advertising channels, seek out and hire top notch experts in those specific areas first. Tactical channels like search, social, and paid ads directly deliver qualified leads and conversion opportunities, making them vital to hire for upfront.
In the early stages of a startup, focus functional hiring only on the critical money-making activities tied to revenue. Core performance marketing roles, email nurturing, and data analytics would be key. Hold off on general brand builders, PR, and other peripheral roles until fundamentals are covered.
Make a grid showing the revenue impact versus complexity of each potential marketing hire. Prioritize recruiting for open positions with high business impact and relatively low learning curve. This ensures the hiring you do offers the fastest boost to lead gen, conversion, and sales in service of startup growth targets.
Structure the Department for Agility
As the marketing department expands, smart CMOs maintain an agile structure oriented around key customer segments, channels, and revenue streams. This means structuring the department around a group of agile sub-teams dedicated to specific parts of the marketing funnel based on priority business objectives.
For example, you may create a performance marketing sub-team focused exclusively on driving qualified leads for the startup's flagship offering. Or an lifecycle marketing sub-team specialized in upselling and cross-selling existing customers. Each agile pod owns a piece of the customer journey with the flexibility to iterate quickly.
This agile setup prevents organizational silos while enabling the marketing department to shift resources and adapt to changing market dynamics. As CMO, you can re-align sub-teams as strategy evolves - expanding high-performing pods and sunsetting those not producing results. This dynamic structure keeps marketing focused on the most vital business growth areas.
Hire a Fractional CMO
The Pros and Cons of a Fractional CMO
Hiring a fractional Chief Marketing Officer can add strategic value for emerging companies. Fractional refers to hiring a CMO on a part-time basis—for example, a seasoned CMO working across multiple companies at once.
The main benefits of a fractional marketing executive are added experience and perspective at a lower cost. By paying a portion of a full salary and dedicating a few days per month of their time, startups gain CMO-level guidance to inform their growth path.
However, there are distinct limitations fractional CMOs face versus full-time, dedicated CMOs. With restricted hours and attention spread across clients, fractional CMOs cannot dive as deep on crafting marketing strategy or directly shepherding execution plans.
A fractional CMO serves more as an advisory role, offering useful big picture insights and recommendations to startups. But they lack the capacity for hands-on program implementation, campaign optimization, and turning dials daily alongside an internal team.
The fractional model works best for high-level strategy input during early days or periods of rapid evolution. But for startups focused on accelerating growth, a full-time CMO able to lead the charge on planning and execution is ultimately essential.
When a Full-Time CMO is Necessary
As startups scale towards rapid growth, having an experienced, devoted CMO at the helm becomes vital to steer the ship. Full-time CMOs offer complete involvement in both strategizing and activation required during hypergrowth mode.
With marketing operations and technology expanding, only a dedicated CMO has the bandwidth to architect infrastructure, build an agile team, and manage programs holistically while driving business outcomes. Fractional CMOs also lack accountability for results over time.
The level of effort needed to own marketing strategy end-to-end, lead key initiatives, and be the department’s day-to-day leader in high-velocity environments requires a full-time executive commitment.
For startups playing to win in competitive categories, the decision of whether to invest in a full-time CMO comes down to ambition. For those aggressive about their leadership vision, a fractional advisor is no longer sufficient.
Capitalize on Unique Opportunities
Capitalize on Unique Opportunities and Momentum
Savvy marketing leaders know that when the ingredients for growth momentarily align, you must capitalize on the opportunity fully before the window closes.
For example, unexpected events like COVID created a surge in demand for some products practically overnight. Or perhaps your startup lands a flashy PR mention that instantaneously boosts brand awareness across your target demographic.
In these cases when marketing momentum strikes, CMOs make the strategic choice to double down aggressively. If your SEO, paid ads, and referral programs are firing on all cylinders due to some temporary advantage, you pour more budget and resources into what’s working while the iron is hot.
Rather than spreading efforts thinly across other initiatives, smart CMOs obsessively optimize the specific activities driving surging outcomes during the short-term opportunity. This could mean maximizing bid prices, expanding keyword targets, amping up email nurturing, or even pausing other channels altogether.
The key is avoiding dilution across too many parallel programs when you have a window to accelerate customer acquisition and revenue at a pace exceeding forecasts. Momentum is precarious and can be easily lost if you don’t go all in. Seize these unique chances fully when fortune and traction align.
When to Pull Back
Of course, situations may also arise where pulling back is prudent even amid positive momentum. Marketing leaders need to discern unhealthy short-term growth from sustainable progress on key metrics.
For example, if a flashy promotion or price change fuels a temporary spike in sales but proves unprofitable long-term, the strategic choice is letting off the gas pedal. Or if a new product feature drives initial interest but has shaky product-market fit, doubling down may be unwise.
Here the CMO must examine whether momentum aligns with strategic goals before capitalizing aggressively. If growth undermines profitability or distracts from creating durable competitive advantage, letting momentum fade may be the wisest path forward.
Thriving as a startup CMO requires sharp focus on directly impacting growth and revenues over vanity metrics.
Leading marketing for an early-stage company is all about architecting traction quickly.
This means maniacally prioritizing hiring and resource allocation towards roles and programs tied directly to your startup's most scalable customer acquisition channels and revenue streams. Rather than well-rounded marketing for maturity, all efforts center on the hot growth levers showing dinero potential.
While fractional marketing guidance has its place, embracing an agile, integrated full-time CMO to steer planning and execution is inevitable for startups playing to win. With a dynamic, obsessed growth leader getting hands-on, the marketing engine gets built to deliver measurable business outcomes when traction strikes.
Finally, when uncommon circumstances align and momentum hits, pouncing on opportunities before they disappear is the mark of a CMO focused on exploiting every possible advantage. In growth mode, seizing temporary moments trumps balanced consistency.
The value of a startup CMO comes down to an integrated approach based on revenue impact, functional agility, and opportunistic acceleration. Following these guidelines will maximize the likelihood of hockey stick trajectories. With marketing's role more crucial than ever, these principles offer a blueprint for startup prosperity.
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