4 Things Startups Should Look For When Considering A CMO

A comprehensive and competent C-suite (a top corporate or senior executive), is vital to the survival and growth of any business. This much is apparent, but how should we go about choosing the best CMO for the position? What qualities should we seek and scrutinize, and how judicious must we be during this selection process to guarantee that our company will have a suitable cornerstone or pillar in management?

What Qualities Are Most Desirable

  There is a temporal dimension to determining which qualities are most desirable in a CMO. The timing of when your startup begins its search for a CMO will matter, as hiring a CMO during the early stages or inception of a company will emphasize different qualities than hiring a CMO during a growth phase.

For instance, a focus on testing and optimization, finding a product and market fit, or generating initial demand might be the primary tasks expected of CMO in the early stages. Building strong demand funnels and formulating a customer lifecycle scheme might be more important during the growth stage.         

Keeping the developmental nature of the CMO position in mind with relation to a startup’s expansion and growth, let’s walk through a number of the key qualities of a CMO that are most conducive to the success of a startup.

Conductive to the Success of Your CMO

1. An Intuitive Grasp on Effective Communication and the Complementarity of People.

To be a Chief Marketing Officer necessarily means that an individual must be able to market things while also being able to capture how the big picture goals intersect with the finer workings of the company. High importance is held in not missing the forest through the trees, so to speak.

It’s a no brainer that the CMO should be incredibly comfortable and fluid in terms of his or her navigation and interactions with different individuals or networks of individuals.

The CMO Needs to Both See -- And Create

The idea of being able to both see and create the big picture being crucial to the selection of CMO’s is most apparent at the intersection of the roles of the CMO and the CIO (Chief Information Officer) mentioned in this article.

The increasing pertinence of an information economy begins to reveal itself through the fact that “CIOs find themselves in charge of company-wide budgetary decisions, handling work that was once housing within marketing departments under a CMO…” (Sanjena Sathian). Clearly, this sort of intersection and interchangeability of roles highlights the role of handling and processing information as a CMO.

Able to Connect the Dots

The CMO has to be able to connect the dots using their knowledge of which people are the most appropriate for which roles, along with how to best motivate those hires.

Consider the designer behind Microsoft’s Cortana and her personality, Jonathan Foster. The ability to discern and place individuals like Foster in unconventional or unexpected roles that nevertheless allow them to manifest their talent are key traits of an effective CMO.

2. A Keen Grounding in Quantitative Analytical Methods, Knowledge in Engendering Growth, and Understanding of ROI

These qualities compose the technical backbone of the ideal CMO. While a CMO needs to be familiar and savvy with the “human” aspect of a company, they also must be very sharp on a number of objective, mathematical standards if they are to reliably produce results that allow your startup to grow.

Being able to understand and account for ROI (Return on Investment) is one of the most basic and most important traits for a CMO. Without this skill, how will your CMO be able to quantify the success of their methods? The ability to quantify returns on advertising spending will hasten the collection of the appropriate performance marketing talent and aid in startup growth.

3. Diversity in Skill

 If successful, your startup will be experiencing a wide degree of advancements and change over time. Therefore, a CMO must possess a diverse skillset – competence in email marketing, public relations, traffic acquisition, SEO, social media, and mathematics – in order to adapt to the changing circumstances and needs of the startup that occur with growth.

Diversity in a CMO’s skills does not only interface with the degree of their adaptability, but also reflects on their ability to select the appropriate individuals for a role in the startup.

For instance, if your CMO intimately understands SEO and social media, they will be able to make more accurate judgments regarding which individuals are best qualified for those roles in your company. They will understand the "how-to" of raising the efficiency and results of new hires.

Competence in people skills coupled with any hard skill – even art – allows an astonishing amount of innovative management and hiring possibilities.

4. Adaptability

 As we mentioned before in previous points, technological and analytical competence are the elements of a strong foundation for the modern CMO. In addition to having an existing diversity in their skill base, CMOs of today must also constantly amend and add to their knowledge and abilities in order to remain competitive.

When looking for a CMO, you must consider the long-term implications of that hire; will that person still be reliably producing results in five years, or ten years? The evolving field of marketing means that new techniques and methods regarding the analysis and incorporation of big data into company strategy will be perpetually relevant, and it is the responsibility of the CMO to be able to adapt to these new marketing technologies and data analysis methods.

In summary, when hiring or screening for potential CMOs to aid in the creation or growth developments of your startup, you must look for an individual with a notable breadth in a number of marketing techniques, a sharp and committed attitude toward keeping up with learning up-to-date analytical methods, and a considerable intuition regarding interpersonal relationships to guide the hiring decisions.