Things are good. Business is booming, you’ve attracted plenty of new clients and customers, and you’re Googling phrases like “how to manage business growth” rather than “how to sell all of my possessions and move to Fiji.”
So why are you here?
It’s because your business is doing well enough that you can hire a full-time executive marketer, or Chief Marketing Officer, to lead your business to bigger and better things. But just because you can hire one doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Here’s how to tell the difference.
Signs You Might Need a CMO
First, let’s explore the potential green lights. With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy (“you might be a redneck if the stock market crashes and it doesn’t affect you one bit”), you might need a Chief Marketing Officer if…
You Have the Money
Miriam Christof of the appropriately-named JustJump Marketing tells Inc.com: "Funding is always the trigger event to hire more members for a strong leadership team."
In short, do you have the scratch?
Admittedly, having cash alone is not reason enough to spend it — Apple has enough cash on hand to start a small country — but if the demand is there and you have enough cash to not worry about the risk, you’re looking at a potential slam dunk.
You Have the Need
If you’ve done well enough on your own with small, specifically-targeted marketing before, that’s great. But what if you have a business that’s ready for marketing at the next level? How are you supposed to take on the duties of both a CEO and CMO?
There’s a good chance you aren’t. If you’re graduating from only one marketing method like Facebook Ads and taking your brand regional — or even national — then a CMO can be the security blanket you need to ensure your business starts off on the right foot.
Your Biggest Problem Has Become Scale
“Managing growth” might sound like the best possible problem to have, but that doesn’t make it any less complicated.
On one end, you have to build the infrastructure to facilitate lots of orders, lots of clients, and lots of business in general. But if you excel on the service side and have never been a natural marketer, managing growth might simply mean building an executive team to lighten your load — and that includes an executive marketing officer.
You Need to Settle on a Brand
"I realized we needed a CMO after 18 months when our marketing channels were obviously inconsistent," Aaron Schwartz of Modify Watches told Mashable.
Does that sound familiar? The larger your business grows, the more important a word like “branding” becomes. This isn’t mere happenstance. With more customers and a wider audience comes a greater need for focus. Everything from taglines to logos to your overall advertising message needs guidance — in other words, it needs a specific plan from an experienced CMO.
You’re Expanding Your Advertising
If your marketing has always run well but you’re expanding it to multiple channels, an experienced CMO is the one who should manage it. This is especially true as more demands are placed on your time as the chief of this quickly-expanding crew.
When you first started the business, you were everything: marketing officer, executive, receptionist, coffee gopher. But try as you might to grow along with your business, you can’t do — or even lead — every aspect of your company.
Signs You’re Not Quite There Yet
Not every symptom of business growth is a tell-tale sign that it’s CMO time. You might need to wait a little while until building that executive team if…
Your Time is Still Cheaper than Your Money
In the early stages of entrepreneurship, your time is cheap. Very cheap. You spend ten hour days working on your business because it’s much easier to trade your labor for long-term results. At that stage, money is scarce — and therefore invaluable.
As your business grows, the demand on your time increases while money becomes more plentiful. $1,000 isn’t so hard to part with. Money spent on accountants becomes far cheaper than the emotionally-taxing labor of handling it yourself. Just as supply and demand have changed, so has your opinion on what’s most valuable in your business life.
If you still find it cheaper on the time/money continuum to guide your own marketing efforts rather than hire a CMO, you might not be there yet.
Your Problem is Scale, Not Customer Acquisition
If a majority of your time as a leader is spent facilitating the vast amounts of customers you’re acquiring, maybe marketing shouldn’t be your priority hire just yet. A better investment of your cash on hand might be in expanding your productive capacity instead.
You Have No Money
“Mo’ money, mo’ problems” isn’t just a motto — it’s frequently the experience of the successful entrepreneur. Growth in business isn’t always correlated with growth in cash: the variable-cost pricing model suggests that as your business expands, so will your costs.
If you don’t have the money for a CMO just yet, but you do need one, try to at least step back and ask yourself if the hire will pay dividends just yet. There’s a chance it won’t until you get your cash flow back on track.
You Already Have Someone
If your business has a co-founder who’s always been a natural marketer, you might already be in good hands when it comes to critical issues like branding and marketing. Ryan Shank of Help Desk even recommends that one co-founder of companies be exceptional at marketing.
It’s possible that their eventual move will be to CMO. But as the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s a chance your current situation will work just fine until you have the cash and the time to change your executive structure.
Are you there yet?
Finally, we get to the heart of the issue: do you want a CMO simply because you believe it’s a sign of success, or do you need one because you’re actually successful? The distinction is subtle, but crucial.
Don’t hire a CMO just to hire a CMO. Hire a CMO because that’s exactly what your business needs. Not only will your CMO thrive in the proper environment, but you’ll be on much better footing as a company for it.