FlipMyFunnel Post

On the CMO Track: How to Become a CMO

You haven’t been a CMO just once. You’re a serial CMO at multiple, successful companies.

By now, you’ve learned something about how to knock the role out of the park.

That’s where my guest on today’s LinkedIn live episode is sitting: he’s Darryl Praill, CRO at VanillaSoft and many-time CMO. First thing he did on the episode was deliver a fire sales pitch and invite everyone listening to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Let’s dive into the questions!

Your First CMO Job

Darryl: By education, I am a computer programmer. That gave me technology. When I began, I had no idea what marketing did.

Well, I want to get out of coding. What do I do? I had no idea. So I came back to sales, a sales engineer. They said, hey, you’re good at this. You know, we have this product we want to bring to market, we’re gonna move over to product management. I said, Okay, let’s go. Then they said, hey, we have to launch this puppy. How about doing product marketing? And I said, let’s do it. And I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. But I never said no.

That’s when I went and got my first VP job. It was at a company that was multiple millions in debt. They got a first time VP, who was hungry, hungry, cheap, prepared. I got a company that was less than ideal. But it was my first-time title. From there we raised like 50 million bucks.

From there, what I did was I became a VP of sales, VP of marketing, until I was finally a CMO. The CMO is a different level from a VP, which is a different level from a director. Candidly, I don’t think you could be a CMO unless you’ve got 10 to 15 years under your belt.

CMO & Communication

Darryl: There’s a couple things that are huge in becoming a CMO. Communication is paramount. Alright, so if you’re gun shy, if you don’t want to be on video, if you don’t want to public speak, don’t be a CMO. I’m not saying that to scare you away. I just want to set the expectations. 

Communication is core for multiple reasons. You’re not just communicating your value prop. You’re convincing people that your secret sauce is better than anybody else’s secret sauce. So you got to be believable. 

Communication is so multifaceted, but more than anything, you’re the chief persuader. I need to get your attention, whether it’s video, text, whatever it might be, whatever channel you love. That’s communication skills. 

Guess what, kids, I’m an introvert. When we’re done here, I’m gonna go crawl in a corner and rock back and forth for a while and re-energize because it kills me. But this communication style works.

“Candidly, I don’t think you could be a CMO unless you’ve got 10 to 15 years under your belt.”

Product Marketing vs. Demand Generation vs. Other Roles

Darryl: If you’re in communications, press releases, whatnot, you’re never going to see the CMO’s office. And if you do, it’s only because you’re going to be in a really, really big company where you’re maybe a VP of communications, but because in comms, you don’t understand selling. And you’re going to see this as a theme to being a CMO. A VP of marketing has nothing to do with marketing. It has everything to do with sales and revenue.

Product Marketing, you’re a solid director, you might be a VP, you’re not a CMO. Demand generation, you’re going to be a VP, because you have to learn Product Marketing, you have to learn comms, you have to learn Ops, because you have to use all the tools and all the content available to you so you can go generate revenue, you will definitely on that track, be a VP, good chance you’ll be a CMO. 

Now anybody can become a CMO if you get enough experience. Why did I say what I said? Because at the end, demand generation understands it’s about making revenue. Can I be a CMO or VP without product experience? Maybe. Can I do it without operations experience? Never. 

“Communication is so multifaceted, but more than anything, you’re the chief persuader.”

Short Marketing Lifespan

Darryl: The average tenure for a head of marketing is 18 months. Head of sales is maybe 24 months, ironically, they get more runway. Why do they get more runway? Because leadership is just more desperate, they just keep on hoping they’re going to make revenue. That’s honestly what it is. 

I opened up by saying I’ve got the most disposable income going. I also have the most accountability going. It’s about the money, that disposable income. So that means your day to day job, the board, the CEO, the CFO, whatever you’ve got, they’re going to come to you all the freaking time and say, what was the ROI on that money I gave you? If you can’t answer it, you’re dead in the water. 

This is why sales is so important, right? It’s not that sales is the center of the universe. It’s just sales is the machine that feeds the beast that we work for. We spend money so they can make money.

How can I as the CMO, show an ROI on my spend if the sales organization is dropping the ball? A CMO injects himself into the revenue process top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, they’re part of the solution. They’re not finger pointing, but they’re making sure that everything is being done to generate all your spend into real revenue.

Best Way to Pitch a CMO

Darryl: I don’t care about your features and functions. A team will help me with that. If you get past the first meeting, I want to see, How does it work? But if you’re pitching me initially, I don’t give a flying fig about your features and functions. If you offer a demo to me, I will shut you down.

If you get to the point of making the pitch, I want you to say something along the lines of You mind if I just spend two minutes asking you a handful of questions? And the answer is yes. And you’re going to ask me question, question, question. 

If I can tell you that I can make symptom A and symptom B go away and I can explain that to you in 30 minutes, what would that be worth to you? All right. Now we’re interested. 

So in other words, speak to my pain, respect my time. Stop talking about yourself. It’s all about me right now.

Wow, there we go. An incredible conversation (with so many more insights in the episode than would fit in this blog)!

Follow Darryl on LinkedIn to check out more of his content and insights. 

This is a #FlipMyFunnel podcast. Check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or here.