Your Ideal CMO May Not Exist

Your organization is growing. It’s time to hire a Chief Marketing Officer.

You want the perfect CMO for your organization. But … what exactly is the perfect CMO?

I caught up with Tim Kopp, a managing partner with Hyde Park Venture Partners, who shared his thoughts about hiring the perfect CMO for your group. Tim was also a finalist for CMO of the Year by the CMO Council, so he’s got some chops.

As one of the newest members of the C-suite, defining the ideal CMO candidate can be tricky. Other C-level positions are more defined, and each of their roles are similar across industries.

This is not true when it comes to CMOs.

When hiring a CMO, here are a few pieces of wisdom Tim passed along.

Do You Really Need a CMO?

Companies at different stages and sizes in different industries are looking for different skill sets when they say they need a CMO. When Tim hears that a company wants a CMO, he asks them specifically what they are searching for.

More often than not, he finds they’re not necessarily on the hunt for a CMO.

“They’re just calling it a CMO, because they’ve seen something that a CMO does that they want,” Tim said. “I’ll ask 2 or 3 questions after that — ‘what problem are you trying to solve?’”

Breaking down what a company needs, specifically, often sheds light on what they are really after—and it isn’t always a CMO. It may be simply a specialist in a given field, such as design or demand-gen.

In fact, unless a CMO was a co-founder or an integral part of driving your business since its inception, Tim said not everyone needs a CMO. If your organization isn’t doing $10 million run rate, you probably don’t need a CMO just yet.

7 Modern CMO Personas

Tim says, “The modern CMO role is almost a unicorn.” 

[Tweet ““The modern CMO role is almost a unicorn.” #FlipMyFunnel”]

If you are in need of a CMO, finding the modern one with all the right talents is like finding a unicorn. 

Before his current position at HPVP, Tim worked with ExactTarget and led a team of over 300 global marketing leaders across Demand Generation, Analyst Relations, Branding, Strategic Partnerships, content development, and Partner/Field Marketing. By the time he left, the company had grown from a $47 million dollar business to an acquisition by SalesForce.com valued at $2.7 billion. Further, the company grew from 250 employees to well over 2,000.

So Tim knows a thing or two about hiring. And when it comes to hiring for a CMO, he says there are seven personas of CMOs:

  • Thought Leader – Someone who is integral in evangelizing for their company and brand. These are usually phenomenal storytellers who know how to engage an audience.
  • Growth Hacker – The demand-gen CMO, diving into Excel, using data to drive the company from the bottom up.
  • Product Marketer –  They’re dangerous, because only a limited number exist. This is someone who is phenomenal at taking products and expressing them to the market.
  • Brand Marketer – Someone who takes responsibility for how a company is perceived to the market, in look, feel, and design.
  • Strategist – Someone who synthesizes all the pieces across the company. This type usually manifests as someone who acts as a leading strategist for the organization.
  • Culture-Builder – Someone excellent at internal company culture and developing people to achieve departmental goals.
  • All-Around Athlete – Excellent at all the above (a.k.a., a unicorn).

To read more about the seven personas, check out Tim’s blog.

Know Who & What You’re Searching For

Finding someone who excels in all 7 categories is unrealistic, so think in terms of strategy for your organization.

List, in order, the top-two problems you need to be solved. Consider what other skills you may be willing to sacrifice to find the right candidate who will excel at accomplishing these two goals.

Also, consider your current team. Chances are if you are hiring for a CMO, you already have a marketing leader within your organization, so consider what specific skills a CMO would add to your pre-existing infrastructure.

What would your organization benefit from? What problems is the company currently facing? What strengths do the current marketing leaders within your org already possess? What skills are they missing?

If you aren’t clear from the outset about what problems your CMO will be solving, you’ll mis-hire.

CMO = Orchestra Conductor

A CMO is a bit like a conductor working with various expert musicians.

In other fields, such as sales, once a leader finds their ideal Sales Rep, that leader will simply want to hire and assemble a team of five more Sales Reps exactly like their archetype. Not so with a marketing team.

Your CMO will be directing a team of specialists and key players who each excel in different areas, from graphics to product marketing to demand-gen. So your CMO will be much more akin to conducting an orchestra. He or she must be able to work with a group of individual musicians to create an environment where musical masterpieces can flourish.

“The CMO job is like an orchestra conductor; you need someone who can play each of these instruments, and they have to come together to make magic.” — Tim Kopp

To the Future CMO

In his final thoughts, Tim shared with me what he would say to anyone wanting to pursue a position as a CMO.

People will attempt to cloud your agenda with varying goals, but “to succeed as any executive, but particularly a CMO, you have to be a ruthless prioritizer.”