The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is probably the most multi-skilled, versatile, and exposed figure found in a startup. Customer recruiter, communicator, PR person, community manager, campaign designer, results analyst, web design manager, brand builder and protector, even content drafter… And if there’s a physical product involved, they might take care of the design and presentation of that too. Of all people, they have had the most changes to adapt to over recent years, by far.
The CMO is the one who develops the story, promotes it, and measures its impact. But above all, they’re working on recruiting new customers and users. It all starts when the minimum viable product, or MVP is produced. This initial stage will determine whether a project will go ahead, explains Javier Olmo, Director of Entiak-Digital StraTechists and Professor of Marketing at CEU Cardenal Herrera University in Valencia.
To ensure the idea takes off, it’s essential that the CMO is an expert in the following activities.
- Mastering digital channels (this is most important at the start because it’s where you’ll find the exact profile you want to work with).
- Knowing how to segment your target audience based on channels.
- Fine tuning the message to generate engagement across each segment (the first stage of recruitment will be via your organic audience on digital channels).
- Knowing how advertising works on these channels and knowing how to generate it (because it’s difficult to survive if you only have your organic audience, and in the end you’ll need to pay for advertising).
- Making contacts in the media so your startup business idea gets out in the press (also without having to pay).
- Having an in-depth understanding of market dynamics: in terms of both your product, and in marketing and communications.
- Working on initiative, and being flexible.
And in the same way that the CTO needs to bring other soft skills to the table such as speaking and presenting to the public, equally the CMO needs to be well-versed in the technologies the business uses, as well as any emerging onto the market and their applications. A CMO needs to know how to talk about technology with those in the know, and with those who know nothing.
Then we need to add branding knowledge to the mix, given that once a startup begins to get established, the CMO will need to dedicate at least 10% of their time to projecting the brand, according to the Entiak expert. On top of all this, they’ll also need to work on making sure the other members of the team embrace the commercial vision: without it, there is no business.
To summarise, the CMO needs three core skills: marketing, communications, and measuring campaigns and analysing results. But as Olmo warns, there’s always the real possibility they’ll need to be a one-man band: blog writer, press agent, brand ambassador. As you can see, it’s absolutely vital that you choose a strong Chief Marketing Officer for your startup.