What are the top 3 tasks of a CMO in a SaaS startup at $1M ARR?

I’m worried.

You don’t need a CMO. At least, not yet.

Let’s roughly break up what “marketing” means at different stages of a SaaS company:

  • $0-$1m ARR. Marketing = Growth Hacking. You are the 10,000th SaaS company to market. Why would anyone even look for you, let alone buy you? You have to try everything, find something that works that somehow lures anyone in to buy.
  • $1m-$10m ARR. Add Demand Gen. Once you have 10, 20, 100 customers that are reasonably happy … you have a playbook. Now the job is to get to 100, 200, 1000 customers. Here is where you need “demand generation”. Predictable getting more leads each month.
  • $10m-$20m+ ARR. Add Brand Marketing. As you cross $10m ARR, usually, you have enough customers that’s you’ve start to build a real brand. As you truly scale, most of your leads will come from your brand. But this usually doesn’t happen until $10m-$20m ARR. Once your leads are all about your brand — you need a CMO.

But hire a CMO much before $8m-10m ARR … and she’ll end up doing a ton of brand and product marketing.

That your brand can’t support yet.

Instead, at $1m ARR … you need someone that can get you more leads. That’s job #1 at $1m ARR. Hire a VP or Director of Demand Gen instead. Not a CMO.

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Published on April 9, 2017

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