When does a SaaS venture need a CMO/Marketing Director?


Marketing is a critical area of business practice. Any successful company that doesn’t actively pursue a marketing strategy and plan its promotional activities is very fortunate to be profitable without the need to market itself. But for the rest of us…

So, what resource should a SaaS business use to execute its marketing? And when is a dedicated CMO required?

When should you start marketing your SaaS venture?

A key question that feeds into when you need a CMO is: When do you need to actively begin to market your SaaS product?

It’s likely you have a launch date. When you reach that point, you need to be fully prepared and ready to light the blue touch paper on your marketing plan. There are some major elements to preparing properly.

Chiefly, so that you are ready to start marketing as soon as the product is ready to go to market, it’s important to:

  • Create a strategy
  • Build a website
  • Set up your software stack

Secondary considerations for some companies are:

  • Creating content to talk about what they are building
  • Building an audience or a ‘pre-launch VIP list’
  • Starting to build up followings on social media

If you don’t prepare marketing well in advance of your launch date, then you are scoring something of an own goal that could burn cash at a time when it’s highly likely that money is going to be tight. Your product could be going stale on the shelf while you wait for marketing to catch up, delaying your customer acquisition effort.

Who should do your startup marketing?

Inhouse

The first option here and the one that is most advantageous is to use the skills of a marketer on your team. Should you be fortunate to have someone with those skills on your startup team it’s a natural choice for them to take on the CMO role (or some of it).

Hire

If you don’t have the right skills onboard, consider hiring a CMO on a freelance, part time or contract basis. Someone already on the team might be able to wear the hat and skill up, but this is often far from ideal. (More on this later.)

Outsourcing marketing

Another popular option is to outsource to a marketing agency. It’s a good idea to look out for an agency’s credentials in the SaaS space, because it is a specialised area. An agency should be able to partner and work alongside your CMO. Where you don’t have a CMO inhouse, an agency with the right skillset should step up, acting as your ‘virtual CMO’ as well as executing the marketing.

When should you hire a dedicated CMO?

As your business grows, you are going to have to regularly review every aspect of it including how your marketing effort is structured.

It’s time to re-think the CMO question when…

… your team member that is performing the CMO role needs to move up and assume a higher value or more strategic position. A founder member may have to step back from day to day marketing to operate at a higher level. This is an important point where the job spec for CMO might need to be drafted and put out there.

… it’s costing more to hire a contract or freelance CMO or outsource the strategic element of the marketing function to an agency

…. you reach a pre-determined revenue expressed as Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR). Often this aligned with the figure that indicates you have achieved product/market fit. Once you have reached this milestone, there is the opportunity to attract investment (should you need it). The next phase of growth needs to pile on customers and the emphasis of the marketing effort needs to change to power your venture to reach growth stage and perhaps on to mezzanine. This often needs a change in marketing leadership.

… when you have budget to hire one. Money is usually an issue for startups, and clearly, one of the reasons for hiring contract, part time or freelance CMOs, or taking the expertise as part of an outsourced agency package is that it costs less than a full-time hire.  Should you find yourself in the position where you have the budget for a permanent hire, its often a good move to take the opportunity to make the hiring decision for a full-time permanent CMO.

Need help with marketing your SaaS venture?

Revisiting the idea of someone on the team donning the marketing hat that we touched on earlier… When you don’t have a career marketer as one of the founding members it can be tempting for one of the team to put on the marketing hat. Marketing’s a funny game. Many people know something about it and there is a temptation to think “It’s easy, I just need to read Marketing for Dummies, right?”

That will get you some way to better understanding marketing. However, it also shows how complex it can be and how many different variables and nuances there are. (No wonder some people refer to it jokingly as a ‘dark art’!) The truth is, for a newbie to competently execute marketing to the standard required alongside a pressurised day job inside a startup is unrealistic.

If you need help with marketing your SaaS business, why not get in touch? We’ve got a decade of experience of working with SaaS businesses to help them flourish, grow and achieve their objectives. We’d be only too pleased to help. Book your free one hour consultation.

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