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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Lerner

Two Types of CMOs

(And the one you don't want to hire)


Thinking of hiring your first CMO? Give me 90 seconds to save you $1M.


CMOs have the highest turnover of any C-suite role. They also have the largest discretionary budget. Let that sink in.


Most people don’t realize there are two types of CMOs. I call them scientists and hypnotists.


The hypnotists

Hypnotists spend lots of money and brainwash everyone into thinking it's a good idea, even if nobody can measure the outcomes. “You can’t measure creativity. It’s an art, not a science.”


They’ll call anyone with a spreadsheet “reductionistic” and insist there are two kinds of marketing:

  1. Brand - Evocative, memorable, and compelling

  2. Direct response - You can measure it

Make no mistake – if your customers find your marketing evocative, memorable, and compelling, you will be able to measure it.


The scientists

Then, there’s the scientist CMOs. I don’t see many of them in Europe, they’re more common on the West Coast. The scientists normally lean towards being either more creative or quantitative. But they’re self-aware and build their team to balance that out.


If you’re looking for examples of brilliant “scientist CMOs” I’ve tagged a few in this LinkedIn post.


Still, most startups don’t need a CMO at all, only a strong Head of Growth.


A good Head of Growth will spend time agreeing on business goals up-front, identifying which levers to pull, and designing and running experiments. When they find proven levers, then, and only then, they’ll ask for budget to scale and optimise.


CMOs aren’t stupid. They join companies that already have strong traction. It’s not always clear if they cause hypergrowth or follow it. If your company isn’t hyper-growing, you need someone who can cause growth. And if your company is hyper-growing… you still need someone who can cause growth, more of it.


“Hiring for Growth” workshop replay

It’s a high-stakes hire, and I want to help. I ran a workshop that covered the whole process, from sourcing and screening to securing a world-class Head of Growth. You can access the recording and templates here at no cost.


I really hope this helps.


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