Happy 2023! Here’s what I predict we’ll see this year in the market for CMOs in SaaS companies.
👀 CEO VIEWS ON THE CMO ROLE
“To expand or compress/contract marketing, that is the question…”
1) Some companies are expanding marketing, with an eye to creating a unified customer experience – or to doing more with less.
These companies are adding Product or Support or GM functions to the CMO’s purview, or promoting the CMO into the Chief Growth Officer role.
2) However, other companies are collapsing marketing by replacing their CMOs with VPs of Revenue Marketing, reporting to a CRO.
The idea is to align even more with sales and focus more on demand creation, especially in the short term. Yes, this is scary and threatening to CMOs! And threatening to the long-term commercial success of the business.
It will be interesting to compare the expanders with the collapsers!
3) One thing’s for sure… the juiciest marketing leadership roles will go to CMOs who are fluent in educating their CEOs and Boards on the benefits of long-term investments in marketing, while delivering on demand, pipeline, and ROI metrics in the shorter term.
🎖 WHAT COMPANIES WANT AND NEED FROM THEIR CMOs
I won’t rehash an entire wish list of what the scale-smart CMO focuses on (check out this piece on the DNA of a CMO who can scale for that POV). Instead, a few highlights that seem timely for this year:
4) Profitable, sustainable growth gets prized over unbridled growth.
Candidates who have not just scaled revenue, but have done so profitably, will be particularly sought after. Those CMOs from PE-backed companies that have focused on smart growth will have an edge – all things equal — over candidates who are used to big budgets to fuel growth at all costs.
5) Product-led growth experience paired with sales-led growth experience wins.
More and more companies have both PLG and sales-led motions. They are looking for their trial or product to do the selling for them. But they are also facing caution and scrutiny on purchasing decisions well. That’s why the conversations about long term as well as short term impact of marketing are so key.
6) The emotional labor of CMOs expands to coaching teams on how to weather their first economic downturn.
For people who have joined the workforce in the last 10-12 years, many haven’t been through as much as an economic bobble. They are looking for guidance and reassurance to stay productive.
🔦 CMO SEARCH PROCESSES
7) The speed to a slate of super CMO candidates is swifter than in months past, since there is more chance of awesome candidates being on the market.
I’ve been really impressed by many of the candidates I’m meeting lately!
8) Compensation for CMOs doesn’t go down…. but it stops going up so fast, given the moderation in hiring.
9) Diversity remains an important focus in hiring. And with more candidates on the market, there is the perception of greater choice.
10) Private equity shops do more talent pipelining, seeking to have talent on deck to upgrade marketing in their portfolio companies opportunistically. They see this as an effort to finally capture the people they couldn’t land in the wild talent market of the last couple of years.
11) …But they won’t be jerks about it. Companies will think twice in many cases before doing confidential replacement searches. Confidential searches, where you try to keep one marketing leader while confidentially searching for a new one, are unpopular with candidates and are not great for reputations in general, especially on the heels of the most candidate-centric market in history.
👨👩👧👦 CMO CANDIDATE BEHAVIOR
12) Candidates stay savvy and picky about jobs, especially if they are asked to replace a marketing leader who was short-lived.
13) Candidates have gotten smarter about vetting CMO jobs, since they’ve been hit up for many roles in a robust hiring market.
Candidates are looking to see:
- How the CEO views and values marketing
- What the balance between DOING marketing and EDUCATING about marketing will be
- Why the previous CMO left
- What the marketing budget is slated to be
- Why the role is titled CMO or VP, especially if the previous marketing leader was a CMO and now the role is slated as VP-level
In short, they know that they will be asked to deliver a lot, and may have lots of questions to uncover how they can move the needle and whether it’s a role, product, and team worth investing their time and reputations in.
14) Recession-proof tech is the new shiny object.
Candidates have told me they’re embracing companies in typically ‘boring’ domains. Cool customer bases and fun new tech are great, but ‘need to have’ tech with high customer retention rates has a sheen of its own.
15) People transition out of CMO roles at small companies and into VP roles in bigger companies, where they will run a portion of marketing, like product marketing or demand gen or LOB marketing.
These executives are choosing to swap ‘unreasonable expectations’ for a feeling of greater control and mastery in one particular area.