Skip to content

Diary of a first-time CMO - Cognism DNA

Hey B2B marketers

Here it is. Four years, $50m+ ARR and 200 pages later… My journey as a first-time CMO.

Covering the key learnings I've gathered in four years of leadership. This diary reveals the lessons that helped me scale Cognism from $3m to $50m ARR, build a team from 3 to 39, and transform our set-up from a classic lead gen function to a demand gen engine.

It’s my handbook for B2B marketers looking to thrive in leadership.

(especially if you’re as daunted as I was when I started out!)

Diary of a first-time CMO by Alice De Courcy
By: Alice de Courcy
1 minute read

Cognism DNA

Apple-Podcasts-1-1 google-podcasts-badge-1-1-1 SPOTIFY-1

In marketing kick-offs, I like to highlight certain characteristics that have helped us to be successful so far, that I’d like new members of the team to inherit as we scale, and older members of the team to remember.

I want these to be a part of our DNA and philosophy as a B2B marketing department as we move forward and scale.

At this point in time, we had just added new members to the team - and I realised I really needed to invest some more of my time to defining processes that would drive these critical principles within the team.

We had to get out of the startup mentality where we would get things done by hacking things together through a small number of very hands-on people, laser-focused on shipping value.

Instead, moving towards a more process-driven approach so we could continue to scale. 

1. Efficiency

We had reached a point where we had more people in the team, but we were less efficient with those people. So that really had to be a key focus but the responsibility really came down to myself and the other managers to work out, rather than the individuals.

More than anything it was just a reflection of the stage of growth we were at, but it was something I felt was important to pay attention to throughout the year.

There will be a point of scale where you have to set time aside to build out processes and infrastructure that will enable the team to be more effective and efficient with scale. The short-term hit on output while you build these out can be painful, but ultimately this is the only way to build for sustainable growth. 

2. Transparency

During this time, we had been working from home for a while because of the pandemic. And even now, a lot of our marketing team is remote.

While I have my direct reports keeping me updated with progress, these people also have their own teams, so I can end up being quite far removed from a lot of the work being done in the day-to-day.

I’m sure it feels a bit arduous for those who are in the details, working hard to then have to add an update to their to-do list. But it’s really important, not only for me, but the whole team to keep up to date with projects because I believe that’s where creative ideas are born.

We have so many smart people - you just never know what creative ideas could come out of sharing what the team is up to.

We had become a little siloed and a bit too focused on our own work.

This was my push to try to bring back a level of transparency within the team.

I ran incentives about sharing and I told my team ‘this is the easiest money you will ever win because all you have to do is share your work’. Sometimes you just have to incentivise the behaviour you want until it becomes a part of the way you operate.

3. Innovation, ownership and execution

This comes back to one of my favourite phrases:

‘Ideas are only as good as their execution’

What I was really trying to get at here is that I want people to come up with solutions to problems, not just problems that need solutions. And I want us to be able to execute on that.

I think it comes down to empowering the team to take ownership of certain projects and say: ‘please come to me with a fully formed plan of action around how you think we could do something better’.

Because I would love to help my team get an action live, whatever that test looks like.

Ideally, I want those ideas and plans to come from everyone in my team, not just managers.

I really feel like that was the secret sauce for our success in the early days, we came up with some really great ideas and I really didn’t want that to get lost as we grew the team.

It is easy to get into the trap of team members looking to their managers for direction and ideation and that is the death of innovation. 

4. Revenue Marketing

I feel it's super important for everyone in my team to know what the key metrics are.

Whether they’re in SEO, whether they’re in content, whether they’re in demand gen - we all drive towards revenue.

That’s the no.1 goal of our marketing team.

It’s important for everyone to be working on something that can positively influence the growth of the company and ultimately results in increased revenue.

That means we all have to be very involved in the data and this is an area where I really want the team to maintain focus.

These principles really came from me observing the team, looking ahead at our growth plans and prioritising past competitive advantages that led us to success so far. They were the key elements of our team's DNA that I wanted to solidify.

Another thing I just want to touch on here before I move on - as I mention it in this post, but haven’t really spoken about it in this diary so far - working from home.

Marketing is lucky as a discipline in the sense that it can be done from anywhere, and a lot of our team continues to work remotely or on a flexible basis.

I do feel that the team can benefit from being in the same room, even just to discuss options for the subject line of an email easily and quickly - so we do get together when we can.

We also did suffer initially from issues discussed in my previous points (efficiency and transparency) which is why I made those two areas a focus.

But I feel it’s the role of a leader to do all they can to remove silos and create processes that make it possible to be productive in whatever environment is required.

We’ve now found our flow with processes and developed our mindset and philosophy around working from home which offers the team a lot more flexibility and work-life balance, without any negative cost to productivity.  

We’ve also experienced massive benefits from being able to hire talent from further afield which I feel has outweighed the negatives we experienced in the beginning.

Want to keep up with Alice's latest CMO advice?

Get "In The Loop"

B2B marketing
The Loop Digest
B2B marketing
The Loop Live
B2B marketing
Revenue Champions Podcast