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Diary of a first-time CMO - Give yourself problems

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

Give yourself problems

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We didn’t offer a free trial at Cognism, we only offered demo requests.

But we wanted to diversify our offers and let people experience our product hands-on so they could see the value upfront.

So we came up with this idea of ‘25 free leads’, where we could offer people 25 leads in their ICP for free.

They would get a sample of the types of contacts we had to offer in their ICP and be able to understand the quality of our B2B data without having to commit yet.

I got this idea approved by our CRO with the only stipulation being we couldn’t run this as a mass offer to everyone, it had to be a super tight audience initially.

But at this stage, I just wanted to validate that this idea would even work and was an offer our audience cared about.

So we kept the audience size really small at first. It was purely retargeting people who had already engaged with us and knew a bit about Cognism.

We put it live and saw amazing results. Not only were people converting on the offer but they were converting into revenue further down the sales funnel.

It became our top-performing campaign by a mile.

At that stage, we knew it worked. So we had an argument for scaling it. We then just had to figure out how.

And I believe it’s a much better position to be in than having never started it at all because we were worried about how it would scale later on.

I feel that all too often we block ourselves from trying ideas because we can’t imagine how it would scale. For example, we could have said:

‘There’s no way we can deal with 200 requests for 25 free leads a month, how would we resource it.’

And not go ahead with it. But that would have been the wrong decision.

I think it was great that we tested it before we knew how we could scale it. Because we proved that it worked.

It was really easy to then get buy-in to build more robust processes around it, because it was generating revenue. You could see it in the numbers.

This can be a mindset shift for some people, because what happens if we can’t fulfil what we set out to? Rightly, people want to do things to a high standard, and that’s a good thing most of the time.

But in order to make the right decisions quickly, you need to be creating minimal viable tests and minimal viable products to find out if it’s the right direction to push in.

It’s just a new way of thinking about things. Don’t worry about a problem that doesn’t yet exist.

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