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Diary of a first-time CMO - Kissing frogs

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

Kissing frogs

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Hiring. It should be a CMO superpower. Especially in the early days when you’re building out your marketing team. Your hires can make or break your productivity.

Hiring and onboarding can feel like a big distraction at the time, but it is one of the things that you can do which will have the largest impact, negatively or positively. Depending on how successful you are at it.

You can also learn so much about the types of people you’re attracting to the role, meaning you learn about how to write or alter job specs.

I’d never want to give up the chance to filter in or out the right candidates. Although, I’ll admit it does change when you scale. We have made about 15 hires this year and I certainly haven’t been around for all of the first-round interviews.

Sometimes I need to assess how critical the role is against my other time requirements.

But I have put some rules in place:

  1. I will always be present for the final stage interviews, no matter the role.
  2. Everyone involved in the hire agrees on the candidate. If one person on the interview panel says no, then it’s a no.

Using these two foundational principles, we have had great success in our recruitment efforts.

And yes… if you’re wondering, the story about the guy playing PlayStation during his interview is true.

That’s not even the whole story. He had told us he was out of work at the time, so interviewing for a new role was his full-time job. And yet he complained about the time of his interview.

Admittedly, it was 5:30pm on a Friday - so not exactly a prime time slot.

However, we had been really busy that week, and this was a critical role we were hiring for. I was really keen to be involved in the process - so we booked the interview for a time when I could attend.

Unfortunately, it was clear that he had done no research into who each of the people on the interview panel was. And it was a little jarring to hear a candidate be so openly vocal about the interview time, only to waste his shot by playing PlayStation throughout.

That’s one downside to a CMO being so involved in first-stage interviews… Sometimes you come across some time wasters.

But some good news, we finally filled the role we were struggling to fill the most, Head of Paid Performance - with a unicorn marketer!

If I were to offer advice to anyone else struggling to fill a role like this is don’t rush it. Don’t let yourself feel the pressure to fill it fast, with the wrong person. Panic hiring is the worst thing you can do.


  • Set yourself standards for what you’re looking for in a marketer and stick to them.
  • Stay patient.
  • Find creative ways to fill the role in the interim (for example we used a freelancer to fill the gap before we hired our unicorn!).
  • Be creative in the ways in which you attract your candidates.

That last point is an important one, as we found a way to attract talent who have a similar mindset and already buy into our way of thinking.


Through our online marketing event series, Demandism.

We’ve essentially built an entire community and following, with around 100 regular listeners based around our shift to demand generation.

And we’ve made three hires, including the recent Head of Paid Performance, who came inbound to us after having listened to Demandism.

In other words, we created and advertised our culture for demand-first B2B marketing, which encouraged others who share the same philosophy to want to come and work for us.

And each of them said during the interview process that they wanted to work for Cognism because they felt they could learn and grow more in this forward-thinking company versus anywhere else.

They were already sold on the job before they got to the interview, which is great for us.

We have received some brilliant cover letters, I’ll leave you an example below:

Dear hiring manager,

My name’s Jamie. I’m a B2B marketer based in London, with four years of experience devising and executing integrated marketing campaigns across property, B2B events, sports media and consulting.

I would be thrilled to be considered for the open position at Cognism.

Full disclosure - I’m an avid follower of Refine Labs, Chris Walker, Dave Gerhardt, Full Funnel and others that are speaking the language I believe is the future of B2B marketing. Revenue-focused, demand-driven, buyer-centric marketing.

Cognism instantly stood out to me as a UK-based voice passionate about this shift. I share that passion and believe this, coupled with my track record of impact in previous roles, make me a great fit for the role.

Some achievements from my previous employment include:

  • Increasing attendance for SportsPro Insider Series brand by 23% from October 2020 – May 2021
  • Led on email marketing campaigns for SportsPro Insider Series averaging 58% open rate & 5.56% click rate from October 2020 – May 2021
  • Led on email marketing campaigns for BlackBook Motorsport averaging 50% open rate & 5.46% click rate from October 2020 – May 2021
  • Responsible for SportsPro’s first ROI-positive Google Ads campaign with 4421% ROAS
  • Oversaw multiple LinkedIn retargeting campaigns averaging 56% conversion rate
  • Promoted to Marketing Manager in May 2022

Overall, I would offer proven copywriting skills, extensive experience managing organic and paid social channels, experience driving revenue with email marketing as well as demonstrable experience in PPC, SEO and content marketing.

I also believe I offer a good cultural fit for the role.

What do I believe about marketing and where it’s heading?

  • Marketing must be led with first-hand customer insights, these qualitative indicators drive strategy
  • The lead gen model is outdated. Running direct response ads and passing low intent leads to sales isn’t buyer-centric and is based on flawed thinking
  • The future of marketing lies in shifting focus to activities and channels that drive demand and stimulate word of mouth
  • B2B marketers must recognise that 95% of potential buyers are not in-market, these prospects need to be educated and nurtured with content in the places where they actually spend time

Outside of that, I also genuinely love what I do – and hope I’ve conveyed that in this letter. I would be delighted to discuss my application further in person and hope to hear back from you.

Kind regards,

Jamie Skeels

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