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Diary of a first-time CMO - Looking for unicorns

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

Looking for unicorns

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The best thing about making the pivot from lead gen to demand gen?

We earned the right to scale.

I’m always cautious about hiring. My philosophy is that each role should be maxed out in capacity before we look to bring on a new hire.

That being said, it’s been game-changing to be able to prove the repeatable scaling success of the marketing engine and get the buy-in for growing the team.

When your CEO says: ‘this is great, how can we do more and scale faster?’ That is any B2B marketing leader's dream.

And remember the answer will very often not be to chuck more money at capturing demand by increasing spend on Google Ads. It is likely to lie in stacking growth through your create-demand activities, and these will require more people power.

So why was I hiring for these roles specifically?

Well, we had proved the positive impact that SEO could have on generating revenue more efficiently.

We had built out and scaled our SEO efforts, despite having limited resources or internal dedicated expertise.

It was at this stage that it made sense to invest in an internal SEO expert who could take ownership of continuing to scale our SEO efforts and give it independent focus.

SEO had proven its place in our repeatable marketing revenue engine and capacity had been hit, so it was time to hire.

Onto the Paid Media Marketing Manager. Boy, I have had a journey with this role!

So hopefully I can help stop you from making all the same mistakes that I’ve made.

Firstly, DO NOT outsource this position if you are only going to spend a small amount of money with the agency you outsource it to.


You will get what you pay for, in short.

An agency is only going to be able to deliver to a limited extent. They will optimise for in-platform metrics, but they will not be optimising for revenue.

They will also not be in a position to pull important levers on landing page messaging and content that can be crucial to how your campaigns perform.

Another important lesson I learned is that you need this role to be critical in your:

  • Budgeting pacing, tracking and adjusting.
  • Paid reporting, forecasting and planning.

An agency is very unlikely to be able to do any of this as well as someone who sits in the org.

BUT the cost of hiring a bad paid marketing person is big. So make sure you run a case study interview process.

I would want to be sure that this person can own:

  • Budget pacing.
  • Can run a spend forecast.
  • Look after the re-planning process.
  • Can optimise campaigns for revenue and not platform metrics.
  • Finally, I’d want them to understand the difference between creating demand and capturing it, and that they are across the metrics and strategies behind both of these. 
  • Eventually, we found our unicorn in this role. But it took us a year and a half of pain to get there. 

My advice would be:

  • Don’t compromise or rush the hire.
  • It’s much better to fill the gap with a freelancer until you have found your unicorn. 
  • This can be a game-changing role for better or worse depending on your success in hiring the right person.

Finally, we hired our DACH marketer because we had proven the success of our marketing strategy in this new region and we were ready to start to scale revenue there.

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

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