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The Role of an Operational-Minded CMO

What's better - being a strategic CMO, or an operational one?

Cognism's CMO believes she leans more on the operational side - which she thinks has been a superpower in scaling the company with limited resources. 

This was especially useful during the acquisition of Kaspr. Continue to read to find out why.

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

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I am an operational CMO and very proud to be so.

How operational I am ebbs and flows depending on the business priorities at the time and on my capacity. But I will never stop being somewhat operational. And this is a great example of why:

Navigating Acquisition Challenges: The Kaspr Example

Recently we acquired a company called Kaspr. They operated a purely capture demand strategy to marketing, and had great CPLs because they were on relatively low spends, optimising campaigns for high intent only.

Once they had joined the Cognism family, Kaspr’s main goal was to start to scale, double budgets and double outputs.

Now we all know as marketers nothing is ever as simple as this, and especially so if you are only running capture demand tactics.

At this stage I wasn’t much involved in the marketing of Kaspr, but after a couple of months of CPLs increasing, and significantly diminished returns, I was called in to have a look under the hood.

I mapped Kaspr’s B2B marketing sophistication out against that of the Cognism engine, a marketing engine that was successfully running both capture and create demand.

Executing with Precision: Overcoming Resource Constraints

I built a roadmap for how we scale this sophistication from a 1 (just capture, no create demand, limited room to scale) to a 3 (both create and capture programmes running and optimised, with room to scale and stack growth).

But there was a problem.

Who would execute this?

We were hiring but that would take months and we needed to get results fast.

I didn’t want to distract my Cognism org and team with the tasks as they had their own targets to hit. So it fell to me to work alongside their marketer to get ‘MVP create demand’ activated and working.

If I was not operational, this would have been a two-month blocker, the growth would have stalled either with Kaspr or Cognism if I had distracted my team.

I know that would have been a big problem for my CEO and the board. And it would have cost the business revenue.

This is just one example and there have been many others, but this is why it quite literally pays to be an operational CMO.

Optimising Marketing Operations

Another example that springs to mind is this one.

While we were auditing and ungating our content during our move towards demand gen, I felt we hadn’t properly thought through the aim and goal of the process.

What had been done:

  • Form removed from landing page.
  • PDF added in its place = ungating completed. 

But after thinking about this process more deeply, this is what I came up with.

An interactive content page that could be easily consumed via sticky menus, with helpful read more content and videos added throughout the page. As well as personalised CTAs.

This may seem like a small tweak or adjustment, but the performance of these changes was massive.

Building a Culture of Efficiency

In my post above I mention my philosophy around protecting my team from distractions to allow them to get work done.

This is critical in my view to being an effective CMO.

You need to be able to understand when and how to offload tasks in order to ensure your team can execute against the core strategy that will ultimately drive revenue.

If I am assigned a task that I think will be a distraction from the core revenue-driving activity of the team, I will either:

  1. Pushback.
  2. Take it on myself.
  3. Find it a new home.

In my early days at Cognism, I did a lot of 1 and 2, as I wanted to prove my strategy and get my team executing.

As my time becomes more and more stretched, and with the aim to stay operational still front of mind, I now find that I do a lot more of 3.

The organisation is much more mature and other departments have the capacity and resources for more of these items.

But sometimes, like with the Kaspr example, a task just needs to get done and the best solution is to roll up your sleeves and execute yourself.

Finding this balance is not easy and it will shift as you scale and grow.

By building a team and culture that is focused on critical revenue-generating tasks, you will find this becomes much easier to manage.

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

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