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Diary of a first-time CMO - View from a distance

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

View from a distance

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You might be wondering why it felt so daunting for me to come back after a short break away from work. After all, I’m the CMO. A leader… I should be confident and unwavering, right?

Truth is because Cognism is at such a high growth stage, everything changes at a rapid rate. Re-entering after a period of time off can feel like you don’t know where to start.

You need to throw yourself back in and get up to speed, especially as a hands-on leader who is used to being very operational.

BUT this was actually just what I needed.

Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees, and it's only by taking a step back and looking at your organisation as a whole that you can identify opportunity areas and also have space to be creative and form new ideas.

Ultimately you will have got to this role because you are very good at B2B marketing, not because of your people or org management ability. You need the space to think proactively about this from time to time to ensure you are still having the required impact.

I’m not saying it’s easy either, I personally find it really hard to take breaks. Even on my honeymoon, much to my new husband's dismay!

I feel incredibly invested in everything that I’ve built during my nearly four years here. From my team of three, now approaching 40. Delivering consistent month-on-month, quarter-on-quarter marketing revenue growth. And Cognism expansion, now being three brands.

But it’s really important to give others the chance to step up and lead.

One of the main things I had time to mull over during my time off was the growing pains we’d started to experience due to our quick growth.

I had the space to look at how I could operationalise our processes and find ways of working to enable us to move faster and build and scale for the future.

This can get lost when you move fast and grow quickly, but if you are going to hit the next level of growth, they become vitally important.

It also gave me a chance to think about the bigger picture of how we foundationally operated.

To start to look and ideate on how I could potentially switch Cognism from a lead generation model into a demand generation one.

I started to map out what I would need to begin this process, for example:

  • An experimentation budget 
  • Buy in internally

And I did a huge amount of listening and learning, something I don’t usually get the time for. I was beginning to work out how this could play out in real life.

I often wonder if I had not had this head space and time, if I would have been able to make the switch when we did and as successfully as we did. I guess we’ll never know.

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

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