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What You Need To Look For In A SaaS
Chief Marketing Officer

SaaS Chief Marketing Officer

 

A leadership expert by the name of Dr. John Maxwell once said “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

In any endeavor you may have, if you have a competent and compassionate leader in place, everything else will follow.

And like in any business, the growth of a SaaS business rises and falls with its leadership.

You have your chief executive officer (CEO) who is on top of everything. But you also have other executives in charge of various departments in your SaaS company, such as product development, marketing, sales, and more.

For a SaaS startup with a very limited need and budget, the founder may still be able to handle all the executive roles at once. But as a SaaS business grows, the workload also grows. The tasks become more and more complicated.

At this point, being the founder, you may find that it’s no longer sustainable to handle all these responsibilities as an all-around executive.

You will eventually have to delegate executive responsibilities to the right people. You will have to form an executive team.

And a crucial part of this leadership team is the SaaS chief marketing officer (CMO).

In this article, we will talk about what a SaaS CMO is, what their responsibilities are, and how to find the right one.

 

What Is A SaaS CMO?

 

A SaaS Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is an executive who is in charge of the marketing department in a SaaS company. They are responsible for SaaS growth through marketing initiatives and strategies that will attract and convert leads into customers.

One thing you need to remember here is that SaaS marketing is very different from marketing for traditional businesses.

The SaaS business model is usually subscription-based. That means retaining customers is just as important as acquiring new ones, if not more important.

With that being said, marketing plays a huge role in customer retention.

Aside from building brand awareness and getting more users onboard, SaaS CMOs need to focus on initiatives that will keep existing customers happy and engaged.

 

What Are The Responsibilities Of A SaaS CMO?

 

Now that we know what a SaaS CMO is, let’s take a look at their responsibilities.

Broadly speaking, SaaS CMOs are responsible for anything and everything that has to do with marketing.

But if we’re going to be specific, here are some of the most common responsibilities of a SaaS CMO:

 

1. Identifying Your Target Market And Audience

 

The first step in any marketing effort is identifying your target market and audience.

This is especially important for SaaS businesses because the SaaS market itself is very diverse. You have business-to-business (B2B) markets. You have business-to-consumer (B2C) markets.

Not to mention the differences in demographic and psychographic factors among the people in these markets.

Your SaaS product may appeal to a very specific niche or group of people. And it’s the CMO’s job to identify them.

Once you know who your target market is, it will be much easier to create marketing initiatives that will resonate with them.

 

2. Building Your Brand Identity

 

The next step is to build your brand identity. This includes everything from your company’s name and logo to your product’s positioning and messaging.

Your SaaS product may be the best in the market. But if you don’t have a strong and recognizable brand, it will be very difficult to convert leads into customers.

 

3. Developing And Executing SaaS Marketing Strategies

 

This includes creating marketing plans and budgets, as well as leading and managing the execution of marketing activities.

Some of the things that may fall under this responsibility include the following:

  • Product marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Lead generation
  • Demand generation
  • Customer marketing

 

4. Building And Leading Your Marketing Team

 

This is pretty self-explanatory. SaaS CMOs are responsible for building and leading their own marketing team.

This team may be composed of in-house marketers, agency partners, freelancers, or a mix of these.

The chief marketing officer is also in charge of managing these individuals and ensuring that they work together harmoniously to achieve common goals.

When the team or some members aren’t doing their job well, it’s also the CMO’s responsibility to check up on them and take disciplinary action if necessary.

And when push comes to shove, the SaaS CMO is the one who will be held accountable for the team’s performance.

 

5. Creating SaaS Marketing Collaterals

 

This includes anything that will be used to promote your SaaS product, such as website content, blog posts, social media posts, email newsletters, ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, etc.

The chief marketing officer is in charge of conceptualizing and creating these marketing collaterals.

Of course, they won’t do it alone. They will more or less come up with the concepts while a team of content creators, designers, and other creatives does the rest.

These SaaS marketing collaterals will be important not just for your marketing team, but for your sales team as well.

And when it comes to your marketing and sales departments, they need to be consistent in terms of branding and messaging.

With such consistent branding and messaging, these collaterals can be effective tools for lead generation and demand generation. They can also be used to nurture leads and turn them into paying customers.

 

6. Collaborating With Other Departments In The Company

 

Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has to work hand-in-hand with other departments in the company, such as sales, product, and customer success.

The marketing executive is responsible for establishing good working relationships with these other departments.

They need to be on the same page in terms of objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). They also need to have a clear understanding of how their respective roles fit into the bigger picture.

Only then can they work together harmoniously to achieve common goals.

Some SaaS businesses may have a dedicated customer success team. In which case, the SaaS CMO will also need to establish a good working relationship with them.

This is important because customer success, along with marketing, has a direct impact on customer retention. And customer retention, in turn, has a direct impact on revenue.

What’s more, the SaaS CMO should also be aware of the company’s product roadmap. This way, they can align their marketing initiatives with the launch of new features and products.

7. Measuring SaaS Marketing Performance

This is probably one of the most important responsibilities of a SaaS CMO. After all, what’s the point of executing marketing initiatives if you don’t measure their performance?

It’s the SaaS CMO’s job to track various metrics and marketing KPIs to see which marketing activities are working and which ones aren’t.

They need to be able to identify issues and problems early on so they can adjust their strategies accordingly.

And when they see that certain initiatives are working well, they need to figure out how to replicate that success.

Some of the marketing metrics that SaaS CMOs need to measure include:

  • Recurring revenue (MRR and ARR)
  • Website traffic
  • Leads generated
  • Conversion rates
  • Churn rates
  • Activation rate
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • CLV:CAC ratio
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

 

8. Reporting SaaS Marketing Results To The CEO

 

In most cases, the SaaS CMO reports directly to the CEO.

This makes sense because the SaaS CMO is responsible for spearheading the company’s overall marketing efforts. And who better to report to than the person who’s ultimately in charge of the entire business?

The CEO needs to be updated on the state of the SaaS company’s marketing efforts so they can make informed decisions for the bigger picture.

And when it comes to reporting, SaaS CMOs need to be able to present their findings in a way that is easy to understand. They should also be able to provide actionable insights based on their data and analysis.

 

9. Budget Management

 

SaaS CMOs are in charge of creating marketing plans and budgets.

Aside from that, they’re also responsible for making sure that the marketing budget is being used wisely and efficiently.

This includes negotiating with vendors, monitoring expenses, and looking for ways to save on costs without compromising the quality of marketing initiatives. The SaaS CMO is also the one who needs to justify the company’s marketing spending to the CEO and other stakeholders.

They need to be able to show how the marketing budget is being used to achieve desired results.

And when it comes to allocations, SaaS CMOs need to decide how much of the budget should go to each marketing initiative.

This can be a tough decision to make, but it’s something that SaaS CMOs need to do in order to ensure that the company’s marketing efforts are well-balanced.

 

How To Find The Right SaaS CMO

 

Now that we’ve gone over the different roles and responsibilities of a SaaS CMO, you might be wondering how to find the right person for the job.

After all, not everyone is cut out to be a SaaS CMO.

Here are some things you need to when you’re on the lookout for a SaaS CMO:

 

Define The Job Description Clearly

 

You need to be able to articulate what you’re looking for in a SaaS CMO.

To do this, you need to have a good understanding of your company’s marketing needs.

You see, there are different stages to a SaaS business’ growth.

In some stages, you will need to focus on acquiring as many customers as you can. In others, you may need to focus on retaining your existing customers and upselling to them.

If your SaaS business is in the earliest stages, you might even need a CMO to identify your target audience or craft a value proposition.

Whatever your current marketing needs are, you need to clearly communicate them clearly so that your potential CMO candidates would know what they’re getting into.

 

List The Qualifications You Are Looking For

 

Next, you need to make a list of the qualifications and skills you are looking for in a SaaS CMO.

Some of the things you might want to consider include:

Knowledge About SaaS: As we mentioned earlier, SaaS marketing works very differently from traditional marketing. That’s why it’s important to find a SaaS CMO who is well-versed in SaaS marketing.

This way, they would know how to create and execute marketing plans that are specific to the  SaaS industry.

Experience In Leading A Marketing Team: It’s also important to find a SaaS CMO who has extensive experience working as a CMO in other companies.

How did they impact those companies? How are the companies’ marketing performance different before and after they served as CMO?

Their previous experience will determine whether or not they can effectively lead a marketing department and deal with different challenges that may come up.

But note that your expectations of your CMO candidates’ experience are dependent on your budget. If you’re only willing to pay a salary that is below the average of the standard market rate, you can’t be too picky.

After all, veteran CMOs are not cheap. As of this writing, the average chief marketing officer salary is around $253,000 per year.

If you can find a SaaS CMO with several years of experience under their belt, that would be ideal.

Leadership Style: SaaS CMOs need to be able to lead and manage a team of marketers.

That’s why it’s important to find someone with an executive leadership style that is compatible with your company culture.

For example, if your company is very laid-back, you might want to avoid SaaS CMO candidates who have a very strict and militaristic leadership style.

On the other hand, if your company is very fast-paced and constantly changing, you might want to find a SaaS CMO candidate who is comfortable with change and knows how to adapt quickly.

The bottom line is that you need to make sure that the SaaS CMO you hire will be a good fit for your company.

 

Look For Candidates In The Right Places

 

You need to make sure that you look for SaaS CMO candidates in the right places.

There are many ways to do this:

Look For Someone To Promote: One way to find a SaaS CMO is to look for someone within your company. Try to see if there is someone who is already playing vital roles in your marketing efforts and is showing leadership potential.

This way, you can avoid the hassle and expense of recruiting and training someone from the outside.

What’s more, having a homegrown CMO builds their loyalty to the company and makes sure that you have a CMO that already lives out your company culture.

Still, be firm about the requirements and qualifications you’re looking for in a CMO. If none of your current employees are showing them, that’s okay. You can still look outside the company for potential candidates.

Ask For Referrals From Your Network: If you have a network of other SaaS business owners, they may lead you to a promising candidate for your open CMO role.

Talk to other CEOs, entrepreneurs, or SaaS founders. Try to see if they know anyone who would be a good fit for the job.

You can also ask SaaS CMOs in other companies for referrals. You never know. They might belong to a community of fellow CMOs and may have a pool of promising candidates for you.

Use The Right Job Boards: SaaS startups often use job boards to find the right employees for their companies.

However, not all job boards are created equal. SaaS businesses should look for job boards that cater specifically to SaaS businesses. While some also serve as job boards specifically for CMOs and other executive roles.

Some of these job board websites include SaaS Community and The CMO Club Job Board.

These job boards will give you access to a pool of SaaS CMO candidates that you might not be able to find elsewhere.

But if you want to cover all your bases, you can still use popular job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor.

 

Vet Your Candidates Thoroughly

 

Once you’ve found a few SaaS CMO candidates that you’re interested in, it’s time to start the vetting process.

This is where you will weed out the good candidates from the great ones.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, SaaS CMOs are not cheap. They command a high salary because they are responsible for the success of your marketing campaigns.

That’s why you need to make sure that you’re hiring the right person for the job. Otherwise, you might end up wasting a lot of money on someone who’s not up to the task.

Here are some things to keep in mind when vetting SaaS CMO candidates:

Check Their References: SaaS CMO candidates should be able to provide you with a list of references.

These are people who can attest to the candidate’s skills and abilities. SaaS CEOs or entrepreneurs who have worked with the candidate in the past would be ideal.

But if the candidate is new to the SaaS world or to the CMO position, they can still provide you with references from their previous jobs.

The important thing is that you actually follow up with these references. Contact them and ask them about their experience working with the candidate.

See if they would recommend the candidate for the job.

Check Their Work History: Another way to vet SaaS CMO candidates is to check their work history.

Take a look at their resume and see where they’ve worked in the past. SaaS CMOs should have a mix of both B2B and B2C experience.

They should also have experience working in fast-paced and constantly changing environments.

It would also be helpful if they have experience leading and managing a team of marketers. This way, you can be sure that they’re up for the challenge of leading your marketing team.

Ask Them The Right interview Questions: SaaS CMO candidates should also be able to answer your questions during the interview process.

Prepare a list of questions that will help you gauge their skills and abilities.

Some examples of good questions to ask SaaS CMO candidates include:

  • What are some of the most successful marketing campaigns you’ve overseen?
  • What do you think is the key to a successful SaaS marketing campaign?
  • How would you go about acquiring new SaaS customers?
  • How do you think SaaS marketing has changed over the years?
  • What do you think is the biggest challenge facing SaaS marketers today?

By asking the right questions, you can get a better understanding of the candidate’s skills, abilities, and how up-to-date they are with the current SaaS marketing trends.

Give Them A Trial Run Or A Case Study: Another way for you to gauge your CMO candidate’s ability is to see how they deal with an actual project.

Giving them a trial run or case study will give you an idea of how they would perform in the actual job.

During the trial run, SaaS CMO candidates should be able to create and execute a marketing campaign from start to finish.

They should also be able to track the results of the campaign and provide you with a report at the end.

The case study, on the other hand, is more like an exam. SaaS CMO candidates will be given a scenario and they will have to come up with a solution.

This will help you see how they think and how they would handle a real-life situation.

Make sure to give them enough time to complete the trial run or case study. SaaS CMO candidates should be able to complete the task within the given timeframe.

You may also want to pay them for the effort. After all, a CMO’s time is valuable. If you’re not going to pay them for their time working on the trial or case study, it may turn them off. They may withdraw their application altogether.

 

Alternate Route: Outsource Your CMO Role

 

If you’re not ready to commit to hiring a SaaS CMO just yet, you can always outsource the role.

One option is to hire a fractional CMO. This is a SaaS CMO that you can hire on a part-time, per-project basis, or on a retainer agreement.

Hiring a fractional CMO has its benefits. For one, you don’t have to commit to pay the salary and benefits of a full-time CMO. You can save on costs since you’re only paying for the hours that they work.

Another benefit is that they bring a lot of experience to the table. Being freelancers, they have a lot of experience working with companies with different backgrounds in various industries.

This expertise can bring fresh eyes to your marketing operations and bring a lot of insight into your marketing strategy.

One downside of hiring a fractional CMO, however, is that they may not always be available when you need them. Remember that they also have other clients and are working with other companies.

Another downside is a possible disconnect between your fractional CMO and your in-house marketing team. Your current team may see this person as an outsider and may find it hard to follow their lead.

So if you’re considering hiring a fractional CMO, make sure that they have the necessary people skills to build a rapport with your team.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Hiring a SaaS CMO is a big decision. After all, they will be responsible for the success (or failure) of your marketing campaigns. This is why it’s important to take your time in finding the right SaaS CMO for your company.

At the end of the day, the best SaaS CMO is someone with the necessary experience, skills, and abilities to take your marketing campaigns to the next level.

Want more guides and tips on how to grow your SaaS business? Visit our blog here.

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SaaS Chief Marketing Officer
Ken Moo
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