CMO consulting Due Diligence Success Stories About Book a Consult

T-Shaped vs. C-Level

Becoming a T-Shaped Marketer is helpful to people starting a career in marketing but can be destructive to marketers later in their careers.

Being T-Shaped definite will help you get promoted to the level of specialist or manager. But then you will hit a wall.

On the flip side, if you begin connecting the dots between marketing and the other functions of the business right away, your odds of getting to a much bigger marketing role in your career increase dramatically.

I call this type of marketer a "C-Level" marketer. These marketers are difficult to find because it is difficult to see the whole board and understand marketing's role across the business.

These C-Level marketers understand:

1) How marketing connects to sales, product, support, client success, engineering
2) Financial and build a relationship with the CFO
3) Manage up in their conversations with the CEO
4) Communicate expectations and connect the dots for the team

These are the people who get the big promotions, who...


Strategic Pillars

Not every good idea is worth pursuing.

Each business has core strategic pillars that are deeply interconnected and intertwined into the fabric of the organization. Can you imagine if Ikea started selling high-end, customized furniture?

This is why filtering your ideas through your strategic pillars is critical. When you go through this exercise, you realize that most ideas aren't a good fit for your business.

Where companies get caught is when they start with the $$$ value in certain ideas. They work backwards from there to figure out how to make it happen.

Along the way, they lose the strategy and forget what business they're in. They also jeopardize the core business with this outside-in strategy.

Instead, start with the strategic pillars and build from the inside-out.

Don't chase after every shiny revenue opportunity :)


Marketing as PM

Marketers can be some of the best Product Managers inside organizations.

They have unique context and understanding about the most valuable asset to Product Management: what customers and the market want.

Marketing is not just about net new acquisition, which is sadly the only role marketers play in some organizations.

This is where it's on marketers to beat the drum and be a real evangelist for customers inside the organization to get a seat at the product management table.

Some of these ideas are also where some of the biggest growth levers inside a company exist.

The more marketers understand each of these levers and how they can contribute to it, the faster they can help grow the organization.


Marketing Ops

One of the most underrated roles on Marketing teams is the Ops person. In many companies, this role isn’t even filled (which is crazy).

Marketing Ops is an enablement role. It enables Marketers to spend money while giving them the insights they need to make better decisions.

To get to those insights, however, there is a whole lot of data collection, infrastructure and integration work that needs to happen — these are skills that are usually most lacking on marketing teams.

Find yourself a marketing ops person if you don’t have one already. And if you have a good one, do everything you can to hold onto them.



Alignment (or lack of it) is talked about a lot. The great thing about data is it can unify an organization objectively without politics, power dynamics or cultural biases of the company.

You have to start by making data a priority:
1) Capturing it from all entry points
2) Tracking and measuring all activities with KPIs
3) Establishing internal agreements on which metrics are core accountabilities of each department
4) Reporting on performance of each department based on those internal agreements
5) Adjusting spend, focus and strategies based on what the data tells you

It's not easy. It requires people, systems and tools to make it all work.

It's also the only way to build a data-centric organization.


To read more on how data can help you align teams internally, see our full article: CMO-CFO Alignment in Portfolio Companies: Why It Matters, and How To Achieve It.


CEO Buy-In

CEO buy-in is one the most underrated variables when measuring marketing effectiveness.

There is a reason some companies bet big on marketing: their CEO is willing to bet his/her job on investing in marketing.

Marketing leaders have a huge role to play to get their CEO on board by making the right case for why the CEO should invest more into marketing.

Once that case is made, however, it is up to the CEO to take that recommendation and give marketing the support it needs in the form of money AND time, including setting the right expectations with the board.

This is why the CMO-CEO relationship is so important. They partner together to invest in marketing to build the brand and the marketing engine of the business.

If you find a CEO who gets marketing, hang on to them :)


Crossing the Chasm to CMO

A lot of marketer's careers reach a chasm at the manager / director stage. Making it to a VP of Marketing / CMO is often met with the excuse that companies are looking for people who have been there before.

It's a bit of a chicken and egg problem. How do you land that first VP of Marketing or CMO role if you've never been CMO?

While experience is valuable, it can be short-circuited. The real value to develop is an understanding of the following:

1) Connecting business strategy to marketing strategy, understanding the whole picture of the business and how marketing fits into it.

2) Connecting marketing to business results and expectations so that marketing is working towards the same objectives as the business

3) Leading the partnership with sales to ensure alignment on Go-To-market

4) Deep partnership with product to drive growth from product initiatives

5) Leveraging data and building a relationship with the CFO and finance team

6) Drive the brand narrative forward with the CEO



Marketing Spend Breakdown

Marketing program spend and headcount should almost never be equivalent. 

In most companies where these numbers are equivalent, it's not that the team is too's that the program and campaign spend is too little.

The key questions marketing leaders need to answer in these organizations:

  1. Where would additional spend go? 
  2. What is the potential impact to the business?
  3. How can our existing team amplify its efforts with more spend?
  4. Who will we need to additionally hire as we spend more?

And most importantly: What happens if we don't do this?


The New CMO

The 8 roles all new CMOs need to play:

  1. Be revenue accountable and tie all activities to revenue impact
  2. Be one of the key leaders on the sales side of the business to understand how to impact revenue even more
  3. Be the designer of customer experiences throughout the full journey
  4. Be a brand builder and category creator
  5. Be a member / leader of the pricing committee
  6. Be a driver of strategic growth initiatives, including involvement in product management
  7. Be a corporate development officer to support M&A activities of the company
  8. Be a financial steward who ensures delivery of growth and EBITDA


To learn more about hiring CMOs and other marketing leaders for portfolio companies, read our full article: How to Hire Marketing Leaders for PE-Backed Companies. 


GTM vs. CAC vs. Price

There's a reason why two products that bring roughly the same value are often priced very differently.

Chosen Go-To-Market models drastically impact your Customer Acquisition Costs.

If you have a highly expensive, enterprise sales team, you inevitably have to charge more for your product to keep your CAC in check.

Conversely, if you can go-to-market with a low-touch (or even no touch) model, you bring those acquisition costs down significantly and can pass along the savings to your customers in the form of a lower price.

That's the key: customers win when you have a more efficient Go-To-Market.

Better marketing -> Better unit economics -> Lower price -> Customers win -> Higher satisfaction -> Larger market to capture.


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