Why You Don’t Need a CMO

Have you founded any startups in the last 10 years?

Chances are, if you have the first things on your mind were beta customers, funding, and product. Maybe you were concerned on building out your team and finding the right developers, particularly the CTO and COO, but how many companies are covering their market on the c-suite level?

The probability that one of your core founders (CEO/COO) is doing and managing your marketing strategy is almost 100% – getting a CMO simply isn’t on the menu.

Smart and experienced entrepreneurs know that an early stage CEO needs to be focused on fundraising and sales. But for many B2C and B2B companies however, the CEO often takes point on all marketing efforts. It’s highly common for founders to have a few key marketing channels in mind to explore – the assumption is that with a founders vision, a lower level hire, (marketing manager) freelancer, or paid agency should be able to cover what you need as far as user acquisition. Right?

Not Really…

The facts are the vast majority of startups are bound to fail, or at the very least fail to launch in any significant fashion. If your marketing is not bringing in users, the reality is everything else will collapse – your investors won’t be interested, your employees won’t be motivated, and your development team won’t have enough feedback to create a kick-ass product.

As a tech startup, you need users. Users come from marketing. Who and where does the marketing come from?


Digital marketing is not a new field. Most businesses, small and large, have adapted to the internet in the past 20 years, embarking on many marketing efforts – SEO, Apps, Google Ads, FB Ads, Social Media…it will all be implemented. These companies have been made rich, and as a result, their software has become infinitely more complex and leagues more competitive than it once was.

As a startup, you are not only fighting the marketing as a disruptor, but you are likely dealing with a competitive and high CPA scenario that you are ill equipped to deal with.

The Problem

There exists a subsection of founders (myself included) that have a lengthy background in growing and learning marketing technology; when this type of founder starts a new company, it’s largely based around the market potential – take marketing studios like Red Antler and Bullish for example.

But for most successful founders and first time entrepreneurs, their background is seniority in whatever field they are disrupting. Take any one of our clients as an example – GoCoach, Presentr, Cytilife, and SquarePegHires – all early stage companies, were founded by people in the respective industries – Coaching, Consulting, higher-ed, and HR. People within a niche are most apt to see an opportunity – but this doesn’t mean they are most apt to seize it. As a public speaking application, our client Presentr thrived in the B2B and corporate space. As a marketing agency, we realized the market for their software could span well beyond their current avenues even if they did not see it themselves. Now Presentr is having success amongst students, employees and coaches who are looking to increase their public speaking skills without paying an arm and a leg. Founders Tammy and Tim of Presentr knew full well that anybody could benefit from their application, they just needed the execution that we could provide and implement.

It’s great to have both worlds (niche + marketing expertise – like us) – although this often isn’t the case.

Sounds like I need A CMO…

WRONG! Remind yourself:

  • Most CMOs last under 6 months (a disaster for a young company).
  • Average compensation for A CMO is $180k → due to the demand, you’re unlikely to get a qualified CMO for the money.
  • Vetting a marketer without marketing experience is a fatal decision and hard to do without the requisite experience.

Even if you are lucky or connected enough to be funded in your first 12 months of operations, these numbers just don’t make sense.

That’s not the end.

A trend in the past 5-10 years has been outsourcing; outsourcing everything from development to executives. This trend is relatively recent to the startup world; “fractional” CMO placement is a rather uncommon term for most tech founders in the early-stages. Is outsourcing the answer? Yes and No. Let’s run through some specifics:

  • A startup requires more marketing strategy, positioning, “macro” level experience than a SMB like a real estate or law firm. That means most agencies are gone.
  • A startup requires a long term commitment or at least the possibility of a long term commitment; you can’t afford centralizing if you’re going to lose all of your marketing resources.
  • A startup is going to be pressed for resources, and even more importantly, the time of the founders. A smooth process, communication, and coordination is crucial. In others words, if you’re going to outsource marketing, outsource everything that is related to marketing.
  • By outsourcing all of your marketing and related activities, you put your company in a unique position to have full-time, experienced marketers working on your outreach as if you had a CMO for a fraction of the price.

Introducing A CMO Agency

All the hype in the past few years has been hybrid product-marketing companies like Hubspot as aptly outlined in one of my favorite books, The Marketing Agency Blueprint, by Paul Roetzer.

But much overlooked has been horizontally integrated companies that combine the power and expertise of more than one high-level CMO, versus a vertical structure with account managers and reps on different channels.

The Old Model

  • Very few good options; established companies lack up-to-date modern knowledge on technology trends + regulations
  • Outdated, clunky pricing; paying $100 + an hour for low level marketing support
  • Business model predicated on outsourced labor and tons of passive clients
  • Little-to-no experience managing a disruptive, new company like a SaaS startup; marketing lawyers/real estate (do es not equal symbol) marketing for startups consequent waste of money, even if cheap, waste of time is devastating

The bottom line is this: a traditional agency is simply not equipped to handle the disruptive nature of a startup. The lack the resources, understanding and ability to think outside the box and use the most up-to-date marketing tactics will limit a traditional agency when it comes to their ability to execute for a startup.

So, What is ‘You Don’t Need a CMO’ ?

At You Don’t Need a CMO, we approach each new potential client as an application. Our consultations act as an interview to identify successful projects. We see each new client as an investment; a client is only valuable or interesting to us if we see the potential for substantial long-term scaling.

And we have the tools and knowledge to know if you’re product is viable. Having worked hand-in-hand with dozens of teams, and having data on hundreds of products through our investors, we can actually evaluate whether a team will succeed. We know the niches intimately and the startup world through our own experience. We call our team a “Board of Directors” as that is how we see our relationship to your marketing.

Our Experience:

  • SaaS Community; Trendsetters across multiple niches, continuously up-to date with trends and regulatory changes internationally.
  • Flat, Reasonable subscription pricing based on true difficulty and expertise required for given product; incentives tied too long, deep relationships of radical growth, not quantity of passive contracts.
  • Dozens of SaaS clients across niches; access to marketing data of dozens more through proprietary scraping technology and YDNACMO freelance network.

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