October 13, 2023

Unlocking Success: The Ultimate Guide on How to Hire a CMO for Your Business

Marta Saab
Director, Client Services & Executive Search
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In today's dynamic market, appointing executive leaders is an essential component of driving a company's growth and prosperity. The role of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has become indispensable in the modern business world, and the decision to hire one isn't something to take lightly, as it often marks a pivotal moment in the business journey. It isn't just about timing, but also about fully understanding where your business is and what your current needs are.

When you have a deeper understanding of what your requirements are, you can start to delve into the details of. Things like compensation and perks are important, so you can create an attractive offer for potential hires who are likely in high demand. You need to have a solid grasp on what you're capable of offering before you can start your search because all it takes is a moment of hesitation for a high-level candidate to move along to another opportunity.

With that in mind, it's important to set yourself up with a solid recruitment plan. While this can often be a time-consuming journey, you don't have to do it alone. Executive Search firms like Creative Niche are an incredible resource that can help you save money by creating a unique plan based on your needs and tapping into their exclusive network of high-value candidates.

Related: Executive Search Is More Than Just Headhunting

Knowing When It's the Right Time To Hire a CMO

Before you embark on the journey of hiring a Chief Marketing Officer, it's crucial to assess whether your business is genuinely prepared for this strategic addition to your team. The readiness for a CMO search or Marketing Executives largely hinges on your company's current growth stage, and gaining clarity on this front can save you from misdirecting valuable time and resources.

When it comes to startups, especially those in the pre-seed or early stages, introducing a CMO isn't going to be necessary just yet. Instead, it makes more sense to focus your efforts on laying a solid foundation for your products and/or services. In these beginning phases, your priorities should revolve around developing a compelling offering, gathering research, gaining insights into your target market, and developing your marketing leaders framework.

This is the perfect time for securing lower-level marketing talent positions like Marketing Lead, Senior Marketing Manager, and other essential marketing team roles. Hands-on marketer roles are going to be the most important to fill in this stage since you're going to need support to create and execute various campaigns and other marketing efforts. The specific roles you aim to fill at this stage will vary depending on your funding level, from pre-seed to series A.

Finding candidates who can move from ideation to execution is crucial in the startup phase, and who you hire can make or break your business. So, make sure you handle this phase with care, and don't be afraid to hold out for the right candidate.

The scaling phase marks a pivotal moment in the business journey—this is when your company has overcome the hurdles of startup life and gained a strong foothold in the market. At this point, you should be gearing up to seize opportunities, expand your customer base, and increase revenue. This is an ideal time to start your executive search for a CMO, so they can lead you toward sustainable growth and success.

When you're in this phase, it's important to identify your specific scaling goals, which can vary widely depending on your business model, market conditions, and industry. Some important objectives to consider include:


When trying to scale your business, you might choose to focus on acquiring new users or customers. This can involve things like entering new markets, developing new products and services, or just simply building your existing customer base.

Brand building

If you're looking to scale your company, you need to have a solid foundation when it comes to branding. The more certain you are about your business, the easier it is to connect with new and existing customers. When you hire a CMO, they can help you enhance brand recognition by making your brand identity stronger and more compelling.

Market expansion

Building off the notion of acquisition, entering new geographical regions or demographics is a key component of scaling your business. A CMO can guide you through this process, using a deep understanding of customer preferences and relevant markets.

Product or service diversification

Another step in expanding your reach involves diversifying your product and/or service offerings. CMOs can help you focus your efforts where they make the most sense. An innovative product launch can lead a company to exceptional growth and success, while an unsuccessful launch can set a business back, and even lead to failure.

Marketing strategy

When you have your brand identity down and have new products or services to sell, it's time to come up with a foolproof marketing strategy. This is another area where a CMO proves to be invaluable, as they will use their expertise to make data-driven decisions and allocate resources effectively. It's important to tailor your strategy to your scaling goals and an experienced CMO knows exactly how to perfect the balance.

Revenue growth

Since the point of scaling your business is to drive up revenue, it's important to identify your revenue streams and optimize your spending to ensure you're making the most of your marketing campaign investments.

The scaling phase is an exhilarating time for business owners, and it takes a huge amount of pressure off to have an experienced CMO on the team. When you have someone with strategic vision and the ability to navigate complex marketing and scaling challenges, you set yourself up for sustainable growth and success.

After your scaling efforts take effect, you'll find yourself in the established phase. At this point, you've already achieved significant success and feel secure in your positioning in the market. However, the business world is constantly evolving, and even if you have brand recognition and a loyal customer base, it's important to take steps to maintain growth, stay competitive, and set new goals to reach even greater heights.

To maintain a strong brand identity it's important to reinvigorate your marketing efforts, and a CMO has the expertise to help you perform analytics and devise strategies to keep your business at the forefront of the market.

Related: Why Hiring An Executive Search Firm Will Help Your Company Succeed

Defining CMO Needs Before Starting Your Executive Search

Before you start your CMO search, you first need to evaluate and understand your desired marketing leadership roles, as well as short-term and long-term goals. For example, are you focused on brand development and storytelling? Or do you need help with customer acquisition and growth? Taking the time to map out your company's overarching marketing goals and challenges will help you pinpoint where to start. The more you know about your needs, the better chance you have at finding a CMO with the specific expertise you'll benefit from most.

Before you can make a new hire, it's also crucial to define your marketing budgets and ad spends. This will give a potential CMO the framework necessary to determine if they'll be able to work within your limitations. Even if your business is doing very well, it's important to maintain fiscal responsibility, so having this information prepared always helps with a smooth transition.

As you build your marketing & digital marketing teams, it's extremely helpful to clearly lay out your expectations and responsibilities. When hiring a CMO, it's essential that you clearly define their role and how you expect them to contribute to your organization. Not only does this prevent miscommunication down the road, but it ensures that all processes and tasks are accounted for.

You should also think about the role of external partners and vendors in your marketing ecosystem. Do you currently rely on any external agencies, technology providers, or freelancers to support your marketing efforts? If so, you need a CMO who can collaborate effectively with these parties to optimize your marketing campaigns.

Determining Compensation Before Hiring a CMO

Compensation for a high-level position such as a CMO can vary widely depending on industry, geographical location, and other factors. What's most important is that you manage to strike a balance between attracting a highly qualified candidate within your budgetary restrictions.

Depending on your business model, you'll want to consider different payment structures, like base salary, performance-based bonuses, sign-on bonuses, equity, and benefits & perks—like an executive health package.

The average salary for a Chief Marketing Officer varies widely.

According to Glassdoor the average CMO pay in Canada is $104,000 - $191,000 per year. In the United States this range again varies significantly, with the median being $351,234 per year, with the bottom 10% earning $260,549 according to Salary.com.

The best way to determine your range is to do some industry research and look and compensation for CMOs with similar experience to what you're looking for and companies that are comparable to your own. Collaborating with a firm like Creative Niche is especially helpful here to gain an insider perspective on current markets and compensation trends.

As you become more certain of your hiring needs and limitations, you'll be able to tailor your CMO compensation package to align with ideal candidates.

Conducting a Successful CMO Search

Once you're ready to begin the search, it's important to formulate a strategy:

Explore alternative approaches to sourcing

You can always promote from within or ask existing employees for referrals. However, it should be noted that if you want an experienced CMO, promoting from within isn't always an option.

Implement a rigorous interview and evaluation process

It's important that you make an offer to the best possible candidate. To ensure this, include key stakeholders in the Marketing Executive search process, so you're getting multiple perspectives. Make sure to keep it succinct though—only include those who you consider essential in the decision-making process.

Keep it confidential

News travels fast, so it's important to keep your hiring process confidential. This doesn't just help your business, but it makes candidates feel safer in considering your organization, even if they aren't openly out on the job market yet. Creative Niche offers in-depth confidential services that help you acquire all the information you need, without sacrificing important company data or integrity.

Partner with Creative Niche

If you want to make sure you're targeting the right candidates and accessing a pool of talent beyond your personal network, it's important to work with a well-connected firm. This is even more beneficial for diversity and inclusion metrics. When you partner with a firm that has access to an exclusive network, you're going to be targeting the highest-performing CMOs in your industry. There's no better way to remain competitive than by working with the best in the business.

Related: Creative Niche's Executive Search service.

Onboarding and Integration of a CMO

You might think you're done when your offer is accepted, but the hiring process doesn't end there. Onboarding and integration are just as important as prospecting and interviewing, so make sure you have a bulletproof process in place to make your new hire feel confident that they made the right choice in working for you.

Consider the following to help your CMO start out strong:

Build a comprehensive onboarding process

Even if your CMO won't always be working directly with others, it's essential to include some sort of orientation and allocate time for team introductions.

Set clear expectations

If you want to set yourself and your CMO up for success, create a 3/6/12 month milestone plan so you both have a clear idea of what to expect from one another.

Establish ongoing communication

Things like performance reviews are a crucial component of ensuring your CMO is thriving in their new role.

When you find a great CMO, it's crucial that you do whatever is within your power to keep them on your team. If you don't have a well-thought-out onboarding process, you could leave them with the impression that they might wind up dealing with more than they bargained for. Not only that, but it helps your business immensely to have structure and organization from the ground up.

As business needs change and grow, you can always adjust these processes as necessary. Business owners typically have the most success when they consult with a professional recruitment firm on this. Creative Niche has the coveted industry knowledge necessary to understand the needs and expectations of CMOs better than anyone else. So, there's no doubt that you end up with the perfect onboarding package.

Related: 4 Questions You Should Always Answer During Onboarding

Hire the next CMO that will grow your business with Executive Recruiters

Finding the right people for your marketing team is never easy, so it's not surprising that the process of finding an in-demand CMO is often a long and arduous one. However, with a little planning and evaluation of your marketing needs, you can set your business up for success and sustained growth with an Executive Recruiter.

When you work with an executive recruitment firm like Creative Niche, you get to enjoy the fun part of recruitment—the satisfaction of hard work paying off when a perfect fit is made. As long as you're willing to set realistic expectations and use your resources wisely, there's no telling what you'll be able to accomplish with a CMO on your team. If you decide you aren't quite ready to make that commitment yet, you can simply focus your efforts on filling lower-level positions as you work your way up to the scaling phase.

Creative Niche Executive Search Recruiters

Ready to hire your next leader? With specialties in Marketing, Tech and Agencies, we're known for our responsiveness, consultative approach, and thorough process that delivers successful matches for our clients. Learn more about our executive search services.

Hire Talent

Creative Niche Executive Search Recruiters

‍Ready to hire your next leader? With specialties in Marketing, Tech and Agencies, we’re known for our responsiveness, consultative approach, and thorough process that delivers successful matches for our clients. Learn more about our executive search services.

Hire Talent