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David Skok’s SaaS Marketing Insights for CMOs


HubSpot recently hosted a MassTLC event in Cambridge focused on strategies for success for Chief Marketing Officers(CMOs) and VPs of marketing. About 40 of us were given the opportunity to hear words of wisdom from David Skok of Matrix Partners. Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, led the discussion in addition to sharing his own expert insight. Here are just some of the tidbits of knowledge that I noted during the event. I’ve included some of my own commentary in brackets.

What is the value of a start-up or small company having a CMO on their executive team?

  • “A company’s team is one of the most important parts of the organization as we assess an investment opportunity. Ideas may change, but the team typically doesn’t. . . and it is a huge plus for an organization if we see an A+ CMO on the team.”
  • “It’s even more important to have this CMO if there are no other business-minded executives in the organization.”

How do you define an “A+ CMO”?

  • “The best CMO is one who has ‘growth hacking‘ skills.” [Think content marketing, building earned media and owned media versus paid media, not afraid of experimenting and being innovative. Learn about growth hacking at a blog post entitled Find a Growth Hacker for your Start-up by Sean Ellis who coined the term.]
  • “This CMO must be able to put themselves into the customer’s mind. Today’s product is becoming much more about ‘marketing and sales’, and therefore, the CMO must be capable of diving deep into the customer experience.” [That is, this CMO should represent the voice of the customer for their organization, and truly understand what their buyers go through as they progress through the buying process and engage with their company’s products. A good example provided by David is when a CMO is capable of identifying the WOW moments (or lack there of) as a buyer executes a free trial such as with a software product.]
  • “Ability to embrace change.”  [At no other time in history has there been so much change within the marketing function; and the best CMOs will adapt to this new environment and take the time and effort to learn new techniques and strategies.]
  • “An A+ CMO understands that marketing is all about the funnel. (e.g., What’s your flow of contacts into marketing’s pipeline?; What are the conversion rates of leads through your defined stages?)” [Here some resources on this topic:  David’s blog post on Optimizing your Customer Acquisition Funnel; SiriusDecisions’ new Demand Waterfall; Mike Volpe’s Slideshare deck on how to Optimize your Sales and Marketing Funnel.]
  • “Great with metrics, including some type of background in statistics.” [There’s a plethora of data available to today’s marketing executive; and the CMO needs to rapidly identify what data is valuable to help with their decision-making and communication processes, and what data is simply noise.]
  • “I look for a smart person that is quick to embrace change, and is capable of developing and leading a strong team. I’ll sacrifice experience and domain expertise for a smart marketing executive.” [Domain expertise can greatly impact the speed at which a newly hired marketing executive ramps up; however, in the long term they may be less successful as a result of their inability to innovate and adapt to change.]

What advice do you give today’s marketing executives to improve their capabilities and skill-sets?

As a CMO or VP of marketing, should I be worried if I’m not invited to our Board meetings?

  • “Don’t be worried if you’re not invited to your board meetings that often. Typically a Board will focus on problem areas of the organization, and you don’t want marketing to be one of those problem areas.”
  • “Do find opportunities to interact with and leverage your board members. (e.g., Being part of a meeting or two is a great opportunity to demonstrate that marketing has its act together, and it will also give you the opportunity to get feedback on how to improve your impact on the organization. Ask your board members to introduce you to other smart CMOs).”
  • “When you do present at your Board meeting(s), don’t spend that precious time showing them how many press releases and pickups you got. Instead, demonstrate that you’re all about creating growth for the company. For example: present pipeline data, including lead flow and conversion rates; indicate how you have and/or plan to impact these pipeline metrics; discuss cost of acquisition; demonstrate how you’ve implemented a marketing accounting system with marketing automation to determine the source of leads and closed deals.”

What should a CMO or VP of marketing get for equity and compensation in a start-up or small company?

  • [This part of the session was a bit more confidential. Equity and compensation can vary considerably, however, here’s one source that may help out: CompStudy produced by Park Square Executive Search)

What are examples of key roles on the CMO’s team? (i.e., in addition to more traditional marketing roles)

A big thanks to MassTLC and Mike Volpe of HubSpot for making this event happen, and of course David Skok for sharing his wisdom. And to those CMO and VPs and Marketing that want to get smart and stay smart, certainly subscribe to David Skok’s blog!

Michael Gerard

Michael was CMO of Curata, responsible for Curata’s marketing strategy and all related activities. He has over 25 years of marketing and sales experience, having successfully launched and sustained three start-up ventures as well as having driven innovative customer creation strategies for large technology organizations such as IDC, Kenan Systems, Prospero (mZinga) and Millipore. Michael received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as a BS in Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and an MS in Engineering from Northeastern University.

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