What Does a Startup CMO Do?


Starting my own business was a big step, and one that I’m so glad I took. When I told my husband about the pivot I was going to take, I remember his response very clearly:

“So you’re not going to do their social media and stuff? No offense, babe, but is anyone really going to pay you for that?”

As it turns out, yes they will, and here’s why: having a Marketing Director is essential for the growth of a startup. When founders realize that hiring someone to manage their social media or run Facebook ads for them isn’t actually doing much, they find that they’ve got to have a team member who manages the big picture and has the skills and experience to bring it all together.

That’s where having a Marketing Director comes in.

If you don’t know what a Marketing Director would do for your startup, you’re not alone. (My mom doesn’t even really understand what I do for a living.) So let me explain what a startup Marketing Director really does all day…..

Develops marketing strategy

As I mentioned above, everyone has a clue when it comes to marketing. They know enough to think they need to make landing pages, write blogs, do public relations….. And maybe they do. But any one marketing strategy is destined to fail if it isn’t in line with the company’s messaging, goals, and team member bandwidth. Just doing “all the things” isn’t enough. You need to be intentional.

A Marketing Director is tasked with choosing strategies to help a startup reach their goals and develop a plan for how each strategy will evolve and be executed.

Developing an actual marketing plan identifying not only messaging and platforms, but also the actual steps you’ll take to market your business is the most important function of a Marketing Director. With clear direction, your startup can grow.

Manages the marketing team

Now that you’ve got a plan in place, you need people to execute on this plan. Depending on how big your startup is or how much funding you have, your current staff will have to execute on your marketing to do’s—or you’ll need to hire contractors to do the work.

The Marketing Director will manage these people. From the CEO to the content writer, each team member has a role to play in marketing a startup, so the Marketing Director determines who is the right person to execute on a task and trains them if need be.

Depending on the size of your team and your available resources, the Marketing Director will handle a lot of the tasks herself.

Makes shit happen

Most importantly, a startup’s Marketing Director makes shit happen. No matter who is responsible for the action items, the marketing director has to make sure the company is seeing results. Don’t be fooled: results don’t necessarily mean sales. Especially in smaller companies or startups, the realms of marketing and sales can be smooshed into one position. Results, however, can be anything from new partnerships to email signups to podcast appearances. It depends on what strategies have been chosen to grow your startup.

Still don’t quite get it? Here’s a list of some things I did for my clients this week:

  • Designed an image for a backdrop at a conference booth

  • Followed up with a swag distributor to have custom product made for an event

  • Created a new landing page

  • Optimized a Facebook advertising campaign by making adjustments to the audience being served our ads

  • Began writing emails for an automation sequence from that landing page

  • Analyzed data from a marketing study and prepared a report for the CEO

  • Wrote a press release

  • Sent pitch emails to VCs and set up meetings for my founder who is seeking his seed round

  • Created a new website

Do I need a marketing director for my startup?

Simple answer: yes. No matter what stage of your startup journey you find yourself in, you need clear direction with your marketing efforts. As the CEO, your job is to handle the vision and while you probably know a bit about marketing, you’ll need strong guidance to take your business to the next level—and that’s what a Marketing Director is for.


Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage

Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.

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