How to be a CMO in your Low-Budget Startup
Marketing is critical for every low-budget startup, and luckily, you don’t have to spend a lot or have extensive experience in marketing to be effective in this role. When you work with stakeholders to determine top-level priorities, set quantifiable objectives based on data, and track your progress and efforts, you set yourself up for success without spending more time or money than you need.
Use the following as an outline of how to spend your first few days as CMO.
Create and Focus On Your Top 3 Priorities
As CMO, your job is to manage high-level goals and priorities so those working with you can execute on the specifics. These priorities will come from overall company goals: perhaps driving leads is the highest priority in every area of the business right now; in this case you'd want to focus on how your marketing can facilitate that first and foremost, rather than say, brand impressions or blogger relationships.
Your priorities can and likely will change and evolve as the business does. If the company pivots, so do your priorities. Be flexible and agile, and you’ll find your marketing works for you, not against you.
Pro tip: Re-assess these goals every 2-3 months, with flexibility to modify and change them as needed in between. When working with a small budget, focus on what will be most beneficial to the company as whole. This means working directly with the sales and business development team to see how marketing can set them, and the company, up for success.
Set Quantifiable Objectives Based on Data
Before bringing anyone on, you need to create a high-level outline of objectives that can be quantified. While objectives and priorities are similar, priorities act as a high-level marker for what needs to be done; objectives are then based on those priorities.
Before you can set any objectives, however, you need to look at the data and get your baseline numbers. Note:
- Current traffic for any page in which you plan to drive leads
- Social media numbers (total number of followers, likes, etc.)
- Email data (conversion rates, open rates, total number of subscribers)
- Paid and organic marketing data (total spend, conversion rates, etc.)
The data doesn’t lie, so use this as a marker for setting goals. Choosing goals not based in data will only set you up to fail. If you’ve been marketing for the last 6 months to a year, you can also use the following calculators to determine where you’re at right now in terms of ROI and budget. Here are a few calculators to check out:
- Marketing Budget Calculator: Created by Insivia, this calculator uses last year’s revenue, and basic goal and expansion questions to give you a budget suggestion. You can email yourself a detailed report as well, which includes platform and payroll suggestions and breakdowns.
- Cut Your Costs Coupon Calculator: Coupons and discounts are great for driving sales, but do cut into your profits. This calculator helps you determine what your revenue needs to be to maintain the same profit as you would without the discount. As a startup, this is hugely valuable in setting goals for this specific type of marketing effort.
- Entrepreneur calculators: This popular website has a variety of awesome calculators that will make you more effective. Check out these ones for Email Marketing ROI, Conversion Rate and Pay-Per- Click ROI.
With all of this information, you can start setting informed and attainable goals that align with the priorities of the organization while allocating your small budget most effectively. Set at least one goal for each priority that you’ve already outlined.
Pro Tip: Start a data analysis spreadsheet right away, noting the current numbers, and update it each month. I always set aside at least one day at the end of every month to dig into the numbers and add everything to my tracking doc.
I often find that I think one thing is happening, and then the numbers show something else I wasn’t expecting at all. If you aren’t looking at this data, you won’t be effective, especially as a startup, when efficiency with time and money is critical:
“You must know your numbers inside and out. Integrating the financial performance and metrics of your business into everything you do is a must! If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who does and learn,” says Ted Rollins, global entrepreneur.
Hire Expert Contractors
If you don’t have the time or knowledge to execute on objectives, it’s important to bring on someone who can. Luckily, in our online world, it's easier than ever to find high-quality contractors because you aren't restricted to your region alone—remote employees can be located anywhere and still work for you. Of course, in-house contractors or employees can be found as well. With a small budget, however, remote contract workers may be more affordable.
Pro tip: When hiring, look for someone with experience in your industry; every audience is different, and if they’ve worked for a company similar to yours, they’ll come in with invaluable knowledge that can help inform objectives and the best ways to reach them.
As the CMO in your startup, you’re responsible for collaborating with other stakeholders to set high-level priorities and the objectives. If you don’t know how to execute, be honest with yourself, and bring someone on who does. In the end, if you’re tracking your data and using the numbers to inform your decisions, you’ll be moving in the right direction.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last five years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She's written for sites such as Lifehack, Inman, Manta, StartupNation and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 for more small business tips and marketing ideas.