Terry Shaw has learnt a few lessons over time about what to look for in a Chief Marketing Officer for an early and growth-stage Infrastructure and Developer Tooling business. Here he shares some words of advice for Founders and CEOs to consider before writing their first CMO job description.
Before you put pen to paper on the job description for your first marketing leader, please read this.
I’ve spent much of my ten years with Erevena (5 in the London office, followed by another 5 in San Francisco) working with early and growth-stage Infrastructure and Developer Tooling companies, witnessing first-hand the fundamental power shift from the C-Suite focused IT Service Management (ITSM) players of yesteryear to the explicitly developer-focused solutions of today.
Software consumerization occurred through-out the enterprise in pretty much every other function a good while ago, with amazing results. Sales, Marketing and HR were genuinely modernized by this decentralization of purchasing power.
Tools built for developers are now, belatedly, following suit with their go-to-market strategy. The developer’s voice is now heard. And this is good – both for the user and the builder.
Look at the successes already ratcheted up: in 2015 we saw Atlassian go public; Twilio followed in 2016; Microsoft bought Github for $7.5bn; VISA is taking out Plaid for >$5bn; Stripe just added another $600m to their coffers earlier this year at a $36bn valuation. This is the new playing field.
The go-to-market strategy of a Bottoms-up Developer Tools company brings one thing, in particular, that’s new and wholly leverageable for this software sector: a tighter feedback loop. This is an opportunity that is too often overlooked. Overlooked because the “builder developer” assumes that she knows what the “user developer” wants/needs. After all, we’re building for people just like us, right? Our 20 customers (reached through warm introductions) and $1m in run-rate prove that. We just need a good demand generation engine, and that will be a unicorn in no time!
Please stop these assumptions now.
Execute the bottoms-up GTM right, and we have a bunch of actions that can help us validate or augment our initial assumptions on Product Market Fit: allowing us to build a more persistent and impactful business:
We can benefit from the fact that individual users can be activated sans friction, with an amplified feedback frequency and volume (from the end-user to Product Manager).
We can benefit from the more-numerate and higher-fidelity insights delivered, which allow for development investment to be better apportioned.
We can benefit from the fact that expansion through the customer can occur at a greater pace with faster adoption and advocacy.
However, this bears a cost that must be met. The second trap of assumptions, if you will.
The GTM remit has gotten more complex: the user doesn’t monetize in the same way (everyone loves a free tool!), so we need a second layer of messaging to complement the developer’s advocacy into the eventual enterprise purchaser sitting in DevOps/Platform/Architect. This requires adept segmentation and persona builds which in turn requires multiple messages emphasizing different features. We also need to adapt our growth lens from the old-SaaS model of discovery, demo, commercial call, to a more seamless and organic approach. Those developers we are serving need to get their hands on the product through easy self-serve signup, strong documentation, and progressive feature disclosures. And layering our product/platform’s interoperability with other tools smartly into messaging is a must-have. Measuring success requires us to look at the whole funnel: not just the top of the funnel.
And here’s my most common take away: most of these technologies don’t have a problem with the top of the funnel (if they do the problem likely doesn’t lie with GTM, but more likely with the product). They have users on the freemium product galore. They’ve got noise building in Stack Overflow and GitHub. No, the problem, most-often, lies with a leaky mid-funnel. The product’s great, developers love it and see its value. But that’s not being communicated, in a cohesive way, further up the food chain to the people with the real budget.
That “economic buyer” is more business-focused. She needs endorsement from her dev team, yes, but she’s also seeking validation elsewhere. And we need to be smart about that. She needs to know your product is scalable (think benchmarks and big logos); she needs to know it’s tried and tested (with testimonials from peers) and she needs to know it’s been around and is stable (analyst opinions do matter!). This is where value-market fit (performance, reliability, security, support, add-ons etc.) become a core pillar in our messaging.
…Let’s make sure our first Marketing leadership hires index high on the multi-thread engagement of users (developers) and economic buyers (DevOps/Platform/Architect).
…Let’s make sure our first Marketing leadership hires index high on Business Logic.
…Let’s make sure our first Marketing leadership hires index high on customer and functional segmentation.
I’m not saying that demand generation is irrelevant. Not at all. I’m just saying that the new breed of Bottoms-up Dev Tools businesses should almost always be considering demand generation as their minor subject. They should be majoring in product marketing.
I know I’m “only a recruiter”. And I’m not claiming this to be one-size-fits-all. However, I have the benefit of having seen a whole heap of smart founders figure this out long-form so if these words help you get to your right answer for this role faster; I’ll consider it time well spent!