Lauren Berkemeyer, CMO at insurtech YuLife

How To

September 1, 2023

How to hire a chief marketing officer

Lauren Berkemeyer, chief marketing officer (CMO) at insurtech YuLife, shares her top tips for hiring your startup's first CMO

As well as being a well-known voice on LinkedIn for all things marketing, HR and work-life balance, Lauren Berkemeyer is the CMO at insurtech YuLife. Prior to joining the scaleup, she worked as a senior marketing leader across all industries, from global corporations to well-known media companies and venture-backed startups.

Here are her top tips for hiring your startup's first CMO. 

Don’t bring in a CMO too early

When a business hits a transition of maturity — post-Series A and leading up to a Series B — that’s when you need to re-evaluate your marketing leadership and bring in a CMO. At this point, the marketing function will develop and become more complex, as your product and offerings develop and become more complex. There will be a lot more things to think about, a bigger team and higher sales targets.

You need a strategist

As well as crystallising your ideal customer profile and where to find them, and solidifying your brand’s value proposition, messaging and positioning, a CMO needs to create and execute a marketing strategy and support the CEO in developing the overall company strategy. A CMO is a C-suite role because they need to be able to align the marketing strategy to the overarching company strategy and values.


Hire a people person

As you scale, so will your marketing team. Hire someone who will focus on hiring and nurturing a high performance team. Leadership experience is key. To test for this, in interviews, ask candidates to talk about team members they are most proud of having hired and developed and why. Another indication of a good leader is if the people they have hired have subsequently joined them in other businesses.

They need to be commercially minded

Often, marketing teams are reactionary — they respond to sales requests or drive leads in isolation of the sales function — but you need someone who understands that close collaboration is key to hitting revenue targets. A CMO needs to be able to work closely with the sales team and sales leadership. To test their collaboration experience with sales, ask:

  • How closely did you work with your previous head of sales?
  • Did you attend important sales calls?
  • Did you work with the head of sales to identify the targets and success metrics for the year?

Look for adaptability

Your CMO needs to be comfortable with unpredictability. They need to be able to adjust their strategy to the changing goals of the business. Senior marketing leaders who come from larger corporate organisations may find a lack of structure and ever-moving goalposts difficult to deal with — look for someone with experience of earlier stage companies.

Test for practical skills

The CMO needs to have a deep understanding of how to segment and target audiences to effectively drive growth. They need to understand and be able to manipulate data. They should have a clear grasp of their pipeline generation, MQL delivery, funnel conversion rates and channel profitability, like their LTV to CAC ratio, CAC and payback period. They should be equally confident in diving into soft metrics like social media stats, campaign performance numbers and lead response times.

Target talent from recently acquired companies

If they have been part of an acquisition six months or so ago by a much larger business, marketing leaders may want to transition back to a more agile startup environment. Go find them! Marketing people who have taken a company through an acquisition will have the experience you need as a scaleup. It’s also easier to hire a leader from a similar industry or someone who has worked on a geographical expansion that you are working on or planning to work on.

On the subject of... marketing

Anisah Osman Britton

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Startup Life , a weekly newsletter on what it takes to build a startup. Follow her on X and LinkedIn