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How Much Is A Person’s Title Worth?

How Much Is A Person’s Title Worth?

The reality is this: you can hire all the “gurus” and “ninjas” you want, but what’s really important for a startup is having people whose job titles reflect the value they’re bringing to the customer experience.

“DIGITAL MARKETING ROCK STAR,” the job ad might say, followed by a description that looks and sounds like . . . a fairly typical digital marketing role. Another firm might put out a call for a “Sales Jedi,” hoping the Star Wars reference would attract the kind of candidates who cuts through customer objections as though they were wielding a lightsaber.

The reality is this: you can hire all the “gurus” and “ninjas” you want, but what’s really important for a startup is having people whose job titles reflect the value they’re bringing to the customer experience.

A number of years ago, startups and small businesses might have decided to be more playful with job titles in order to stand out from the more traditional kinds of companies with which they compete for talent. After all, there was a time when choosing a job at a startup implied a certain degree of risk, potentially lower salaries and long hours. Much like having foosball tables in conference rooms and bean bag chairs in common areas, fancy titles could be one of the quickest ways to distinguish that startup life was a little less formal — and maybe more fun — than the typical corporate culture.

Today, on the other hand, startups and small businesses are more typically thought of as the place where innovation happens, and the success of some of them has shown how quickly they can become market leaders in their industry. Salaries may be less of an issue for those that are well-funded. There’s also a greater recognition of the need for work-life balance and the kind of atmosphere that will reduce employee turnover.

Many startups have also come to realize after they’ve launched that since they’re often selling to large companies, they need their team to be identified with the kinds of titles that convey professionalism as well as innovation. Tapping into your culture is still important, but there are ways to do both. What follows are a selection of titles that could make sense across many startups and small businesses:

Chief Growth Officer

While we tend to think of CEOs or the president of a business as the person primarily responsible for growth, many successful firms have elevated senior sales roles to take on everything from managing reps to forging effective partnerships and pricing decisions. Others may prefer variations like Chief Revenue Officer, or even Vice-President of Business Development, but the point is to make it clear who’s responsible for ensuring revenue not only remains stable, but continues in an upward trajectory.

Head of Product

If you’re not selling something that addresses what customers need and want, you’re not going to be running a startup or small business for long. Given the competitive nature of many industries, it’s important to stay on top of the most-desired features, address potential glitches and create a roadmap for your product’s longer-term evolution.

In some startups and small businesses, this position is described as Chief Product Officer, perhaps to suggest someone who’s part of the senior leadership team, but either one conveys that your firm is laser-focused on continuing to invest in something that will lead in its category.

Chief Experience Officer

This role can encompass marketing — where customers first become aware of a brand and eventually convert into a buyer — but it can also take into account what happens after the sale.

If you’re running a lean startup with limited staff, for instance, a role that focuses on experience will ensure your approach to service and support is as good as everything that came before it. This doesn’t mean you have to have a larger staff, given that self-service portals and chatbots can provide a lot of assistance.

With a title like this, you’re really telling the market you recognize how important it is that customers see, hear and feel a certain way as they engage with your brand.

VP of Analytics

Some organizations might prefer to describe this one as “Chief Data Officer” or “Head of Analytics,” but the underlying purpose is the same. This is a role that ensures the company is paying close attention to the tsunami of information that’s being generated across digital channels and making smart decisions based on what the tools suggest.

This can be primarily an internal position, where analytics feeds into the overall corporate strategy. In other cases, though, a business may want or need to offer insights based on analytics to its customers. This kind of job will only become more important as artificial intelligence (AI) establishes itself across every imaginable industry.

Chief Digital Officer

CDOs have been popping up for years now, despite questions around what it might mean for more traditional roles like chief information officers. CDOs, or however you describe your digital lead, are the people working in startups to make sure the organization is showing up in all the right channels in the most optimal way.

In that sense, CDOs might work hand-in-hand with the Chief Experience Officer, though they might focus more on the technologies and tools, as well as the way they securely handle private data.

CDOs can also be just as valuable behind the scenes in making sure employees are empowered with the right applications for activities like social selling, marketing on new platforms or providing service with automated tools.


As we’ve noted throughout this post, there are many different ways to describe the kinds of roles a startup will need to be successful. The ones listed here tend to reflect more senior positions, but it’s probably not hard to imagine those at a mid-level or manager level.

These titles also echo some that might be more familiar in traditional companies, in that they cover off areas such as sales, marketing, service, technology and research. The emphasis, however, is probably a little more customer-oriented, which makes sense given the fact that most brands are defined by the quality of the customer experience they deliver.

These aren’t gurus, ninjas or rock stars. They’re the kind of people who showcase a deep bench of talent that any organization will come to rely on as it seeks to innovate, contribute value to its stakeholders and thrive.

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