Managing a business means navigating change, especially if growth has been rapid. Leaders must be creative and innovative, with both human and financial resources. When the amount of work and/or the budget don’t support hiring a senior marketing leader, the knowledge and management skills of an interim or advisory chief marketing officer (CMO) could be priceless.
It’s tempting to focus on tactical execution of marketing activities. After all, ads, and websites are tangible, their results are measurable, and their cost is considerable. But, who’s developing the marketing strategy? Who’s “value engineering” the marketing budget? Who’s anticipating how marketing plans should evolve with the business? Just as business leaders seek advisory finance and legal services, especially when specific expertise is needed, doing so to enhance marketing results is an option.
We live in an age when there are more communication and marketing channels than ever before. And the tools for leveraging these channels are more accessible than ever – to everyone. But getting the desired results still requires strategic expertise and knowledge about how to align marketing plans with business goals and objectives. For this reason, retaining an interim or advisory CMO to complement talented tactical specialists can be a powerful combination, especially for growing companies whose strategic sophistication may need to mature along with their business.
There’s a natural learning curve for anyone new to an organization. But someone with knowledge of your industry or prior experience with a similar business model or analogous product could be especially helpful. They will bring relevant insights and get up to speed quickly on your challenges, opportunities, and internal dynamics.
Here are a few considerations, when deciding whether to retain an interim or advisory CMO.
Flexibility & Fit
For a special project that can’t be covered by your marketing team, “renting” an experienced leader could be the perfect solution. Even better, they could bring specific experience and skills to an especially unique project. An interim leader can be available for as little or as much time as you need, per week/month, and may be able to come and go at various stages of an initiative.
In this situation, finding an advisor that is flexible is key. They’ll help you separate the work that he/she should manage (and that you should pay for) vs. what can be done by in-house tactical staff, unless the nature of the project is above and beyond that team’s capacity or capability. That said, it’s great to shoot for maximum efficiency of resources and budget. Just don’t parse the work so much that no one is keeping an eye on the big picture.
Guidance & Counsel
An advisory CMO can be an adjunct part of your leadership team on a retained or project basis. As with any advisor, this arrangement allows you to call upon a senior resource as needed. Whether you want help designing a marketing team, crafting your company’s brand story to prepare for mergers and acquisitions activity, or knowing how to select the right creative agency, you can engage “your” CMO.
Continuity & Stability
If the marketing director leaves, an interim CMO can coach and lead your marketing team to continue day-to-day support of business goals. This gives you time and space to plan how best to fill the open position and recruit the absolute best candidate.
There’s no magic formula for knowing how long an interim engagement must last to make it worthwhile versus having the team report to another manager at the company. If the work being done is truly routine, the tactical staff is highly self-sufficient, and it’s not anticipated that a significant decision or strategic initiative will happen before a new marketing lead can be identified, then an interim CMO may not be needed.
A savvy advisor may help you foresee eventual challenges and opportunities, to guide your decisions now. At the least, they’ll confirm your conclusions. More likely, their unbiased view will enable them to identify other considerations.
As is the case when hiring anyone to work with you or for your company, finding a good fit is critical. A marketing advisor must have your company’s best interest at heart and guide you accordingly. Most will be happy to have a conversation to talk about your needs, at no charge. Take advantage of this to explore what might be best for your organization.
If you found this helpful, please share it with a colleague. If you want to talk more about how an interim CMO can help your business, give me a call, send me a note, or let’s meet. You’ll be glad you did.