There is a consistent thread on where the need arises for a fractional CMO. Interestingly, this is consistent whether the company is 2 or 15 years old, whether it’s B2B or B2C, whether they have under $5 million in revenue or over $100 million.

Profile:

  1. Growth has stalled (yet still can be quite profitable)
  2. Objective is to find way to significantly accelerate growth (e.g., double revenue or more)
  3. Only junior to mid-level marketing staff on board, as few as 1 person in the “department”
  4. Marketing plan doesn’t exist
  5. Marketing exists to service sales and/or the CEO

These companies typically have been quite successful but have plateaued. Growth has stalled in part due to the fact that no one in the organization owns the customer across functional silos, someone to champion customer interests and needs, someone with an eye on and in touch with the target market at all times.

Growth has stalled because no one owns the customer across silos

Success has been driven by strong product/service and/or sales effort. And to be successful, plans were developed and adhered to: product development plans, sales plans, financial plans, etc. So it isn’t surprising that marketing hasn’t contributed when there has been no investment in putting together a marketing strategy or plan to fuel growth. “Let’s go to that trade show,” or “let’s advertise on Facebook” falls far short of a plan.

It’s only now that these firms are beginning to recognize the role and value of a CMO and his/her department. In recent posting on www.cmo.com, Jake Sorofman, a research VP at Gartner describes how the “most progressive CMOs think like CEOs.”

He does a great job highlighting how the role is critical to success: “More often than not, CMOs take the lead or substantially contribute to digital commerce, customer experience, and innovation projects, and most CMOs now own or share P&L responsibilities….Customer experience is the new battlefield for competitive differentiation; innovation cycles have compressed; and consumer expectations for personalized and tailored products and experiences are growing rapidly. Marketing is now data-driven, technology-dependent, broader in scope, and more accountable to business metrics than ever before.”

As for the marketing department, Sorofman describes: “The pressure and responsibility is shared across the entire marketing organization. Today, marketers are expected to be both broad and deep…They have utility skills in many aspects of data, technology, design, brand, etc. They don’t need an army to accomplish a whole lot. And they focus their efforts through the lens of the customer and specific KPIs. There’s no hiding behind the veil of internal goals and highly specialized roles anymore.” The full article is here: http://www.cmo.com/interviews/articles/2017/3/3/quick-chat-with-gartners-sorofman-the-most-progressive-cmos-think-like-ceos.html

I was fortunate to have landed my first job at Procter & Gamble where we “owned” the business results of our brand (for me it was Crest and then Vidal Sassoon) as we worked across all functions to ensure brand revenue growth. Subsequently, forward thinkers in B2B and B2C companies hired me to build marketing organizations that were responsible for and led company growth.

In these cases, the CMO became the right hand of the CEO, involved in every decision that impacted the customer which meant every critical decision.

If you lead an organization, ask who “owns” the customer? Is your organization customer-centric? Is there an advocate for what’s right for the customer in every executive meeting? Is there a marketing strategy that clearly positions your firm as different and better for a specific target audience? How thorough is the marketing plan and does that plan lay out a path towards profitable growth?

Clearly, organizations recognize the growing importance of marketing and how CMOs area of responsibility now covers more of the sales/enterprise P&L and customer success functions. In fact, just recently I was engaged in a meeting with a bunch of sales executives across different companies and industries who acknowledged that their relative role is shrinking while marketing might influence as much as 60% of the sales process.

One challenge in this evolution is that CEOs have CMOs and marketing staff without the skillsets to handle the evolution, becoming more frustrated and impatient as expectations increase.

CEOs grow more frustrated and impatient with their CMOs as expectations increase

For small to mid-size companies that can’t afford the risk of failing to find the right CMO who thinks like a CEO (thus risk a bad hiring decision), it is often most expedient and productive to turn to a fractional CMO. This interim executive can instill confidence with the CEO and has the experience to help the organization become customer/marketing-led. He/she can lead existing staff, begin demonstrating the revenue impact of marketing strategies and plans, and establish a structure that can be handed off to a full-time executive.

This creates a natural transition for your on demand/interim CMO who can prove the concept but won’t cost a loaded salary.  Best of all to limit the risk – you can terminate easily at any time.


david_grocerDavid Grocer is a Marketing Partner in TechCXO’s Atlanta office.  See his full bio here.  David can be reached at david.grocer@techcxo.com.