the Virtual Chief Marketing Officer (vCMO) value proposition
How to Hire a Virtual (fractional) Chief Marketing Officer
Virtual Chief Marketing Officers offer growing organizations the ideal mix of leadership, execution capability and cost-effectiveness meet ever-changing market demands through a flexible approach. Most growing organizations simply do not know this option exists. They are stuck considering a variety of poorly-optimized choices, hamstringing growth and draining their precious capital. The vCMO offers a better way.
A virtual – or “fractional” – CMO is an experienced marketing leader, usually with at least 15 to 20 years of leadership experience in industries like yours. Like the more-popular role of the virtual CFO, the vCMO is expected to not only serve as strategic guide for the company’s marketing strategy, but also personally attend to the tactical day-to-day execution of that marketing plan. In other words, the vCMO must be both strategic as well as tactical.
This role is not for every experienced marketing leader. After decades in the field, many professionals lose their ability (or desire) to shift quickly between planning and execution tasks. A vCMO is a rare breed who can participate in an investor call in the morning and roll up the sleeves and program and email campaign in the afternoon.
In addition to the ability to shift between strategic and tactical roles, what makes the vCMO model truly compelling is flexibility. In as little as eight hours per month to as many as 16 hours per week, a vCMO offers a “buy what you need” business arrangement. This provides all the expected benefits minus the ongoing commitment. Founders and CEOs routinely say they get “80 percent of the benefit at 20 percent of the cost.” And if it isn’t working out? Both parties learn quickly and can adjust within a matter of days. Still isn’t working? A termination is as simple as cancelling a week-to-week or month-to-month contract. Speed is life to growing companies, and the vCMO delivers results fast.
What, exactly, can your vCMO do for you?
Once they learn about the benefits of virtual or fractional executive staff, most Founders and CEOs are excited to get started. But that enthusiasm quickly is tempered by the day-to-day reality of running a growing company. Marketing is extraordinarily complex. What marketing means to one organization can mean something very different to another. Dividing the marketing role into the Four Ps (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) often does little to clarify the situation. Many Founders and CEOs do not have the deep background necessary to efficiently apply those dynamics to their business.
In my experience, I have found a different four-point framework functions much more effectively: People, Operations, Measurement and Creative. It better translates a Founder or CEOs objectives into an ROI-focused action plan for the new vCMO. Let’s briefly touch on each one.
1. Return on People Investment
Some growing organizations have no marketing talent on staff, but in my experience, that’s rare. They ordinarily have a small number of junior professionals (typically 1-3) hired on to complete marketing tasks. Founders and CEOs often are frustrated with their ability to “step up” and grow alongside the organization. It is not their fault. They need hands-on guidance – the kind of guidance Founders and CEOs are not often able to give. More pointedly, in many fledgling marketing departments, staff members are often 50% of the overall marketing budget. Generating maximum return on that investment requires selecting, training and nurturing right talent and the right skills. Your vCMO can play a critical role in coaching more junior staff members, setting the stage for the day when one of them will be able to take over the top marketing job.
2. Return on Marketing Operations Investment
Inside the marketing departments of growing companies, tight budgets and short staffs do not allow for much room for inefficiency. Intelligently configured systems and standard operating procedures allow small marketing teams to focus on what is important and deliver outsized returns. Many Founders and CEOs fall victim to the siren song of the latest CRM or Marketing Automation System, only to discover that it is your implementation of the tool that delivers the benefits – not the tool itself. An experienced vCMO knows the game and won’t let you get fooled.
3. Return on Measurement Investment
Marketing is both an art and a science; it pays to measure both. A thoughtful approach will ensure you measure the right things. Founders and CEOs rightly complain that their marketing departments often do not have a tangible sense of connection to the revenue and profitability of the company. They grouse that marketing only is concerned about “making things look pretty” or “futzing with the website”, not driving leads or closing wins. Some of that criticism is fair. Some is not. But the point is clear: Marketing metrics must be aligned to what is important to the growth of the company. If they are, marketing has a better chance of delivering on your priorities.
4. Return on Creative Investment
Successful marketing for high-growing (but low capital) organizations relies on a creative approach that you can execute with the resources at hand. Otherwise, they’re just good ideas. You don’t need more ideas; you need more results. This is an area of constant frustration between Founders or CEOs and their junior marketing staff or freelancer team. Founders and CEOs wonder why their ideas don’t get implemented right now. Overstretched junior marketing staff cannot see a way to get it all done in the time or budget allowed. It is not a healthy situation. An experienced vCMO understands how to balance these perspectives. They have learned, through painful experience, to temper the expectations of Founders and CEOs, focusing their ideas on critical business needs rather than the latest shiny object. They also understand how to push past the false limitations that junior professionals see as insurmountable obstacles. Creative strategy and execution in marketing is a tough balancing act.
A successful vCMO engagement need not address all four of these areas at once. Your initial scoping discussion should explore each area, highlighting areas of focus that will most effectively lead to your desired business results. Only then will you know what level of hourly commitment is best for your growing business.
In the final analysis, the vCMO concept successfully balances the contraction of high-growth companies: They are in most need of strategic marketing guidance and limited resources. The “pay as you go” and “buy what you need” philosophy allows Founders and CEOs the flexibility they need to acquire and deploy top marketing talent at a price they can afford.
vojvdec&sigma offers Ivy League-prepared Virtual/Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (vCMO) services for B2B organizations in the most challenging markets who need affordable help to create and execute a winning marketing plan to deliver a 10x ROI.