Pick up any issue of Fast Company or Businessweek and we guarantee that you’ll find an article or two on a hot topic: what makes a successful C-Suite leader? We’re putting the spotlight on one role in particular—one highly relevant to us in the marketing world—the CMO. And if you’re in the market for a chief marketing officer these days, this topic is definitely on your radar.
Before we assume that a traditional, in-house CMO is the only one for the job, let’s think again. Consider an alternative in the virtual CMO (vCMO). Already have a vCMO? Keep reading for some insights on how to make the most of it.
Not sure where your business stands on the matter? Let’s take a step back to highlight the key differences between a traditional CMO and a virtual CMO.
The Traditional CMO
A traditional CMO owns and oversees the implementation of a company’s marketing strategy. As the battles of many businesses are often fought in the realm of the marketing world (think: Uber versus Lyft), it makes sense that corporate strategy (and success) often rests in the hands of marketing leaders. Being a CMO comes with the requirement of knowing companies’ specific industries inside and out and differentiating from competitors. The CMO manages entire teams, deals out daily tasks, performs strategic reviews, and stays ahead of industry trends and news.
The Virtual CMO
A virtual CMO is an automated system that assigns tasks and assignments, due dates, monthly reports, and more. It manages a company’s various marketing tasks virtually. In contrast to the traditional CMO, a vCMO can provide dynamic expertise across multiple disciplines—analytics and tracking, social media, digital media, or public relations, just to name a few. It can carve out the opportunity (often financially) to hire other experts in key areas of your business, helping it grow and mature over time.
A full-time in-house chief marketing officer would probably be convenient. And it could seem like a no-brainer—on the surface. But is it always realistic that the potential CMO candidates out there have all the necessary requirements for your business? What if the traditional CMO candidate, even if well-qualified and a great fit, has knowledge on just a few specific subjects, industries, or skillsets? Unfortunately, great leaders don’t grow on trees.
Often, a virtual CMO can do the same exact job as a traditional CMO. Even more, a virtual system can store and transfer key data and knowledge to organizations so that best practices become an integral part of daily operations.
Key Things a vCMO Should Offer Your Business
#1. Cost Efficiency
“People think we’ve been around longer but we’re actually a young company [founded in 2005], so we don’t have the same amount of marketing money to mess around with.” —Peter McGuiness, CMO and Chief Brand Officer, Chobani
An in-house CMO would likely require a salary of anywhere from $100k on, not including company benefits. With a virtual CMO, an effective, outsourced team could cost less than a third of that expense.
#2. Expertise Across Disciplines
“The best learning comes from outside your category. If something works, it works. That’s where entrepreneurs can get inspiration.” —Tim Mahoney, CMO of Global Chevrolet and Global GM Marketing Operations Leader
One person (i.e., a single, proprietary CMO) can only know so much. With a vCMO—which frees up an opportunity for a broader outsourced team—startups and smaller businesses can tap into the expertise of more marketing specialists, from writers to strategy reps to PR executives and social media marketers. These experts will push marketing efforts forward across all disciplines.
#3. Consistency and Focus
“Whoever has the CMO role at the startup has to remember that despite advances in big data, one thing will never change…the CMO’s role is to drive demand.”—Peter McGuiness, CMO and Chief Brand Officer, Chobani
An effective marketing plan requires consistency, both in the skillsets of company employees and in subsequent branding efforts. One or two campaigns executed over a few months may not drive the best results. One central marketing leader may not have the time or resource capacity to focus on all the necessary details. This can create a separation between companies’ goals and actual results.
Making the Most of Your vCMO
Companies can effectively utilize a virtual CMO if they take the time to select the right solution. Effective vCMO systems will be able to manage the following tasks:
- Content marketing, tracking, and management
- Analytics and tracking
- On- and off-page optimization for posts and pages
- Marketing procedures impacting sales activities
- Miscellaneous marketing tasks/activities management
- Sales-driven marketing procedures
- Landing page set-up and management
- Sitemap submissions
- Social strategy creation
- Social strategy management
- Development of go-to-market strategy
- Permissions marketing
- Technology assessment (and recommendations)
- Site reporting and analysis
- Keyword research for editorial content
- Competitor analysis
And these are just a few examples.
The Takeaway: What Now?
There is a slim margin for inefficiencies for startups or mid-size businesses, especially when it comes to marketing the brand both internally and externally. As your startup or mid-size business grows and challenges arise (i.e., a shift in your target market, a desire to jump into an untapped niche market), a vCMO could be the key to a more varied range of expertise—often, for less money. Can’t complain about that.
But before choosing a vCMO, companies should return to the definition of what a traditional CMO (outlined at the beginning of this post) should do. Is a vCMO your best option? If so, will it have the wherewithal to perform as well as a traditional CMO? If yes, then keep this point in mind: Virtual CMOs should have dynamic expertise across multiple disciplines. Don’t compromise for price. Don’t compromise for convenience. Having a bulletproof understanding of the needs for your brand will paint a clear picture of what you need in a marketing solution. And at the end of the day, it’s not just about the numbers—it’s about growing your brand in parallel to the world.
CMO on blackboard -DepositPhotos