For this blog, I am going to start with a very controversial statement: You may not need ANY marketing help.
Though it may seem blasphemous for someone like me to make this statement - someone whose career has been built on marketing success - I would be remiss if I didn’t come clean about this fundamental truth.
If you are a commodity competing solely on price – where product or service differentiation is not at all important – you may not need any strategic marketing help. You can probably get by with the very basics, such as a website, flier, and maybe a logo and some business cards. (As a note, if this is the marketing you’re doing today and your sales team is constantly telling you that you’re losing business due to price, you’re acting as a commodity supplier, whether you want to or not.)
For companies that choose to differentiate on factors other than price, though, you will need a sustained marketing strategy, and someone (or multiple someones) who can execute this strategy on a regular basis.
But who? There is a dizzying array of staffing options for a CEO who is looking to get their marketing house in order. You may find you need a senior leader to help translate your business vision into marketing strategy. You might want an internal marketing team to keep the marketing activity flowing on a regular basis. Or the answer could lie with an agency that specializes in specific types of marketing activities.
Spoiler alert: The real answer is probably a combination of resources – the right recipe of experts and generalists that each play a specific role to help keep your business top of mind with the outside world. To help you decide which components are right in your particular situation, I have broken down the roles and expectations of each:
If your company needs to translate its business goals into a marketing strategy and market plan, you likely will need a chief marketing officer – someone who has worn a variety of hats and brings experience, vision, and focus into your hallowed halls.
What a CMO Should Do: A CMO’s job is to evaluate the big picture – determining how to grow profitable sales, bring in and retain customers, and increase lifetime customer value – and then to work cross-functionally to translate these business milestones into a marketing plan. They also should make recommendations around staffing and the financial resources your company should devote to its marketing activity. Finally, they continuously monitor whether the plan is working, and adjust if needed.
What a CMO Shouldn’t Do: Your CMO is not generally the head cook and bottle washer – though they shouldn’t be sitting on a pedestal and simply ordering other people around, either. The ideal balance is to have a CMO that can build marketing strategies and manage execution of the plan, individually contributing when it makes sense (especially for smaller businesses with limited resources) without getting so immersed into the weeds of the day-to-day tactics that strategy is forgotten.
The key advantages of having a CMO, whether full-time or fractional, include:
One note: If you are a large company with multiple divisions, you likely will want to make this a permanent role. For small-to-mid-sized companies, a fractional CMO can be the ideal way to get your marketing house in order.
If your company needs to carry forth its go-to-market plan in a way that is repeatable and at a regular pace, you’ll likely want to leverage an in-house marketing team.
What A Marketing Team Should Do: Think of your in-house marketing team as you would a sports team – a group of like-minded individuals who are united in a common cause – success! This is the group that will be executing a consistent volume and type of marketing work, such as regular email marketing or an eCommerce site. They’re fully available to your business and have the expertise about your company that external agencies simply cannot match.
What A Marketing Team Shouldn’t Do: Marketers are the consummate multitaskers – able to accomplish a variety of tasks to keep the marketing operations flowing. However, for many companies, it’s costly to have a significant number of “specialists” on the team to perform one-off tasks – for example, a public relations associate or graphic designer. And, internal marketing teams are a “fixed” resource that cannot easily scale up or down with your business. So, internal teams should focus on the heart of the business, but it makes good economic sense to forge a relationship with independent practitioners or agencies in other areas. You’ll find they can give you just what you need when you need it, without a long-term investment.
The key advantages of having an in-house marketing team include:
In the same way that internal marketing teams are experts in your business and products, agencies should be experts in specific types of marketing activities. For instance, the best digital agencies commit time and resources to stay on top of the latest trends and practices – something that would be prohibitively costly for most smaller companies.
What an Agency Should Do: Agencies should deliver a best-practices approach to marketing programs and tactics – particularly where technical knowledge, or how things are done in the field, change regularly. That’s why I typically recommend an agency relationship in areas like paid and organic search and digital campaigns – because the algorithms are constantly changing, and agencies earn their reputation by how well they keep up.
What an Agency Shouldn’t Do: Don’t expect every agency to invest the time to truly know the ins and outs of your business. Also, though most agencies will track their success in terms marketing program goals, they aren’t well suited to tie marketing to business results. In fact, I find that agencies struggle because they’re being asked to translate a company’s goals into a marketing strategy – but, realistically, that’s the job of a CMO.
The key advantages of having agency resources include:
In our next blog in this series, we’ll zoom in even closer on the role of the CMO – and, in particular, what a fractional CMO brings to the table.