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Chief Outsiders Annual Survey: Differentiating from Copetition Tops List of Business Owner's Concern

Sporadic market research and lack of separate sales and marketing leadership found as key challenges

Houston, TX – June 8, 2011 – The majority of small businesses said that differentiating from competition and improving existing products and services were among the top concerns they face, according to a new survey released by Chief Outsiders, the leading marketing organization that provides fractional Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) to small and mid-size businesses.  

The survey, conducted in April 2011, queried more than 100 CEOs of small and mid-sized companies about their perceptions and priorities on sources of strategic advice, market research, organizational strengths and the roles of sales and marketing.

Out of those surveyed, an overwhelming majority (92.6%) listed themselves (CEO/President) as the driver of the strategic planning process for the business.   And although the participating CEOs ranked “differentiating from competition” and “improving existing products and services” as the most important challenges, nearly 60% of those surveyed also indicated that market research is an “informal” or “occasional” effort. 

“In today’s dynamic marketplace small and midsize businesses are increasingly challenged to stay relevant in front of their customers and prospects,” said Art Saxby, founder of Chief Outsiders. “Given their concerns and the speed with which new technologies continually redefine the market, we found it interesting that majority of those surveyed didn’t see market research as a formal part of their process before committing resources to new products or services.” 

Survey results also found that: 

  • The majority of small businesses are challenged more by defining future growth than managing current returns.  
  • 47% of those surveyed do not have separate sales and marketing leadership 
  • 37.7% responded that their sales and marketing teams are peers
  • The majority of CEOs take strategic advice related to business growth from their leadership team (59.8%) and from their customers (52.1%) as opposed to boards of directors (17%), consultants (14%) or equity investors (9%).  

“The results of the survey are an indication that growth-oriented companies across many industries face the same challenge of defining and communicating their strategic vision and purpose,” added Saxby.   

While many CEOs indicated that their companies excel at strategic planning, they also shared that they need to improve ways of communicating information about the plans that result from such thinking to their internal teams and customers. 

This survey will be followed by a more in-depth study in coordination with marketing researchers from McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

“By studying firms that are not yet large enough to be publicly traded, we hope to gain insight into the forces that shape a company’s strategic position,” said Leigh McAlister, a professor at McCombs.  “In particular we are interested in key factors driving small- and mid-sized company growth and the implications of a strong marketing function for the effectiveness of those factors in promoting growth. There are indicators in Chief Outsiders’ initial research that companies approach strategic marketing issues differently, and we want to explore the implications of those different approaches for companies’ growth rates.”

For more information about Chief Outsiders or to review all the survey findings, including free form thoughts from respondents about the greatest marketing challenge for the year ahead, please visit online..  

About Chief Outsiders

Chief Outsiders, headquartered in Houston, TX, provides world-class chief marketing officers, not career consultants, who join the executive staff of growth and mid-size companies on a fractional basis. With regional offices in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville and New York, Chief Outsiders has been a premier source for marketing expertise, execution and leadership for operational and start-up companies such as Salient Systems, College Plus!, Healthy Connections, O’Rourke Petroleum, E|Spaces, Construction Connection, Melmedtronics and Spring Medical Systems. For more information, please visit

Media Contact: 
Pete Hayes

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