The Virtual CMO:
Your Business’s
Growth Advantage

by Edwin Dearborn

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As a virtual Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) what can I accomplish for your business?

My simple answer, “Drive growth.”

Specifically, to drive that growth I possess two overarching strategies:

  1. Increase your word-of-mouth and referrals with proven strategies and courses of action.
  2. Incorporate any form of media, content, and/or available opportunity that makes sense within the budget and goals of your brand. This can include branding, advertising, remarketing, strategic alliances, SEO, video marketing, social media, photos, infographics, memes, sales decks, webinars, online lead generation, inbound as well as outbound campaigns.

(What’s the difference between A Virtual CMO and A Marketing Agency Image)

Difference Between A Virtual CMO and A Marketing Agency

What’s The Difference Between A Virtual CMO and A Marketing Agency?

The fundamental difference between both options is that a virtual CMO focuses on increasing the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers and decreasing your cost to acquire your customers (CAC), whether online media is involved or not.

A CMO will establish and manage goals and benchmark KPIs (key performance indicators). From these a CMO will execute coordinated strategies, processes, and techniques to accomplish your goals.

The virtual CMO is not only an expert at digital and traditional marketing, he or she is not biased to any media channel. Most agencies tend to be biased as to what they offer as a suite of services.

Tool Chest Of What Works Best

As the saying goes, “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

A CMO possesses and commands an entire tool chest of tools and blueprints. He can see what the absolute best tool is for the appropriate situation and requirement.

An SEO agency will tell you that optimization is the best strategy. An advertising agency will always recommend buying more ads. Professionals skilled in only one or two disciplines view the world only through what they know.

Conversely, a CMO looks at all types of media, channels, and opportunities and favors what works best for that specific situation. He or she is focused on business growth rather than what channel or methods they are specialized in, thus favor.

A CMO initially focuses on optimizing the channels which provide the most amount of business (ROI) for the least amount of time and money, as well as channels with the highest upside for long-term success.

This is the same approach I take when initially hired as your virtual CMO.

Once I understand your company, it’s processes, employees, and other key relationships, my first strategic move is rarely spending money on media.

I focus available resources on areas of your business that align with increasing customer value.

I work from the inside, not a biased service from the outside, as most agencies do.

In contrast to how a CMO operates, a marketing agency is often hired to fulfill very specific promotional tasks like media buying, branding, and web design. A marketing agency is typically not relied upon for non-media related marketing strategies, working with a sales team, or coordinating each and every marketing and sales activity into a systematic whole.

Due to their fairly narrow focus, marketing agencies can provide a great value to companies that have optimized the majority of their marketing channels and are now focused on sourcing new customers through advertising and/or building positive brand awareness.

How Does One Begin to Work With A Virtual CMO?

As a veteran CMO, I begin with my Deep Dive interview.

I want to reveal with complete clarity what is happening currently with your marketing and sales, who are all the players within your growth strategy, your target audiences, as well as what are your important goals and core ethos.

It is important for me to get a full lay of the land of where your brand is at, your history, the KPIs, and your vision so as to reshape and elevate a strategy which you can afford and are excited to execute.

I possess hard-won experience in marrying communication and marketing tactics to generate higher and sustained revenue. My clients need someone with my level of experience and tenacity to get key growth objectives accomplished.

Qualities of A Virtual CMO

In short, a Virtual CMO is someone with the ability to work with you to uncover your business goals, design the programs and campaigns you need to reach them, and execute – all without the need to expend valuable resources to hire and manage full-time staff.

A CMO could also be referred to as a VP of Marketing, Global Marketing Officer or Marketing Director. He or she is a corporate-quality executive responsible for marketing and sales activities in an organization.

The CMO leads brand management, marketing communications (including advertising, promotions, and public relations), market research, product marketing, distribution channel management, pricing, and customer service.

The CMO is a member of the C-suite and typically reports directly to the Chief Executive Officer.

A number of senior vice presidents, vice presidents, directors, and other senior marketing managers responsible for various parts of the marketing strategy may report directly to and/or work with the CMO.

The Chief Marketing Officer has traditionally been a full-time, in-house position.

However, in recent years there has been an emergence of the part-time CMO or Virtual CMO.

The Responsibilities Of A CMO

The Responsibilities Of A CMO

Their weekly tasks are often categorically different. Due to the fluid nature of the CMO skillsets, strategies are needed to bring together all aspects of the company. (The space between this paragraph and the next should be rectified.)

Thus, in a given day the CMO completes tasks that fall into many different categories:

  • Analytical tasks, such as pricing and market research
  • Instigating actions to increase word-of-mouth via quality products and services, awesome user experiences, sharable content, user-generated content, influencers, community building, publicity and PR, events, and engaging stories.
  • Creative tasks, such as graphic design, advertising, and product and service promotion.
  • Interpersonal tasks, such as coordinating with other company executives in creating alignment on strategy.
  • Understanding the ever-changing digital landscape and how to leverage and incorporate the best strategies within the goals and budget of the company, as well as within the capabilities of the team members.

The CMO must quickly react to the changing market conditions and competitive dynamics. He or she must reshape, as needed, the company’s strategy and execution plans based on real-time market scenarios and KPIs.

Each of these products comes from a different department, so the CMO must be a nexus of information.

A CMO must be a highly receptive role, with involvement in departments such as production, information technology, corporate communications, documentation, public relations, law, human resources, and finance.

In the 21st century, digitalization and the rise of consumer-centric marketing has changed the role of the CMO. They are now typically finding themselves handling customer-facing technology implementations in addition to the above tasks.

According to analyst firm McKinsey, few senior-executive positions will be subject to as much change over the next few years as that of the chief marketing officer.

Peers to the CMO include Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Communications Officer, Chief Procurement Officer, Chief Information Officer, and General Counsel.

Seven Important Hats of The CMO

Growth Driver

One of the crucial areas of focus for any CMO is to create and manage profitable growth. Conversations concerning the role of the CMO as a growth driver have revealed big gaps between this ideal state affairs and hard reality.

For instance, in interviews with a variety of C-suite executives, both within and outside the CMO role, half of the interviewees say having an enterprise-wide mindset was one of the most important factors in a CMO’s success. Yet only six percent of CMOs describe themselves as actively working on growing revenue across all global business activities.

While mindset is an important factor, remaining positive while no growth is generated is of zero value to any brand.

A separate report similarly reveals some of the discomfort CMOs express in assuming the role of growth driver. Respondents in Deloitte’s 2018 CMO survey nearly unanimously (95 percent) say revenue is the top measure of growth in the organization, while 70 percent feel most confident driving growth through revenue.

But only 32 percent feel prepared to impact market share, and just 20 percent feel prepared to drive gross margin, even though both of these are considered critical areas of growth by the business.

Your Customer’s Champion

The CMO’s role as your customers’ champion is another area of focus.

A CMO must align the organization around customer centricity using data and analytics to deliver customer experiences, as well as measurable business results.

A CMO must aspire to expand their role as the voice of your customer.

As evidence: A separate survey shows that 55 percent of CMOs report a lack of common understanding of their customers.

Word-of-Mouth Instigator

Word-of-mouth is the most persuasive and most common way that people make buying decisions.

However, proactive word-of-mouth is the superior approach because it requires you to become strategic versus reactive: waiting and hoping for the “word to spread” on its own.

A CMO should work to increase word-of-mouth via quality products and services, awesome experiences, sharable content, user-generated content, influencers, community building, events, and engaging stories.

How do we make our customer so enthralled with your product or service that they are compelled to find a way to bring it up in conversation in-person or to share their experience online?

Telling a story – when asked to – is one thing. Telling a story without being asked is something else entirely. It requires a deep understanding of people and the science of buzz.

To ensure that word-of-mouth is proactive as much as possible, a CMO needs to make certain that the elements of buzz and sharing are built into the brand and its marketing strategy. A great CMO must create and develop something different, that your customers do not expect, and then find irresistible.

Digital Opportunist

The world of digital marketing is evolving at hyper-speed. What worked last month may not be relevant as to how brands are found, shared, and consumed.

Not only does technology rapidly adapt and become highly evolved, but so do audiences.

Audiences continually change their buying habits, their ideas about the world, as well as becoming smarter to the tricks that brands attempt to deploy to get them to buy.

A CMO must study daily as to how technology is evolving and what audiences demand and expect from brands. Regardless of their past success, a great CMO must never rest on their laurels or their current skill-sets. “Evolve or Die” is the mantra of a successful CMO.

To remain relevant and ahead of the profit curve, a CMO must be a constant student of trends, success, and failures. He or she must become an advocate for learning and review.

Capability Builder

The power to amass and deploy robust marketing capabilities are the hallmarks of another key CMO role. Marketers who operate as capability builders demonstrate the function’s reach across the business. Although more marketers possess greater customer insights and technical reach, they’re not necessarily broadening their applications in kind.

For example, while 34-percent of CMOs say they are applying these capabilities toward campaign management platforms, only 10-percent say they are using them to improve life cycle management or customer experience management platforms, according to Deloitte research.

Innovation Catalyst

Marketers who can create breakthroughs comprise another important role of the CMO.

A majority of marketers who embody the innovation catalyst role say data and intelligence can help them advance the growth agenda.

Chief Storyteller

In the midst of these changes, it’s still up to marketers to safeguard and disseminate the news about their companies’ brands, and invite consumers to participate in the narrative.

Chief storytellers have been defined by their part in promoting brand relevance and consistency, and it appears they aren’t straying far away from this role.

Storytelling is one of the most effective methods to invigorate your brand and connect with audiences. In fact, a great story is a primary component of a Branded Content campaign.

By giving your products and services life and relevancy, by capturing and sharing the stories that they really are, you can engage your target audience with a journey and/or experience they seek to enjoy.

As marketing decisions increasingly take place in real time, the distinctive roles of the CMO are likely to become even more complex.

Business results will depend on chief marketing officers who are prepared to assume multiple roles to help drive their organizations to success.

Reasons To Hire a Virtual Chief Marketing Officer​

Reasons To Hire a Virtual Chief Marketing Officer

1. Cost Efficiency

The first big benefit is a clear cost savings. You can save 20-70% when you hire a Virtual CMO, instead hiring your own in-house CMO.

A full-time CMO typically earns $75K – $150K per year, and that’s what you’d be looking at paying on average if you hired someone with several years experience to work full-time and in-house to lead your marketing.

Hiring an experienced virtual CMO to develop, drive, and implement your branding and marketing strategy is a cost-effective option for many small businesses.

2. Multi-Talented

A virtual CMO is unlikely to be bound to a single discipline. You’ll add a team member who is well-versed at a multitude of tasks that may be required.

Along with being more cost-effective, by not limiting yourself to the area that your company is located, your talent pool widens and with that comes a broader range of expertise.

Hiring the perfect-fit employee becomes much more attainable when you are not restricted simply because of the company’s address.

Here’s a sample of the types of activities a Virtual COM could help you with:

  • Content marketing, tracking, and management
  • Video and YouTube Marketing
  • Analytics and tracking
  • On- and off-page optimization for posts and pages
  • Marketing procedures which impact sales activities
  • Persona-building
  • Landing page set-up and management
  • Social strategy creation
  • Social strategy management
  • Development of go-to-market strategy
  • Permission marketing
  • Technology assessment (and recommendations)
  • Site reporting and analysis
  • Keyword research for the editorial content
  • Competitor analysis

Add to those brand positioning, packaging services and products, email marketing and lead nurturing, creating sales and marketing collateral, and much more!

3. Consistency

While you’re sporadically working on your marketing strategy (twice a year if you’re lucky), something more important is bound to cross your desk and lead to divided attention. Your virtual CMO is able to focus on the task at hand. This, combined with years of experience, leads to more consistent marketing execution.

Consistent execution is a prime factor in driving growth.

4. Quality

Bound to the previous point, higher focus and consistency leads to higher quality output. The more you practice and review your work, the better the work becomes.

5. Impervious to Internal Noise

Financial year end may have you and your employees running around in a frenzy. But your virtual CMO, unphased by the day-to-day frenzy, will be calmly working on your next growth strategy.

6. Perspective

As an outsider, your virtual CMO can provide their honest, unbiased opinion on your company and your ideas. Without perspective, leaders become biased to their own ideas, even when they are failing them in terms of growth.

7. Mentorship

Your virtual CMO should have more knowledge than you in all things marketing.

This presents the opportunity to learn from your virtual CMO as you go, something of an inclusive mentorship program. This means your virtual CMO can work with your current team members, or help you hire and mentor new staff too.

Your virtual CMO should have more knowledge than you in all things marketing, and proven experience to boot.

8. Staffing Solution

Your virtual CMO will definitely know other like-minded individuals and trusted suppliers who they can bring on board for specific projects.

They’ll have a network of writers, copywriters, designers, sales professionals, conversion rate optimization (CRO) experts, search engine optimization (SEO) experts, virtual administrators, and other experts at their disposal.

This gives you access to a broader network of resources to execute on various elements of your overall marketing strategy. This will save you valuable time and headaches in attempting to locate trusted suppliers in each of these areas.

9. Flexibility

This one is related to point three above. Your virtual CMO will likely have a wider range of in-the-field marketing experiences, often in different environments – be it a startup, SMB, corporate, non-profit or other.

Also, replacing a virtual CMO is a lot easier than replacing a full-time CMO, should things go sour.

10. Visibility

Your virtual CMO will be able to implement valuable tracking tools for your business. Your
marketing efforts will be measured and data will be readily available regarding its effectiveness. Thus you’ll be able to focus on the strategies that really work, and discard those that are not working.

11. Accountability

With visibility comes accountability.

Having a dedicated and experienced virtual CMO to report regularly on marketing efforts, against agreed upon deliverables and objectives, means that you’ll be able to make informed decisions about how well they’re performing. If they’re doing a great job you can throw a party. If not, you can let them go.

You’ll retain full control.

All of this, leads to better business decisions and accountability.

A virtual CMO can focus on marketing no matter what else is happening inside the workplace.

In Conclusion

Few CEOs and business owners have time to spare. Marketing is a valuable skill which requires many years to learn and master. A CMO is critical to the evolution and growth of your business. The benefits of hiring a virtual CMO as opposed to a traditional CMO are clear.

When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, retain the services of your very own virtual CMO.

Do you desire help with your marketing and business growth? Book your complimentary 18-min Deep Dive Interview and acquire a plan on your next course of action.