Many mid-stage technology companies are started and lead by the chief technologist. Their title is CEO, but their skill set is technical development and vision.
With customer acquisition and references the highest priority, the first non-technical hires focus on business development/sales.
In the early days, the technical CEO attempts to cover marketing and often delays hiring a marketing professional due to cost and equity considerations.
In doing so, they often struggle with:
- Identifying the target buyer and articulating their unique value proposition
- Addressing packaging, licensing and pricing strategies
- Selecting product category definitions and articulating competitive differentiation
- Enabling sales personnel with a compelling business proposition
- Determining a proper marketing mix and executing programs to deliver qualified leads
The longer the company struggles with these core go-to-market issues, the more likely customer acquisition goals won’t be met, competitors will gain market share and the risk of company failure increases.
Is there a way to get a CMO on board earlier?
Absolutely! There are plenty of experienced marketing executives with very successful resumes and deep experience that are “near the end” of their careers. Most are financially independent and set for retirement, but they aren’t ready to retire! They still have a lot of energy and maintain a high level of interest in the industry.
Why is a fractional CMO a good option?
- They can be hired quickly and provide immediate value
- Bring decades of marketing domain expertise and lessons learned
- Eager to work part-time, and will put-in full-time energy as needed
- Offer broad industry knowledge: technology, products and markets
- Bring industry respect and connections to the company
- Low cost and open to flexible compensation options (cash+equity)
Concerns CEOs Have with Interim / Fractional Roles
CEO’s often struggle with the idea of hiring an interim or part-time (fractional) CMO.
They fear an interim CMO:
- Won’t be dedicated to their company and vision
- Will be too expensive when compared to full-time hire
- Only capable of directing people and won’t get their hands dirty
- Can’t accomplish what is needed in a part-time capacity
- If older, doesn’t have the energy to be effective
The truth is:
- A part-time CMO will be committed to your vision and will improve your strategy
- Financial independence opens the door to flexible compensation options
- CMO’s with early stage experience do everything (with or without staff)
- Energy is absolutely not an issue (60 is the new 50, maybe 40)
- Work ethic of this generation is unlike any other
Top 5 Reasons to Consider an Interim / Fractional CMO
- Strategic leadership to align go-to-market operations (product, marketing, sales)
- Quick hire that delivers immediate value
- Senior/broad experience for less money/equity
- Lower risk of hiring the wrong person
- Better productivity and fewer mistakes due to lessons learned
A Fractional CMO is Win-win
Over the past 15 years I have worked primarily in an interim CMO capacity on a fractional basis. I served each client with the same level of dedication and commitment to their strategy and vision as a full-time CMO. My engagements have been long standing, often over multiple years.
As the interim CMO you need to contribute to the company’s strategy and participate in operational meetings. You want the CEO to treat you as a peer on the executive team, and you are always “on call” to the executive staff to solve a problem or provide advice.
Sounds like a full-time role, right? Well from experience I can tell you that all of that and more can be accomplished in a part-time capacity.
This works very well for early-stage firms with one product or narrow product lines who can’t afford an experienced CMO and don’t require a full-time employee.
This is no different than a company hiring a law, accounting or public relations firm serving multiple clients in a fractional capacity. So, why treat a contract-marketing executive any different?