I dive into the deep end of the pool every time I work with a new company. Without much time to come up for air, I must gain trust at all levels of the organization and efficiently plot a course of action, while also learning the business inside and out.
In my career as a CMO for Hire or fractional CMO, I’ve turned around corporate marketing business development for all types of technology service providers, including data center providers, software companies and managed service providers. (Read more about these experiences in my recent use case.)
Based on my experiences, I’ve narrowed down the five most critical steps to a successful engagement. Above and beyond those steps, interim executive success depends upon thoughtful leadership, outstanding communication, deliberate feedback cycles, plus a big slice of humble-pie. Putting all the steps together, below is a 5-Step Guide for your next engagement with a part time CMO:
The 5 Steps That Make or Break CMO For Hire Engagements
By supporting your interim CMO in these five critical steps, you’ll build a solid foundation for the work to come. To be successful, the interim CMO must:
1. Listen and learn. Short-term CMOs walk into a company without internal working relationships and quite often without well-defined job descriptions. We need to get a feel for the essential demands of the situation, the skillsets required, and the conditions under which we’ll need to adapt. So our first order of business is to listen.
When I join a team, my role is to ask a lot of questions, listen, and provide feedback loops. I want to hear from as many employees – at all levels of the organization – as possible. Gaining a well-rounded perspective of the company’s current state, strengths, weaknesses, concerns and ideas eliminates blind spots in the organization. I interview their clients and business partners too, for their unique perspectives. I’ll even request access to “lost” prospects to better understand why they chose the competition.
2. Invite opinions. Mutual success depends upon an open and collaborative working relationship. This is the best way to avoid misconceptions and mis-information that could otherwise derail progress.
I like to create an environment that encourages and rewards participation. My goal is to show team members that I respect what they think; that it’s safe to express their opinions. On a practical level, that openness comes in handy when I’m looking for answers.
3. Diagnose, then make a plan. Get ready for some tough questions! By digging deep and asking the hard questions, your interim CMO should uncover current challenges and propose a plan that offers solutions to each.
Any solution I propose takes into account variables such as business stage, budget, available skillsets, and the organization’s appetite for change. It will involve both short-term solutions that can be accomplished in fewer than 90 days and a longer term go-to-market plan. One of the greatest challenges in this stage is helping teams prioritize where to focus their energy and enthusiasm.
4. Secure early wins. The best way for an interim CMO to gain confidence and trust with other executives at the company is by uncovering some quick and easy fixes during the previous steps, and capitalizing on them.
Here’s an example: a recent client of mine was struggling to build an online presence. During our listening phase we discovered that Google Analytics (a tool that tracks website activity and productivity) wasn’t activated for the company website. What’s more, the website had over 100 hidden web pages that were either irrelevant or outdated and diminishing search engine rankings. In no time at all, the company remedied these issues and secured its first early marketing wins.
5. Build a team and coalitions. Teams may need to be built from scratch or simply restructured in order to maximize alignment of resources to the new plan. Team members can be employees spanning a variety of functional areas or even 3rd party resources and agencies. Coalitions are high functioning teams with a great deal of influence that can help achieve our plan. What all members have in common is that they wield a high degree of influence (expertise, access to information, status, control or even loyalty). As a change-agent, my goal is to build the strongest marketing team and coalitions possible.
Not sure if your company culture is right for a fractional CMO? Try the Checklist for Fractional CMO Readiness and find out, or contact Laurel Bay, a Fractional CMO agency for a free consultation today.
About Laurel Bay Laurel Bay Marketing is a fractional CMO agency for tech, run by a tech. Our mission is to help service providers of all sizes increase revenues and strengthen their market, product and sales presence. Because we are technology experts in the services industry and because we have years of marketing senior leadership under our belts, Laurel Bay Marketing offers the winning one-two punch that can help you quickly and expertly achieve greater visibility with a differentiated portfolio and positioning, generate revenue with clutter-busting lead generation, and provide a return on your investment. Laurel Bay was purpose-built for service providers just like you.