Over my many years of consulting and partnering with companies in the digital marketing space, I’ve noticed a lot of changes. One change, in recent years, I’ve particularly found interesting: these days, there’s more and more people like me – consultants who come in and work alongside or in-house as marketing lead. Even in large corporates, I’ve begun to see board members who consult for other companies as outsourced Marketing Directors or CMOs.
It’s no surprise to me why – an experienced professional who comes in will not only get the job done efficiently, but will be looking to justify, retain and even grow their in-house position. It’s a tremendous value-add, because this method allows leaders to leverage high-level talent in smaller increments of budget and time, while still benefitting from capable and highly-qualified expertise. As a result, strategic business plans can accelerate without impacting cost, and this works well for companies not quite ready for a permanent hire.
When I’m invited into a company, I always believe that single-minded and tenacious focus on growth is essential in order to help others. That’s what I provide. I try, as Sean Ellis would say in his monologues on growth-hacking, to be a person whose ‘truth north’ is growth.
The way outsourcing this type of high-level role works can vary. It can be a kind of on-demand service with a number of touch points, or it can be a more complex, long term plan with much higher-level goals. I often tell clients that a willingness to experiment and maintaining an open mind are key to achieving growth. This is undoubtedly the case when working with an outsourced person like myself. While the desired result may be clear, companies need to be adaptable enough to embrace innovative approaches and new perspectives to make it happen. Here is some advice to organisations considering outsourcing as a way to grow:
1. An outsourced CMO is your best defence against big mistakes
Struggling internally to find the brand voice or correct marketing strategy can be incredibly detrimental if the company doesn’t have the necessary experience to make the best decisions. I frequently find that companies resistant to the idea of bringing someone like me on board often change their mind when they see the difference my experience makes. Leads begin to convert, confidence in the brand builds, revenue rises. Why? Well, one of the things I’m able to do as a consultant is give an honest opinion when I don’t like something. The problem with in-house teams is that the rest of the company is often afraid to do this, for fear of upsetting the boat. Even when there’s some friction, the opposing points of view that having an outsourced CMO providing honest and unbiased communication can be highly effective in making the right decisions for the business.
Even the most successful businesses occasionally get it wrong – Swedish fashion retailer H&M recently got into big trouble for putting out an advert featuring a black child dressed in a hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle”. The backlash and accusations of racism were unprecedented, forcing them to apologise and hire a diversity manager. A good outsourced CMO would have likely had the perspective and have been bold enough to push back on this kind of poor idea before it led to all the bad press.
2. Trust is key: Outsourced CMOs can build buyer confidence
When I build a marketing strategy, I look at market sentiment. How much confidence is there in the brand? A good marketing strategy needs to be about building brand advocacy and trust. Time and time again, this is the strongest predictor of online purchasing behaviour. If they don’t trust it, they won’t buy it. Nurturing this is absolutely key to driving sales.
This is a major point of contention for many of the small businesses I work with. Sometimes people haven’t even heard of the brand, so I make the company’s first priority establishing trust — this is essential before asking the audience to convert. Often this feels like a backwards step for businesses who aren’t able to take the necessary objective view.
For example, my clients will often say to me that they just want to run Facebook ads. That’s fine, but people will come to your site, see it, and if there’s no nurturing, you won’t convert any sales. One thing I’ve learnt, and try to teach, is that you can’t just, “build it and they will come”. That’s a myth. In my experience, trust-building, especially for multiple brands, is a lot easier with one person tenaciously focused on it. The outsourced CMO is best-placed to be that person.
3. Tangible ROI: An outsourced CMO can capitalise on trends faster
As an expert-for-hire, I’m always looking to add value to my clients’ investment fast. Any outsourced CMO will constantly be looking for trends in the data which can be leveraged to provide a boost to sales. Marketing automation is a big part of this, and is something which is taking over the industry. CRM and email marketing are based on customer behavioural data – it targets them according to what they do online, both on and off the site, and how they interact with the brand. The resultant analytics can provide invaluable insight into buying patterns and trends. Unfortunately, in most start-ups the lead people are wearing so many hats that they miss a lot of opportunities. However, your average outsourced CMO, like myself, will be working hard to generate ROI for the client, scrutinising the analytics data daily to identify what can be capitalised on.
This is what I do, and my agency Aquare utilises a proprietary automation platform we built specifically for this purpose. Called Omniboard, it allows us to spot trends and shift campaign strategies quickly and effectively without having to spend hours sifting through the data. It also provides an extremely efficient campaign and client management without requiring the user to have any prior experience of digital marketing. When we partner with agencies own in-house teams to provide digital marketing as a service to their clients, we give them Omniboard. Very quickly they find they are able to capitalise on the live data and reporting it provides to spot trends and demonstrate tangible value to their clients.
Coupling technology like Omniboard with executive leadership focused on the most essential ingredients for growth results in powerfully effective strategies. It’s still a novel concept to most businesses, but I’m seeing that more and more are willing to accept this kind of help. One thing’s for sure – whether they go the outsourced route or not, constantly seeking new perspectives has got to be an essential part of any successful brand building effort.