nDash talks to Jessie Coan about normalizing the freelance interim CMO
Jessie Coan, VP of Corporate Marketing, explains, “Having an outside consultant come in and work as your interim CMO if part of your goals is to revamp the marketing OARS (Objective, Audience, Results), it’s less of an emotional decision. Because these individuals are there for a finite period of time, the goal is to accomplish a particular thing and get that done before it’s time to move on.”
Why Your Company Might Need a Freelance Interim CMO
- Your company’s full-time CMO announces their departure, and there’s an immediate need to fill that role to prevent marketing efforts from derailing
- There’s a specific need for someone with experience in particular channels the rest of the team is lacking
- Your company is going through transition – a merger, acquisition, growth – and you need someone to help maintain a steady pace
- Questions loom regarding the need for a full-time CMO, so you propose bringing an interim freelance CMO aboard to test the waters
The Power of Positive Disruption
A full-time CMO plays an integral role in contributing to a company’s culture. If a startup brings one on too early and then needs to lay them off, that can negatively impact the company’s culture. That’s not the right kind of disruption because it could lead employees to believe they need to look elsewhere.
“The risk is different when working with a freelance interim CMO,” Jessie explains, “because they’re coming in to be disruptive. They’re technically someone who has clear deliverables, goals, or outputs associated with their contract.”
This kind of disruption helps keep a brand’s business model on track, thus preventing the competition from derailing them. It’s the interim or fractional CMOs responsibility to use boldness, creative thinking, determination, and patience to drive results and the company’s value proposition.
Normalizing the Freelance Interim CMO
When asked about the economy and why freelancers and freelance CMOs are the solutions, Jessie shared, “Controlled costs, manage costs — because you can push and pull depending on your needs. I mean, it absolutely makes sense.”
She continues, “So if you think about the restaurants that didn’t get on board with Uber Eats or the gig economy, we’re experiencing right now. Those are the ones that didn’t do well because the fear goes back to being unable to leave your house to pick up food. Suppose somebody picks the food up and drops it off at your front door. It’s way better, and those are the ones that survived.
Again, it relates to the business’s size and its specific needs. But in general, with external vendors, you can ramp things up or down depending on your needs.
The idea is that you may ramp down your vendors at a specific point. Then, it also becomes more predictable for you to outsource vendors you know and have those conversations. Plus, if something’s not working, you’re not hiring a full-time employee.”
The Benefits of Working With a Freelance Interim CMO
One of the biggest benefits of working with a freelance interim CMO is their brutal honesty. That honesty hits every point – from a company’s current business model to its marketing plans. Think about it this way – a company’s internal dynamics might impact a full-time CMO’s insights.
“Interim CMOs can come in and still have some of those ‘people challenges,'” explains Jessie, “and that might be part of what’s expected of them. But, in an interim role, you’re usually hired to have some sort of goal or output associated with it. You may want to do your due diligence to understand who you have on staff. But, ultimately, you’re there for a finite period, so your goal is to be that positive change agent.”
During uncertain economic times, we’ll likely see a rise in companies hiring interim CMOs. There’s a lot less risk when hiring someone part-time, especially in the case of a recession.
Jessie told us, “My prediction there is that you’re going to see a pivot and what this makeup looks like because budgets are going to change as marketing becomes increasingly harder.”
Fresh Perspectives From an Experienced Outside Voice
Because interim CMOs possess a wealth of industry knowledge and experience, they can draw on that background to look at current marketing efforts from a fresh perspective. They have an experienced outside voice allowing them to find and articulate new strategies that help companies achieve their goals.
Jessie explains, “The idea of investing in senior-level marketing means you’re taking a chance. You’re going through the interview process, and if their marketing philosophy is in line with your business strategy, and it happens to work out, great.”
“Obviously, you want to do everything in your power to vet this individual and see if they’re aligned,” she continues, “So, the idea of businesses investing in and bringing in a senior-level person to come in and run marketing may need to shift.”
Experience in Very Specific Channels
Because interim CMOs tend to work with various companies, big and small, they already have experience working with teams and channels like yours. That experience guarantees they have a deep understanding of your organization’s industry.
“As far as my own experience, people are asking for my advice because they’ve invested in me as an outside consultant,” Jessie tells us.
Considering the first benefit – cost effectiveness – increased flexibility ties into that considerably. Many businesses look to work with a freelance interim CMO due to budget constraints and various changes in marketing needs. Therefore, with increased flexibility comes the elimination of the limitations companies might face when hiring someone full-time.
We asked Jessie why companies might decide to hire a full-time marketer. For example, we asked her to imagine she was a full-time CMO at a large company – why would you hire full-time versus just outsourcing everything and having that flexibility?
“So, again, it goes back to the demands of the business and that strategy behind growth,” she explains. “There are absolutely benefits to having full-time staff. I’ve always had a combo. I’ve used vendors, like nDash, for example, but I also have an internal writer or two depending on what we’re doing in our content strategy, messaging strategy, or product marketing.”
FAQs About a Freelance Interim CMO
Why is the typical term length?
As of 2021, the average tenure for an interim CMO is between 28 and 40 months. Jessie tells us, “But, so often, we see a CMO’s tenure running between 18 or 24 months. It’s quick!”
How do you vet a candidate?
Vetting interim CMOs involves determining if they’re forward-thinking, if they understand your company’s culture, and if they can close sales. It also involves looking at their background, the tools they use, and the frameworks they implement.
Candidates aren’t the only ones doing the vetting, however. Jessie tells us, “It goes both ways in terms of the available talent on the market and where they choose to participate, and what types of leadership teams they want to work with.”
What size company does best with an interim CMO, or are they optimal for any size?
The short answer is – it depends. “One of the things that I realized in consulting was there was a business size that fit my model,” Jessie explains. “There was a business owner I preferred to work with that I knew would benefit from my talents. It goes back to the basic marketing principle of knowing your target audience and how you position yourself to them. For example, it’s all a marketing problem in many ways. It requires both parties to do the due diligence to understand if they’re both speaking about the same problem.”
About Jessie Coan
With twenty years of experience supporting B2B and B2C organizations, Jessie Coan’s repertoire includes working with brands like IBM, Oracle, and VistaPrint. Her background includes building brands, developing innovative marketing strategies, and managing fully integrated marketing campaigns that drive profitable revenue. Visit Jessie Coan Marketing to learn more, or sign up for nDash to find more marketers like Jessie.