By Eric Dickmann

May 29, 2020

Fractional CMO

When speaking to the leaders of small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) about their company goals, often, the answers are focused on growth and revenue generation. When probed further about how they intend to achieve these goals, many leaders indicate that marketing is a low priority. When budgets are tight, resources limited, and schedules are full, marketing efforts often get pushed to the bottom of the priority list.

Yet marketing is the engine for growth. Without a comprehensive marketing strategy, sales can falter. Small business owners often make the mistake of looking to marketing when times are tough, but not before. The problem is that marketing takes time to show results. Waiting until issues already exist can yield rushed spending on campaigns that will not provide substantial results. This lack of a marketing focus is where the experience and leadership of a Virtual CMO can help. They are an on-demand contract resource that can help your company develop and implement a strategic marketing plan and build an engine for growth.

Reasons to Consider a Virtual CMO for Your Business

Many business owners think that launching any marketing strategy requires having a full-time professional manage the efforts, but a virtual CMO may be a better fit. Here are 5 reasons to consider adding a Virtual CMO to your team:

  1. Cost Savings – A full-time CMO will likely require a salary of $175k, plus benefits. That's a non-starter for many companies with $5-$100 million in revenues. A seasoned outsourced CMO would likely cost less than 1/3 of that amount and provide greater flexibility in budgeting.
  2. Expertise and Experience – An in-house professional is great, but their knowledge may be limited to a single industry or type of product offering. If your business launches a new product with a slightly different target customer or wants to leverage new marketing tactics, your in-house marketer may not be able to manage the effort effectively. When you hire an outsourced Virtual CMO, you get a broader range of experience and expertise for less money than a full-time hire.
  3. Consistency – Marketing is a long-term effort, and effective marketing requires consistency. An isolated campaign will not produce lasting results. CEO's and business owners may have the intention of leading their marketing efforts, but they can quickly become distracted with other business priorities and marketing suffers. A Virtual CMO's priority will always be providing marketing that delivers consistent, measurable results.
  4. Connections - Small marketing teams are not always able to manage all aspects of campaigns internally. Lacking a qualified network of relationships is where Virtual CMO's contacts come in handy. They know the agencies, vendors, freelancers, and partners to work with to get campaign tactics executed on-time and within budget. 
  5. External Perspective - Small businesses can easily get lost in the weeds as they develop products and services for the marketplace. There's a lot riding on success, and being so close to many aspects of the business can sometimes hide problems sitting in plain sight. A Virtual CMO provides the experience of an executive who has spent years working with many companies and can apply that experience to the unique situations in your company. Look at them as another set of eyes to identify areas of improvement and a sounding board for running ideas by for validity.

How Do You Pick the Right Virtual CMO for Your Business?

Not every marketing professional is looking to be an outsourced executive resource. Many are looking for a full-time opportunity. Fortunately, there are a group of professionals who focus solely on Virtual CMO services for SMB's. But how do you know which one is best for your company? Keep the following questions in mind as you consider hiring a Virtual CMO:

  • Measurement of Results – If an in-house CMO was hired and then did not perform well, he or she would be let go. It would be best if you had the same option when hiring a Virtual CMO. How are results of marketing efforts measured? What is the incentive for the marketing team to ensure your success? Usually a Virtual CMO works under contract for a specific time commitment. Marketing results won't happen overnight, so you'll want to make sure to allow enough time to see results. Typically, an initial contract of 6 months is usual and if you work well together, contracts can be extended to 12 month terms. 
  • Specific Industry Experience – It's a common misperception that when hiring a marketing leader, they need to have specific experience in the industry you service. This generally is not required. You are hiring someone for their marketing skills, not their skills in your industry. The biggest thing to look for is their experience focused on selling to other businesses or selling to consumers. Marketing is very different when selling to consumers versus other businesses and it's important to look for the right skillset. 
  • References – It's good to see what other clients a Virtual CMO has worked for and the types of work they have previously done. This can give you a better feel for their style and how previous work might be leveraged in your own business.
  • Work with Other Resources – Using outside professionals is a great way to scale your marketing efforts. A Virtual CMO will often outsource some specific projects, such as graphic design, photography, video production, or web development, to outside vendors. If this is the case, how will you be billed, and will you have control over the vendors selected? It's important to understand how this will be handled.
  • Team Structure - Hiring a Virtual CMO allows you to have an executive leader to run marketing operations. It should be expected that this professional will mostly work remotely but they can manage your existing team as well as coordinate the work of outside resources. You'll want to include them in management meetings and key decisions as if they were a full-time member of your team. Use their skills and experience to benefit not only your marketing programs, but your company as a whole.


Hiring a Virtual, CMO can provide your company with strategic, targeted, and consistent marketing. Over time, this will create new revenue opportunities and increased market share. Especially for small and midsize businesses, an outsourced executive can be an attractive way to bring in seasoned expertise and experience without the costs associated with a full-time hire. Is it time to consider what hiring a Virtual CMO could do for your business?

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Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a fractional CMO for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies to bring innovative products to the market.

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