Hello, and welcome to the very first episode of The Virtual CMO podcast. My name is Eric Dickmann, and I’ll be your host. I am the Founder of The Five Echelon Group, a marketing strategy consulting service that helps businesses design and implement marketing strategies. The focus of this podcast is on the small to midsize business market, primarily on B2B (business to business) companies, and our goal is to help you in your marketing journey.
Our Podcast Mission
The mission of this podcast is not to dig down into the specific “how to’s” of many marketing tactics. There's great information out there on topics like search engine optimization (SEO), building your YouTube channel, creating web content, etc. Instead, we want to focus on a higher level; to focus on the strategy. To understand what marketing professionals like you are doing inside their companies to execute successful marketing strategies.
We plan to do that in a couple ways:
First, we're going to interview marketing professionals inside small and midsize businesses. We want to understand what they walked into on day one.
- Did their company have a comprehensive marketing strategy?
- If not, how did they work with other stakeholders to build one out?
- What was their plan to build brand awareness and drive leads?
- What were their inbound strategy and content plans?
- Did they implement specific marketing automation technologies?
- Did they work with external vendors or agencies?
- Did they build in-house marketing teams or outsource the execution of marketing tactics?
- What has worked so far, and where are there areas for improvement?
- How are results being tracked and measured?
- What is the relationship with Sales?
- What is the plan for the future?
Real-world experience from marketing professionals like you helps us better understand the challenges of executing multi-channel programs. Much of this podcast’s focus is going to be on interviewing people just like you — people who are out there day-to-day, trying to run a successful marketing operation.
We are also very interested in technology. The marketing automation technology (Martech) space has grown incredibly over the last few years. There are now so many great tools out there that can not only make the lives of marketers easier, but can significantly increase the trajectory of your marketing activities. But tools can be costly, challenging to implement, and awkward to add into existing workflows. We want to hear about some of the experiences you've had in your work environments.
- What tools are working?
- How difficult were they to implement?
- Were they challenging to incorporate into existing workflows?
- Any challenges around user adoption?
- Were you able to integrate the tools to work together?
- What kind of results are you seeing?
- What is your inbound marketing strategy?
We want to hear from you to better understand your chosen technology environment and what tools are providing the most value to your company. We want to hear from the vendors as well. To learn what new solutions are available, what exciting technologies are in development, and what results you might be able to achieve by using their tools. Informative interviews and product reviews will be a focus of this podcast, as well.
Best Marketing Examples
Thirdly, we want to focus on the best examples of marketing in the B2B space. We want to highlight campaigns and marketing activities on display in the marketplace today. Marketing teams are creating some fantastic content, whether it's brand awareness campaigns, interactive web content, social media, or advertising campaigns. We want to highlight these efforts and talk about how these examples apply to other businesses. After all, imitation is often the best form of flattery. In an ever-changing marketplace, it's essential to learn what's working today and how you could apply those lessons to your marketing efforts.
So that's why we started The Virtual CMO podcast, and I hope that's a vision that resonates with you because we'd love to have you along for this journey! Thanks for being here for this inaugural episode!
Given that this is our first episode, our goal is to become more polished and sophisticated in our approach over time. That's where your feedback is going to come in handy. We want to hear from you. We’re interested in learning what topics would be of interest to hear on this podcast. We also want to understand what you like and don't like because we want to evolve and make this podcast better. I'm sure we'll be a little rough at first, so bear with us in these early episodes but expect to hear improvements each week. We want to make the minutes you spend with us the most valuable that they can be, so your feedback is certainly appreciated!
Why The Virtual CMO podcast?
I also want to take a minute to talk a little bit about the idea of The Virtual CMO podcast. Why did we name this podcast, The Virtual CMO? How does it reflect our background and experience working with many companies on marketing strategy? In my personal experience, I have worked with many companies, primarily in the small to midsize business space, that are trying to grow and looking to increase their sales. But they look at marketing as a “nice to have” expense. They believe that if they were a little bit bigger, had a little bit more cash in the bank, and were able to spend more money, then they would invest in marketing. But instead, they say they need sales, and that's where they invest their energy and budgets. They would prefer to hire another salesperson or invest in a service promising quick access to new leads than invest in marketing tactics and resources.
What I also find is that many small to medium size companies do not have an executive-level presence, a senior-level manager dedicated to lead their marketing organization. Often, I see companies with junior-level marketing teams comprised of individuals hired out of school with only a few years of real-world experience in the business. While they can execute some one-off tactics, they don't have the expertise to build a comprehensive marketing strategy. They work closely with the leader of sales and focus on prioritizing short-term activities because selling tends to be short-term focused. Sales leaders are looking to meet their quotas, so their thinking tends to focus on the near-term at the expense of longer-term planning.
In many of these organizations, the responsibility for marketing tends to fall on the leader of sales. I see titles like the Vice President of Sales AND Marketing, and while this may sound like a good idea because sales and marketing are so closely related, in practice, I have found that it's not a good match. The reason is pretty simple. Sales tends to be overly focused on the short-term. Sales is looking for deals can they can get closed in the current quarter to meet their quotas and earn their commission checks. By nature, sales leaders are focused on closing business, and they are often incentivized for short-term results.
The Problem of Low Hanging Fruit
The problem is that in many industries, especially those with complex products with lengthy sales cycles, lead generation takes time. It's not like a faucet where you can just turn on the tap and magically have new leads appear. It takes time to build awareness, educate prospects, and generate interest. Frequently when leaders are responsible for both sales and marketing, they tend to devolve their marketing efforts to merely looking for what I like to call “the low hanging fruit.” These are leads ready to be qualified by Sales that don’t require additional nurturing or further education. These leads are ready to buy. And of course, who doesn’t want more of those? Leads like that are the holy grail of lead generation, but we all know, they are also challenging to find. If there are sources of these ready to buy leads, they are often costly.
When Sales is overly focused on these ready to buy leads, what often happens to other leads is that Sales will say, “well, this person isn't ready to buy; therefore, I'm not interested in working the lead.” The leads then get set aside, potentially never to be worked again. Although these leads may represent a potential future opportunity, they get discarded because they’re not a piece of that “low hanging fruit.” This can be expensive for the organization and create real long-term problems. Over time, this “low hanging fruit” dries up, or there's no longer enough of it to feed the engine of growth inside these companies. They no longer have the pipeline needed to sustain growth. When sale’s leaders who also run marketing focus too much on this “low hanging fruit,” they are sacrificing long-term growth for short-term results.
The Need for a Comprehensive Strategy
A comprehensive marketing strategy is critical to avoid this eventuality. Marketing, especially for those companies with longer sales cycles, is not something that happens overnight. It's like the tale of the tortoise and the hare; to build an active demand generation program, slow and steady progress wins the race. Companies need to develop an interest in their products or services and create credibility and buyer interest in the marketplace. That awareness over time starts to generate leads, feed your pipeline, and create new opportunities.
That's the whole theory around organic leads, search engine optimization, and inbound marketing. Catch the attention of your target audience and have leads start coming to you. It’s about building awareness and turning that interest into a demand generation engine. But as anybody who's done search engine optimization knows, it's not something that happens overnight. You can't magically create organic leads just because you need them for the coming quarter. It's something that takes time and investment. A marketing team with a dedicated marketing leader is best positioned to handle building a comprehensive strategy that can deliver those long-term results.
What is a Virtual CMO?
I want to get back to this whole idea of a Virtual CMO. Many companies believe they don’t have money in their budgets to hire an experienced marketing executive, and that's where Virtual CMO comes into play. A Virtual CMO is somebody who is contracted with the company and works on a fractional share basis. That same CMO may work for five different companies at once and gives each a fraction of his time. They consult with each company on marketing strategy and building out those demand generation plans. Then, they help project manage the execution of those plans using existing resources within the company or by recommending specific vendors or partners that can get the marketing tactics executed. A Virtual CMO allows a company to get the knowledge and experience of a seasoned marketing executive, without the expense of bringing on this person full-time. For many organizations, that's a very cost-effective way of building out a comprehensive marketing strategy.
As the company grows, they may look to transition to having a full-time person take over those responsibilities. With a foundation in place, and execution of the marketing plan underway, the company can bring on a full-time leader to manage the plan going forward. This makes the Virtual CMO a great transitional proposition for many companies as they start to scale and grow. It can help build the needed momentum to fully justify bringing on a full-time marketing leader while at the same time, making the investments in marketing strategy.
Another appealing aspect of a Virtual CMO engagement is that it allows companies to take the budget that would have gone towards salary and benefits, and instead, apply it towards marketing programs. Not only can they get the experience this executive brings, but they can get programs launched and start to see results. It’s a win-win for the role of the Virtual CMO and the company. That's why I'm so in favor of this whole concept of Virtual CMO’s, especially for small and medium-sized companies. I think it's a great fit and it helps solve the problem of getting a good marketing strategy in place. It helps companies build demand generation engines, which enable them to be successful over the long-term.
That's the focus of this podcast. We want to help you by being a Virtual CMO to your company. To help expose you to the strategy needed to build a successful demand generation engine for your industry vertical. That's the goal of this podcast, and I hope that's an exciting value proposition for you. I know we’re going to have some great conversations on this show and look forward to talking with many of you in person. I want to hear about your journey. I want to hear about the challenges you’re dealing with in your organizations: the good and the bad. Many roadblocks get thrown out that hinder marketing professional's ability to execute their campaigns successfully. I want to hear about the challenges you're facing and how you've overcome them to find success in implementing your marketing plans.