Recent reports state that the average tenure of a chief marketing officer (CMO) is now down to 18 - 24 months. Given the risky investment this represents to companies in terms of cost, commitment, resources and lost opportunity, the Virtual VP of Marketing model is becoming much more attractive.
For many growth-stage companies, marketing can be the most challenging function to resource for three main reasons: First, because marketing is hard to define; to some companies it means thought leadership, to others business development and others branding (which, in and of itself is one of least understood, often abused terms in business).
Second, once you define it, marketing success can be difficult to measure; therefore expectations in hiring a CMO may not be articulated in the most effective way. The result is a gap between the CEO and CMO from day one on priorities, objectives and resources.
Third, all to often a CMO expects to have the resources to hire specialized staff and/or an outside agency for lead generation, online marketing, pr, etc. In a growth-stage business, those resources cannot typically be justified. And as importantly, those business must by definition maintain maximum flexibility in the way resources are allocated and committed.
Companies need a Virtual VP of Marketing when they can’t or aren’t ready to justify the cost and commitment of a full-time marketing executive to address its needs, yet:
- Marketing deliverables and challenges are piling up.
- Marketing lags behind the company in terms of offerings, reputation, innovation, etc.
- The company hasn’t kept pace with its marketplace and needs an injection of strategic assessment and planning.
- New target markets or segments are being considered.
- Growth has slowed or stalled.
- Their industry is getting more competitive.
- Their business is becoming more marketing-dependent or marketing-driven.
- They need a fresh perspective that incorporates a healthy dose of customer feedback.
- They are considering an outside marketing/pr agency but don’t have the expertise to properly manage them.
What does a Virtual VP of Marketing do?
- Helps CEOs and other senior executives assess and define and rank their situation and market opportunities by incorporating input from key constituencies.
- Works with the executive team to develop and validate business/marketing strategies.
- Develops the go-to-market strategy and action plan with prioritized, cost justified marketing initiatives.
- Manages or leads the execution of key marketing programs, from awareness to lead generation to drive customer acquisition and retention.
- Develops all creative materials (design, copywriting, Web sites) in direct support of marketing objectives.
- Manages existing staff and vendors to optimize resource mix and output.
Bob London is president of London, Ink, a Maryland-based marketing and communications consulting firm, and serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for growth stage companies that need an injection of marketing experience and leadership to drive key initiatives and results.