Companies in need of new marketing leadership are increasingly turning to interim or split CMOs to drive growth.
Fractional executives work on a contract basis for a fixed term. They often juggle multiple part-time clients simultaneously, and their average tenure at each company is six to nine months, though it can range from weeks to years, said Pete Hayes, director of recruitment firm Chief Outsiders. In most cases, these executives work remotely and communicate with a company’s C suite as well as its internal marketing teams, he said.
The pandemic has accelerated the demand for split marketing leaders due to wider acceptance of remote work and marketers’ desire for more flexible hours, experts said.
In one example, MVP Health Care Inc., a provider of health insurance services to residents of New York and Vermont, turned to telemedicine in late 2021 as remote visits became standard practice. , but it struggled to communicate this change to consumers.
“We put all of our assets in place, and now it was more like, how do you get them to market?” said CEO Christopher Del Vecchio.
The company didn’t have time to wait for a search firm to find the right CMO candidate, Mr. Del Vecchio said, so it brought in Arlyn Davich, founder of consulting firm Little Fish. Ms. Davich helped develop MVP Health Care’s marketing strategy as a freelancer for three months before transitioning to fractional CMO, and she currently devotes about 25 hours a week to the business. Her firm also recently began helping clients find other executives to fill fractional CMO and chief executive positions, she said.
Split executives aren’t a new concept, as small and medium-sized businesses have been hiring part-time executives for decades, Hayes said. But companies have been slow to apply the model to marketing due to the growing complexity of the CMO’s job.
CMOs are now charged with a number of responsibilities that were not part of their remit in the past, such as partnerships, content production and internal culture, so it is difficult to choose a single candidate to meet the long-term needs of a business, said Ms. Davitch.
Fractional roles differ from full-time CMO jobs in that they focus more on performance-based marketing to drive sales growth. Fractional CMOs are also different from consultants in that they are expected to develop and implement comprehensive marketing plans while working to earn the trust of internal staff who may see them as a threat, Shernaz Daver said. , chief marketing officer of venture capital firm Khosla Ventures.
Split-hiring has been particularly popular in recent years among venture-backed startups, which have specific growth goals and varying marketing needs, Ms. Daver said. She held several such roles before taking her current role, where she helps Khosla portfolio companies hire their own fractional CMOs.
“When I talk to founders looking for a CMO, the first thing I ask is, ‘What does a CMO do?’ None of the answers are exactly the same,” Ms Daver said.
Entrepreneurs see an opportunity
The split CMO market shows no signs of slowing down and demand will almost certainly increase in a downturn, Ms Daver said. “It’s a lot easier to hire someone part-time in these uncertain times,” she said.
Chief Outsiders, which bills itself as the largest recruitment firm specializing in split chief marketing roles, launched in 2009 but has had its greatest success during the pandemic. The company added 343 new customers and saw organic revenue growth of 50% in 2021, and it’s on track to bring in $36 million this year, Hayes said.
Other companies are hoping to make the most of this moment.
Backstage Capital CEO Arlan Hamilton launched fractional recruiting firm Runner in 2021, and executive search firm True Search opened a fractional unit called TrueBridge in May, hiring former Google executive David Beuerlein to to manage.
Mr Beuerlein, who founded Google’s executive search team, said the chief marketing officer ranks just behind the chief financial officer on a list of open jobs at his start-up clients, which range from beauty brands to construction companies, but share a key attribute.
“They are, without exception, facing changes in the future. It’s never business as usual,” Beuerlein said.
Senior Marketers Seek Flexibility
Leslie Campisi said she left her position as chief marketing officer at fintech-focused venture capital firm Anthemis Group in 2020 because she wanted to work more directly with startups.
Ms. Campisi soon accepted a six-month brand marketing assignment for Morty Technologies Inc. She then became the fractional CMO of the mortgage market, playing a role in its $25 million Series B funding round and eventually serving as Full-time CMO for about a year while Morty built his internal marketing operations.
“When you’re on the outside, you have the ear of the founder or the CEO in a way that you don’t when you’re on the inside,” Ms. Campisi said. “It’s easier, to be honest, and they’re more receptive to tough feedback.”
Although split roles can become full-time positions, they most often attract executives who have reached a point in their career where they want to choose their own clients and design their own schedules. Mr Hayes said the average member of the Chief Outsiders is in his 50s, has an MBA and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies.
“If you think it’s a stepping stone to the next thing you want to do, you’re probably not ready,” Hayes said.
Some experts believe the rise of split-jobs will provide seasoned marketers with new career opportunities while giving smaller companies access to top talent. But it could also heighten concerns about rising CMO turnover, whose average seniority remains at its lowest level in a decade.
Susan Kelly, who held high-level marketing positions at printer manufacturer Xerox Holdings Corp.
and online education company Apollidon LLC, said she was skeptical when she received a message from Chief Outsiders on LinkedIn, but warmed to the idea of working closely with the CEO while avoiding the less enjoyable aspects of C-suite roles.
“When you’re a split CMO, things like company politics are irrelevant. Job security? I don’t have to worry about that,” she said.
Ms Kelly said she made more money working for two or three acting clients than she had in previous full-time roles. Ms. Campisi noted, however, that split jobs generally favor cash compensation over equity and rarely include perks.
Ultimately, experienced marketers will benefit from more disparate career opportunities, said Jay Haines, chief executive of research firm Grace Blue Partnership. “CMO jobs are few and far between, which broadens the market in a very positive way,” he said.
Split work also offers lifestyle benefits that full-time roles can’t match.
“I’ve really enjoyed being semi-retired,” said Julie Crabill, fractional CMO of software startup Synthetaic LLC. “I’m not out there actively pounding the pavement looking for new business. It’s more about finding the right types of businesses as they appear in my network and supporting them. »
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