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The rise of the gig CMO: marketing leading from the top
“In the current landscape, where businesses are reinventing themselves, diversifying in order to remain competitive, and acquiring start-ups to survive, there has been a significant shift towards C-suite level execs in ‘gig’ roles.” – says CMO Consultant Joelle Coldicott
What is a gig CMO and how can executives in these roles drive real value within a business? At Page Executive, we have seen a rise in the number of industries that are opting to recruit for temporary CMO positions, the FinTech sector in particular is one in which we have seen the highest growth surge. This may be in direct correlation to market growth, but also the fact that there are a high number of organisations which have received funding and need to recruit a senior management team to deliver against growth targets over a short period of time. Mid-sized firms looking to drive further business growth are also hiring for gig CMO roles. While historically these businesses may have had a marketing team in place, they are unlikely to have had someone sitting on the board at the CMO level.
On this topic, Joelle shared her insight:
“The changing business landscape and so-called ‘gig economy’ is enabling organisations to mix new and emerging skill sets, agility and passion with traditionally experienced visionaries. Engaging a gig CMO can transition a business through significant change, including a merger or acquisition, or to simply audit and shape an existing marketing function in alignment with the changing market.”
Why consider hiring a gig CMO?
Many companies feel the need to recruit a CMO, but for those that haven’t previously had someone in this position, there can be a degree of reservation about acquiring someone at this level on a full-time basis. A CMO is a significant investment, so often businesses decide to hire these individuals on an interim basis.
This approach can yield results, as gig CMOs are often highly skilled in spotting key issue(s) upon starting in a role and then defining a strategy to overcome this in a short period of time. However, this is short term and is likely to only be a temporary fix to any issues. If an organisation will only pledge to a CMO position on an interim basis, it can demonstrate an unwillingness or a lack of intention to fully commit at this level, which may deter some professionals.
Employers often debate the extra value that a CMO can bring in comparison to a marketing director. Sometimes this can be hard to quantify, but CMOs are experienced professionals, used to holding their own in board meetings and demonstrating the results that marketing is contributing to their organisation. They are often at the frontline of identifying opportunities for how things can be changed and improved, as well as forecasting what this transformation could deliver to the organisation.
Moving from temporary fix to permanent value add
A full-time CMO can become part of the DNA of an organisation. Understanding what the short-term objectives are and then delivering against those, as well as truly defining a strategy that can deliver against a five-year objective and see it through. The industry shift to become more customer-centric has placed marketing teams in a key position to truly understanding who the customer is, what they want, and how the company can deliver this. With a permanent CMO in place, a company can truly transform and even reinvent itself, if needed. This often has a cultural element linked with an external perspective. Cultural shifts often happen over a longer period of time, again making it important to hire the right person who can deliver against the objectives of the role.
“A CMO who supports the long-term growth and aspirations of the business will add significant value through a modern marketing approach and skill sets that drive longer-term engagements in both existing customers, and net new customer acquisition,” Joelle explained.
The future of gig CMOs
As more companies begin to recognise the value of CMOs in temporary positions, we are likely to continue to see the rise in demand for this resource. This will then begin to broaden to more firms recruiting CMOs on a full-time basis. Often organisations do recruit a CMO for a purely gig role, but if a CEO is considering hiring a CMO the advice we would offer is simple - be brave and commit to it.
Gone are the days whereby FTSE 100 companies are the only organisations with the financial flexibility to invest in a CMO or to appreciate the value that they can bring. Start-ups are looking at the market in a completely different way and are willing to invest in someone at this level. They believe that CMOs can strategically deliver against their plan from both a short-term view as well as assist with their long-term vision.
As ever, there will always be a place for the gig CMO, though looking forward it will be key for organisations to increase their commitment to these professionals at this level on a full-time basis.
Joelle shares this sentiment stating: “As long as businesses define the 'when’ and ‘what type' of marketing they need, now and in the future, there should always be a place for the 'gig' and the permanent CMO.”
If you would like to discuss this topic further, or find out how we can help source executive talent for your business, get in touch for a confidential conversation.
Associate Partner, Page Executive
E: [email protected]