How to Get C-Level Marketing Expertise for Your Small Business

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship Marketing / July 31, 2023

It’s a no-brainer that you want the most talented people working for your small business. The only problem is that your shoestring budget probably doesn’t match your high-flying aspirations. For instance, hiring C-level executives can be particularly tricky. The vast majority of C-level candidates have impressive credentials — and equally eyebrow-raising salary requirements.

However, just because you can’t afford a CMO doesn’t mean you can’t get enterprise-strength marketing. Far from it. You just have to think differently, which is something you’re probably skilled at… or you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur.

Below are some suggestions for you to bootstrap your way to marketing results without breaking the bank.

1. Outsource your CMO position to a person or team.

A corporate CMO typically is a single person working side-by-side with your other C-based team members. It doesn’t have to be, though. You have the option of outsourcing all aspects of your company’s CMO role to either an agency or an individual contractor. Doing so will give you all the benefits of having a CMO while reducing recruitment and hiring costs.

This type of arrangement is usually referred to as a “fractional” CMO, but you may hear it advertised otherwise. For example, marketing firm Hawke Media touts itself as an outsourced CMO for businesses of all sizes. Their focus is on partnering with a variety of companies and putting their people’s collective expertise behind every contract. An advantage of trying them is that they offer a la carte, flexible contracts. In other words, you’re not locked into a commitment.

Another way to outsource your CMO responsibilities is to hand over the duties to one person. Professionals who offer fractional CMO services usually are quite seasoned and have held marketing executive titles previously. One caveat: Finding a fractional CMO who has kept up to date with the changing marketing environment can be tough. Be sure to evaluate all applicants thoroughly to ensure you’re getting someone who understands how marketing has evolved.

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2. Bring together a team of qualified, hand-picked marketers.

Can you absorb the costs associated with onboarding a less experienced marketing director? You may be able to cobble together a decent marketing team under that person. Your marketing director will need to have strong managerial skills to lead, of course. And your team should offer up a diverse litany of marketing know-how. Think of this group as your marketing “dream team”.

Who should be on your dream team? You’ll absolutely want someone with mad social media understanding. This person should understand everything from when to post to analyzing social media metrics. As a PwC survey noted recently, 90% of CMOs say they’re going to push out more information about their corporations’ missions. Social media is a terrific venue for showcasing the “Why?” behind your business. You just need someone who knows how to do this in the most genuine, measurable way.

Aside from a social media specialist, pepper your marketing team with people who deeply understand content development, SEO, visual design, and paid media. Ideally, everyone should have a basic familiarity with how to use data. Be sure your team also has access to the latest systems and tools so they can move forward efficiently. The team may stumble at times, but if they’ve been intentionally vetted and led, they could become your secret competitive edge.

3. Take a chance on an untested executive with a strong resume.

According to Indeed reporting, most CMOs require at least 10 years of on-the-job marketing and leadership. That probably sounds good to you — until you consider what someone at that level expects in terms of compensation. Payscale estimates that the average CMO makes around $176,000 annually, not counting perks. If that’s too rich for your blood or your coffers, think about giving an untested, up-and-coming rock star a chance.

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Is it a gamble to put all your bets on bringing someone into the C-level who’s never been there before? Yes, but you don’t have to take a “hope and pray” approach. On the contrary, you will want to interview several job seekers with marketing backstories to find a solid match. Remember: You can’t expect this person to perform magic feats from the get-go. Rather, you’re searching for the diamond in the rough who can grow along with your company.

When looking for your CMO unicorn (a bit of an exaggeration!), ask yourself a few pointed questions about each potential employee. For example, has the interviewee done homework on your company’s marketing to date? What recommendations can the applicant give you about marketing strategies they’d like to see you try? Do you feel the candidate would be an asset as a role model at your business? What training do they need to make sure they’re ready for the demanding, accountable C-level lifestyle? Your answers will help you pinpoint the right person to make an offer to.

You may not have the money to woo the most powerful CMOs. Don’t despair. Applying some creativity to the problem can help you come up with an attractive solution aside from the C-level. At the end of the day, you’ll wind up with the marketing you need to get noticed, get sales, and get bigger.

About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.