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What’s a Real Deal CMO? How to Spot One

It seems like everyone’s an expert nowadays. Enter the era of the electronic resume (LinkedIn) and you can adjust your job titles at will. Of course, everyone is gunning for the job they want so stretching the truth is tempting to do. 

If you were really a marketing coordinator, maybe you self-label yourself as the “marketing manager.” 

If you were really a marketing manager, modifying your LinkedIn profile to indicate “Marketing V.P.” really is about the same right? 

Well, not even close. We in the biz call those people marketing imposters.

While little white lies on your computer screen don’t seem like a big deal, it could be a big problem for the business owner that hires talent ill-equipped for the job. 

So, if you need Chief Marketing Officer Level support for your growing company, who should you hire

  • The former head of digital media for XYZ corp?
  • The social media marketing lead for the largest company in the industry?
  • The head of content creation and automation for North America?

Answer: none; Not because these wouldn’t be great additions to the team, it’s because they chose a different and specialized path to hone their marketing industry skills.

A true CMO is something entirely different

A CMO is someone that loves strategy. They think differently and have a vision of how individual parts and tactics work together to achieve a goal. They’re highly intelligent and are up to any C-level decision. Expect them to be an extension of the CEO and maybe even assume that role someday. 

Here’s what they’re not: 

Every organization and marketing plan calls for tacticians. These are people skilled in a particular segment of marketing. It might be pay-per-click advertising, copywriting, or web development. A CMO can’t do these things for you – but they know people who can. For decades they have been developing relationships with the most effective vendors and people in the industry. 

A CMO understands their capabilities and knows what success looks like, but they haven’t spent thousands of hours invested in executing the finer details. They think on a higher level.

The CMO is a trusted member of the executive team and someone the CEO, CIO, and CFO lean on when making decisions. For a growing business looking to scale, it’s a critical skill set to have. 

But there is a catch. CMO’s can be expensive. 

When you include benefits, competitive CMO salaries soar to $312,040. Ouch.

Even if that’s a figure you can get comfortable with, you better hope you make the right hiring decision. If you get it wrong and onboard the wrong person, it’s very, very painful. You may not realize you made the wrong hire for a year or longer. If you have to terminate them, the consequences are horrific. 

  • Time lost. Your company could have grown
  • Competitors gained ground
  • Lost Salary 
  • Opportunity costs
  • Stress on your team
  • CEO embarrassment
  • And the list continues…

But is there a better way? There may be. 

You may be able to share a successful CMO with another company. The concept is called fractional executives and it is already well proven for CIOs, CFO’s and others. It’s now available for the marketing function of a business. You get the full benefit of an executive team member, for a fraction of the cost. It’s been gaining traction because there is much to gain for business owners and little to lose. 

Business owners and CEOs can interview a handful of CMO candidates and choose the one that they have the best rapport with and possesses relevant industry experience.

Need a CMO with industry experience in e-commerce, healthcare, outdoors, SAAS, or others? Chances are, there is someone out that that is perfect.   

One company in the space is Atlas Rose. They have CMO’s already on the payroll outsourced to clients. The company arms these strategic thinkers with the tools they need to be most effective. 

Using a CMO in this way takes most or all of the risks out of the hiring decision and because the salary is split with other companies, it’s affordable too, starting at just a few thousand dollars per month for most companies. In Atlas Roses’ program, they include a dedicated marketing manager that makes sure no day-to-day details fall through the cracks. 

Real deal CMO’s aren’t built overnight. Finding a great one to align yourself with could mean the difference between existing in mediocrity or excelling to be the top player in your industry.  

If you decide to go it alone, proceed with caution and look at those LinkedIn profiles with a critical eye.