How an Interim CMO Can Maximize Marketing Effectiveness

July 20, 2022 Rachel Halversen

How an Interim CMO Can Maximize Marketing Effectiveness - Woman working on laptop in office

The traditional marketing playbook has been upended and rewritten by the pandemic. As a result, today’s marketing leaders are innovating fast to adopt new technologies and take advantage of new channels. As we enter a new phase of living with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, these leaders have continued to drive growth in existing businesses and explore ways to stand out in crowded marketplaces with innovative new products, programs, and offerings—all while refining their approach to reaching the right customers, right where they are.

But in a world driven by post-COVID workforce trends like The Great Resignation and Boss Loss, attracting and retaining the right marketing leader can be a challenge even for the world’s top companies. As leadership teams know, the search for a right-fit, permanent Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is no small feat. During this time of ongoing disruption and uncertainty, more and more companies are finding the skills and expertise they need to drive success and growth in the business via short-term interim CMO engagements—as shown by a 300% year-over-year increase in interim CMO requests. That far exceeds the 137% growth in interim executive requests overall as found in BTG’s 2022 High-End Independent Talent Report.

Enhancing the marketing function with an Interim CMO

Interim CMOs can provide a wide array of skills and experience tailored to whatever scenario your company is facing. For example, if the current CMO is leaving, perhaps in part to the Great Resignation or the competitive hiring environment luring them away, an interim CMO can drive business growth and strategic direction, manage teams, and enhance marketing capabilities. Or, in acquisition or spinoff scenarios, interim CMOs can help build a whole new marketing function, define the permanent CMO role, and provide continuity and support during the transition.

But companies can do much more than merely maintain buoyancy during a marketing leadership gap. Interim marketing leaders can assess and improve business processes and capabilities by tackling unique campaigns and projects that require niche expertise. They can also help support internal teams that might lack people in seat or industry experience while the search for a long-term candidate continues behind the scenes.

What’s driving the demand for interim CMOs

CMOs are grappling with intense pressure to drive profitable growth, meet changing demands for business transformation, and keep up with increasing complexity in the broader marketing landscape—resulting in the lowest average CMO tenure in more than a decade. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated demand due to the increase in remote work and the desire from professionals for more day-to-day flexibility.

Demand for highly skilled interim marketing leadership has never been higher, with a number of factors at play:

  • Both the marketing function and the CMO’s scope are growing in complexity, requiring fresh perspectives and in-demand skills to upgrade the function and add new specializations.
  • In today’s fast-paced business environment, companies can’t afford to lose 3–6 months of leadership and fail to capitalize on opportunities while searching for a permanent hire.
  • With an uncertain economic outlook ahead, many companies are not ready to add permanent headcount for product launches and new initiatives.
  • After multiple years of operating through a global pandemic, business leaders are exhausted and need support to manage competing priorities, adjust strategies to current conditions, and drive execution of major initiatives.
  • Top talent are increasingly turning to independent work for flexibility and unique project-based assignments.

As such, it’s no surprise that a recent BTG report found a 450% increase in demand for talent with B2B marketing expertise. With travel curtailed and in-person events called off during the height of the pandemic, agile marketing departments doubled down on online channels and content marketing and sought external experts to help build strategies, reorganize marketing teams and investments, and execute new playbooks.

On the B2C side, consumers are more aware of all aspects of the brands they are supporting, from their company values and employee experience to their environmental impacts and political activities. What worked to capture attention and call customers to action a few short years ago simply won’t work post-2020. But with a wide variety of unique experiences and extensive expertise, interim CMOs can offer fresh perspectives and in-demand skills to help businesses prevail and grow through times of uncertainty.

How companies are utilizing interim CMOs

In our experience delivering highly skilled independent talent to top companies, there are three main ways that organizations are leveraging interim marketing leaders today:

Traditional interim CMO

Not only can a skilled interim CMO fill the void of a leadership departure, they can also provide leadership and support for overextended teams by assisting with internal skills gaps, redistributing and prioritizing work, and projectizing critical near-term components of the traditional CMO role.

Such was the case when a UK-based global athletic league required an interim leader to manage the team day to day, develop a programmatic planning process, and drive a content-focused growth strategy prior to the start of the season. BTG provided a marketing executive with 20+ years of experience across music, sports, TV, books, magazines, and mobile technology to help the team build and execute a marketing plan aimed at generating interest in a niche market among a general, global audience.

Standing up new capabilities or the function as a whole

In scenarios where the company is undergoing a major transformation—or in acquisition and spin-off situations in which the business unit is missing critical components of the marketing function—an interim leader can be brought in to develop capabilities, build out a team, and set up the organization for success.

Those capabilities were on display when BTG delivered two interim heads of marketing to an FTSE 250 derivatives trading company to lead a marketing transformation—including the creation of five new functions—to better support the company’s global strategies.

Add specific skills and capacity for unique campaigns and special projects

As marketing technology rapidly advances and consumer behaviors, buying patterns, and media consumption continue to evolve, marketing teams frequently struggle to keep up with both the pace of work and the rewriting of previous marketing playbooks. Companies are leveraging independent marketing leaders to bring targeted domain expertise, resource flexibility, and capacity to all types of projects—from digital marketing to pricing strategies to product launches and more.

In one such example, a global financial services company was seeking support with their new tax-reporting application during a key leader’s parental leave. BTG delivered a product marketing expert who defined the product’s target audience, developed its positioning, and had a comprehensive communications strategy and numerous pieces of supporting content in hand before the permanent exec returned.

Find the Interim CMO you need

With Business Talent Group, you can access an on-demand talent marketplace that includes 7,000+ leadership-level talent with in-demand marketing skills. Whether you are experiencing a moment of rapid growth and transformation, undergoing unprecedented challenges, dealing with leadership gaps, or entering a new phase in your company’s progression, BTG can help you find right-fit marketing talent for any situation. Reach out today to discuss your interim CMO needs.

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