Interim CMO's - How to hire a great interim CMO:
The Hidden Market is a marketplace for top interim, contract, part-time, and temporary Chief Marketing Officers.The best companies and start ups hire interim CMO's via The Hidden Market for the most urgent projects and problems.
How to hire a great interim CMO:
For many companies, there are times when in house resources are not sufficient to handle the marketing challenge at hand. This does not necessarily mean that it is the right time to hire a permanent CMO, or it may not be cost-effective to hire a permanent CMO. In these instances, an interim CMO can add the required experience needed whilst providing the flexibility that interim affords the business.
Hiring an interim is like hiring any other senior-level hire; finding the right person is critical to success. The right CMO will deliver upon the CEO's and the companies investors vision for the business's brand and customer strategy. Hiring an interim CMO is particularly challenging as given timing of the hire combined with the broad skillsets of CMO's and matching the skillset to a businesses needs. Therefore, it is really important to hire the right interim CMO who is well matched to the businesses challenges and an interim CMO who is able to build the required internal and external relationships to drive change.
Here in this hiring guide, we've addressed how to identify the right person for the role and how to create the best environment for success.
Why hire an interim CMO?
Before we get into how to hire we'll explore why to hire an interim CMO. Here we have set out important considerations:
Brands go through transitions. It is common for a business to hire a senior interim to manage brand transitions. This can literally be a rebrand but also this can be operational or technological transformations too. Hiring an interim CMO affords a business to benefit from hiring a senior candidate which has significant specialism in a core area. The benefit to a business is hiring a candidate to manage the transition versus a permanent option that the business might prefer to manage the business function over the long run.
CMO's are customer and marketing experts. Hiring an interim CMO enables a business to tap into that understanding overnight. Interim CMO's come in all shapes and sizes and as such a business is able to utilise the industry, technical or customer expertise of the interim CMO. The right interim CMO will allow a business to achieve the growth rates which they so desire in the quickest fashion.
A permanent CMO is a long term commitment in many respects but financially a business may not have the budget to commit to the hire over the medium to long term. An interim CMO allows the business to hire an expert above the market rate at which they might hire a permanent CMO. An interim CMO will come with the knowledge of how to structure and build the team too.
Try before you buy
For businesses that are looking to hire a permanent CMO there is benefit to hiring an interim before making a decision on a permanent hire. Trying an interim CMO allows a business to explore skills and capabilities in relation to the business challenges.
How to hire an interim CMO:
Matching skillset to the business challenge:
Marketing is a broad skill set that aligns with the breadths of business challenges. When hiring for an interim CMO it is important to consider the interim's experience across, marketing, brand, digital, product, communications, PR & Media, data & insight, and marketing technology. A businesses challenges will change no doubt depending on the stage of the business and the cycle it is in.
Hard skills to look for:
We have covered why a business would benefit from an interim CMO. We've also set out that a CMO's skillset is very broad. Often when a business is considering an interim CMO they are in transition. The business might know that they need marketing expertise but they might not know exactly what there requirements are.
In these situations it is important to step back and to consider the businesses challenges as described above. Then asking the right questions enables you to get under the skin of the interim CMO's experience.
Questions to ask:
- When assessing technical expertise ask the candidate if they would be willing to speak to your marketing agencies. Your current marketing partners know your business and the challenges facing it as they have likely been working with you for a significant period of time and have the depth of knowledge to credibly examine your potential interim CMO's technical expertise across each of the key areas you have identified as important.
- No doubt strategic marketing experience will be essential to success. Quiz the interim CMO about their track record in marketing positioning, rebranding, product and services launches and ultimately driving business growth. Here it is important to delve deep into the detail to ensure that you get a full understanding of the true extent of the candidate's experience ensuring that candidate has the experience to ensure your business hits its goals.
- When a business is seeking specific marketing expertise the interim CMO candidate should be able to provide detailed information on, process improvements, and operational efficiencies in order to drive improvements to the marketing function. Consider the split between internal and external resources and the use of marketing technologies too.
Don't forget soft skills:
Hard skills are broad and range between candidates as expected given the breadth of experience that each candidate often has, considering industries worked in and jobs held. Whilst hard skills vary often between candidates an important constant is the professional and leadership soft skills that remain consistent across candidates and business challenges.
- All businesses are constrained by, time, budget, current resources, and existing commitments. A decent interim CMO will understand the prioritisation required to ensure success and avoid the pitfalls of tackling all challenges at once.
The importance of the player-coach
- Effective interims are impactful and are able to personally get stuck in with the doing required to achieve targets. The most successful interims are also required to lead senior and junior members of staff to ensure that the interim's work has greater value and will be longer lasting than the contract.
- Quality interim CMO's add value across the breadth of your organisation, not just the marketing department. An effective interim will add value across, sales, operations, IT & technology, and even finance and HR.
- Quality interim CMO's will have an existing network of contacts across a range of industries and services. An interim CMO can advise a business across agency relations across marketing, recruitment, and technology.
What to look for:
- Does the candidate have experience in similar consulting roles? And if they do what type of business had they worked with? Is it with businesses similar to yours? Considering, industry, business cycle, business and thus marketing challenges. Important for interim assignments is finding a candidate that can hit the ground running. It is not necessary to always find a candidate that ticks all the boxes but to be effective there needs to be significant relatable experience.
- Metrics are fundamental to assessing an interim CMO's suitability. How did they perform in previous assignments? And importantly what resources and budgets were afforded to them to achieve these.
Ensuring success in hiring an interim CMO:
- Businesses often neglect to onboard effectively and the result is that performance is impacted. Onboarding interims requires greater speed and transparency. An interim CMO needs to quickly assess the lay of the land but also needs the power to make decisions.
Here are some suggestions to ensure that you succeed in hiring and onboarding an interim CMO:
Scope the project:
Change can be unsettling and disruptive for a business. Clarity from the leadership team enables the interim CMO to succeed. Clarity is required to the interim CMO about the objective and goals of the project but also to the team to ensure that the team and wider business understand what is happening. A marketing team may fear job losses or restructures and the wider business might be unsettled by any change in brand or customer proposition.
Ensure the interim CMO has the requisite resources
As part of the onboarding process, the interim CMO will need access to agencies, suppliers, budgets and the team to enable the candidate to be able to tweak and adjust all of the levers at their as required to improve performance.
Jointly identify a roadmap and agree on key deliverables
An experienced interim CMO will provide you with a roadmap but it is important for a business to be involved and influence this process. It can be the case that a skeleton roadmap is developed throughout the interview process. Jointly agreeing on the plan ensures that there is shared responsibility, agreement, and ultimately buy into the project which improves the performance of the assignment.
Constraints on time often results in businesses overlooking the importance and therefore limiting the impact of hiring interim CMO's. Finding and empowering the right CMO will enable a business to drive growth, improve operational efficiencies, import learnings from other industries and ultimately increase the market value of a business and the value to its customers, preparing the way for a full time CMO in the future, should the business opt for one. Trust us, the best interim CMO's will leave significant value in the organisation long after they leave.
How we work at The Hidden Market:
We're specialists in commercial careers: think digital, marketing, sales, and product. We place professional candidates in a range of specialisms in professional marketing jobs in a variety of industries.
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