Hire an interim cmo

How To Hire an Interim CMO

You work hard for your business. Naturally, you want it to thrive. It may be tempting to try to handle everything yourself so that you maintain control, but this can be a recipe for disaster. This is especially true when it comes to your public relations and marketing teams. Whether you own a startup with plenty of potentials, a small business that suddenly finds itself expanding rapidly, or a large corporation that could benefit from some reorganization, an interim CMO can help you fill in the blanks.

What Is a Chief Marketing Officer?

Before you can determine whether you need an interim CMO, you must understand what a chief marketing officer does. The CMO oversees the marketing plans of a small business or large corporation. Although specific duties depend on the type of business and its size, CMOs typically have a base list of responsibilities, including acting as part of the CEO’s executive team. Smaller companies might have a single marketer, but larger ones often have an entire team.

The main role of the chief marketing officer is to ensure the company presents a good image. This includes managing the public relations team, interacting with customers with a goal of creating a better product or service, and determining future marketing techniques. These tasks involve performing market research, communicating well, creating advertising campaigns, and much more. Some CMOs also develop new products and manage the sales team. Digital marketing is an important part of the job, especially now that most consumers research products and services on the internet before buying anything.

Chief marketing officers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business. Many go on to attain master’s degrees as well. A variety of skills are also required:

  • Leadership skills, including the ability to inspire others
  • Analytical skills for understanding data
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge of branding, including principles and service management
  • Flexibility
  • Ongoing knowledge of changes in best marketing practices

While some companies do have enough need to hire a chief marketing executive full time, many do not. For this reason, many CMOs work as freelancers. The interim CMOs work part-time for one or more businesses, providing expertise for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before moving on to help another business.

The Benefits of Hiring a CMO

You can’t do everything yourself. Hiring a chief marketing officer takes some of the pressure off the CEO so that he or she can focus on other aspects of the business. Adding a CMO to your team has a wide variety of benefits.

  • A CMO creates integrated marketing plans. The purpose of these plans is to create a seamless branding experience for the customer and encompasses advertising, direct marketing, digital marking, and any other avenue displaying the company’s brand.
  • A CMO knows the ins and outs of advertising. A strong campaign relies on someone who understands human emotion. Even the colors you choose for your advertising are important. A CMO knows how to create the best campaign and has the best software to track data and tweak advertising as needed to get the desired results.
  • A CMO can save your company money. CMOs who have knowledge and tools aren’t just making your job easier, they’re keeping more money in your company bank account. Fewer “trial and error” incidents in advertising mean fewer dollars spent and likely a better return on investment.

Reasons Hiring an Interim CMO Is a Better Option

Unless you own a large corporation (and sometimes, in spite of owning one), you probably don’t need to hire a chief marketing officer full time. In fact, maintaining a full-time marketing team might even be costing you more money than it’s making you. For this reason, many business owners are turning toward hiring interim CMOs. These part-time chief marketing officers help during specific events to ensure things run smoothly. There are several benefits to going the part-time route when hiring a CMO:

  • Hiring Someone Quickly – Despite your best intentions, there could be a time when your company ends up in a public relations nightmare. If you need to repair your professional reputation and quickly, an interim CMO will have the best chance of helping you do it.
  • Assistance During Large Rollouts – Oftentimes, rollouts of new products or services are when businesses need the most help. Large rollouts require not only a strong advertising campaign but plenty of product design, packaging design, and product testing to ensure you provide the best item possible to your customers. An interim CMO can help you do this.
  • Saving Money – Finally, an interim CMO is the best way to spend money. Imagine you have a large product rollout that will take three months, but you don’t do a lot of advertising for the rest of the year. Paying a full-time CMO means you’re providing nine months’ worth of salary with very little return on the investment. An interim CMO will only need to be paid for the three months you need him or her. Additional savings can be calculated when you factor in that most interim CMOs are independent contractors, so you won’t be required to provide insurance.

How To Know When It’s Time To Hire a CMO

Now that you know the benefits of hiring a CMO, it’s time to decide if you need one. The main reason you might decide to hire an interim chief marketing officer is that you no longer have the expertise necessary to handle marketing and public relations on your own. Someone who has specialized experience is more likely to help your business thrive.

Even if you don’t feel you need to hire a CMO, it is important to listen to your current team’s needs. A team that asks for more direction is often a good team. By hiring an interim CMO, you give the members the tools they’ll need to continue creating and implementing quality product design, package management, advertising, and more.

Finally, consider your story. This is especially important if your product or service is technological in nature. Even consumers who need these types of products want to feel inspired and have their emotions played to. If you aren’t sure how to create the type of story that will draw in more customers or keep current ones, a CMO can help. In fact, some of them even have niche skills in story creation that they can implement into your advertising and customer service efforts.

The Types of CMOs

Knowing what to look for when you’re ready to hire an interim CMO depends on what you need from him or her. Some experts believe every CMO fits into one of two categories: the storyteller or the quant.

A storytelling CMO is the type you want if you need someone who is intuitive and focused on reeling in customers based on playing to their emotions. These CMOs often read audiences more easily and have an extroverted and creative side that makes them charismatic and able to keep people interested. Storytellers are inspiring enough to keep your entire team motivated to handle large marketing campaigns, such as those that feature digital media, special events, and even billboards. Keep in mind, though, that these types of CMOs often operate on a grander scale and therefore use more financial resources.

The other type of CMO is the quant. These individuals are all about performance. While they still have the communication skills necessary to deal with the public, they appeal more to your company’s numbers than its customers in most cases. Quant CMOs have a strong understanding of product management and know how to track and analyze data to determine how well products or services are performing, how much interest is coming from your advertising campaigns, and whether your return on investment is reaching its potential. They often focus on growth marketing by generating leads.

Qualities To Look For During the Hiring Process

Whether you need an interim chief marketing officer who is better with people or with numbers, you should ensure potential CMOs have a strong understanding of several key components to marketing:

  • Growth Marketing – Growth marketing refers to the tasks surrounding your company’s performance data. A quality CMO will know how to track and analyze that data and stick to (or improve) a performance budget. Members of the growth marketing team are responsible for bringing in new customers. Determine a potential CMO’s knowledge by asking about terms such as CAC (calculating customer acquisition cost) and LTV (lifetime value).
  • Brand Marketing – Brand marketing refers to creating your overall brand. In addition to narrating the story of your company and its products or services, CMOs who are responsible for branding must lead teams of people who design and build your websites, run your social media sites, and create your television, billboard, or direct mail advertisements. Brand metrics are an important part of this skill set.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – CMOs who oversee a CRM team must know how to use email, data notification, retargeting, and other skills to keep existing customers engaged. This may include teaching your account reps how to be more personable if you work in a technological industry.

In addition to these important roles, the right interim CMO will have the skills to fill several other needs. He or she must know how to partner with other companies when needed, implement and analyze insight tools such as focus groups or polls, perform public relations work, and create all your company’s online and offline content.

Questions To Ask During the Interview Process

Finding the right interim CMO isn’t just about reading excellent resumes. You need to know which questions to ask during the interview process to ensure the person you hire really knows the ins and outs of his or her position and your industry. Consider some of these questions as you prepare to hire candidates for the job.

  • What is your approach to company branding? There is no “right” answer to this question, but asking it allows you to get a feel for the candidate’s personality and determine whether he or she will be a good fit for your company. Ideally, you want someone who won’t take up a lot of extra resources and who understands your audience base. For example, an up-and-coming tech startup will likely want a stronger media presence, while a smaller business that caters to older generations may still find success in print advertising.
  • How do you approach pricing? This isn’t about asking the CMO what he or she wants to be paid (although that is important too, especially when hiring a freelancer), but about how he or she charges your clients or customers. A quick look at the streaming services popping up each day shows that subscription pricing is popular among many companies, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. Remember to ask why the potential candidate feels his or her pricing idea is the best one for your company.
  • What have you learned in the past year? Marketing trends are ever-changing, and your CMO needs to keep up with the times. By specifying “within the past year,” you show you expect your CMO to keep up with the trends. Of course, you’ll need to remember to research the most recent tools and techniques CMOs are using to ensure you receive a satisfactory answer.
  • Can you provide an example of the strategies you think would work for our company? A good interim CMO candidate will have researched your company thoroughly before attending an interview. Asking this question shows you whether he or she did the legwork necessary as well as provides him or her with a chance to show off innovation and creativity.

Ultimately, learning how to hire a CMO is partly being able to understand the role yourself, partly knowing what you want your company to achieve, and partly going with your gut during the interview process.


  • forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/07/05/should-a-startup-have-a-cmo/#53662e707457
  • paladinstaff.com/jobs/careers/chief-marketing-officer-job-description/
  • expert360.com/resources/articles/the-rise-of-the-on-demand-chief-marketing-officer
  • medium.com/swlh/startup-lessons-hiring-a-cmo-part-1-fe0c9968860d
  • chiefoutsiders.com/blog/questions-hiring-cmo

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