The world, and consequently the way we do business in it, has changed. That might sound obvious, or glib, or perhaps even a bit sensationalist. We're not even talking about the visible things - the empty offices, the Zoom calls, the strangely spacious public transport systems such as the London Underground, as well as empty airports. Much like any individual who experiences trauma, we are not the same as we were in January. As consumers, as individuals, as business owners and as employees, we have all experienced a year and a set of events that have changed the trajectory of how we behave, how we think, what we want and what we are prepared to do. As businesses, therefore, we need to think about how we market ourselves to our changing audience in order to meet their wants and needs.
Change is a chance to take a good look in the mirror
The thing about change is that it’s almost never all bad, but most of us are pretty reluctant to do it unless we’re forced. While no one would ever have wished this year’s events on anyone, it has forced many of us to take a good long look in the mirror. Is your business operating the way it always has done because it’s easier not to change it? Or have you been making a conscious and regular decision that the way you operate is the most effective and secure in the modern market?
It’s old news that many (often quite big) business players were caught with their proverbial trousers down when their teams were told to work from home this year, only to realise they didn’t have a suitable remote working system in place. It seemed quite an odd oversight given the technological solutions available for flexible and remote working. That, coupled with the increasing demand from employees to make it happen and the lip service paid to the notion by businesses themselves in the footnotes of their agendas on equal employment opportunities, but there we have it.
Businesses with a positive outlook are the ones embracing change
In a global report published in September, McKinsey noted a positive shift in economic sentiment when more than half of all executives surveyed said economic conditions in their own countries will be better six months from now, while 30 percent say they will worsen. That’s the smallest percentage of pessimists they have seen since their survey in April 2020.
Of those surveyed, “one-third of companies have accelerated the digitisation of their supply chains, half have sped up the digitisation of their customer channels, and two-thirds have moved faster to adopt artificial intelligence and automation. Many other workforce changes are also in progress.”
So, what other changes might those positive minded businesses be looking at? Perhaps they might be the things that have, to date, been mere options. However, now they have the capacity to be nimble and flexible solutions that help to create a more dynamic business model.
Fractional CMOs and the ecosystem of talent
For example, for many firms, large agencies with big names or even small boutique agencies with niche but highly valued clients have been the strategists and executors of sales and marketing strategies. They're very chic, they’re very impressive and they’re very expensive, but you’re always one on a roster of clients.
Meanwhile, others rely solely on the talents of their in-house marketing teams. They have excellent brand knowledge, they’re always available, and they’re completely dedicated to you. However, they don’t have an outside perspective to bring to the table like a Fractional CMO might, which can be a problem when you need to take a completely fresh look at the market.
The role of the Fractional CMO, perhaps alternatively termed a hands-on Non-Executive Director, senior-level marketing leader or consultant, is not a new one. However, it has evolved in recent years and is now more relevant and valuable than ever. It is not purely the result of COVID-19, it’s been happening for a long time, arguably since the advent of digitisation, which has resulted in a dynamic ecosystem of skills at all levels that you can plug into whenever you need them.
It is the result of changing communications options, changing consumer wants and needs, and also changing employee wants and needs. The result is that while we might not be used to a global pandemic, the world does actually have the talent ecosystems to identify changes and react to them by accessing the right skills. You just need to use it.
Accessing the talent ecosystem
What this means for businesses is that there’s a third option for things like developing marketing departments, market entry plans, sales strategies, tactics and delivering leadership. It has the capacity, connections, knowledge and ability to self reflect in order to identify and meet the needs of your business in accessing a changed market: the Fractional CMO.
More reliable than an independent consultant and more effective and commercially driven than an agency. Able to work with your existing marketing professionals without being a full time person on the payroll, and bringing knowledge from a portfolio of work as well as years’ of experience that would normally cost an arm and a leg to access, the role of the Fractional CMO is more relevant today than it has ever been, whether it's part time, short term or long term.
As we all contemplate how this year has changed the way we think and what we want, there are bound to be things that surprise us and things that are yet to become clear. However, what is obvious to the business leaders who feel like they can see a positive path to the future, is that it means revisiting how we do things because the people we’re trying to communicate with are not the same as they were 10 months ago.