The Outsourced CMO

The Outsourced CMO

As more corporations bring their creative teams in house, I thought I would talk about another marketing trend we’re seeing a lot of these days: the outsourced Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

The CMO’s role is important in any company. Still, many businesses never fill the role, or don’t fully dedicate someone to the position.

Last year, I wrote about the role a marketing firm can play for a company, and how it’s all about direction and vision. Today, I want to talk more about the specific processes a good marketing agency can help a company put into practice with an outsourced CMO:

Defining Goals and Metrics

Marketing without goals is like playing a sport without keeping score. Seemingly endless, pointless and a bit boring after a while.

Anyone in a marketing leadership position has to have a vision of what success will look like. It could be bringing a new product to market, attracting a new audience to an existing product or simply increasing revenue from existing customers. Maybe it’s good old-fashioned brand awareness. Regardless, whoever is steering the ship needs to know where it’s heading – and how they’ll measure their progress.

Some metrics are hard to define. Something like “brand awareness” is an admirable goal, but it’s difficult to measure. Passive goals like “increased visits to our website” can be measured, but they won’t necessarily have a meaningful impact on the brand or the business. I find it’s best to think in terms of “from x to y by when.” Example: “from 50 to 200 new customers by December 31.”

(Side note: never have more than two big goals. It will just dilute your efforts and waste energy.)

Once you’ve built the scoreboard, you have to make sure everyone playing can see it. Defining what success looks like helps align everyone on the team. If you’re in a marketing leadership role – whether you’re the agency or the marketing manager – it’s critical to commit to your vision of success, continuously monitor your metrics, and regularly remind your team of both.

Rethinking Positioning

The best way to deal with competition is to stop directly competing. Rather than battle head-to-head and dollar-for-dollar against a rival with a similar offering, use positioning to declare why your business isn’t the same as your competition. Amplify your differences, not your similarities.

Positioning is best defined as descriptive language that clearly and concisely states what makes a brand unique. This might sound easy to do, but it’s actually incredibly difficult. The longer a business has been around, the harder it can be to give it a unique position.

Branding agencies, marketing firms and third-party consultants can be very helpful when uniquely positioning a brand, because they offer an outsider’s opinion free from the company’s internal politics and biases.

A lot of our work at Atomicdust is centered on positioning. It’s the foundation for stronger brands and it leads to stronger marketing campaigns. It’s challenging work, and we often find ourselves discussing arguing over the subtle words used to describe clients’ brands. But the end results are important.

Remember, if it’s not different, it’s not strategic.

Choose Your Channels and Say Something Memorable

Okay, so we have our vision, our metrics and our position established. Now how are we going to use them?

Marketing is messaging and frequency. Positioning is the basis for our message, and marketing mediums like websites, email campaigns, social media, direct mail and sales calls enable us to share that message with frequency.

There are a lot of outlets, and choosing among them is notoriously difficult. It’s too easy to chase an onslaught of new trends while ignoring the outlets that are best for your brand – especially if those outlets aren’t very glamorous.

Limit your efforts to a few channels you can really focus on and build off of. Resist the urge to spread your efforts too thin. This doesn’t mean you can’t add smaller efforts along the way to support your main tactics. You should add them – but don’t let them become distractions.

For example, if you’re trying to “go from 50 to 200 customers by December 31” using landing pages and email marketing, buying some web ads to drive more traffic to your site will complement the effort. The ads will support your main program.

Find a creative agency that excels at producing marketing collateral for the channels you’ve selected. You can also use in-house teams to produce great work. Either way, always measure the work against your messaging and your goals.

Ensuring Accountability

Marketing never ends. Businesses will always produce new products, offer new services or just put forth new efforts to retain existing customers.

That’s why the conversation can’t end, either. Marketing leaders should schedule regular check-ins with the team to talk about the scoreboard, what’s working well, what isn’t working so well, what could be changed and who is accountable for what. These meetings, whether internal or with an agency, should be held on a frequent basis with everyone on the team.

If you want your marketing to thrive, not die, regular meetings can serve as a reminder of the commitment the organization has made to the marketing goal.


It’s important to think of marketing as something more than design and aesthetics. With clear goals, unique positioning, the right tactics, and, above all, great leadership, marketing can place the most ambitious business goals within reach.

Read more about outsourcing marketing needs:

The Role of a Marketing Firm
Five Benefits of Bringing in Outside Marketing Help


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Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

More posts by Mike Spakowski