Upside of a Down Economy – New Ways to Get World-Class Marketing Without a World-Class Budget
By Rob Calderin
We are at ground zero of a breathtaking explosion of new products, services and business models that feels like a Grucci fireworks display on the Fourth of July. Productivity apps like Evernote, curated experiences by Living Social, medical patient communities like PatientsLikeMe.com, mobile payment services like PayWithaTweet.com, music stores like Spotify, new social sites like Airtime and innovation engines like Quirky.com, who’s mission is to make it easier to create and launch new products, seem to appear daily. Now throw in start-ups of five years ago that managed to survive the economic downturn, also pumping out new products and line extensions to reignite growth and you have a skyrocketing burst of brands trying to create critical mass.
The expansion is partially driven by the digital-social-mobile revolution across virtually every B2B and B2C sector. Another driver is a new wave of investment by cash rich private equity firms that sat out the downturn until the economy began showing signs of health.
One thing these new concepts share is the need to reach and engage customers. But the economic winter taught us to reign in overhead and manage marketing ROI tighter than ever. Consequently, the need for effective and affordable marketing services has never been greater.
Enter new models for delivering marketing strategy, advertising, promotion, public relations and social/digital media programs that promise less expensive, customized access and allow marketers to purchase only the services they need. The new models leverage the army of world-class marketing talent forced out of the traditional agencies and downsized marketing departments, giving growth companies and start-ups access to professional marketing support they could not previously afford. The examples of these new models shown here illustrate distinct approaches to solving brand needs ranging from executive team level strategic support, to tactical providers with highly specific technical expertise.
Growth and emerging market companies in the $10-$500 million revenue range in need of executive team level marketing muscle can reach for Chief Outsiders, which offers Chief Marketing Officers on a “fractionalized” or part time basis. This group of elite senior marketers is experienced in leading marketing organizations across a wide range of categories and brands. Beyond their pedigree and front line experience growing businesses, Chief Outsiders’ value proposition includes the cost effectiveness of a part time marketing chief, “instant on” capability and the collective expertise of the entire team, which meets regularly to review client progress and needs, said founder Art Saxby. Clients experience higher-order strategic guidance that benefits the enterprise as a whole, not just their marketing function. They get it in small doses or as a major strategic and marketing plan overhaul, depending on need.
Chief Outsiders go past traditional consulting engagements into the execution phase, helping clients implement the strategies they design. They take an ROI approach to setting fees so clients pay based on results and have CMOs who have skin in the game. CMOs stay with clients from six to nine months, or the point at which the company’s growth requires a full time marketing head, who they often help recruit. Overall, a highly flexible and cost effective option for start-ups and growth companies to step up their strategic marketing efforts. Hear what their clients have to say on their website, chiefoutsiders.com.
Freeman+Leonard is a marketing services provider that will customize a team of professionals with the expertise to meet the specific needs of each client. They can support smaller one-time projects with a single individual (such as a web designer), and bigger projects with a team complete with a project manager drawn from its base of 3,500 professionals. If the client’s needs are more strategic, Freeman+Leonard also has a team of 75 senior marketers dubbed “Game Changers,” each with over 25 years experience who can develop brand, marketing and business strategy, conduct agency searches and even provide career coaching to clients’ staff members. A team of senior ideators is also available to create the “big (marketing) idea,” as part of a proprietary, coast-to-coast structured brainstorming process. Check out their very user friendly website at www.freemanleonard.com.
One of the newest models is a web-based marketing services provider branded ConsultantzCommunity. ConsultanzCommunity is a new web-based job and social site by Tesar-Reynes, a national search firm that specializes in branding and integrated marketing communications talent. ConsultantzCommunity posts projects from over 150 clients onto a site that over 300 consultants and freelancers can apply for based on their expertise. Consultants apply for jobs independently or combine their capabilities with others for more complex projects.
The ConsultantzCommunity site gives consultants and marketing communications freelancers the opportunity to gain new projects from a growing list of clients and allows them to stay abreast of trends in the industry according to partner Bob Tesar.
Aquent Studios is one of the longest standing providers of freelance marketing staffing, marketing execution services and project management systems. Since 1986, Aquent has connected talent with desirable roles at global 1000 brands. They provide customized solutions to address client needs by placing creative and marketing professionals in contract and temp-to-perm positions at some of the world’s most revered consumer and B2B brands.
However, their menu of services runs much deeper. In addition to staffing, Aquent provides web-based project management and project approvals processes. They can also house digital assets for team members to access as needed and provide project-based content development and consulting services.
This is just a sampling of what’s available, but many more resources are just a click away. Also in this space is an army of talented independent consultants that have morphed their practices to address the demand from emerging growth companies and even larger brands that seek new solutions to specific challenges they face without turning their agency relationships upside down.
Steve Jobs, arguably the greatest innovator since Thomas Edison, did not invent the MP3 player, he just created one people wanted to use, according to his biographer Walter Isaacson. Freelancing or “fractional” talent has been available to the marketing industry for decades, but these new firms are aggregating talent, making it easier for companies to get the services they need and creating value through affordable customized solutions. Their clients, especially start-ups and emerging growth companies, are the real winners. Companies of this size can now afford access to world-class talent from CMO-level leaders through tactical subject matter experts and services to reach and engage their target customers like never before.
The key to getting real value from these resources is to have a very clear understanding of your expectations. First step is to put together a well-structured brief that describes your vision, brand positioning, target customer, value proposition, expected outputs, timing and how you intend to measure success of the program. Going through the discipline required to do this will help determine the level of support you require from strategic to tactical. The best marketing services providers start with a discovery process that helps them understand your brand, strategy, specific needs and expectations, so both parties can agree up front on what success looks like.
Rob Calderin is a brand builder and activator devoted to creating and re-energizing brands by putting customers at the heart of corporate and brand strategies. He has led brand transformations as CMO, SVP and VP Marketing for several consumer brands including Arby’s, Popeyes and Burger King, operated in an executive capacity at global agencies D’Arcy MacManus/Benton & Bowles, Foote Cone Belding and Backer Spielvogel Bates, and has consulted with Fortune 500 CPG, restaurant and retail companies.