receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure


Your Business Doesn’t Need a CMO: 4 Ways to Outsource

Erik Huberman
at Perla's Embroidery
Apr 12, 2016

Your company can see savings in the range of 40 to 65 percent just by outsourcing high-level positions like a CFO or CMO.

Startup owners know marketing their products is the most direct path to growth in sales and revenue, which undoubtedly leads many of them to hire in-house CMOs.

However, marketing is similar to technology in that many leaders think it needs to be a core competency of their businesses, when, in reality, it doesn’t.

Think about it: If you’re starting an E-commerce company, do you need to hire an entire IT department, or do you just need to have a website built? Just because your business is accessible online doesn’t mean you need full-time developers on staff.

The same is true for marketing. Your company can see savings in the range of 40 to 65 percent just by outsourcing high-level positions like a CFO or CMO instead of hiring a full-time employee. For less money, you can contract someone who will not only get the job done efficiently, but who will also not be looking to justify, retain, or grow his or her in-house position.

Outsourced CMOs focus solely on implementing the initiatives that are necessary to make a marketing campaign successful.

Reasons to Outsource Your CMO

Because they’ve successfully marketed for a variety of businesses, outsourced CMOs know what works. On the other hand, when you hire a CMO who has had some success at only one or two companies, you can’t be sure his or her approach will work across the board. 

Sometimes, marketing is effective simply because the product is great and everything falls into place. In-house CMOs don’t always know how to navigate more difficult waters. That’s where an outsourced option with a wider range of experiences can come into play. 

The experience outsourced CMOs bring with them means there’s no learning curve. They begin executing on day one, they have a lot less job security than in-house CMOs would have, and your speed to market is faster as a result. 

If practically guaranteed success and exponential savings aren’t enough to convince you, consider one of the most obvious benefits of outsourcing over hiring: You don’t have to go through the hiring process. 

Hiring a new employee, especially at the executive level, can take months. But if the marketing agency you want to outsource from has a good reputation, you can conduct a quick interview and be ready to go. You don’t need to sort through piles of résumés or endure the quest for the one perfect employee who is ready to join your company.

Instead, by bringing an expert on board to help guide your marketing efforts, you’re ready to move swiftly into a period of higher productivity.

How to Outsource a CMO

Of course, before you make a decision about whether you should outsource, consider some important factors. Here are a few guidelines for effectively outsourcing your CMO.

Establish Your Startup’s Expertise

First, define the central piece of your business. For example, when I co-founded Swag of the Month in 2010, I knew the company’s area of expertise was providing men with monthly subscriptions that would allow them to live stylishly with ease. The central piece of that startup was definitely not accounting or taxes or marketing, so those were all things that could be outsourced.

Is marketing a key component of your business? Is it included in your suite of core service offerings or the product you’re trying to sell? If not, outsource it.

Consult Your In-House Team

Establishing where you are with your internal team before bringing in an outsourced party is important. For example, if you do decide you want an in-house CMO, but the employee up for the position is being pulled in too many directions, outsourcing certain parts of the marketing campaign (e.g., social media, email marketing, execution) instead of the CMO role may be a better option. 

Know Your Options

Two types of agencies exist: those who want long-term contracts and those who offer month-to-month or shorter contracts. The long-term agencies are usually not the best companies to partner with. They have high fees and can sell whatever they want without being transparent because pulling the wool over an entrepreneur’s eyes is, well, pretty easy.

Shorter-contract agencies are usually more beneficial for entrepreneurs because they offer more flexibility, and the short-term commitments put pressure on the agency to perform well. Stick with short-term options until you have the experience needed to commit to longer contracts without putting your business in a bind.

Establish Your Partner’s Expertise

Make sure you’re working with an experienced partner with a proven track record of success. If you’re not a marketer, you won’t be able to ask any technical questions to test your potential partner’s ability, so you need to vet the agency. Do not waste time asking for references or case studies. Instead, ask questions like, “Why have you lost clients?”

Ask about the potential partner’s performance and what it is that differentiates his expertise from the competition’s expertise. Test him to see if he understands your business and if he’s as aware of his weaknesses as he is of his strengths. You need to know what he does and doesn’t bring to the table in order to make an informed decision about what’s best for your company.

Outsourced resources are often brought in to help smooth the transition when a CMO leaves the company because a new in-house CMO who is ready to hit the ground running is hard to find. Using an outsourced CMO in the interim can be very helpful because he or she can bring your startup up to speed with no lag time and can educate your new in-house CMO after you find one. 

If your company is looking for an agency to partner with instead of hiring a full-time CMO internally or is looking for an in-house CMO to help in the meantime (or has already hired a CMO and needs some additional resources to help with the rest of a marketing campaign), outsourcing is the way to go.

Image Credit:

NicoElNino / Getty Images

Erik Huberman
Erik Huberman, one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30, is founder and CEO of Hawke Media, one of the “Top 50 Startups in LA” and one of the “Top 10 Happy Places to Work.” Hawke Media is a leading outsourced digital CMO agency for companies including Evite, Bally Total Fitness, Verizon Wireless, Eddie Bauer, Red Bull, and many other large and small brands. Erik and his team provide a full sales, marketing, and e-commerce team without the overhead. As a serial entrepreneur and a brand and marketing consultant for eight years, Erik previously founded, grew and sold Swag of the Month and grew’s sales to $1 million in four months.