Art Saxby / Beyond Q&A

Explain Chief Outsider’s business model and value proposition?

Chief Outsiders is focused on helping CEOs and business owners implement their vision for growth. We are a management consulting firm where members act as a fractional or part-time Chief Marketing Officer to help CEOs of mid-sized companies implement major growth initiatives.

Many business owners find that when growth slows it’s not because there are no more growth opportunities. It’s simply because they need someone to look beyond the day-to-day operations with a clear focus on developing and driving major new growth initiatives.

These leaders don’t want someone to sell them a strategy deck or an ad campaign. They need someone to be responsible for crystallizing the strategy and bringing that strategy to life.

As of September 2016, Chief Outsiders has 55 CMOs on full-time staff.  Importantly, we’re not a disparate network of independent contractors. We’re either partners or those working to become partners. All staff has held the position of vice president of marketing or higher. And, we’re passionate about taking a hands-on, results-driven approach to making great things happen at mid-size companies.

What’s the upside in working with an interim or fractional chief marketing officer?

Private equity companies and CEOs are constantly trying to balance how they can attract and retain the type of talent that will push their business to the next level. This includes the amount they can afford to invest in salaries. One approach? Ask yourself if you’re certain about the skill sets and experience that’s required to get to the next level, and for what period of time you’ll need those specific skill sets to sustain growth.

Often the skills to create and develop something are much different than those needed to manage once fully operational. If a company invests in the talent to develop and implement a major initiative, their skills may be overkill, say, a year after rolling out the initiative; thus you run the risk of having made a long-term investment in an overpaid, over-qualified, and uninspired executive.

We help CEOs determine which of our CMOs is the best fit for a project. The full team of Chief Outsiders’ CMOs backs up the CMO—so as the project progresses we have the ability and resources to tap additional skills and experience. Our projects often include helping train or develop a marketing team so the client is provided a fully functioning growth engine (as we fade away).

Quite simply, we provide a vital resource that most companies are not in a position to attract or afford, then turn them on quickly, and turn them off when the job is done.

Is marketing the DNA of all viable businesses, even operationally-oriented companies?

Absolutely!  Marketing should not be about the cool crazy creative stuff.  Marketing’s focus is to:

  1. Look at the market, customer, and competitive landscapes so as to understand audience needs, and to look for opportunities that the company can profitably and sustainably exploit;
  2. Align products, services, features, pricing, sales and distribution channel, and positioning of the product, etc, with the customer’s wants and needs in order to profitably create and fulfill demand.
  3. Help craft and amplify the brand message(s) to influencers and customers at both the B2B and B2C level, capturing leads, filling the sales funnel, and supporting sales staff in closing and retaining sales.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “that’s my job—I’m the CEO,” you’re correct.  The CEO should be the company’s top marketing strategist. However, chances are, you’re not a strategic marketing expert, and your bandwidth will always be limited.

Thus, as is often the case, marketing becomes reactive, purely tactical, and starts to play “second fiddle” to governance, R&D, and operations—often relegated to a salesperson whose job is to sell, or, worse yet, handed to a newly-minted hire who doesn’t know the difference between marketing and sales.

The book that Pete Hayes and I wrote, “The Growth Gears,” looks specifically at this and how marketing should be a logical, linear process to drive growth, especially for operationally-oriented companies and operationally-driven CEOs.

What future trends, strategies, and tactics do you foresee in business?

The customer has taken control. In the not-too-distant past, a company or organization could claim that they had a great product or service and send their salespeople out to capture and convince prospective clients.  The venture had control of the information, and the only way to learn about it or buy it was via a salesperson.

The market and competitive marketplace is much different today. Buyers have access to an incredible amount of information in which can be influenced but no longer can be controlled. Studies suggest that a buyer will have traveled between 60 to 80 percent of the ‘buying decision’ path before ever interacting with a salesperson. And the more technical the purchase (especially within B2B channels), the higher this number.

Talking about the thing you do or how you do it (no matter for-profit or philanthropic) is becoming less and less relevant. Communicating directly to your targeted audience about their problems, their opportunities, and the differentiated solutions your products and services offer, are becoming more and more relevant.

Why don’t more businesses do social media right?

I see two key challenges that companies have with using social media effectively. The first: remember, it’s a social gathering. Too many companies focus on what they do and how they do it.  Have you ever walked up to someone at a social gathering and say, “hi,” and they say, “Let me tell you all about ME!”

Social media offers businesses a means to a two-way conversation with targeted audiences—a direct path to build brand profile, establish credibility, and influence and motivate preferred decisions. Websites, blogs, social media platforms, group email, e-newsletters, and media relations are all considered effective ways of reaching these audiences.

Customers (both B2B and B2C) are human, and are interested in businesses listening and learning about their issues, concerns, and problems, and hearing more about how products and services can provide solutions that they may or may not have.

The trick is to communicate value, provide helpful insights, and wet their appetite, leaving them wanting to learn more about you and the solutions you offer if/when they want or need it.  People love to buy; they hate to be sold, especially at a social gathering.

The second problem: social media often falls into the category of random acts of marketing. Someone read something about how important social media was and decided that we should so some of that.  The other guy is doing it, we should too. The problem is ignorance is not bliss. Nope. If your random acts of marketing are not tied to a real business strategy that starts with understanding your specific customers’ needs and modifying your products and services to meet those needs, then you’re simply wasting your investment.

What were some of Chief Outsiders’ signature client marketing campaigns?

We typically don’t think in terms of campaigns. An advertising campaign can be fun and flashy, although it comes in what we refer to in our book The Growth Gears as gear three.  Our “signature” projects are those where we made the most impact in our clients’ business—short-, mid-, and long-term.

Earlier this year we worked on a project for The Riverside Company, a private equity firm. They were merging two companies. One was a small firm with innovative software and practices; the other was a carve-out from a large firm that had a strong client roster but little business structure or leadership.

Riverside brought us in day one after close to put together and present an assessment of the marketplace and a proposed growth strategy.  It started as a two-month evaluation that lasted nine months, as we took on the role of Chief Marketing Officer to jump-start the organization while they looked for a permanent, full-time CMO.

We had another client who retained us after their board had pushed back on the business’s growth plans. The company’s goal was to grow from $50 million to $100 million. Unfortunately, their growth plans were driven by a simple plan: increase sales.  Based on our strategic guidance and resources, the group built a team that included two of our CMOs (owing to their complementary skills).

Chief Outsiders has worked with them for six months to both develop and start implementing their growth plans.  Today I received a note from the CEO where he said “The last board meeting in August was a high point for the company in the history of board meetings.”

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Art Saxbyis the founder and CEO ofChief Outsiders.He is the co-author of Amazon’s best-selling book,The Growth Gears. Arthasheld leadership positions inmarketing and strategyfor businesses including Hines Horticulture, Imperial Sugar,Frito-Lay, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola and Compaq Computers/HP. Heearned a B.S. degree in finance from the University of Southern Californiaandan M.B.A. degree in finance from Southern Methodist University.For additional information, contact Art atArt@ChiefOutsiders.comor visitwww.ChiefOutsiders.com.

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