George Washington University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) was in a pinch. Enrollment was down, staff was turning over and a quarter of their courses were at risk for elimination. It needed to focus its marketing efforts but didn’t have the time to go through an extensive CMO search. So, it hired an interim CMO.

“We had a tight timeline and immediate needs and were unsure if we would need a CMO forever to deal with the issues we had at CPS,” said Cyrus Homanyounpour, associate dean for Marketing and Enrollment Management. “Instead, we found someone who could come in on an interim basis to get things turned around quickly and put us on a path we could maintain ourselves.”

Over 11 months the interim CMO increased leads by more than 20% by adjusting their paid media strategy, revising messaging and creative and implementing conversion focused landing pages. Staff also received proper training on Salesforce which helped with the lead conversion process. The increased enrollment allowed the school to save 80% of the classes slated to close and put CPS on a path for sustained success.

Interim CMOs are an emerging trend as not every enterprise has the need for a permanent CMO. These are professionals who have experience across all aspects of marketing with the ability to set organizations on a path toward achievable, sustainable success.

What do they do?

These are not fractional CMOs who just work for a few days or hours a week. They typically spend six to 18 months within an organization helping successfully resolve a specific functional or operational marketing problems or a leadership transition. They work to support the current marketing leadership or temporarily take on the day-to-day leadership of the department.  

These CMOs typically bring years of experience navigating complicated marketing challenges enabling organizations to immediately identify opportunities for improvement and possessing the know-how to implement change. An interim CMO can provide actionable plans and then step away once everything is in place and running efficiently.

Often, with limited budgets and limited time, this new breed of CMO can make a dramatic difference in an organization’s marketing efforts. Without the added overhead of benefits and onboarding that comes from hiring a permanent executive, the CMO for hire can be a practical and cost-effective solution while becoming an integral member of the team. Moreover, considering the median tenure of a CMO stands at less than 33 months (Winmo, 2018), aninterim CMO might be better aligned with the nature of the role. Additionally, a CMO for hire can be a try-as-you-buy exercise, allowing organizations to part ways easily within the confines of the contract should the relationship not work. 

Interim CMOs are a c-suite solution without the c-suite price tag. They often have traded their time working for big brands and prestigious agencies for the opportunity to help smaller organizations, specific divisions and niche enterprises find the direction they’ve been looking for. Satisfaction comes from watching a client build on the solid foundation they helped create.

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