When I ask the leaders of small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) about their company goals, their answers are—not surprisingly—usually focused on growth: generating more revenue, increasing closing ratios, taking market share from competitors. But when I follow up with a question about their marketing strategies, many of them tell me that marketing is on the back burner. When cash is tight, human capital is limited and schedules are full, marketing efforts often get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list.

Many business owners I talk to think that launching any type of marketing strategy requires having a full-time person—or more—to manage the efforts. But a virtual CMO or VP of Marketing may be a better fit. Here’s why:

  1. Cost efficiency – An in-house CMO or VP of Marketing will likely require a salary of $150k, plus benefits. That is a non-starter for many companies with $5-100M in revenues. An efficient, experienced outsourced team would likely cost less than 1/3 of that expense.
  2. Expertise across disciplines – One in-house expert is great, but their expertise may be limited to a single industry or a single type of outreach. If your business launches a new product with a slightly different target audience or wants to venture into a new marketing medium (social media, digital media, or public relations, for example), your solo-marketer may not be able to lead the effort effectively. When you hire an outsourced team, you get a broader range of expertise (for less money). An outside firm will have experts in nearly every functional area and every type of effort—from strategy to PR to copy writing.
  3. Consistency – Effective marketing and PR requires consistency. One isolated campaign every six months will not produce ongoing results. CEOs and business owners may have every intention of driving their own marketing and PR campaigns, but as soon as something more pressing hits their desk, that becomes the new priority. An outside team’s priority will always be to provide marketing and PR that delivers continual, measurable results.

Fortunately, a number of outsourced firms offer affordable, effective services for SMBs. But how do you know which one is best for your company? Keep the following questions in mind as you vet potential partners:

  1. How Will the Firm Be Held Accountable for Results? – If an in-house CMO was hired and then did not perform well, he or she would be let go. You should have the same option for your marketing firm. How are results of marketing efforts measured? What is the incentive for the marketing team to ensure your success? Many firms charge by the hour, incentivizing the marketing team to tackle lengthy projects, regardless of results. How will you be sure that the marketing team is just as invested in your success as you are? Does the firm provide a contract? If so, is there a time commitment (a year, six months, etc.)? You don’t want to be locked into a long term contract, and you want to be certain you are achieving a ROI.
  2. Does the Firm Have Experience in Your Industry? – Can they demonstrate an understanding of your industry and the challenges and opportunities you face? Look for examples of thought leadership and marketing campaigns in your industry vertical.
  3. What Do Their Clients, and Former Clients, Say About Their Work? – Can the firm provide references and/or testimonials? Transparency and the word of the clients who have worked with your potential marketing and PR partner is important.
  4. How Do They Handle Third Party Work? – Marketing and PR firms will often outsource some specific projects, such as graphic design, photography, videography, or web development, to outside vendors. If this is the case, how will you be billed, and will you have control over the vendors selected? While firms may make suggestions, you will ultimately want to have the final decision regarding who completes the work.
  5. How is the Firm Structured Internally? Ideally, you want to work with a firm that provides multiple resources for you, not a single account manager. A team structure ensures that you’ll get expertise across disciplines and won’t be in a bind if someone gets sick or takes a vacation.

Why is a virtual, fractional CMO or VP of Marketing so valuable? Strategic, targeted, consistent marketing and PR ultimately drives revenue and increases market share.   We don’t all have the time to accomplish everything we want to, so we need to rely on others to help us get to where we want to go – in life and in business. Leverage the marketing and PR expertise of an outside team so that you can run your business and focus on the areas where you are an expert.