How a fractional CMO can supercharge your Board of Directors

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29/09/2020

There is a danger, in any organisation, but especially those that have largely been successful, of reaching the point where the Board of Directors becomes something of an echo chamber. We have seen it in political parties, where the self-congratulatory nature of ideas and the continuance of things the way they have always been done, can see them blindsided too late when the market changes. An outside perspective has clear benefits in order to help prevent that from happening, but an unbiased and intelligent outside perspective isn’t the easiest thing to find. After all, it’s not just anyone you would let in on the inner workings of your organisation, but could a fractional CMO be the answer?

Market changes tend to come about in one of two ways. They’re either evolutionary, in which case they’re subtle, but if you’re paying attention you should have time to adapt to them. Or they are dramatic, in which case there’s a danger of panicking and making poor decisions one way or the other. An external consultant, like a fractional CMO can provide strategic input at critical times, and in doing so they supercharge the Board of Directors by bringing an informed outside perspective.

When is the right time to bring in a fractional CMO?

One can largely assume that your Board of Directors know what they’re doing. That’s why you appointed them. You value their skills, their opinions and their talent. Chances are that in times of change you don’t need new board members, but when it comes to staying in touch with your market, your competitors, new ways of doing things and the outside view of your organisation, there is enormous value in choosing to augment the board’s role by engaging consultants to address knowledge gaps. This can be done by being an ongoing presence - like a Non-Executive Director - or by bringing in an external consultant on a project basis to review governance structures, processes, and the overall effectiveness of the board.

How does an external consultant supercharge your Board of Directors?

The concept of an external consultant, especially in the form of a Non Executive Director, isn’t new. Many businesses bring them as part of a due diligence process. However, what we’re talking about is more about precision sales and marketing strategy. 

Perhaps that’s to address your relevance in the market post Covid-19, perhaps it’s how to work amidst the new world order, perhaps it’s crisis management, or perhaps it’s having identified a new opportunity and wanting to create the best processes to test it and bring it to market. 

Recognising the need for outside input isn’t a failing of the Board. In acknowledging that new knowledge, skill or perspective from outside the boundary of the firm is required to strengthen decision making and operations, has a variety of documented benefits. These include: 

  • Facilitating internal communication between levels
  • Accessing short-term needed capabilities
  • Bringing in expertise that can provide objective advice 

One example illustrating this process comes from Jamaican Teas Ltd., formerly a division of the Tetley Tea Company Ltd. and the largest producer of teas in the Caribbean. The Board has a formal committee called the Compensation & Marketing Committee (CMC), whose role is described as:

“[to]review and evaluate the effectiveness of the sales and marketing practices and policies of Jamaican Teas Limited. ... The CMC later re- viewed the company's Strategic Marketing Plan for 2019-2020 which provided a strategic direction for the next two years with a focus on increasing sales volumes, increasing the number of channel partners, market intelligence, market development, product development and market penetration strategies and attendant programmes. [In] addition the CMC retained external marketing consultants to audit the efficiency and effectiveness of the company's web site, brand images, social media activities...” 

What has also been found is that when boards turn to external consultants for advice and guidance, that model of behaviour - seeking insight and additional expertise from the market - is then often replicated through the layers of the company, making it more responsive to the market and ultimately more capable of meeting the demands of changing tides as well.