The rise of the Virtual CMO during COVID times

Tamanna Gupta, Virtual CMO & Founder of Umanshi Marketing
Tamanna Gupta, Virtual CMO & Founder of Umanshi Marketing

Authored by Tamanna Gupta, Virtual CMO & Founder of Umanshi Marketing.

Large MNCs are more likely to recover faster from a pandemic disaster largely on 2 accounts: their strong brand equity and massive distribution & outreach. During times of uncertainty, people trust brands. People are even ready to pay a premium to be more sure and secure. Most small businesses and startups, on the other hand usually have to work harder to come out of setbacks. Traditionally neither have they invested in their brand building nor even gone digital. But this approach now calls for a major re-haul. This is the time of the rise of the Virtual Chief Marketing Officer (VCMO) – a marketing expert who could be strategically engaged and responsible for managing the marketing needs of the company, in shoe-string budgets through effective vendor management without sustained commitments.

Modus operandi and outcomes of a VCMO

  • A virtual CMO (VCMO) is a consultant who helps businesses discover their brand purpose, create a brand identity, and strategize and execute marketing campaigns to drive exponential growth.
  • With a virtual CMO on board, business owners can focus on their core operations, while entrusting the marketing function to the expertise and experience of a VCMO.
  • Equipped with experience in marketing across brands, industries, and geographies, a VCMO has diverse knowledge. They have a very short learning curve and can hit the ground running to deliver immediate results.
  • They don’t lead to any overhead costs that are generally associated with full-time employees, such as a full-time workstation, while being just as accountable for driving results. 

A VCMO helps startups and SMEs solve their biggest business challenges which is currently not just the pandemic but the consumer buying behaviour which has changed drastically. Like large MNCs, small businesses too deserve best of the business experts working for them and guiding them through these uncertain times. The problem is, strategic marketing and branding can be inaccessible to small businesses and startups where the founders are always pressed to meet their monthly or quarterly sales targets. Unlike large enterprises, they can’t afford to invest in a full-time CMO with the requisite experience and expertise. And this is where a virtual CMO can be the game-changer. S/he can work in innovating your business in several ways:

Brand building

Startups/ SMEs have great products/ services at even greater price value than many MNCs. However, in their bid to achieve their sales targets, they end up selling their wares without being able to build a brand out of them. They lack the right way to position their brand and more importantly

communicate rightly to their target segment. So that they are off a treadmill called sales. And sales continue to come in even when the founder or core team decides to go for a long vacay.

New outreach channels

Studies show that with COVID, more people and businesses have gone online either for work or leisure. However, most small businesses have failed to capitalize this opportunity. Their website can easily be a money-making tool for them by generating leads or turning it to an ecommerce website. This is the time for startups and SMEs to create their digital footprint. This is almost like adding an extra salesperson to their team! They can even start small with Google ads as these ads are only charged if a viewer clicks on it. Diversify their geographical reach by displaying these ads to newer markets!

Working with a VCMO is just like having a full-time CMO, but for a fraction of the cost. They spend a predetermined amount of time on the business’s premises, engaging with business leaders and other stakeholders to identify their problems. VCMOs actively collaborate with the business stakeholders to formulate strategies for overcoming their challenges. They also oversee the execution of these strategies to ensure tangible improvements in marketing performance. Their remuneration may consist of fixed as well as success-based components.

As a virtual CMO, I have helped several startups and small businesses solve their biggest marketing challenges which, more often than not, run deeper than just bad marketing and ads. Because sometimes, it’s not about what you sell, but why you sell. At times, it may not be about overcoming circumstances but about monetising the circumstances. Defining your unique brand positioning and communicating the same to your target audience can help you achieve a quantum leap in business performance without requiring you to upscale your sales operations. That’s because once you sell your brand, your products will sell themselves -- just like Slack managed to gain 2 million monthly users within its first 2 years WITHOUT hiring salespeople! Small business CEOs either don’t see marketing as a strategic supplement to their business goals or are unable to hire a full-time CMO. As a result, they are unable to leverage marketing and branding to achieve desired business outcomes. An experienced VCMO can look at the business from a fresh perspective to identify any gaps and make the marketing function an active player in strengthening your profit center.


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