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Is 2023 the year of “CMO-as-a-Service”?


Is 2023 the year of “CMO-as-a-Service”?

How many times have you been offered 'consulting', 'advising', 'strategy', 'planning and 'opinions', or expertise in a specific field - while what you really needed was end-to-end operation, hands-on work, with responsibility and accountability?

Assaf Luxembourg | 11:05  02.02.2023

Much has already been written about the recent crisis in tech (and beyond). Many companies are forced to layoff employees, and sometimes even depart from income-producing clients in order to cut back on fulfillment costs and related personnel (product management, customer success, etc). This affects marketing as well, as companies must cut back on growth costs.

Is this the momentum for marketing agencies and freelancers? Recent trends have generated some discussion about this question, with regards to many startups, SMEs and young companies. The reason is simple: A company that had to immediately cut its 10-employee marketing team, leaving only the CMO and one other person to take care of everything, will soon have growing needs for marketing work to be done, and will probably be reluctant to hire right away, not knowing what the near future looks like. So, 2023 could be the year for on-demand marketing solutions. However, there’s a challenge which makes many company leaders think twice before outsourcing ongoing marketing operation to external service providers, even good ones.

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Think of yourself as leaders and CEOs, when you are offered marketing solutions: How many times were you offered marketing services such as “consulting”, “advising”, “strategy”, “planning” and generally - “opinions”? How many times were you pitched an expertise in a specific field - while what you really needed was end-to-end operation, hands-on work, with responsibility and accountability?

Let’s break it down a bit. For example, a brand strategy expert could help you discover and focus your positioning, but may not help you with your next website. A great agency or design studio could help you with your visual identity and your website, but will not help with digital marketing. A great digital marketer that knows your industry could help with cost-effective qualified lead generation, but will not continue to run sales, customer acquisition and success. You get the point… You need all of it, but no one will want to hire “the best of each kind”, and try to conduct the orchestra. If that sounds logical to you for a split second, you probably reached the point of hiring a full-time in-house team again.

So, what you really need for the near future is probably a “T-Shape” solution - a concept developed by McKinsey & Company in the 1980’s, popularized in the 1990’s, and adopted also in the lingo of agile software development. The T-Shaped expert could be great in one vertical (copywriting, creative, design, digital marketing, sales pitching, CRM management etc) - but will know enough to cover all other areas, either themselves, or with associated experts under the T-shape’s responsibility and accountability.

T-shape. T-shape. T-shape.

A wake up call for startup marketing service providers?

The well-known phrase “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste” has been overused by this stage. Maybe it’s time to put it to action and start adapting to a new reality. Here are a few points I wish to share as part of my role as the Israeli partner at Plus972 (global creative agency):

  • We are service providers. It’s less about “what we know to do best” and more about “what our clients need right now”.
  • We need to remember that on top of it all, we sell trust and peace of mind.
  • It’s great to be experts in PPC / SMM / branding / copywriting / design / CEM etc - but we need to be “T” experts, not “I” experts.
  • This could be the time to show our startup and SME clients that we roll up our sleeves, help them “dig with our bare hands”, and gain their long term trust and confidence.
  • This will also allow us to better understand their position, help them grow, and then step out when needed, and further assist and advise from the outside.

Assaf Luxembourg, Partner, is leading Plus972 operations in Israel.

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