Marketing’s Arsenal in Reserve – Contracted, Interim Marketing Support

By Darrell Tanno, Solutions Reservoir LLC

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Just as the output of a marketing department has an outsized bearing on a company’s success, constraints on that output work against success. As constraints always arise, the issue for marketing management is how to manage them. Some prioritization and accommodation will always be imposed, but there are circumstances where a short-term expansion of marketing capacity, via contracted, interim marketing support, should be part of the solution.This article discusses four circumstances for which a marketing department should draw upon interim support for some the more integral marketing functions, e.g. product management or product marketing support, including content development. Using examples, the four are introduced and discussed below:

1  Supplementing a Staffing Shortfall
2  Providing Key-Individual Stopgap Staffing
3  Accelerating a Position
4  Establishing Parameters of a New Position

1 Supplementing a Staffing Shortfall. This situation comes to mind the most – contracting interim marketing support when short-term needs outstrip what internal resources can apply or when a need calls for experience or skills not in-house. Typically, completing the task(s) requires a block of time, and, once completed, the situation returns to normal. Some examples:

➢  Deep Tech Inc. (DTI) will be launching a major new  product in five months. A comprehensive set of marketing materials – presentations, sales training tools, competitive analyses, case studies, white papers, articles, etc. must be developed for the launch. To complete this volume of work in the time frame, DTI draws upon skilled, interim marketing talent. As a result, all work is completed, and the interim talent also contributed ideas that improved the materials.

➢  Beyond Pluto’s (BP) technical staff has written several articles over the past three years. They determine that if the articles were edited to create an e-book, BP would become the company that “wrote the book” and enjoy an unmatched position of market credibility. They draw upon an interim marketing executive who creates the book and also develops a large amount of website content and material for the BP blog that showcases BP’s industry expertise.

➢  At the last annual sales meeting, Atomic Telecom’s marketing department committed to addressing 7 specific items during the year. With the next sales meeting occurring in 4 months, the department recognizes that before then it will not complete the remaining 3 tasks and draws upon interim marketing talent. Consequently, at the sales meeting, the marketing department is hailed for its perfect record.

➢  Nano Transit Switching (NTS) has targeted a major customer that releases an RFP with responses due in six weeks. The proposal will require more effort than NTS personnel can contribute. The experienced, interim marketing support upon which NTS draws offers many insightful perspectives while making a major contribution to NTS’ winning proposal.

Note that in all of these examples, the interim marketing expert didn’t just bring staff time to the table to complete important tasks, but also added value derived from skill and experience.

2  Providing Key-Individual Stopgap Staffing. Draw upon interim marketing support when you immediately must replace a key individual until that person returns or a permanent replacement can be hired. Examples:

➢  Chromium Steel Cyber Security (CS2) has a marketing team of four. At a critical time, a key member is sidelined by an accident and faces 4 months of rehabilitation. None of the other staff members have the background and skill to assume the role, and an interim marketing executive is called in. With a week, she is fulfilling 80% of the injured staffer’s duties and is considered to be performing at the 95% level after just three weeks. As a result of her efforts, CS2 marketing meets its demanding deadlines.

➢  Secret Space Systems’ marketing director anticipates a 12-week maternity leave. In the week prior to her departure, she works with an interim marketing executive to smooth the transition. Her return to work is gradual, and for some weeks the interim executive spends part of his time supporting her, and additional time on other marketing tasks.

The key needs for key-individual stopgap staffing are the skill and experience to fulfill the role, immediate availability, and a clean conclusion. Only an interim marketing executive can provide all of these.

3  Accelerating a Position. Draw upon interim marketing support when you need the skill and productivity of a senior, experienced professional to do the foundational work for a new position for which you intend to hire a junior staff member to manage things going forward. Example:

➢  DeeVee/DeeTee (DV/DT) is expanding its product line via an OEM relationship. DV/DT’s marketing director anticipates that once the relationship is on a firm setting and the new line is launched, a recent college graduate can be hired as a product manager to assume responsibility and gain product management experience. A skilled interim marketing executive spends four months on the project, fully launching and integrating the rebranded product line within DV/DT, and then spends three weeks training the new manager. The new product line enjoyed a great start, and DV/DT’s marketing director was free to look at product-expanding acquisition targets.

What is important here is that the marketing director knew exactly what he wanted from the new position, how those needs would map against an inexperienced product manager, and how to align skills with need.  This exact understanding is the opposite of the following situation.

4  Establishing Parameters of a New Position. Sometimes it is difficult to determine the experience level needed for a product manager to lead a new initiative. Given this uncertainty as to how things will develop, there is a risk of making a hiring mistake. A solution is to draw upon an interim marketing executive, possibly one possessing more skill than warranted by the position, and then hiring with certainty once the parameters of the position are fully understood. Example:

➢ A marketing director is considering which of two team members should lead a product initiative. The role would be a stretch for either candidate, but how much so and in what direction is unclear. She draws upon interim marketing talent and, after seeing how the position evolves over a few months, it becomes clear to her which candidate would be better suited for it. She is surprised that the more suitable candidate was not the one she had thought it would be. Her decision to evaluate the position in action saved considerable turmoil in the company and highlighted her managerial and judgment skills.

In general, this situation is about avoiding lose-lose hiring mistakes essentially by creating a laboratory environment to observe and understand the position.

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For the four circumstances described, the benefits of actively drawing upon interim marketing talent outweigh the consequences of inaction.

Cost is a factor in weighing the tradeoff between action and inaction, but it is rarely an issue for interim marketing support. While cost varies with assignment duration and role, it is generally comparable to that of a staff mid to senior-level product manager. Marketing organizations would be well served to budget a portion of the cost of a staff member for interim marketing support (as virtual marketing staff, as commonly done for external PR or SEO support).

Another factor in having a relationship with an interim marketing executive is that benefits continue beyond the assignment’s completion. Virtually all interim marketing executives gladly serve as sounding boards for ideas, share things they see pertaining to their clients’ situations, and introduce clients to their own, often extensive, networks. All of this brings added value to the mix.

We have noted that there is a reservoir of executive talent upon which marketing organizations can draw to address a variety of important, leveraged tasks that would otherwise languish. Such interim marketing professionals are skilled, experienced individuals who contribute immediately. The cost to bring on such professionals is reasonable, and they add value even after their assignment is completed. Therefore, contracted, interim marketing support should have a place in every marketing executive’s management arsenal.

 
Darrell Tanno is a Principal with Solutions Reservoir LLC, a Washington, DC area –based consultancy providing contracted, interim marketing support for high–tech industries. He has more than 20 years of experience as a marketing executive. He completed marketing executive training at the Sprint University of Excellence and holds MSEE and BSEE degrees from, respectively, Stanford University and Boston University. He is a member of the TelecomHUB and the Society of Satellite Professionals International. Reach him at dtanno@solutionsreservoir.com.