Natalie is Founder & President of Magnetude Consulting, a full-service marketing agency working with small and midsized B2B tech firms.
For the past two years, in-house marketing teams have been feeling the pressure to do more with less. As the economy remains uncertain, the job openings are there, but instead of a long line of qualified candidates, companies are vying over a limited few who may or may not have the skill level or breadth required. Others are trying to retain the talent they have—48% of marketers in existing positions are considering leaving their jobs in the near future
The one-two punch of the pandemic and the “great resignation” delivered marketing a forceful hit. But it’s not a knockout, and amid the fallout, there is a bright side: The people shortage in marketing is forcing companies to make better decisions about full-time hires and rethink what is truly needed and when.
Time To Pivot
Remember when marketers were generalists? Before the shift to digital, these individuals were like unicorns who were good at anything “marketing,” and easily juggled responsibilities from advertising and direct mail to public relations and events.
Today, however, micro-specialization is the norm. With the maturing of digital marketing, new tools and technologies have come into play, including marketing automation, cutting-edge SEO and advertising techniques, data-driven analytics and more. These tools are standard fare but require specialized knowledge to leverage and optimize.
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As a result of the shift to digital marketing, many agencies, consultancies and contractors have aligned their businesses to support specific aspects of this broad category. They too are often micro-specialized. Access to this focused expertise gives organizations the ability to supplement the areas they are missing in-house rather than hiring full-time specialists amid a talent shortage.
Whether organizations hire in-house, work with contractors or partner with an agency, there still are challenges. The organization still needs to direct and manage these resources. And often, agencies and even in-house hires have limited knowledge beyond their particular industry focus or marketing specialty, which can become a problem for high-growth organizations.
What a company may need skills-wise at one point in its evolution may not be what it needs at another, so skills limitations and gaps can become real barriers to growth. A startup, for instance, needs to establish a solid marketing foundation that includes differentiated messaging and a web presence. Once established, a company may be ready to add marketing automation or expand sales through a channel program. As a company matures, it may hone its marketing for specific verticals.
To navigate and support these growth stages effectively, the marketing department requires strong strategic direction and leadership. Companies need to evaluate gaps and fill them intelligently and cost-effectively. These efforts aren’t for the faint of heart—or for a CEO or sales leader. They require a deep understanding of marketing and access to the right skills at the right time. This is where the emergence of fractional marketing shines.
The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle
Just as it sounds, fractional marketing allows a company to outsource a portion—or all—of its marketing department. This virtual model excels at providing game-changing access to a large pool of seasoned marketers across multiple marketing disciplines. Through this model, benefits that would simply be out of reach for most companies become both affordable and accessible.
• Extensive Experience: Relationship-based and committed to success, fractional teams step in where they are needed with expert strategic chops, execution and results based on years of experience in specific disciplines and industries. The team structure is dependent on each customer’s specific needs, but typically includes leadership direction for overall strategy, a project manager to drive hands-on programming, and specialized skills for implementation (such as senior content writers and graphic designers). Because these teams work on multiple accounts, they also monitor current trends, which can help their clients stay ahead of the competition.
• Growth On-Demand: Different from hiring a single resource with specialized skills, a fractional firm gives organizations the ability to access every needed discipline in marketing. If channel advice is needed, for instance, the fractional team can call in its channel marketing expert to help define the company’s best options and strategy for developing its channel program. As the company grows and its marketing needs evolve, the fractional team grows with it, layering leadership or tactical members where needed and filling gaps.
• Tangible Results: Too many times, an organization’s few in-house marketers are expected to take on more responsibilities—often outside their skill set or comfort zone. Sometimes managed by a different business unit (like sales) or nonmarketing leadership, these resources miss the big-picture strategy for their marketing efforts. Fractional leadership can help build the internal team’s trust and take the marketing reins with sound strategies and clear goals that lead to tangible results. This virtual leader also can evaluate and readily fill skills gaps from the fractional firm’s pool of resources. This removes the burden from the in-house team and puts the right skills to work at the right time to drive more effective results.
The Secret To Success
A glance at marketing job descriptions indicates that companies desperately are trying to wrap as many skills as they can into one candidate. They are, in fact, in search of that “unicorn” that can work across marketing disciplines with ease—and one they won’t outgrow. The reality is, though, that a single individual cannot fulfill all of the requirements that the company will need over time. With its scalable model and available expertise across multiple disciplines and job levels, fractional marketing is the secret to success behind a growing number of modern companies. It’s a fully integrated approach that just makes sense.
If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that there is no such thing as “normal.” It’s time for companies to think differently about what their modern marketing team should look like. The only surprise will be how quickly and effectively a fractional team can make an impact.
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Author: Natalie Nathanson, Forbes Councils Member