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Is marketing-as-a-service the future of marketing?

Image Credit: PowerUp/Shutterstock

In the past decade no other department/component in the enterprise has changed more than Marketing. What used to be a function based on creativity and an almost comical lack of measurability is now a complex, multi-discipline, metrics-driven, function with direct bottom-line impact.

Not surprisingly, the role and requirements of the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) have undergone equally dramatic changes. What used to be a position akin to the head of a marketing or advertising agency is now one requiring equal expertise in product management, corporate marketing, product marketing, and IT — a combination of skills that has led recruiters to refer to qualified candidates as “unicorns.”

But, despite these advances, three realities continue to confound investors and entrepreneurs:

  1. The failure rate of startups overall remains at 90 percent, according to CB Insights.
  2. Six of the top 10 reasons cited for startup failure can be tied directly to a company’s marketing function (including misfires in pricing, competition, business model, customers, etc.)
  3. The CMO is the senior staff member with the shortest tenure and highest turnover, often blamed for the failures in Point #2.
Above: Source: CB Insights

In our tenures as chief marketing officers for Fortune 500 companies and over 45 startups, we’ve had ringside seats to these trends. And we’ve reached the conclusion that they won’t change until companies make two changes:

  1. Focus not on what Marketing but on who does it and when
  2. Adopt a new marketing model, one we call marketing-as-a-service (MaaS).

The role of the CMO

As mentioned above, the requirements of a modern CMO are numerous and complex:

1. Product management: They have to understand the technology in its earliest stages so they can interact with the market and customers to shape the product plan for Engineering and Product Development teams.

2. Corporate marketing: They have to understand how to build and differentiate their core solutions and then manage a variety of disciplines (website design, content, demand generation) to launch the company, build market awareness, and create sales preference.

3. Product marketing: They have to be able to continue to define and reinforce the product advantages for the market (channel, end user, specifier) to blunt the competition and build market traction.

4. IT: They have to use data and systems to accelerate customer acquisition and shorten time to revenue by measuring and tuning the message of the company’s solution and product.

The problem is, no one person (certainly not in a startup’s earliest stages) will possess all of the experience and skills to staff this role. But CEOs and investors continue to doggedly seek out talented individuals with hybrid skills, hire them too early, task them with a variety of impossible tasks without adequate staff, and then fire them when they fail.

Instead, we find that successful startups can rethink hiring by looking at Marketing as three phases, with a separate approach (and owner) to each phase. MaaS takes the above roles of the CMO, breaks them out and institutes them in a particular sequence.

Above: The 3 phases of marketing

MaaS: Phased for lean, agile startups

Phase one is about product management and, rather than a dedicated headcount, the best person to own this role (and perhaps even this title) is a cofounder with the technical bona fides to help lead and build the company from its earliest days up to launching the company and first product. A skilled leader who…

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