Marketing for services — how a vCMO can help your business grow

Leadership - Management

Marketing strategy for small business — do you need one?

When it comes to running a business, there are a few things that are a given. You are going to have to offer a service that people need, you’ll have to charge for that service AND you’ll need to market it to the right audience.

Marketing can be a huge driver of growth in a business, but having a clear marketing strategy is key. Hiring a full time marketing manager to help create a sales-driven marketing strategy for small business doesn’t make sense for most small and emerging businesses. Yet, without experienced marketing guidance, many service-based businesses fall into the trap of spending a whole lot of their valuable time on ‘pray and spray marketing’ — doing a whole lot of things that they feel they should be doing, but which don’t actually deliver on revenue goals or other important business targets.

If you know that you need the skills of a Chief Marketing Officer to help you achieve your business goals, but don’t want to—or can’t afford to—hire one right now, a virtual Chief Marketing Officer (vCMO) could be the answer. 

Let’s explore what a vCMO is and how they can help increase the return on your marketing investment and help you get clever about your marketing so you can meet your business goals sooner.

What is a vCMO?

A vCMO brings all of the benefits of having a Chief Marketing Officer while being cheaper, more agile, and fully remote. They operate remotely and perform all the same key marketing tasks that an onsite marketing manager would.

If you’re a small or medium business, a vCMO can help you scale your marketing without the need for a full-time staff member. 

What does a vCMO do?

Just like a CMO would, a vCMO can take a big picture view of your marketing and help you set a strategy in motion to meet your business objectives. 

They can work with you to align your marketing plan with your business goals and help you form content for marketing pieces, such as blogs or social media, that will help you achieve that plan. 

Usually, a vCMO won’t deliver the actual written content or social media posts (although most do provide implementation via their own teams if needed). Rather, they will give you a detailed plan that you can go away and execute, whether that’s yourself or someone on your marketing team. 

How can a vCMO increase the ROI of marketing for services and consulting businesses?

There are so many ways that a vCMO can help increase the return on investment (ROI) on your marketing spend—aside from saving you money on marketing salaries! These are the three key ways they can help your business:

1. A vCMO can give you a clear direction on marketing for services and a strategy to get there

Business - Organization

Your digital marketing strategy for small business should be intricately aligned with your business goals. Otherwise, what’s the point? 

Writing a blog post today because you have a good topic idea is great, but the impact of that post will be insignificant unless it is tied into a larger plan. 

A digital strategy should encompass a consolidated marketing plan that connects your offline marketing with your digital marketing. Every piece of marketing you or your team produces should work together to boost the whole strategy. Piecemeal efforts are just that—piecemeal. 

Why do you need a plan? Because piecemeal marketing for services won’t bring in a recurring ROI or recurring revenue. When all of your marketing is designed to work together, each piece gives more credibility to your next and your impact grows exponentially. This strategic approach to marketing for services helps not only to increase the lifespan of every piece of content you create, but it also improves your authority and your search rankings over time, so you will be recognised for the expert you are and will generate more of the right kind of quality  traffic to your website because of it.

Knowing how a piece of content will help you achieve your goals and knowing how you will measure its success before you create it will put you miles ahead of your competition. 

Having a vCMO create a strategy for you will make your marketing easier, too. A plan gives you a clearly defined roadmap to follow. Imagine filling in the gaps instead of reinventing the wheel for every piece of content! 

2. A vCMO can build and protect your processes and internal systems

Communication - Customer

It’s impossible to build your final systems and processes from the very beginning of your business. You need the experience of working with clients to know what your processes will be. There’s no cookie cutter method to producing results in the marketing for services of your business. Nailing your marketing is an iterative process that needs ongoing care and attention if you want to see results.

But that’s the chicken and egg problem. Once you have lots of clients, you don’t have any time to write down your processes! Having processes and no clients isn’t the solution, as you aren’t operating ‘in the wild’. Yur processes get honed as you start marketing for services as they really exist and as your clients are using them.

Luckily, a vCMO can save you worrying about the chicken and the egg! They can help you set your standard operating procedures (SOPs).

For example, here at Studio Clvr, our agency for marketing and web design in Sydney, we give all our vCMO clients access to our Clever Process Library, giving straightforward processes for common tasks specific to marketing for services and consulting businesses. 

This makes it easy for solo operators, or small teams with junior staff members to action marketing tasks without necessarily having specific skills in that area. The result? A more reliable output, less research time, and maximum ROI on your junior staff. 

We also work with you to help solidify processes specific to your business. After working with us you’ll have streamlined library of your very own, with processes that save you time, optimise your output and create better experiences for staff and your clients.

3. You can’t improve what you don’t measure—and a good vCMO will measure everything!

Search Engine Optimization - Digital marketing

Measuring success, interpreting your data and iterating to continually improve is pivotal to successful marketing for services and product-based businesses alike. By analysing your marketing efforts regularly using the same measurements, you can build on the results of your existing work to increase ROI on your efforts. 

Measuring and analysing your data will also help keep your marketing on track and connected to your goals so it is always contributing to your bottom line. By actually bringing in sales, your marketing for services can continue to deliver ROI long-term if it is well planned. 

Marketing strategy for small business: when to hire a vCMO to help?

When to hire staff in all sorts of different capacities is a question I get all the time from small business owners. It’s also a question I ask all the time in relation to my own business. So I get it. All small business owners are constantly questioning when to hire to optimise the potential for business growth without taking too big a hit on revenue.

Hiring is something you can be clever about. You don’t have to go all in on full-time employees from the get-go and many of the functions within your business will be better served by professionals who aren’t on payroll. These functions commonly include legal and financial advisors, bookkeeping, professional web design, business coaching and, of course, digital marketing services.

Here’s how to know when you could benefit from some clever external help.

Your marketing ‘team’ are lacking direction

We come to the rescue with marketing for services and consulting businesses that have had a hard time with marketing and growing their business the way they want to. The most common marketing and website help we provide involves strategy. It’s easy (well, not always, but in theory!) to hire a copywriter to help with articles or a millennial to help out with your socials, but it’s rare to find that high-level strategic insight for these ad-hoc hires, and you usually aren’t paying for it as part of the service these contractors are providing. The problem is that all of this work you are paying for then has an incredibly short shelf life and none of it makes a tangible difference to your bottom line.

Another common hiring structure for small businesses is to hire a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ junior. I often see this with law firms who hire paralegals and financial planners who hire accounting students. The juniors end up doing a range of tasks outside of their already limited skill set and are so often given the work of marketing the business as it seems like a cost-effective way to fill up the time they are already being paid for. 

Think about it though — these junior hires are already learning to come to grips with the core skill for which you hired them. This whole new skill of marketing for services is usually as foreign to them as it is to you, yet it’s easy to assume they’ll work it out because they love looking at TikTok videos in their spare time. 

If you’ve hired ad-hoc contractors or junior staff, but aren’t seeing the ROI that you expected, it’s highly likely that they’re lacking a clear plan or direction and don’t know where to start marketing for services. A vCMO can help make sure they have the processes, training and guidance they need so the marketing work they are doing is actually driving the business forward and meeting your business goals. That not only equals better ROI on your marketing spend, but also better ROI on every staff member or contractor who works for you.

You want to mitigate ‘key person risk’

Key person risk is the risk to your ongoing business operations (and growth) if a key person is absent for an extended period or leaves the business. 

If all of your marketing is in the hands of a contractor or an office junior, chances are that the knowledge and processes they have built up on marketing for services in your business will walk out the door when they do. And you’ll be left starting from another blank page to build it all up again.

A vCMO can help mitigate this risk by ensuring your strategy, systems, processes and actionable tasks are maintained by a trusted advisor. If you have staff or contractor changes in your business, then your marketing plan continues on it’s goal-orientated roadmap, with micro-tasks ready to roll out to the next person. Your processes and systems can be accessed by new staff members with ease and you have a trusted advisor on call to train up your juniors.

You run marketing yourself, but need some help and support

We get it, sometimes the role of a business owner covers every aspect of your business. And we all have at least one thing that there is really no point in doing ourselves (usually more!). For me, my weak point was business finances—boy did I make a giant mess of that in my first year out! The ROI on having a trusted bookkeeper and FPA as a key advisor for my business has been huge. And that’s on top of the time and stress saved with me not having to think about any of it. 

These days I outsource everything that falls outside of my wheelhouse as I’ve learned that it’s far more cost effective to focus my valuable time on what I’m good at. But sometimes as a business owner you still need to keep doing a lot of the work yourself, including marketing for services to keep your business going. Usually this is due to budgetary constraints, so this is a shifting balance of where budget can go to give the most benefit. While we do help a lot of our clients with the implementation of the clever marketing plans that we devise for them, the most bang for buck is gained on the high-level strategic services that we provide to keep everything on track, measured and adjusted as your business grows. So if you’re doing a lot of the day-to-day marketing tasks yourself, a vCMO can make the work you are doing so much easier and a focused where it counts— that way you can be sure that the marketing for services in your business is truly meaningful.

If you are running your own marketing, a vCMO can help you know what data to measure, how to measure it, and work out what that data means for your business so you are always targeting the activities that bring in the most benefit. No more ‘pray and spray’. They provide strategic support to make sure your marketing is having an impact.

Straight-up advice to help you work smarter, not harder (+ subscriber-only discounts) — direct to your inbox.

When not to hire a vCMO?

While great for many small businesses, a virtual Chief Marketing Officer isn’t going to be the right solution for every business. 

Do you already have a CMO?

If you already have a CMO on staff, you shouldn’t be hiring a vCMO to help them. Strategic control and oversight is better managed by the CMO closest to your business, so if you have someone in-house already they should be doing all of this for you. However, if you have a senior marketing manager who doesn’t have a team behind them, a vCMO might be an appropriate solution depending on the support that your staff member needs. If you’re not sure, get in touch and I’d be happy to talk you through it and will help you where we can. Often help can mean pointing you in the direction of a different solution that is a better path for you, and that’s cool too. 

Are you comfortable working in a digital world?

By definition, a vCMO works remotely and has a digital-first approach to marketing for services. That means you shouldn’t expect to see them in your office and you will be using technology to communicate — usually via a combination of a project management portal, Zoom and traditional phone calls. Most vCMOs will meet in person on request, but this wouldn’t be a regular part of the engagement. If you or your business aren’t ready for that shift yet, then this solution might not be the right fit for you.

Ready to invest in a vCMO of your very own?

A virtual CMO can provide your business with the strategic marketing guidance it needs to grow. By working with an experienced virtual CMO, you can focus on what you do best and leave the marketing planning and processes to us. 

This one change can be a pivotal investment in driving growth in your business, streamlining your marketing efforts, and meeting your business goals. 

Need help improving ROI and using marketing to grow your business? Check out our services to get your very own virtual Chief Marketing Officer.

Web design - create

Hey, I’m Nic

I’m a digital design strategist on a mission to transform websites from ‘whatever’ to clever. I build websites that work harder for your business, make running a business easier, and give you more time to help your clients.

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