04/12/2013 01:47 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

A Chief Marketing Officer for Your Small Business?

You're a busy entrepreneur, the CEO of your company. You've got way too much to do and you need help, but it's often hard to discern which position to fill first. How will your dollars get the most return? Who will help you get your company growing the fastest? Often it's a difficult choice between hiring an assistant, a manager, or a salesperson.

The assistant can take on administrative, detail work, freeing the owner to do more "high dividend" tasks like sales and marketing. The manager can handle issues like staffing, customer service, employee management, and creating and implementing sales and marketing systems. The sales person can be out there "reeling in the fish," so to speak.

But, I'd like to suggest something a little different: What if you were to create a position in your company called Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)? This person would be responsible for sales, branding, advertising within budget, overseeing salespeople, and creating a vision of how your company will grow, now and into the foreseeable future. He or she would be responsible for taking your product or service to market.

Do you already have someone like this in your company? Or, does this sound more like a dream? What if all these tasks were off your plate?

I started thinking about the idea of a small business CMO after interviewing the right-hand men of three growing companies: Jurjen Jacobs, Vice President Global Marketing, VELCRO Group Corporation; John Stephans, senior vice president for product innovation and marketing of IdeaPaint; and Kenny Kahn, Global Brand Officer of Mood Media. For the purposes of this article, I'll call all of the job titles "CMO." Here are some traits these three had in common:

1) Plenty of daily communication with the CEO of the company. The CMOs all said they spoke with their CEOs regularly, daily, and bounced ideas off of each other. "The CEO is the number one cheerleader for what we do as a brand and that's important. We talk to each other constantly, and we travel together for work." says Kahn. "Our CEO loves to work with some of our largest clients investors and with the media, so as a result, all those things touch my world. Communication is constant and it's fluid."

2) They've gotten their team to see eye to eye on a vision for the company. "My biggest triumph has been getting a global 'buy in' on the direction the company wants to go," says Jacobs. "I'm noticing much more outward enthusiasm from so many people on the team. It's not just the typical nodding heads." Jacobs added that this triumph of getting the whole team aligned has also been his biggest challenge.

Stephans concurred. "The biggest challenge (which is not all that different from previous companies I've worked for) is keeping the group aligned on where we're going to go so everyone understands where we're going and why we're going there."

3) They each had nine or 10 people directly reporting to them. I thought this was interesting, in particular because I had just heard a lecture by Mike Michalowicz, author of The Pumpkin Plan, who said you can't directly manage more than 10 people effectively.

"I don't care how smart or experienced you are; our ability to directly manage other people seems to be limited to 10 people or less. With a small group of people you are able to keep current on all the significant facets of their lives," says Michalowicz. "You can assign tasks with the understanding of their work ethic and approach, as well as the activities in their lives that may impede them. When you break that magic number of 10 and try to manage a dozen people or more, you start losing the intimacy with each, and all suffer."

4) The CEO gives the CMOs a lot of leeway on decision making with their team. "The CEO doesn't sit in on the meetings with me and my direct reports. He gives me a lot of free reign, and that's what makes it critical that I keep him informed as to what's going on," says Stephans.

So, what if your right-hand person were to lead a team and strategize for you on how to get your product or service to market? How might they do that? Here are a few big ideas from the CMOs:

  • Get a celebrity spokesperson: For example, Jacobs has sealed the deal with DIY star Brit Morin of Brit + Co to promote innovative ways to use VELCRO Brand Fasteners in home improvement projects. Are there local celebrities that can align with your company's mission, and can your appointed CMO find them?
  • Hook up with a larger corporation who can sell your product or service: IdeaPaint has gotten an account with Lowe's. Try thinking of companies even slightly larger than yours who could benefit from selling your product or service.
  • Acquire a competitor: For instance, Mood Media recently acquired the famous piped-in music giant "Muzak." Who's your competitor? Do they want a takeover? Go ahead and contact them!

Are you breathing a sigh of relief, or does this big vision for you and your team make you want to run for the hills? How can you adapt some of these ideas and concepts from bigger businesses to your small business? I'd love to hear your comments!