The Perilous Role of the Red Shirt FCMO

If the C-Suite was Star Trek, Fractional Chief Marketing Officers (FCMOs) would be the red shirts of the leadership team. Just like our namesakes, we have a very small window within a perilous situation to prove our worth or we’re killed off in dramatic fashion and quickly replaced in the next scene by any one of a hundred other red shirts ready and willing to play the role of marketing leader.

(If you can’t wait to read the end of the story, scroll to “Engage”)

I’ve been competing for work as a fractional CMO for twenty years. Decades of prospecting to CEOs that want to know how I’m different, what I think of their current marketing communications and what I would do differently – if given the opportunity.

Like many contract executives, FCMOs provide leadership on a short term basis, usually replacing a previous red shirt that was terminated, in one way or another. Typically an interim or trial position, FCMOs are often tasked to do more with less in a short amount of time. As part of the survival process, we often endear ourselves to leaders, share our lessons learned and tout the big ideas that may impact outcomes, all in the hopes that we get to join the team.

First contact.

Like most marketers, I strive to position myself as different, but, all things being equal, I really wasn’t that different. There were hundreds of other experienced fractional CMOs in my market who have a comparable education, relevant experience and engaging testimonials about how they made a positive impact.

Like most marketers, I’ve leveraged contemporary marketing technology to help me evaluate the performance of those channels of communications that can be easily measured (things with links and APIs), providing insights on the compulsory metrics every leadership team needs to know in order to answer, “How’s it going?”

And, like most, I’ve applied a combination of market trends, leadership opinions and good ol’ fashioned A/B testing to make incremental improvements to the performance of their marketing communications in the hopes of making enough of an impact in outcomes to stay the course.

If I can’t differentiate, I don’t get the job. If I do get the job, I utilize the standard marketing technology (martech) tools already in place to create a Franken-report that makes some sense of the disparate data. With the clock always ticking, I make improvements to what I can in the hopes it will be enough to demonstrate my value to the team.

Too many times, no matter how hard I leaned in, I was the red shirt that got killed off.

Beaming down.

Mike Bosworth (my sales coach, founder of Solution Selling) always taught, “Make yourself equal before you make yourself different.” I started with the FCMO compulsories, communicating a thorough understanding of true integrated marketing communications, and I also differentiated myself by addressing Sender Analytics, overlooked performance data at the beginning of the marketing process.

With structure came process: a proven way to objectively assess each form of communication (logo, website, email, video, print ad, et al) that generates scores, based on business objectives and industry standards, for everyone to better understand where we are today, and where the opportunity lies for the most immediate impact.

Leveraging both quantitative and qualitative information, my marketing leadership could now make substantive improvements with the messages and forms in order to make notable changes with visitors, views and sales. By sharing real time performance data in a single dashboard, I have been able to facilitate cross-functional collaboration between Marketing, Sales, and Agencies, helping Leadership to meet its goals.

Mission accomplished.

I created Market Ready Index® for FCMOs to differentiate, evaluate and optimize. An Advisory Council of experts, academics and analysts have committed to establishing the Market Ready Index® Standards of Best Practices in Communications.

Today, FCMOs are able to truly differentiate themselves to CEOs because they can deliver technology-enabled professional services that quickly impact outcomes. MRI® Certified FCMOs can consistently measure every channel of marketing communications which means they can manage Branding, Sales, Multimedia, Marketing, Events, Public Relations, Social Media, Design, Advertising, and Digital. Utilizing the MRI® Dashboard everyone gets the real time reporting they need to make informed decisions, facilitate cross-functional collaboration and increase the ROI on Marketing Communications.

With Market Ready Index®, the red shirts can not only survive the first act, but thrive to become a recurring character in the story of a company’s success.


Join our webinar to learn how FCMOs can utilize Market Ready Index® to accelerate their best practices of integrated marketing communications by leveraging proprietary technology, discipline, and expert analysis to improve client outcomes.