The in-house marketing function has had a good life.
I was a corporate marketer for a middle market investment banking firm over two decades ago and remember it fondly. I loved the strategic part of my role and the ability to do some tactical execution too, like writing market outlook pieces and customizing pitch book content. Back in the day (Y2K), being a jack-of-all-marketing-trades was essential because B2B budgets were small, especially in professional services, and the function was (unfortunately) considered overhead.
The SMB (small and medium-sized business) in-house marketing function may be dying, but the news isn’t all gloomy.
Quite the contrary! Marketing has become too important to think a one-size-fits-all marketer can do it all. And we certainly aren’t overhead. Modern-day marketing functions are profit centers—specialized, agile, and responsible for a heck of a lot of work that can really move the needle on revenue growth. Here’s an eye opener for many (including me): The top in-demand marketing skills for 2025 are predicted to be:
- Analytics, data, and insights
- Customer experience
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Neuromarketing/buyer behavior; and
- Marketing technology & operations
Where’s strategy, planning, messaging, branding, content, design, SEO, SEM, design, and development? SMBs need the basics, too! To turn marketing into a competitive advantage and a growth driver, you need a small village, not one person on an island.
Where does that leave SMBs? Employing a village seems beyond the pale. Marketing salaries are surging as demand is outstripping supply. According to Robert Half’s 2022 Marketing and Creative Salary Guide, “94% of marketing and creative leaders said it’s difficult to find skilled professionals, especially in the areas of digital design and production, digital marketing, project management, traffic, and operations.” Need a CMO? Get ready to spend well over $200K. How about a Digital Marketing Manager? You’re looking at north of $103K. (And these figures don’t reflect major metropolitan cities and don’t include bonuses and benefits.)
SMBs need marketing as much or more than their larger competitors. If in-house marketing is dead, how can the vast majority of companies survive and thrive?
By now, you may have heard of the concept of fractional executives—the idea that you get a slice of a highly qualified, highly experienced CMO’s, CFO’s, CTO’s, and COO’s time to meet your exact needs. Fractional CMOs are mainstream, especially in private equity-backed, early-stage companies. The concept is taking hold successfully across other specialized marketing roles, too.
Now, you can put your marketing village together one slice at a time! Don’t have the expertise or time to build that village yourself? There are companies that specialize in fractional marketing, have done it effectively for lots of SMBs, and are ready to do it for you.
I know. This is complicated. I’m on the verge of a headache just writing about it. But think about how fast businesses adapted to WFH out of pandemic necessity. Adjusting your marketing function to the new normal isn’t a cinch, but you’ve got this!
RIP, in-house marketing.
Interested in learning more about the fractional marketing model? Here are some helpful resources: What is Fractional Marketing? How to Choose a Fractional CMO Agency.