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Partners

Interim Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)

As a managing partner in a law firm, you’ve just received the news that your Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is stepping down after years of dedicated service.

How frustrating: you’ve just lost your CMO. Here’s why you should put an interim CMO in place today.

As a managing partner in a law firm, you’ve just received the news that your Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is stepping down after years of dedicated service. The question that arises is whether to immediately hire a new CMO or consider the option of bringing in an interim CMO for three, six or even twelve months. 

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What is an interim CMO, and why should I consider hiring one?

An interim CMO is a seasoned marketing professional who steps into a temporary leadership role within your law firm’s marketing department. You should consider this option because it offers several advantages:

Immediate Expertise

Interim CMOs bring a wealth of experience to the table. They can quickly assess your firm’s marketing needs and implement strategies, ensuring minimal disruption during the transition. There will be no gap and many of them can start at pretty short notice.

Objective Perspective

As an external consultant, an interim CMO can provide fresh insights and strategies without being bogged down by internal politics or biases. This is a great time to continue to do what’s working and to take a fresh look at what isn’t.

Cost-Effective

Hiring a full-time CMO can be an expensive and lengthy process. The value an Interim CMO delivers will far outweigh the alternative loss of momentum with your BD and marketing efforts. Plus, because they’re highly efficient, you only ever pay for their services for the duration needed. Maybe you need someone really senior only 2-3 days a week?

Flexbility

You have the option to extend or terminate the arrangement based on your firm’s evolving needs. These interim CMOs are used to changing contract lengths and committing to giving a great handover to the new leader when in place.

Continuity of the BD team / help with recruitment and team structure

In our experience, this interim period is a great time to look at the team’s shape and structure, think about which team members are performing well, and what’s going to be needed under your new, full-time CMO when they’re finally appointed.

It is an opportunity for team members to up their game and perform at a different level, unencumbered by who they’re working for, and take on a huge knowledge transfer from the TBD team, which has experience of working with 50 of the top 100 UK law firms.

Equally, it may well be that you as the managing partner or the incoming CMO have got a strong view about how you’d like your team to be shaped. And we’re happy to help make that happen, so that you can hit the ground running when you take up your new role.

The challenges

What are the specific challenges that an interim CMO might help address?

Interim CMOs can be particularly helpful in addressing common challenges that law firms face:

Marketing Strategy Shift

If your firm is considering a shift in its marketing strategy, an interim CMO can guide this transition smoothly, leveraging their expertise in different approaches. We’ve found that partners are open to bigger ideas when working with an external consultant whose pay and benefits don’t rely on their advice being comfortable or popular. A finite contract often leads to great advice and projects delivered on time.

Team Management

Managing a successful and high performing BD and Marketing team can be complex. An interim CMO can provide leadership and mentoring while you search for a permanent replacement. Maybe they even look at team structure and make sure that it’s fit for purpose for today’s and tomorrow’s needs? That way, the new CMO starts with a fully functioning team and a clean slate.

Market Changes

Markets evolve, and law firm marketing must adapt. An interim CMO can ensure your strategies stay current with industry trends. Again, it’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at what we’re committed to and ensure that it dovetails with our objectives as they stand today.

Immediate Needs

If you need to launch a new campaign or address an urgent marketing issue, an interim CMO can step in without delay. It’s quite possible that you have a strong team in place already. But maybe they need direction, a sounding board, and someone to liaise with the partners and Executive Board on what’s happening?

Review of suppliers (particularly those that will be due for renewal in the short to medium term).

An external perspective, a fresh pair of eyes: call it what you like, but this period offers a great opportunity to assess what is needed in the managing partner’s or the new CMO’s view of the team and how it serves the business going forward.

We have found that is an ideal period to:

A) review suppliers, make sure that you have got top-performing teams in place, and reward those people who are already performing well with you, maybe through offering them better or deeper contracts; as well as

B) to close down those things that aren’t serving the kind of function that you are trying to create or the services that you need to provide in future.

This isn’t purely a cost-cutting exercise. It’s often about taking the budget you’ve got to maximize the return on investment in relation to your suppliers. And here at TBD, we have a vast amount of experience working with a range of digital marketing, PR, social media, marketing, BD, campaigns suppliers that will help speed up this review process.

Could we help you with your CMO position?

Lets have a chat to see if this is something we can help you with.

Getting started

How long should I hire an interim CMO for?

The optimal duration for an interim CMO engagement can vary based on your specific circumstances. However, a period of six to twelve months is most common.

We can help speed up this process by helping you to more quickly identify the right individuals to put into the role. We have successfully done this for a series of law firms over recent years. And as an ex-recruiter, we find that this easier to do than anyone else in the market.

The benefits of a six-month-plus engagement:

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Strategic Planning

It gives the interim CMO enough time to plan, implement, and measure the effectiveness of long-term marketing strategies. Three months is enough for “cover”, whereas six months will allow for the time needed to make fundamental changes to the firm’s approach to marketing and business development.

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Leadership Continuity

Your firm can benefit from stable leadership while the search for a permanent CMO is conducted. They’re also likely to take the temperature and assess what’s needed from the CMO role in future and help hire the right person for the role. NB they need to be clear that they are not up for the role itself in this scenario, obviously.

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Knowledge Transfer

During this period, the interim CMO can transfer knowledge and best practices to your internal marketing team. We’ve found that team members perform much better during and after our interim appointments. We have a straight conversation with them about the nature of our role, their role, and the opportunities it offers them to upskill, to learn, to develop, to stretch themselves.

If we can get a handover from the outgoing CMO, great. If we can’t, that’s fine. We’re experienced enough to determine what needs to be done and by when, and agree next steps with the firm’s leadership.

Considerations

What should I look for when hiring an interim CMO?

When selecting an interim CMO, consider the following qualities:

Proven Expertise

Choose a candidate with a track record of success in law firm marketing. Interim is not the time to risk choosing someone with broader marketing experience – they need to know how to make things happen quickly within a partnership. Ideally, they would have both marketing and BD expertise.

Adaptability

They should be adaptable to your firm’s culture and able to quickly understand your specific needs. That might require a handover with the outgoing CMO (if appropriate) and is almost certainly going to require some time investment with the firm’s leadership.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential for guiding your team and presenting strategies to partners. Can they evidence that they have done this really well in the past?

References

Check references and seek recommendations from trusted sources. Who has trusted them to do this work?

Leadership Skills

The ability to hit the ground running and make an impact in their conversations with the board and on behalf of the board with the rest of the business; to prioritise activities around the business; and to sustain a team that is in transition and whose members might feel at risk of losing their roles: these are skills that your interim CMO needs to have in spades and be able to deploy from day one.

It is not advisable to promote someone junior internally to fill this interim position, as they won’t have the necessary experience of demonstrating board-level presence, nor be able to serve the business with the very best BD and marketing advice.

Should I hire an interim CMO?

What are the potential downsides of hiring an interim CMO?

While interim CMOs offer many benefits, there are potential downsides to consider:

Short-Term Focus

Interim CMOs may focus on immediate needs, potentially overlooking long-term planning. Counter this by agreeing their mandate clearly and what 100 days, 200 days milestones should look like. Consider a success fee.

Integration Challenges

Transitioning between CMOs, whether interim or permanent, can be disruptive if not managed well. Is the team ready to adapt to an interim? What can the interim candidate do to ease this transition?

Cultural Fit

Finding someone who aligns with your firm’s culture can be challenging. You’re likely to work closely with this person for the next few months. Are they someone you’ll be happy spending time with? Being challenged by? Lack of chemistry is a contract killer for interims.

Hiring an interim CMO for your law firm can be a strategic move, allowing you to maintain marketing momentum while seeking a permanent replacement.

The benefits of immediate expertise, an objective perspective, and cost-effectiveness make this a viable option.

However, it’s crucial to carefully select your interim CMO and manage the transition to ensure a smooth and successful tenure.

With the right interim CMO in place, your firm can navigate marketing challenges and opportunities with confidence.

Your next steps

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