The rise of 'freelance' marketing?

19 Mar 11:00 by Bradley Feller

The gig economy has changed wildly in the last 10 years and has hugely disrupted the world of work as we know it. The reality is that the UK has never seen so many people working on a self-employed basis, which brings huge opportunities for organisations to lower costs and meet project needs.

To help explain fractional marketing and how your business can benefit from it, I interviewed gigCMO’s Mark Magnacca.

Mark, tell us a little about your career history, and how you got to where you are today.

I consider myself a Londoner as it is the city I have lived most of my life in. I am originally from Canada but did my MBA (City University) and really started my career here. I have over 30 years of business experience in senior leadership roles in consumer driven organisations across a diverse range of industries and countries.
My experience spans start-ups, scale-ups and multinationals, working alongside senior leadership teams as well as owners, investors and Boards on key strategies and programme delivery – often in highly regulated industries and with significant cross-cultural challenges.

What is gigCMO, and where did the idea for gigCMO come from?

gigCMO is basically your outsourced marketing team. After spending most of my career in large organisations, I reflected on what I truly enjoyed doing and recognised it was the competitive battle in the marketplace where one needs to win every day.

I knew there were many talented individuals who had a similar perspective and wanted to be a part of something very dynamic and client focused. Initially, we started out as a team of experienced Chief Marketing Officers offering CMOs on a ‘fractional’ or interim basis.

The CMO roundtable is a very important part of our service which means every client is assured that it is not just the one individual looking at the ‘gig’ but she or he is tapping into the wisdom and experience of the peers as well.

We are not a headhunting or recruiting firm – the team has all had board-level experience driving the customer agenda coming from either a sales or marketing background. The feedback from our clients is that it is refreshing to deal with individuals who “have been there done that”.

Very quickly, our clients were asking us to deliver a complete solution so now we offer brand management, content, digital solutions and marketing tech audits on a gig basis – what we like to call ‘Strategy and Tactics’. However, we are as happy to work with the agency roster of a client as we are to bring in our own solutions. The gig content solution is actually generating a lot of attraction and engagement.

What are the biggest marketing challenges facing your customers in 2019?

One big area for a number of firms is accessing the Chinese consumer. We have a sister organisation called Magnacca & Associates that has some very unique abilities in decoding the Chinese consumer to win their hearts and minds. gigCMO taps into that resource as well.

Overall though, it comes back to having a targeted approach and using all the tools and information you have available to you effectively. I think it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the number of channels and tools available and it’s really important to have a clear idea about what you want to do, why you want to do it and how you want to do it.

Another key area of focus is on return on marketing investment. There are so many different skillsets in a complete marketing team today, but this is where I think gig talent is very important. For example, you might need content on a regular basis, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need someone on the staff – it just means you need a reliable solution. Another significant area is marketing technology – with all those different platforms available, most organisations lack the required skill set to scan the market and assess different solutions against their own needs. We can even assist in the implementation.

What are some of the key benefits for businesses who employ interim marketing talent?

It’s cost effective, it’s scalable, and in the case of gigCMO it’s not all down to relying on one person and their particular perspective. We have a network of CMOs who all feed into one another at gigCMO, so when we discuss a client’s needs that client is getting the experience, support and due diligence of several CMOs.

Essentially, you get all the benefits of a full time CMO, but without the cost. Importantly, you also get the opinion of someone outside your business, and that can be really valuable. We’re not involved in office politics, we have no agenda for wanting to rise up the proverbial food chain. We’re there to support business leaders and their teams.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the gig economy right now?

The gig economy has evolved a lot in the last decade and I think the biggest challenge is changing the perception of how it works. Of course, there are lots of ways to employ gig/interim talent. We have all heard the horror stories about people being exploited and we’ve all seen what’s been playing out with the likes of Uber. 

But we’re talking about a rather more sophisticated approach to gig working. We’re not talking about filling gaps when someone leaves a job or getting a freelancer in to cover someone who’s off sick. We’re talking about building an interim approach to specific skillsets into your business model, having a reliable go-to individual or service in a more cost effective, streamlined way.

What would be your one piece of advice for organisations who have always employed permanent marketing talent, but are now considering hiring freelancers/interims for the first time?

Make sure you have good communication and a clear understanding of what you want from the particular role or relationship. As with all these things, I really think it hinges on good working relationships with people. Talk to the person you’re looking to work with, get a clear understanding of who they are and how they work. Say what you’re looking to get out of it and find a rhythm that works for you both. If you don’t know what you want, say that and have the discussion.

Ultimately, if you have a good person on your hands you should both want to make the relationship work. I think communication is central to that. If someone is reliable on their email or phone or whatever, then really what’s the difference between that and having them in the office on staff except that you’re not paying for their desk space?

As someone who works with some of the best interim CMOs (and as one yourself!), what do you love most about working as a contractor? What is it that draws people to working more flexibly?

What I love most about it is getting the opportunity to work with lots of different people in different industries and make a difference for them.

What I think other people get out of it? I think they enjoy the variety, but I also think it’s about lifestyle. We don’t live in a world anymore where people only think about the amount of money they make. We all want a little more work/life balance. We want to give back, be helpful, and have the opportunity to work from home or be in charge of our own schedules a little more. I think that’s why interim really works across a variety of skillsets – younger people want more time with their kids, or to live by the sea and not to commute every day.

Those of us who have already had successful CMO careers want to keep working and sharing what we know, but we want the ability to pick and choose our engagements. Just like our clients want to be able to choose who they work with.


If you’d like to have a discussion about how you could effectively use freelance marketers, please get in touch!