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Making Interim Marketing Work

Using an interim marketer for the first time is a major consideration, especially when it involves multiple locations. This article looks at ways to ensure a smooth and successful project.

Anyone considering using an interim marketing manager for the first time can rightly feel some degree of trepidation. Bringing someone in front outside to fix a problem, paying what seems like a small fortune, hoping you’ve picked the right person – all factors to make you think twice before signing that contract.

But it doesn’t have to be a stressful situation and in fact, with marketing funds being the first to be trimmed whenever the dreaded ‘recession’ word is whispered, it may be the best way forward.

That probably sounds a little contradictory but let’s look at the logic of the statement. If we use one recent example, you can see how interims can deliver on projects otherwise left on the back burner.

Over a few years, the Client had bought around a dozen small European competitors and had recognized the need to finally absorb them into a single, US-based corporate ‘image’. Not surprisingly, they lacked a single person with both related expertise and the availability to manage the six-month long project. By bringing in an interim, the work could start within weeks, drawing on previous related experience while allowing the various marketing teams to continue their day-to-day activities. After a quick assessment of the project’s needs, the interim scheduled and implemented a program that included internal staff training so that the company can continue the re-organisation long after he had left.

So let’s look at how you get the most out of an interim, whether for a short period to temporarily 'infill' with professional skills or a more long-term solution during major changes to the company or marketing team.

On the face of it, interims can seem to be an expensive luxury but it's worth remembering that they are a service provider, not an employee. This means their day rate pays for all employee/employer taxes and accountancy fees, usually providing their own car, mobile phone, and laptop, if necessary – all at no extra cost.

Ensure you match a candidate's experience to the project's needs by writing a detailed job description and a project plan that includes an exit strategy for the interim. This will also avoid wasting the first few days or weeks figuring out how to use them.

Their experience isn’t the only consideration. It sounds obvious but, before you choose your interim, make sure you assess the impact they will have on existing team members - will he/she fit in with your style of operation? Better to delay the project by a month or two than have a minor staff rebellion on your hands!

The best interims should have many years experience – make sure you use it! Time literally is money with interim contracts - don’t waste their valuable hours on less-skilled tasks.

Make sure your contract with the interim allows you to extend, say, a six-month contract by another couple of weeks.

An interim marketer can be seen as ‘buying’ high-end skills for the duration of the project, before handing over to a lesser experienced member of staff who has been mentored throughout their time together.

Also make sure the interim knows if the project will end with the recruitment of a permanent replacement. They will then be able to work on the resulting job description throughout the project, instead of hurriedly compiling one at the end.

Alternatively, consider the possibility of recruiting the interim at the end of the project. If things go well, it would be a shame to let them go, and many interims are happy to consider a permanent position if they have enjoyed the project (if you’re hiring through an interim agencyFind Article, there is usually a clause in the contract to cover this eventuality). Just don’t wait till there’s only a week left before mentioning it – they may well have found their next project and have to disappoint you!

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Based in the UK, Glyn Yarnall has over twenty years marketing experience, including ten years as an Interim Head of Marketing/Consultant for multi-national B2Bs, not-for-profit and government. A number of projects have been on behalf of US-based companies looking to imrpove their marketing presence throughout Europe. More case studies are featured at, along with further examples of interim projects.

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