The Perilous Role of the Red Shirt FCMO (or How to Survive Eminent Death Past the First Act)

The Perilous Role of the Red Shirt FCMO

By Kevin Popović, Fractional CXO (FCMO, FCSO, FCIO, FCCO), Founder of Market Ready Index®

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”)

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. 

I’ve been competing for work as a fractional CMO for more than 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. As part of the sales process, we often endear ourselves to the C-Suite by sharing our lessons learned, and the big ideas we have to 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 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.

The Perilous Role of the Red Shirt FCMO

Too many times, no matter how hard I lean 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.

The Perilous Role of the Red Shirt FCMO

Mission accomplished.

I created Market Ready Index® to help marketing leaders, like me, to differentiate, evaluate and optimize. Since 2015, my team has collaborated with an Advisory Council of experts, academics and analysts to establish the Market Ready Index® Standards of Best Practices in Communications now deployed within a disruptive technology platform.

Today, MRI® Certified FCMOs are able to truly differentiate themselves to CEOs because they can consistently:

  • Deliver technology-enabled professional services that quickly impact outcomes:
  • Measure every channel of marketing communications: Branding, Sales, Multimedia, Marketing, Events, Public Relations, Social Media, Design, Advertising, and Digital. 
  • Utilize real-time reporting 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 are leveraging MRI® to secure new work, extend current contracts and position for long term success. Meet the people, demo the technology, learn about training and commission opportunities. Can’t wait? Schedule a meeting with me to learn more.


About the Author

Kevin Popović is a Fractional CXO (FCMO, FCIO, FCSO, FCCO) providing expertise on strategy, creativity, and communications to Business-to-Business, Business-to-Consumer, and Non-Profit organizations across the United States and abroad. He is the inventor of the Periodic Table of Communications™, and the Founder of Market Ready Index®, a technology-enabled professional services platform that optimizes the performance of Integrated Marketing Communications.

Popović was the Founder of Ideahaus®, an award-winning creative communications agency, and The Idea Guy®, a management consulting practice creating new ideas that solve business problems. He is the former Zahn Chair of Creativity & Innovation and the Founder of ZIP Idea Lab, part of the Zahn Innovation Platform at San Diego State University. He is a published author and TedX speaker, and currently teaches at University of California San Diego in the Department of Cognitive Sciences inspiring students from around the world.


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