In disruptive times, you need outsider marketing.

Outsider marketing means getting an ‘outside the jar’ perspective on your company’s positioning, messaging and selling. Here’s why it’s more important than ever.

The economy is melting down. Everywhere you look, companies are ducking for cover, going under, struggling to stay alive.

Or are they?

Times of disruption deliver opportunities for companies agile and aware enough to seize them. Smart companies are already engaged in finding those opportunities, and retooling. Their goal is to slingshot out of the disruption stronger than ever.

Karen Hayward is a Managing Partner with Chief Outsiders, a national consulting firm that delivers fractional CMO’s to mid-cap firms.

Today, that means her team is working with a lot of CEO’s to craft slingshot strategies.

Smart CEO's are busy retooling their offering, their product, their message, their platforms, and their verticals. Their goal isn't survival - it's creating a slingshot strategy to launch into the new normal. Share on X

I wanted to find out what those CEO’s are thinking, and what their marketing for the ‘new normal’ will look like. So I invited Karen to chat on my podcast.

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She did not disappoint. Her insights were sharp, her tips thoughtful, and her personality infectious. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Highlights from the outsider marketing interview

CEO’s need to get clear on the difference between growing and running a business. Running means using the tools you have to optimize operationally – a bit like tuning the bicycle you’ve been given so it runs beautifully. Growing means aligning to outside forces to leverage your performance. A bit like strapping a rocket to your bike if speed is your goal. While running a business properly is critical, this disruptive time offers unique opportunities to grow it.

A big advantage of bringing in an outside perspective to your business? Hayward believes it starts with validating the CEO’s value proposition. Company insiders may have misread what customers are truly looking for in their brand. If you’re selling fast, and they want safe, you’re misaligned.

Outsider marketing is also useful in crafting battle strategies. Hayward described the exercise of creating a SWOT analysis for a client competitor as a way to illuminate weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Hayward’s book Stop Random Acts of Marketing maps out counter-productive marketing strategies that CEO’s tend to engage in. The most prevalent counter-productive move? Engaging in random acts – trying out every shiny new tactic without running it through analysis to see if it aligns with the brand, overarching goals and budget. Random acts of marketing guarantee a steady stream of disillusionment / frustration / waste. Today, these random acts also include a slash and burn perspective on cost reduction.

Think you’re making the same brand mistakes over and over? Stop Busting Your Brand will help. 

This is an optimal time for recalibrating and reflecting. Connecting with customers and employees, taking the time to ensure your messaging is aligned at every touchpoint, getting in touch with trends with information from groups like ITR Economics.

Hayward points out that the marketing / selling balance is tipping dramatically toward marketing – even big-ticket items are being decided on by customers interacting with marketing materials, not a sales force. Coming out of this economic disruption, count on companies doubling down on their online marketing presences. In Hayward’s estimation, trying to put more ‘feet on the street’ is not going to help companies – the secret lies in crafting better messages, and ensuring those messages are delivered consistently along every step of the customer journey.

Coming out of the COVID-19 disruption, smart companies will double down on their online marketing. Share on X

At this point of reflection and recalibration, smart CEO’s are retooling their websites to become portals for solving customer problems – not online brochures trotting out features and benefits.

It pays to deepen relationships with key clients at multiple levels. Relying on the VP of Sales or the CEO to carry the relationship is dangerous. Hayward referred to Focused Executive Programs – tasking everyone in the C-Suite to cultivate a relationship with their counterpart at the client organization. This creates multiple bonds, and less risk of instability in the event of a CEO departure.

Core to developing productive relationships at these levels is engaging in regular performance evaluation conversations with your counterpart at the client organization. Hayward mapped out the following questions as a useful starting point:

  • How are you doing?
  • How is your business evolving?
  • How can we be better partners?
  • How can we better serve you?


Our conversation concluded with a generous offer: a free one-hour consultation for anyone who reaches out to Hayward. You can contact her at

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