Case study: How a fractional CMO can drive growth and perceived value for a fast-growing company

In this case study, we’re showcasing how an experienced fractional Chief Marketing Officer can drive growth and perceived value for a fast-growing company through a comprehensive and cohesive brand and marketing strategy.

For privacy reasons, the name of the client company cannot be disclosed. For the purpose of this case study, we will call the client company Acme.

Acme was a shipbroking company that helped customers buy and sell large ships such as tankers and/or charter cargo space on those vessels. Headquartered in London, they already had offices in most of the world’s shipping centers, and, as a quick expansion strategy, had acquired a number of companies offering related ancillary services such as financial, technical and market research advice.

Despite rapid growth and being ranked number two in their industry, Acme’s value as a group was underappreciated by investors and customers, and this showed in the numbers: while their revenue was one third of the industry leader, their market capitalization was only one twelfth of their key competitor. 

Acme’s leadership knew they had a challenge ahead of them: they needed to integrate their services and leverage a more comprehensive, coherent offer to drive growth and perceived value.

To achieve this, they needed a Chief Marketing Officer who could develop a long term plan on how to build and market the Acme brand reputation:

  • Firstly, a brand strategy which defines who they are as a company: what the Acme brand stands for, who they serve, and where they are going in the future. 
  • Secondly, an integrated marketing plan on how to communicate this to external and internal target audiences.

While Acme’s leadership knew what they wanted to achieve, they also knew they lacked the marketing, reputational and change management capabilities. Their management realised they needed to hire a fractional CMO to develop and initially implement the plan. Someone with heavyweight experience who could gain the trust of the leadership, and who could ultimately source a permanent CMO.

While the board initially preferred someone with shipping industry experience, they realised that it was more important to find someone with significant broader marketing experience who had encountered similar change management and repositioning challenges.

Stephen Mangham is a proven executive and entrepreneur who specialises in helping businesses define and articulate their value. He combines strategic vision with a deep knowledge of marketing and communications, business development and culture to guide profound change journeys in large and small organisations. He also teaches Marketing for Entrepreneurs at EDHEC Business School, and is an active shareholder in a video content platform company.

Acme found Stephen through a referral, and was selected as the best fit for Acme after a number of interviews with the management. 

As fractional CMO, Stephen proposed a three staged approach:

  1. Development, refinement and approval of the Master Brand Strategy (three months, project based)
  2. Development of both Integrated Marketing and Internal Change Comms Plans (two months, project based)
  3. Implementation of the Marketing and Change Management Plans – i.e. migrating the Acme Group of companies to one single company, culminating in the launch of the new Acme mono brand to all stakeholders (one year, 2 days/week)

Stephen proposed a deep dive discovery over the initial first two months of Stage One, which would enable him to understand the business and the way Acme worked, and canvas feedback from all areas of the business. To better understand the business and company structure, a management team member was tasked with mentoring him during Stage One, as well as being on hand to offer advice and clear any ‘roadblocks’.

Once management had approved the Master Brand Strategy and Plans, Stephen worked closely with selected leadership on its implementation. 

He also asked to work closely with the ‘Associates’ team – those mid level staff identified as next generation leaders. The Associates were identified as the best advocates – influential and respected staff who would seed the new Acme offer and integrated structure and be exemplars of the new brand values.

Stephen worked with Acme for 17 months.
In his role as fractional CMO, Stephen profoundly reframed the Acme business:

  • He developed a single minded customer centric benefit, based on a view of the world Acme operated in and the evolving needs of their customers.
  • He redefined their value, elevating them beyond mere brokers or intermediaries, and emphasising their expertise in investment and risk management in what is a notoriously volatile and translucent market. 
  • He gave purpose to the way Acme organised and developed their business, which became an organising mantra and unifying rallying cry for staff. 
  • Critically, he also identified and hired a long term manager to continue what he had developed.

When Stephen joined Acme, Acme’s leadership was looking for a way to integrate their services and leverage a more comprehensive, coherent offer to drive growth and perceived value. Knowing they lacked the internal capabilities for such a task, they relied on Stephen’s extensive experience to achieve their goals. After all of Stephen’s work and the launch of the new integrated Acme, the share price increased by almost 50 per cent in the following twelve months, and revenue for the last fiscal year (March 2022 to February 2023) increased by 51% year on year.

“Stephen ….reframed our group’s activities to better reflect our proposition to our clients. The work that he did with us was invaluable in engaging our people to assess the value-add that we bring to bear for our customers’ benefit.” – Acme’s CEO

Stephen Mangham is one of Masters’ of Scale Fractional Leaders.

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