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Stop Playing Whac-a-Mole:

How a CCMO Can Help AEC Firms Win the Marketing Game

Most everyone is familiar with the carnival or arcade game Whac-a-Mole. Players use a mallet to hit plastic moles that pop up randomly; but as soon as they hit one, another pops up somewhere else. In many ways, this game can be an apt metaphor for the challenges faced by in-house marketing teams at professional services firms.

Marketers at AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) firms, particularly small- to mid-sized ones, wear a lot of hats and juggle a multitude of marketing tasks on a day-to-day basis, with their time often dominated by heavy proposal churn. They inevitably find themselves struggling to stay on top of important non-pursuit-related marketing initiatives – projects that are recognized as strategically key to the long-term success of the firm – because they are constantly playing Whac-a-Mole, addressing more urgent, short-term priorities, like drafting a proposal or compiling slides for an interview deck (or even implementing a time-sensitive social media post) – things that always just seem to “pop up.”

This reactive rut affects not only AEC marketers, but also others in the firm who get sucked into the “game.” In almost every small- to mid-sized AEC firm, there are legitimate, leadership-backed, funded marketing priorities that are not getting enough attention because of limited resources, limited expertise, limited hours in a day, and, of course, the seemingly never-ending cadence of proposal deadlines and other urgent needs. This is where tapping into an outside marketing leadership resource can make a big difference.

The Best Way to Combat Whack-a-Mole: Introducing the CCMO

If Whac-a-Mole has become your marketing department’s daily routine, it’s time to try something different. A Consulting Chief Marketing Officer™ (CCMO) – aka “Fractional CMO” – is an outside marketing expert who serves as a C-level advisor on a part-time, consulting basis. Small- to mid-sized companies don’t typically employ marketing team members in director- or executive-level roles, and therefore often struggle with strategy and positioning. When you contract with a CCMO, you can dramatically improve the approach and extend the capabilities of your marketing program and staff – without needing to hire another full-time employee.

Here are seven benefits I offer as a CCMO:

An Objective Point of View: Intra-office dynamics can make it difficult to have the necessary candid conversations that spark progress and improvement. As a CCMO, I bring fresh eyes to your marketing program. You can share your concerns with your CCMO and in return, I can honestly assess your company’s challenges and opportunities, often helping to guide difficult decisions or necessary changes.

A Strategic Focus: When your marketing team lives and breathes short-term deadlines from day to day, strategy can become lost. An experienced CCMO can bring bigger picture strategy back into play. After getting to know a new client, I work with key stakeholders to create a comprehensive strategic marketing plan – or sector-specific go-to-market plans – that will improve market positioning and increase brand recognition and market share for years to come.

An Integrated On-call Resource: No need to clear out another space in your office – a CCMO collaborates with clients remotely or on-site on an as-needed basis. That means I’m just a Zoom call away from joining your go/no-go or pursuit strategy meeting; or can quickly jump in to proof and edit that cover letter or that award submittal you’ve been working on all day. With each of my clients, I serve as an extension of the internal team – even using an in-house email address – and act as a day-to-day resource: a sounding board for executives, as well as a mentor to in-house marketing staff.

Progress Regardless of In-House Workload: All those projects that have leadership’s support but no one with the time or right knowledge to execute them? Let’s talk. A good CCMO should bring decades of experience in strategy as well as a roadmap and process for implementation. Through my CCMO Plus (CCMO+) service offering, I function as a small agency with skilled professionals on my team that can help to implement the marketing plan and tackle all the marketing initiatives or special projects that have been causing anxiety but were relegated to the B-pile.

Expertise Beyond a Single Project: The benefits of hiring a CCMO don’t end with the culmination of a special project. Any marketing consultant can help get a straggling project off the ground. A CCMO, on the other hand, provides long-term value by serving as a trusted advisor. The longer I work with a client, the better placed they are to build a culture of continuous improvement around their unique marketing initiatives and strategy.

Proprietary Tools and Methods: A CCMO successfully operates on a foundation of creativity, agility, expertise, and lessons learned, built over years and years of diversified experience. Whatever your challenge, more than likely, I have developed a proprietary tool or proven process that addresses your needs and takes the pressure off your in-house team to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we can collaborate, customize, and roll-out a new-to-you tool or process that everyone can embrace.

An Economical Choice: Why hire a full-time C-level executive when you can have one at a fraction of the price? Companies that engage CCMOs enjoy access to all the experience and knowledge of a chief marketing officer without incurring the considerable overhead costs of a full-time executive. And the role is scalable to meet your unique needs. From clients who need just two hours per week to those who need 40 hours per month, the CCMO business model provides flexibility and value to meet your specific budget.

In conclusion, while the Whac-a-Mole game can be fun at a carnival, it’s not a game that AEC firms should be playing with their marketing approach. Regardless of how strapped for time your in-house marketers may be, a CCMO can lead strategy and move initiatives forward without getting caught in the crosshairs of short deadlines. AEC firms can shift their marketing approach from reactive and chaotic to proactive and strategic within a matter of weeks. Investing in a CCMO can be an efficient and effective option for firms that are ready to trade in their mallet and actually start getting things done.

If you’re ready to transform your marketing strategy, get in touch here or contact me directly at to schedule an intro call.

Image Credit/License: Sarah Stierch (CC BY 4.0)