It may seem obvious that marketing leadership matters, but it’s also quantifiable: in a study, it was found that agencies with CMOs perform 15% better than those without. In today’s dynamically changing market, marketing leadership is more important than ever. That’s why Crafton Bryant and Melissa Ebanks partnered with Sparxoo’s President and CEO, Rob Kane and David Capece, to start a brand new business: Sparxoo X. Sparxoo X is a collective of experienced, strategic, big-picture-minded fractional CMOs on a mission to make high performing marketing leadership accessible to enable more brands to successfully grow to the next level.
“Companies’ goals are typically centered around growth, and this stands true for small to mid-size businesses,” Crafton says. “You are in need of someone in the marketing space, but aren’t ready to allocate the budget for someone with senior level experience. So traditionally companies have given marketing responsibilities to an admin, marketing coordinator, or completely outsourced to an agency with limited oversight, and that’s not the recipe for success. Our goal is to elevate strategic thinking leadership and marketing management to help take marketing performance to the next level.”
Crafton and Melissa are the first two fractional CMOs on Sparxoo X’s team, and both have spent years honing their marketing strategy and business acumen at some of the most recognizable agencies and companies in the nation. Melissa started her career over 20 years ago at an ad agency in New York, spending time with organizations like BBDO and Cliff Freeman before moving to Miami to work with Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Throughout her career, Melissa realized that her passion was in the way the big picture and strategic implementation intersected. “It’s more content management than account management,” she says. “It’s how you clear a path for creative work, developing an instinct that creatives would respect and admire, offering more value than simply making spreadsheets, billing, and offering client entertainment alone. The biggest shift the account management role has taken over the years is offering solid strategies on marketplace information to make the work better at meeting your client’s business goals.”
Crafton, who has spent the past 15 years in marketing, has had a similar journey of self-discovery, preferring to marry strategy with implementation. “I like the small start-up approach,” he says. “That entrepreneurial grit where you dive in and have an impact right out of the gate.” Crafton’s work history includes time spent representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Kodak, and Corona, and ultimately led him to settle in Tampa and focus most of his marketing efforts in the hospitality industry with Bloomin Brands and Metro Diner.
And then — COVID-19 arrived. “Right in the middle of the pandemic, marketing departments were leveled,” Crafton says. “They were one of the primary organizational units hit — and with Sparxoo X, we saw a need to fill a space, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term beyond COVID.”
“Typically when marketing budgets are cut, that means CMOs and senior leadership get cut, and junior marketers stay to get the work done,” Melissa says. “This leads to a lack of strategy because juniors are bogged down in the day-to-day.” This leaves a CMO-sized gap, which can come with a lack of clear direction or brand definition. That’s exactly the gap Sparxoo X hopes to fill.
“My job — our role — is to come in and quickly understand what you need, what types of things you should be doing to get you where you want to go, and help you get there,” Melissa says. “One key question I ask new clients is, how do you make your money? What keeps you up at night? This can then influence the marketing strategy and creative outputs.”
Whatever your business’ starting point, Sparxoo X wants to help organize and add value from day one. There are a few things that Crafton says can help grease the strategy wheel. “An ideal partnership includes a client’s willingness to make sure Sparxoo X is completely immersed in the brand,” he says. “You’ve got to bring me onboard, and show me the company culture. It can’t be just transactional.”
Melissa agrees, and adds that it all comes down to the right introductions. “It’s critical to integrate with key stakeholders and decision-makers,” she says. “As I’m onboarding, I’m setting up meetings with the CEO, the head of HR, the COO, and as many other leaders as I can, so I can get an understanding of onboarding, training, and services to get a full picture.”
Business leaders may be surprised by the need for this cross-functional collaboration when it comes to defining a marketing strategy — but a brand story impacts more than just your customer-facing messaging. “For the first client I brought on board, we went through the exercise of defining company values, because they hadn’t done so before,” Crafton says. “So they identified their promises to team members, guests, and the community — and this now acts as the lens through which they operate. The marketing strategy blends into operations.”
One of the special benefits Sparxoo X has is its symbiotic relationship and unique access to digital marketing agency Sparxoo, and production company Sparxoo Studios. “I think that half of the issue of a new CMO or senior marketing leader within an organization is finding the right partners to execute plans,” Melissa says. “With our partnership with Sparxoo Digital and Sparxoo Studios, we have this collective, and even if we don’t have the right answer right away, we have experts to tap into and ask the best way to do things. It gets you that level of experience right away without having to search for it.”
Melissa appreciates these resources, as well as the autonomy she has as a CMO at Sparxoo X. “We get to evaluate what our clients are going to need, because we work within their business model,” she says. “From there, we can go out and vet partners. Figuring out the best fit for what our individual clients need is really important. We’ve always got the best interest of our clients at heart.” Or, as Crafton puts it, “Sparxoo X brings you strategy through execution.”
As fractional CMOs become more and more the norm, Melissa says she feels Sparxoo X stands alone in its unique focus. “I have seen holding companies and agencies start to feel their way around offering marketing leadership as a part of their overall offerings,” she says. “But I feel like Sparxoo X is doing it right by not folding this pivotal role into existing offerings, and instead is giving us the opportunity to build something new.”
To learn more about Sparxoo X, visit the website at www.SparxooX.com.