Innovator Insights: Hawke Media’s Erik Huberman On The Opportunity To Tap Into Outsourced CMO Services

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Erik Huberman sounds genuinely surprised — if more than a little relieved — that he managed to develop a marketing agency that was tailor-made to operate in the midst of a global health emergency.

Erik Huberman sounds genuinely surprised — if more than a little relieved — that he managed to develop a marketing agency that was tailor-made to operate in the midst of a global health emergency. 

Launched 2014, Hawke Media describes itself as a full-sourced provider of outsourced CMO services based in Santa Monica, California. That means it helps brands with guidance, planning and execution on a wide range of marketing needs. It also means it has been digital-first and virtual from the get-go. 

“The weird realization when the pandemic hit was that we were already built for this,” Huberman told Brand Innovators. “Besides the fact we can work remotely, we were also able to be there after that panicked, reactionary stage. We were exactly what they needed, and our businesses have skyrocketed ever since.”

Beyond the expertise of its team, Huberman noted that Hawke Media provides its clients a high degree of flexibility with an à la carte offering of services and a month-to-month fee structure. This includes driving a search engine marketing strategy, running campaigns on social media platforms such as Facebook and web design. 

Given the pressure many marketing leaders are under, meanwhile — and the turnover that often happens as a result — Huberman sees Hawke Media as providing some much needed stability to brands’ marketing function. 

“Our fractional CMOs are not full-time. They act as strategists and become an advisor to the brand,” he said. “If they lose their internal marketing person and have to replace them with someone else, we’re able to pick up where they left off and help with that interim solution.”

Huberman offered some advice and insight into some of the biggest areas where brands should be focused as they reemerge from the pandemic: 

Online Is A Channel, Not A Business Model

Huberman cites a Hawke Media client called Innovative Fitness in Canada. Like most other brands in that sector, its gyms had to be shut down as the pandemic began to spread. 

Rather than sit on the sidelines, however, he said the company learned to exercise some new muscles. This included creating virtual classes and other online services that offered new revenue streams. 

“Now they’re doing better than they ever were,” he said. “All these companies had to pivot but now as things open up the focus should be on how they can scale. And it’s not a choice between online and in-person experiences. You can have both.”

In-Housing Is A Balancing Decision, Not A Binary One

Given its role in leading a lot of its clients’ marketing activities, Huberman says Hawke Media has learned how to effectively coexist with other agencies or partners they might have. And he has no problem with that, as long as the work is good and all the third parties in question act with integrity. 

As more brands consider whether they take more of their marketing activity in-house, however, he suggested being mindful about what kind of work they’ve prepared to take on. 

“I think it’s always a balance. The mistake is in thinking it’s binary,” he said. “Do I think a lot of your creative can be brought in-house? Yes. But not advertising. The chances of you finding that magical media buyer who has all the relationships with all the platforms and an ability to stay on top of it is a fallacy.”

This is where he said he believes companies like Hawke Media can provide great value — by identifying where the holes are in a brand’s marketing and then filling them. 

Think ‘Improbable, But Not Impossible’

It may be difficult for marketers to set new goals with a degree of ongoing uncertainty following the pandemic. Huberman advised thinking about a target that, even if it’s not fully reached, will take a brand further than before. That’s how he operates Hawke Media, too. 

“We have a mission of making great marketing accessible to everyone. It may be improbable that we can actually do that,” he admitted. “But we can offer our clients better training, better software and tools to help with what they do, or even the capital loans we give to some clients to help scale their market. If that mission is what we’re reaching for, achieving it could be improbable but we’ll still be a great company.”

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