18: Lara McCulloch: How Small Businesses Can Leverage a Fractional CMO (Interview)

We’re delighted to have Lara McCulloch joining us today! Lara is an experienced marketer, having consulted with some of the world’s largest companies, like Unilever, Kraft, Shell, and Johnson & Johnson. Lara also helps small business companies in her role as a Fractional CMO.

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In today’s episode, she shares some gold nuggets of information about investment strategies, and she also takes a look at being disruptive and using micro-niche triggers, which is an interesting approach to marketing for small businesses. 

Lara McCulloch is the founder of #eventprofs

Lara McCulloch came up with the original #eventprofs when she was keynoting an event back in 2007, where she was introduced as the founder of the #eventprofs. 

The world was in a very different place back then, technologically, and Lara was part of a group of people on Twitter who were in the events industry. They were a unified group because they were all on the cutting edge of wanting to incorporate technology into their businesses. However, at that point, Twitter had only been around for about a year, and people did not yet fully understand social media. 

Recognizing an opportunity with Twitter

Lara saw that Twitter could provide a big opportunity because people were there. However, until she learned about the hashtag, there was no way of organizing any conversation on Twitter. 

How #eventprofs was formed

When Lara McCulloch found out about the hashtag, she realized that creating one for her community would enable them to organize conversations on Twitter, and they could then all talk to one another at the same time, using that tool.

Apart from creating the hashtag and starting the conversation, they also had to train people about what a hashtag was, and how to use the tool, as well as having to poll the community to find out which topics were hot, and needed to be spoken about. 

Making the shift to owning her own business

Lara started, at the age of seventeen, in the very dog-eat-dog agency world. At the time, very few women were in senior-level positions in agencies. 

Lara had a wonderful female mentor in a senior position, who explained to her that if she wanted to make it in the industry, she would need to work harder, later, and longer than anyone else because she was a woman.  

So she did that for the next twelve or thirteen years, and it worked!

Climbing the corporate ladder

Lara got the title, and she was very successful. She was making a lot of money, and she was poised to take over her boss’s position at the agency, but even so, she did not feel happy because she had very little time for herself.

So, although everyone thought she was crazy to do it, she decided to quit and start a business of her own.  

Looking at how she wanted to feel

Before starting her business, Lara asked herself how she wanted to feel daily. Although it is not something that is spoken about very often in business, she knew that it was important to take her feelings into account.

She created a mood-board, which then became a litmus test for what she wanted to do in the next phase in her life.

Making a decision

Lara decided that she wanted to be a consultant, or what she calls a Fractional CMO. 

She works mainly with companies that cannot yet afford to bring in a CMO, and are usually worth between two and ten million dollars on the side of the business where she’s doing her consulting.

What a Fractional CMO is

Lara explains that as a Fractional CMO, she works as a CMO for businesses. But because she also works with other businesses, they have to share her.

Lara helps her clients to develop the strategy of their brand.

Why most marketing sucks

Lara explains that most marketing sucks because people haven’t created something that people care about. 

Who Lara McCulloch wants to work with

Lara wants to work with brands that have created something worth caring about and wants to pivot to creating something truly special, that people are interested in, and want to pay attention to.

Passing power to others

Lara McCulloch believes that power is transferable. She feels that the only way to give somebody else power is to give up some of your power. In other words, you need to decide to do something that could potentially diminish you in the eyes of other people, to help someone else. And that can be a difficult decision to make.

Woman power

Lara points out that if women band together, they can create some truly amazing movements. And lately, we’re seeing a lot of this happening, and a lot of power has been emerging within women’s groups.

Three important business strategies

Lara has a fundamental belief that one of the most important decisions that any business needs to make is to choose one of three business strategies.

They are:

  1. Take the opportunity to be a noise leader. (Spending more than anyone else in your market on advertising.)
  2. Be a low price leader. (Your pricing is lower than anyone else in your market.)
  3. Have a disruptive cure. (You have a solution to an untapped problem in your marketplace that causes disruption, and you’re doing it for a very narrowly defined audience, or a micro-niche.)

This is a very important strategic decision for any business to make.

The land of ambiguity

The land of ambiguity is a scary place for a business to be in bad times. It usually happens when a business becomes a version or a replica of their competition, but without their competition’s experience, systems, infrastructure, or partnerships.

The three fundamentals to creating a disruptive cure

  1. The micro-niche
  2. Triggers (The things that will motivate people to buy.)
  3. Anti-narratives (Moving away from preconceived constructs, stories, or ideas.)


The goal with really great branding is to be the only one, and not one of many. 

Lara’s goal

Lara’s goal is to move 10 000 businesses from the land of ambiguity to having a disruptive cure.

Lara McCulloch has a group coaching program

In response to COVID-19, Lara McCulloch has launched a group coaching program to help small businesses, and bring what she does to businesses that don’t have big budgets to hire an expert, or cannot afford to hire Lara one-on-one.  


Links and resources:                                             

Lara’s website 

Lara’s Twitter handle – #laramcculloch

The Twitter handle for EventProfs – #eventprofs


Lara is offering you, the listener, the opportunity to become a member of her group coaching program at a special founding member’s price of $199 per month, with no commitments.

Recommended book: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout

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Eric Rozenberg

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