Lori Asbury, MBA ’03 (E): CMOco

Offering value that clients understand — and want

Offering value that clients understand — and want

by Irene Kim

Lori Asbury, MBA ’03 (E), president and CEO of CMOco

Lori Asbury’s two-year-old startup, CMOco, has a simple value proposition: Rent a chief marketing officer (CMO). “Many companies, typically in the range of $10 million to $100 million, have a need for a senior-level CMO, but can’t afford or may not want a full-time, sixfigure- salary CMO,” says Asbury. “We tell them, ‘You’ll have a senior-level CMO with more than 25 years of experience in building billiondollar brands, who will work with you not only on marketing strategy but on high-level corporate strategy, with no risk or overhead. You pay for only the hours you need.’”

“The clients grasp the concept quickly,” she adds. And they love it.

The idea for CMOco evolved a few years ago, while Asbury was senior vice president of marketing for HGTV in Knoxville, Tenn. A local entrepreneur, Parker Frost, enlisted her help in growing his two marketing companies. At the time, Asbury had been helping two other organizations — a water-purification company and a digital music company — with business development and marketing strategy.

Asbury and Frost began talking about developing a full-service marketing firm. Asbury already had two clients in her portfolio and saw the advantage of drawing on Frost’s established corporate infrastructure and resources for a startup. The time was right: CMOco was launched in the spring of 2011.

With revenues of nearly $1 million in its first year, CMOco is now working on diversifying its client portfolio, hiring additional CMOs from different industries, and annexing office space next door. “Like any small business, we have an ebb and flow. Some months are great; other months, I wonder whether to pay myself,” says Asbury. “But we have been really blessed; things are going great.”

Offering value that clients understand — and want