August 18, 2020

Who, Why, and When to Hire a Fractional CMO

Leading a marketing team can be a major challenge, requiring expertise and experience. This makes a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) a valuable but often expensive asset. 
But what if you don’t have the budget to hire a CMO and your business requires marketing leadership? Hiring a fractional CMO could be the answer.
What Is a Fractional CMO?
A CMO is a C-suite leader of all marketing-related activities. They manage marketing staff, and external marketing-related agencies and work closely with other corporate departments.

fractional CMO

A fractional CMO performs these responsibilities, but they are a contract-based, part-time employee. Since most fractional CMOs work remotely, they are often called virtual CMOs.
In practice, a fractional CMO comes in different forms: 

  • An individual who performs fractional CMO duties, working on a retainer or project basis.
  • A full-fledged marketing agency offering a fractional CMO service on a contract-to-hire basis.
  • A marketing agency that provides marketing consultation service with a banner of “fractional CMO” service

Having a fractional CMO simply means the duties of a CMO are outsourced to an individual or external agency.

Why Do You Need a Fractional CMO?

There are three key benefits of hiring a fractional CMO:

  • Affordable Expertise

A fractional CMO service has senior-level experience, but you don’t pay full freight for their knowledge or expertise. 

  • Speed

Even if you have the budget to hire a full-time CMO, finding the right person can take a long time. On the other hand, a fractional CMO can be a quick hire who can deliver immediate value. 

  • Strategic Impact

A fractional CMO can generate a better overall direction and provide holistic and strategic services. The fractional CMO can manage your existing marketing team or help to build a marketing team from the ground up and lay the required strategic groundwork. 

Do I Need a Fractional CMO?

The biggest benefit of ‘hiring’ a fractional CMO is that you get marketing leadership and expertise at just a fraction of the price. 
There are three key questions to answer:

  1. Do you need to delegate your marketing responsibilities?

If you are the CEO and know that you can’t effectively manage your marketing team or need someone with the right expertise to achieve your marketing goals, the answer is probably “yes.” 
Ideally, a CEO should focus on high priority tasks. A fractional CMO with knowledge about the latest marketing technologies, tools, trends, and strategies can bring a lot to the table. 

  1. Do you have the budget to hire a full-time CMO? 

A CMO in the US has an average salary of $174,000 and can cost about $250,000 a year before benefits. That’s a significant investment. 

  1. Are you planning to build your team in-house or stay lean?

In some respects, this has to do with organizational philosophy. If you want to say lean, hiring a fractional CMO is an attractive option. 
Additional signs your organization might need of a fractional CMO includes: 

  • Your marketing team needs help.

If you have a marketing team but need senior leadership, hiring a fractional CMO can increase marketing performance exponentially. 

  • You need an external consultant to review your marketing strategy objectively. 

A third-party can provide perspective and clarity. A fractional CMO can review your strategy and make it more effective and efficient to drive ROI.

  • You are going to launch a new product (or service)

If targeting a new audience, a fractional CMO can help with strategic planning to effectively accelerate your product launch without breaking the bank. 

How to Choose The Right Fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO should have as many of these traits as possible:

  • Experience

If it is an individual marketer, review their work and/or previous projects. If it is a marketing agency acting as a fractional CMO, look at their client portfolio and past projects. Since you are technically hiring a CMO, you want someone who can provide a holistic approach rather than being a specialist. Make sure they are up-to-date with the latest trends and strategies.

  • Expertise

Marketers and agencies can have different specialties. If, for example, you want to improve lead generation, hiring someone with relevant expertise makes sense.

  • Perspectives from outside your industry

Many fractional CMOs will have experience with different industries and marketing strategies, and they can use it to enhance strategic planning. When exploring options, you want a fractional CMO willing to experiment and embrace new strategic approaches.  

  • A shared vision

A fractional CMO is becoming a C-suite member, so they need a clear vision of where you want marketing to go. 

  • Open-mindedness 

No matter how experienced a fractional CMO, look for someone willing to listen and learn. After all, they must educate themselves about your organization, a unique entity with its own needs and marketing objectives. 

  • Strong communication skills

A fractional CMO is not a full-time member of your team so that they could be seen as a threat by the rest of your team. The fractional CMO must communicate clearly with your marketing team and your organization to avoid potential disparities and ensure cooperation. 

  • Be goal-oriented

A CMO is responsible for your organization’s revenue, so a fractional CMO must understand the marketing and sales process, everything from generating and converting leads into revenue.

  • Be customer-focused

A CMO must focus on short-term revenue but also build long-term relationships with existing customers to maximize customer lifetime value (CLV) and encourage advocacy. 

Final Words

Hiring a fractional CMO can be a  cost-effective way to get expertise and leadership without having a significant impact on your budget. Even if you want to hire a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO can fill the gap and provide critical services while the search is happening.

I’m a fractional CMO for fast-growing B2B companies that want to drive more engagement, attract better prospects, and grow sales. I help companies with brand positioning and strategic plans and oversee tactical execution.

Book a free 30-minute strategy consultation to discuss how I can help you on an advisor, project, or part-time basis.

Listen to my podcast, Marketing Spark: 15-minute interviews with marketing and entrepreneurs in the trenches. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter, featuring curated content about marketing and sales.


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