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Fractional CMO - The Fractional Chief Marketing Officer

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

Technology has enabled us to outsource almost everything. This is especially true in the business world, and you know that. However, what would you say about outsourcing an executive C-level position such as a Chief Marketing Officer? A Fractional CMO is exactly that. In fact, during your search for a solution to your marketing needs, you’ll run into terms like CMO as a Service, Freelance CMO, etc.

Nevertheless, the term “fractional” fits perfectly with what a true fractional Chief Marketing Officer does because it implies that this expert and experienced marketing executive fractions his or her time into a fixed amount of partners and gives each one of them the resources and investment that a full-time in-house CMO would.

Sometimes even more because a good fractional CMO treats your company as a “client” in the sense that they will make every effort to delight you as a partner/client in order to keep the relationship mutually beneficial for as long as possible.

What is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional chief marketing officer is usually responsible for all of the marketing in your organization. They are crucial to the building and executing of a strategy that helps your company reach its business goals. Their responsibilities include managing stakeholders, the marketing team, working alongside sales and sales enablement, coordinating with HR and third-party contractors or providers, and the entire set of duties you expect from a C-Level executive invested in the success of your company:

  • Leading the marketing team

  • Driving positioning, segmentation & messaging

  • Owning product pricing, go-to-market, and launch

  • Optimizing and improving clients’ online presence

  • Building the marketing & sales automation infrastructure

  • Creating prospect onboarding and nurture programs

  • Creating customer retention and loyalty campaigns

  • Branding, PR, and trademarks

  • Content marketing & thought leadership

  • Paid search and organic search marketing

  • Hiring and onboarding new team members

  • Preparation of marketing material funding

This is a highly important position and should be treated accordingly. Research is important. But equally important is to analyze the entire spectrum of factors affected by this decision, including the readiness of your company, business structure, and strategic positioning of your entire business.

Ask Yourself: Do I Need a Fractional CMO?

Determining the current state of your marketing and even sales efforts is crucial in order to decide if you need to add a leadership role to your marketing team.

The first step is to audit the current state of all your marketing efforts. This includes analyzing any historic data available, talking to the team, leaders, evaluating your digital marketing templates, clients (present and past), and other stakeholders that might have important information.

Then, competitor and market research is used to add context to the data and insights. But the most important factor to analyze is your business goals in the short, middle, and long term. Determining the resources available is easy; however, defining what resources are needed heavily depends upon defining specific, attainable, measurable, realistic, and time-based goals.

If you’re not sure, a good fractional CMO will help you answer this question with a free audit. Others might charge you. Do your research and find a few candidates, reach out, see what answers you get, and make a decision. This will help you better understand your options.

9 Signs You need a Fractional CMO

  1. Your company isn’t ready for a full-time marketing executive.

  2. Your company’s been around a long time, but no one is leading marketing.

  3. Your marketing, brand, and message are weak and fragmented.

  4. You lack marketing insights that inform executive decisions.

  5. You need a strategy to meet the growth objectives you set as CEO/president/founder.

  6. You need a process that is executed and managed in its entirety.

  7. Your sales efforts feel stagnated and are not getting results.

  8. Your current marketing is no longer getting the results you want.

  9. Your company needs a visionary that can foresee the future of digital marketing trends.

What makes a Good Fractional CMO?

The same thing that sets any provider or partner apart: Outstanding service and added value. Also, a good fractional CMO has a track record of successfully leading marketing teams. In other words, the fractional CMO you’re looking for has done it before. They have seen the right level of growth that your company has experienced or is working towards, and has managed and/or built the same size team that your company needs.

Just like a regular CMO, a fractional chief marketing officer manages, leads, and delivers ROI on all fronts to have all bases covered. Including:

  • Management and running of the day-to-day functions of the marketing team, and of the team’s long-term ambitions.

  • Leadership to earn the trust of the team and other stakeholders (CEOs, CSO, VPs, the Board).

  • Deliver ROI to make sure that it makes sense to continue to invest (or not invest) in each area of the marketing function.

Since good fractional CMOs have done it before, you can expect someone who has gone through the ups and downs that come with each stage of growth for a company. This makes them better equipped to handle the typical ’out-of-the-ordinary’ situations, and focus more on delivering on the results needed to help the company scale.

Other things to consider when deciding to work with a fractional CMO include the added advantages of not having to incur the cost of searching and training an in-house CMO, including the added price of medical insurances, benefits, and signing bonuses. A Fractional CMO allows your organization to get started building your marketing function instantly at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time.

A good fractional CMO will also have a stronger focus on industry knowledge vs. “learning on the job”. Despite all the advantages of a fractional CMO, there are also challenges to be considered.

Challenges to Consider

More often than not, fractional CMOs might not be experts in your field or industry. This just means that they will rely on you and other experts inside your company to get ramped up. But since they’ve done this before, their ramp-up period is much shorter than someone who’s just learning on the job.

Another thing to consider is that fractional chief marketing officers are usually not forever. They join your team and set up your organization for long-term success with the proper best practices for marketing in your industry and hire an in-house team. After that, they might stay on as consultants or move on to their next challenge. However, there are cases where a fractional CMO will stay with a company for the long term.

Who needs a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

To understand what organizations might benefit from partnering with a Fractional CMO, you need to evaluate the following criteria:

  • Are you looking to invest in a new marketing function?

  • Do you have an existing marketing team that needs executive-level guidance and leadership?

  • Is your company interested in getting an independent, outside perspective on your business, go-to-market strategy, and tactics?

  • Do you want to get a running start on major go-to-market strategies and not take a long time to find the right hire?

  • Your team doesn’t have the time or money to look for a CMO.

  • Are you spending more time on marketing than CEO-related items?

  • Do you want to explore more demand generation channels?

After evaluating these key points, you might ask yourself:

Why not just hire a marketing agency?

That is a great question to ask and the answer depends on your comány’s needs. If you’re looking for a team to just execute on some marketing initiatives and report on progress regularly, an agency might be the right choice for you. Agencies usually just deliver the work agreed on based on a strategy and usually need a lot of direction from you and your team.

So, unless you’re providing the direction and overall marketing strategy, you likely need marketing leadership. Fractional CMOs act as a part of your executive team. They will sit in the meetings and they will provide direction and overall strategy for your company’s projected growth.

How much does a Fractional CMO cost?

The first thing you have to keep in mind is that you should not compromise quality for cost. Especially when it comes to your Chief Marketing Officer.

Having said that, the price will also depend on your market and location, among other things. Fractional CMOs in Europe, The United States, Canada, Australia, for instance, will manage a cost of anywhere from 200 to 350 US Dollars per hour. They usually invest anywhere from 40 to 60 hours per month to be your CMO.

​This means that a fractional CMO that has the talent and experience to get the job done will cost you anywhere from $8,000 to $21,000 USD per month. That is a considerable investment.

​But there is a much more cost-effective way to go about having a highly experienced and qualified Chief Marketing Officer in your team. A structure that is based outside the United States but gives you everything a good CMO can do for your business at a fraction of the cost, with much higher quality standards, a network of contacts and partners around the world, and the most innovative strategies to reach your ROI and Revenue goals.

As mentioned above, good fractional CMOs will give you a free audit so that you can see the facts and recommendations and make an informed decision, based on clear pricing that is within your budget and helps you reach your goals.

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