I was recently asked how it’s possible for someone to help several businesses simultaneously as a marketing and leadership consultant. I replied asking if they were talking about a fractional CMO, to which they asked “what’s a Fractional CMO?”.
I first learned that term through a leader in the online marketing space, although there are still many who may never have gotten into that term. A Fractional CMO is a huge advantage to businesses that lack the expertise they are looking for in the modern digital-first environment.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about what a Fractional CMO is, their responsibilities, their impact, how to determine whether you need one, and how to go about hiring the right one.
What is a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?
In business, the term “CMO” stands for Chief Marketing Officer. This is the person in charge of all marketing activities and initiatives within a company.
A Fractional CMO is a Chief Marketing Officer that works on a part-time or contract basis. A Fractional CMO leads marketing strategies and oversees marketing department activities. Fractional CMOs often work in partnership with businesses needing CMO roles but not in full-time positions.
Most businesses use Fractional CMO services because they don’t require full-time management but require expertise in strategy and leadership. They enjoy Fractional CMOs as a flexible alternative and at a fraction of the cost of a full-time CMO. Fractional CMOs are a great way to develop and execute a comprehensive marketing plan, fill in the gaps of your marketing department, or to support your business on a project-by-project basis.
The term “Fractional CMO” is also commonly known as a part-time CMO, outsourced CMO, or virtual CMO. Sometimes, a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer is also referred to as a marketing strategy consultant, who serves as the marketing leadership in your company.
What is the difference between a Fractional CMO vs. full-time CMO?
There are two types of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs): fractional and full-time. Both types of CMOs are responsible for developing and executing marketing strategy, but there are some key differences between the two.
A fractional CMO is a part-time, external consultant who provides strategic marketing guidance to businesses. They typically work with companies that don’t have the internal resources or need for a full-time CMO. Fractional CMOs can be hired on a project basis or as an ongoing monthly retainer. The fractional CMO manages and leads other marketing functions internally, such as: web design and SEO, PPC advertising, social media marketing, video production, and email marketing. They are also responsible for hiring talent and developing your in-house marketing team – usually from scratch. Fractional CMOs are becoming more common, especially in the startup community.
Full-time CMOs, on the other hand, are internal full-time employees who oversee all aspects of an organization’s marketing efforts. The role of the CMO is to act as the voice of the customer and to use that insight to inform a company’s marketing strategy. A full-time CMO works closely with all aspects of a business, including sales, engineering, and design.
It’s important to note that the marketing leader (CMO) in a company does not need to spend 40 hours a week on purely strategy. Moreover, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to find an experienced marketing leader.
This is why Fractional CMOs are crucial to your marketing function – they cost less, they develop strategy, they manage the team’s tactical execution, and they serve as an experienced marketing professional that also acts as the chief marketing officer.
The key difference between a Fractional CMO and a full-time CMO is that Fractional CMOs cost significantly less. Full-time CMO salaries usually start at $200,000 annually, depending on the industry and level of experience you’re after.
Fractional CMOs usually have extensive marketing experience and industry knowledge. Hiring the right Fractional CMO can cost $36,000 – $120,000, depending on the level of involvement you need. You can often find a Fractional CMO with a level of experience and knowledge that outweighs most full-time CMOs.
Why Fractional Marketing Leadership Is Increasingly Attractive To Companies
Today, most office workers work remotely. This sets a platform for an outsourced vendor to support marketing initiatives. Fractional marketing leaders are people with extensive marketing knowledge who have experience in the design and implementation of strategic plans to executing marketing departments and teams. Fractional CMOs carry a ton of experience and work on a fractional basis, all without the full time cost of C-level executives.
Growth-focused marketing strategy & leadership
A fractional CMO is often brought in when a company is experiencing high growth and needs an experienced marketing leader to help them scale.
There are many benefits of hiring a fractional CMO, including:
- They can provide fresh perspective and outside expertise.
- They are focused on growth and have the experience to help you scale.
- They can provide objective advice and be a sounding board for your ideas.
- They can help you develop and execute a robust marketing strategy.
- They can build and manage your marketing team and keep things running smoothly while you focus on other aspects of your business.
A Fractional CMO is usually hired to fill a temporary need or to help with a specific project. A fractional CMO can be a valuable asset to a company, providing expertise and fresh ideas. They can also help to take some of the burden off of the full-time marketing team.
Fractional CMO Job Description & Responsibilities
The Fractional CMO is the marketing leadership and corporate executive responsible for marketing teams and marketing outcomes. A good fractional CMO will be seen as a top level marketing strategist that helps companies meet marketing objectives.
Fractional CMOs work closely with your management team, marketing department and the sales professionals who implement the marketing tactics daily. Fractional CMOs should possess extensive marketing and management expertise.
Fractional CMOs are business leaders that drive outcomes, and that should be evident in their past experience.
Fractional CMOs work with senior leadership to develop and implement marketing strategies that align with business goals. The typical fractional CMO responsibilities may include:
- Creating a comprehensive marketing strategy / go to market strategy
- Creating and managing marketing initiatives, marketing efforts, and marketing campaigns
- Hiring, evaluating, training, and managing marketing talent
- Managing external marketing vendors or internal marketing team
- Overseeing and leading the entire marketing function, including tactical execution
- Guiding the strategic planning process for sales enablement and sales development
- Creating standard operating procedures for your team to follow
- Identify, evaluate, and lead implementation of technology such as marketing automation
- Helping increase company valuation as a member of your C-Suite executives
- Meeting with other C-Suite executives to ensure marketing is aligned with company strategic objectives
- Provide strategic project support on a fractional basis
- Managing and ensuring marketing key performance indicators (marketing KPIs) are met
Although this is a general outline of a Fractional CMO job description and responsibilities, most Fractional CMO services include most if not all of the above.
What does a fractional CMO not do?
Fractional CMOs are more about the management of a company’s marketing situation, not necessarily managing and driving the day-to-day execution.
Fractional CMOs are not necessarily going to be responsible for the entire marketing mix or all aspects of the overall marketing strategy. They may be responsible for different areas of the marketing mix, such as brand development, demand generation, SEO and PR.
They will not necessarily execute the marketing campaigns or do any task-oriented execution like a traditional CMO would. Instead, they will oversee the tactical execution using either external vendors, agencies, or freelancers. The will also help you hire and train an internal marketing department to execute marketing efforts.
What makes a good fractional CMO?
The best fractional CMO is someone who has done it before — for as long as your company has been in business and / or managing the same teams that your company needs to grow successfully.
As an integral member of your leadership team, Fractional CMOs should have the ability to lead, work with teams, and be very comfortable with data-driven decision making.
They should be able to turn data into actionable insights for the team to execute. They should also have a clear understanding of your business, your customers, and the challenges you face.
Challenges to consider
Fractional CMOs won’t always have the right answers. And just as with the internal full-time CMO, they should be able to leverage their peers to gain industry insight as your business grows.
Most companies don’t know whether hiring a fractional CMO will be disruptive to the internal culture they’ve developed. The right fractional CMO should have past experience working with teams of different technical backgrounds with a track record of leading teams in different environments.
Another common challenge companies face when hiring external marketing leadership is that the executive they hire is too “set in their ways”. This can cause friction within marketing operations teams and lead to high turnover in such a senior role. The solution here is to ensure that the fractional CMO you hire is innovative and has a track record of finding creative solutions for multiple companies in the past.
How much does a fractional CMO cost?
A fractional CMO provides the experience, expertise, and skills of a full time CMO at a fraction of the cost. They deliver significant business value through reduced risk and enhanced marketing impact, guaranteeing that you can quickly adapy your marketing and implementation to go to market fast.
According to salary.com, the average salary of a full-time chief marketing officer in 2022 was $338,504. This comes down to $162.74/hour, however that’s on a full-time basis at 40 hours a week.
The average hourly rate of a fractional CMO is typically between $200-$350 per hour, on a retainer basis. The amount depends on the number of hours they will spend with your company to drive outcomes. Most fractional CMO services include 2-10 hours a week, however some fractional CMOs are open to providing more dedicated time, depending on the project.
How to select the right Fractional CMO?
A fractional CMO is a great option for small businesses that don’t have the resources to hire a full-time CMO. But how do you know if a fractional CMO is right for your business? And once you’ve decided to go with a fractional CMO, how do you select and hire the right one?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting and hiring a fractional CMO:
- Define your needs. What are your marketing goals? What skills and experience does your ideal candidate need to have?
- Research different providers. Not all fractional CMOS are created equal. Make sure you research different providers and find one that’s a good fit for your business.
- Ask for referrals. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential candidates, ask for referrals from trusted sources.
- Ask for their Kolbe Index results. The Kolbe A Index assessment measures a person’s actions in particular situations. This could be invaluable to seeing how they will get along with you and the team.
Working with a fractional CMO means that you’ll have a marketing expert in charge of all marketing outcomes, so it’s important to choose one whose values are aligned with yours.
Do you need a Fractional CMO?
Companies should hire a fractional CMO when it needs marketing direction, expert marketing strategy, and leadership of marketing outcomes as a CMO but cannot afford it.
The best fractional CMO will help you increase demand, generate revenue, and increase company valuation.
At Devante Group, we help you make your marketing profitable. We provide the expertise, experience, and track record you need to develop long-term marketing strategies, bring in new employees, drive sales, and lead the company towards increased MRR.
If you’re interested in learning more about the fractional CMO services we offer, book a free intro call here.