Fractional Marketing Director: All You Need to Know
Mid-sized companies and enterprises often field an in-house marketing team, up to and including a marketing director, CMO (chief marketing officer), and/or Vice President of Marketing.
Small businesses, solopreneurs, and startups, by contrast, usually don’t have the budget for that level of in-house marketing talent. At best, they may have one possibly underqualified point-person in charge of marketing, seriously short-handed and with an incomplete idea of what the organization needs to succeed at marketing.
These businesses are no less in need of effective marketing. In fact, to carve out market share from larger competitors, they need effective marketing even more. Marketing is how a brand gains “top-of-mind awareness” amongst its target market. Without top-of-mind awareness in your customer base, the cash register does not ring, and the business will fail due to a lack of revenue.
Fractional marketing is a potential solution that gives smaller organizations access to an enterprise-level marketing team, at a price tag they can afford.
Essentially, a fractional marketing contract affords the company access to an experienced, proven marketing team, headed by a fractional marketing director or fractional CMO. The team isn’t at their service on a full-time, permanent basis. Rather, the fractional marketing team works for the organization on a short-term contract for a set number of hours per week—a “fraction” of the workweek.
This often represents a tremendous saving compared to the full-time compensation requirements of seasoned marketing professionals, as well as a chance to access otherwise out-of-reach talent to get their marketing up, running, and producing results.
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What is a fractional marketing team?
A fractional marketing team is a team of seasoned marketing professionals that is available for hire on a contract basis, rather than being employed full-time by a single organization.
The team is led by a fractional marketing director or fractional CMO and performs all the functions an in-house marketing team might fulfill.
The difference—the fractional marketing team might work ten hours a week for Company A, twenty hours a week for Company B, another ten hours a week for Company C, and so on, all at the same time.
Fractional marketing teams are often fielded by digital marketing service providers and agencies and charge by the hour.
Why Should Your Startup Hire a Fractional Marketing Director?
Marketing is one of the biggest challenges any startup will face. As a new face on the scene, no one has heard of you. You have to get the message out, in the most effective way possible.
And not just effective, but affordable. The sky's the limit when it comes to the ability of a marketing campaign to eat money. Without effective leadership and good strategy, you could blow an entire marketing budget, of any size, with nothing to show for it.
Of course, startups also rarely have the budget to outfit a full-time marketing team, including an experienced marketing director. The marketing director alone, assuming you get someone good, will command a six-figure salary, not including bonuses and equity.
A fractional marketing director, by contrast, enables a startup to “rent” the services of an experienced marketing director without having to “buy” them at a price they can’t afford.
The fractional marketing director can help your startup make the best possible use of the marketing resources you already have, automate whatever can be automated, and set KPIs (key performance indicators) that will allow you to track your progress even after the fractional marketing director’s tenure is over.
An outsourced marketing director can also act as interim CMO if the current marketing director leaves the organization and someone is needed to fill the role until a full-time replacement is identified and hired.
How much do fractional CMOs make?
Fractional CMOs tend to charge by the hour, and only bill an organization for the hours they spend working for that organization—usually a fraction of the workweek. Ten hours, twenty hours, and so on.
How much do they charge per hour? Usually in the range of $200-$300 hourly. This is actually steeper than the compensation rate a full-time CMO will charge. But what you lose in hourly expenditure, you make up for in fewer hours and no pricey benefits package for them. Since the outsourced CMO works on a temporary contract, only for a fraction of the workweek, you will usually end up spending less in the short term, and a lot less in the long-term, by going fractional in your marketing leadership.
Fractional Marketing Directors Provide Direction, Guidance, and Leadership
Some organizations think they can afford to do without marketing leadership, either hiring junior marketing specialists or outsourcing marketing tasks to freelancers, then letting them go wild and “do their thing.”
Unfortunately, this is a recipe for marketing chaos, with every stakeholder in the marketing strategy working at cross purposes from each other. As with any complex business process, a marketing department is dead in the water without leadership.
Fractional marketing directors often have a broad-based knowledge of how marketing campaigns work. They could get their hands dirty with the nuts and bolts of a campaign if they wanted to. But that’s not the highest-value use of their time.
A fractional marketing director takes a high-level view of a marketing effort. Whereas any given marketing technician might know what is going on in their silo, a fractional marketing director understands the place of that cog in the “big picture.”
If marketing is like a giant ship, gaining momentum in a specific direction, the fractional marketing director makes sure that the ship is pointing in the right direction, and that no stakeholder in the marketing effort is pulling their oars in the wrong direction.
How can a Fractional Marketing Director Structure Your Marketing Department?
Even if your resources are limited, a fractional marketing director will want to impose some sort of structure on your marketing department.
Even if each division consists of only one person, even if one person wears multiple hats, proper structuring of your marketing department ensures that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. It also lays the groundwork for them to get the training they need to succeed.
Divisions a fractional marketing director may impose upon a marketing department include:
- Social Media Team. Social media platforms are an extraordinarily powerful channel for customer outreach. The social media team will take the lead on various social-media outreach campaigns, including paid social media campaigns, organic engagement campaigns, and viral campaigns.
- SEO Team. The search engine optimization (SEO) team is responsible for improving on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO, with the goal of increasing organic search traffic to the brand’s web properties.
- SEM Team. Search engine marketing (SEM) involves paid search advertising. Long-term, other forms of marketing pay bigger dividends, but SEM will play an early and ongoing role in most marketing campaigns for its ability to generate quick traffic and split-test messaging.
- Customer Acquisition Team. The customer acquisition team members are the foot-soldiers of the marketing department, the ones who make direct contact with customers and take ultimate responsibility for every step of the customer’s journey, from discovery to closing.
- Product Marketing Team. A huge percentage of your marketing burden is already lifted if you get the product design right. The product marketing team acts as the product’s ambassador to the outside world to gather customer feedback and prospect data, making sure the product is the best possible fit for its target market.
- Content Creation Team. Marketing requires content. A lot of content. Organizations rarely have the on-staff team necessary to dedicate to the volume of content creation needed to successfully market a brand. A content creation team is responsible for the creation of written, audio, and video content needed to execute marketing campaigns, whether that means creating the content in-house or outsourcing the creation of that content.
- Web Design Team. The website is the anchor of all modern marketing campaigns—digital and traditional. The web design team is responsible for making sure that the marketing campaigns are all pointing toward a website that converts—turns prospects into leads, leads into paying customers.
Fractional Marketing Director Frequently Asked Questions
1. Fractional marketing director definition
A fractional marketing director is a marketing director that comes on board with a company on a temporary, contractual basis, usually to serve for only a “fraction” of the workweek—ten hours a week, twenty hours a week, and so on.
An experienced fractional marketing director provides leadership to an organization’s marketing team and gets them on the right track, without the organization having to shell out a large, ongoing compensation package for a full-time marketing director.
2. How can a fractional marketing director launch a marketing strategy from scratch?
One of the most important functions a fractional marketing director can execute, especially for startups, is to build a marketing strategy from the ground up. If no marketing strategy exists yet, it’s a unique opportunity to get it right from the get-go.
So what does it take to launch a marketing strategy from scratch?
- Set company marketing goals. To get anywhere, you need an idea of where you are going. One of the most important functions of a marketing director, fractional or otherwise, is to put in place the vision for the overall marketing strategy. What does success look like? Once that is clear, you can begin to formulate a plan to get you there, with benchmarks and systems of accountability along the way.
- Decide on a marketing budget. A key question behind every business campaign is “How much is it going to cost?” Marketing budgets can easily balloon out of control without strong leadership. A fractional marketing director can not only establish a budget, but also benchmarks for return on investment (ROI)—i.e. How much revenue a company can expect to make back on its marketing investment, and how soon.
- Perform market research. One of the most critical early tasks of marketing is to perform research along two critical vectors—the prospective customers and the competition. Surveying your prospective customers will help you understand their needs and figure out how to serve those needs better with your product offering. Sizing up competitors will help you understand how to differentiate yourself, identify underserved segments of your target market, and grasp the size of the effort it will take to deliver a message that resonates with prospects more than the competitor’s message.
- Create prospect personas. Marketing is all about messaging, and part of market research is figuring out who you are talking to. Creating prospect personas is an exercise in conceptualizing who the message is for. A prospect personal is a profile of your ideal customer. The persona usually gets a personal name and a picture (usually a stock image), as well as a list of data-based characteristics—age, sex, income, occupation, passions, familial status, etc. Understanding who your ideal customer helps you craft messages that will resonate with them.
- Set campaign goals. Every solid strategy has measurable goals and subgoals to track the progress towards the grand vision. A fractional marketing director can identify key performance indicators (KPI) and establish thresholds that represent success or room for improvement. Different organizations and campaigns will need to monitor different KPIs; the judgment of a fractional marketing director is crucial in this regard to make sure the team is looking at the right metrics.
- Select marketing strategies. Modern marketing departments have a plethora of strategies to choose from, ranging from traditional to digital. A fractional marketing director can help the organization identify the strategies best suited for them, rather than relying on “flavor of the month” strategies that will produce limited ROI. Examples of strategies include SEO, SEM, content marketing, social media ads, viral marketing, influencer marketing, TV and radio ads, print ads, website banners, public relations, and dozens of others.
- Create content. As mentioned above, marketing is nothing without content. A ground-up marketing strategy will include an inventory of required content assets, followed by a strategy to produce that content. Whether the content is produced in-house or outsourced, preparing that content in a timely fashion is one of the highest-return activities a marketing team can undertake.
- Execute the strategy. Notice how far down the list execution comes. A lot of planning goes into a successful marketing campaign. You need to hit the ground running, especially if you are a startup with little time and money to waste. The fractional marketing director may not roll up his/her sleeves and execute the strategy themselves, but (s)he directs the execution and makes sure every necessary role is filled.
- Train internally. Making sure every role is filled also means that every role is filled by a team member who is sufficiently trained. The broad marketing experience of a fractional marketing director may make him/her qualified to train internal team members in their new roles. If not, it is the responsibility of the fractional marketing directors to identify the resources needed to train them adequately.
- Analyze. Once a campaign is in the field, it needs to be tracked, measured and analyzed. Some marketing campaigns are easy to analyze. Others require specialized analytical tools to be installed so you can measure results. Other campaigns, especially traditional marketing campaigns, require outside-the-box thinking to track their results. But you need to be able to track and analyze the results of each marketing campaign in order to make it to the next step.
- Optimize. Almost no marketing campaign is an off-the-launchpad success. It requires refinement, improvement, and optimization. Even the most breakout success can be improved, and the more you improve a marketing campaign, the more bang you get for your marketing buck. Especially for a startup that has a little budget to burn, optimization is the most crucial step in maximizing your ROI.
3. How can a fractional marketing director impact an existing marketing strategy or department?
A fractional marketing director isn’t only useful when a marketing strategy must be built from the ground up. Many fractional marketing leaders come into situations where a marketing strategy is already in place and needs refinement—maybe even resuscitation.
This can be a more complicated process, but it’s no less necessary. In fact, an organization with an underperforming marketing strategy needs the help of a strong marketing leader like a human body needs water or oxygen. Here’s what goes into correcting an existing marketing strategy or department.
- Perform a Comprehensive Marketing Audit. If a marketing strategy is already in place, the first job of a fractional marketing director is to assess that marketing campaign. What strategies are in play? Which ones are working, and which ones are underperforming? Could the performing methods be improved? Can the underperforming methods be improved upon? A marketing audit gives you an idea of your starting point so that starting point can be aligned with the desired endpoint.
- Restate and refine company marketing goals. An existing strategy probably comes with existing goals. A course correction at the hands of a fractional marketing director will probably include a reassessment of those goals and an evaluation of whether they are still appropriate. Once the overarching vision is re-established, the fractional marketing director can determine if the current marketing strategies in play are carrying the organization in the right direction.
- Perform a gap analysis. A gap analysis is an assessment of the “gap” between where a strategy is, and where the organization ultimately wants it to be. For a fractional marketing director hired to get an existing marketing campaign on track, a gap analysis may be a necessary step in creating a list of priorities to correct the campaign.
- Perform a budget analysis. If the current campaign has a budget in place, a fractional marketing director will assess whether it is realistic and efficiently allocated. Some marketing strategies don’t even come with a budget, so the creation of a budget from scratch will be an early priority for the fractional marketing director.
- Revisit marketing strategies. Whatever marketing techniques are in play, a fractional marketing director is in a unique position to look at them with fresh eyes. Just because a marketing method has “always been used” by the company doesn’t mean it should still be used. There might be a better strategy out there. A fractional marketing director may reorient the marketing strategy to depend entirely on a completely different roster of campaigns and techniques.
- Perform a content audit. Remember the key role content plays in a successful marketing campaign? Most marketing strategies in place come with a roster of content that has already been created. A fractional marketing director will take inventory of the content assets that the organization already has on hand, as well as identify outside-of-the-box methods to reuse or repurpose them.
- Perform a content gap analysis. Just as the overall marketing strategy may require a gap analysis, a content strategy usually needs a gap analysis as well. This involves compiling a “wish list” of content assets that will comprise a well-rounded marketing campaign, then identifying which ones already exist or can be repurposed from older content assets and which content assets need to be created from scratch.
- Launch or relaunch campaigns. A new strategy will likely occasion new campaigns to launch. Again, the fractional marketing director isn’t necessarily responsible for the nitty-gritty details of the launch, but (s)he is responsible for making sure the personnel are in place and qualified to execute those campaigns.
- Train internally. If a marketing strategy is already in place and in need of a course correction, it falls to the fractional marketing director to make sure the in-house team responsible for executing the strategy has the necessary training for the pivot.
- Analyze. Just as with a brand-new marketing campaign, a revised marketing campaign must be quantified and analyzed to determine its effectiveness. The fractional marketing director may apply analytical tools to marketing campaigns already in the field that were never implemented initially.
- Optimize. As with a brand-new marketing campaign, the next step after analysis is optimization—using the data as a guide to making the campaigns more effective and more profitable.
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