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In 2021, marketing has become one of the most complicated and fraught business functions of any organization. Do it right and you will find new customers, grow your brand, and truly stand out from the competition. Do it wrong and you’re just throwing away good money.
This year, smart companies will make marketing a priority but without the right leadership all your marketing plans might be for naught. You need a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to lead the charge, create the game plan, execute it, and track its effectiveness.
The problem is, if you are a new business, a growing business, or any kind of small to medium-sized business (SMB), bringing on a full-time CMO may not make sense (or be possible) for your organization. That is where a fractional CMO comes in.
A fractional CMO is a high-level marketing executive that can bring the knowledge, skills, creativity, and experience of a full-time CMO to your business while working with your company a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the price. A fractional CMO splits time among multiple clients by working part-time with each one but providing all the functions of a traditional CMO.
The concept of fractional CMOs is becoming more popular all the time as more companies understand the value of good marketing and the complexity of the field. In 2021, does a fractional CMO make sense for your company?
We will try to answer that question here by establishing five common indicators that show companies need and are ready for a fractional CMO. If your company is showing one or several of these signs, this may be the year to hire a fractional CMO. Here are five signs you need to hire a fractional CMO in 2021.
1. A Full-Time CMO Would Eat Up Most of Your Marketing Budget
New businesses and SMBs have high overhead costs. Budgets are tight, the money coming in is spread thin and marketing budgets are generally small. That’s ok. If your company has any marketing budget at all, that should be applauded as an acknowledgment of how important marketing is to growing a company.
This marketing budget presents companies with a bit of a Catch-22 though. To make the budget stretch as far as it can and be used in the most efficient and effective way, you need a skilled, dedicated marketing professional to put that budget to use. Unfortunately, hiring a full-time CMO is incredibly expensive and would eat up a huge chunk of that budget.
The salary range for CMOs around the country is between $73,000 and $306,000 with the average CMO pulling down $174,371 according to Glassdoor. These numbers are salary alone and don’t include other expenses associated with full-time employees such as payroll taxes, benefits, bonuses, perks, and more.
The truth is, paying $300k, $175k, or even $75k a year to a single person, no matter how good they are, would take a huge bite out of most marketing budgets and truly hamper what the company can do from a marketing perspective. When you save money by using a fractional CMO, you can use those savings on actual marketing initiatives which is a more efficient use of the money when you have smaller budgets.
A fractional CMO can help put this extra money to good use within the marketing plan they create for your company. It can go towards any number of marketing projects from optimizing your website, adding staff for field marketing, running additional email campaigns, to producing more content to boost SEO and increase traffic. All these marketing programs can make a big difference in your bottom line; using the money you save by hiring a fractional CMO to implement them is a great benefit.
2. Your Company Needs More Financial Flexibility
In addition to taking away from the marketing budget, tying up a few hundred thousand dollars in a single yearly salary for a full-time CMO decreases the flexibility your company has to do other things as well. This big commitment can have ripple effects through every area of your company and limit your options when opportunities come your way.
A fractional CMO will usually cost your business somewhere between $200 and $250 an hour but this number can obviously vary based on where your business is located, your industry, and with the experience level of the fractional CMO. No matter what the exact cost, though, this hourly system can offer huge benefits to growing companies.
Most growing companies have marketing needs that fluctuate throughout the year. Many businesses have seasonal aspects to them where the marketing in the run-up to these times is incredibly important while in the slower times it is not as critical. Likewise, marketing initiatives ebb and flow. Depending on whether you are in the planning, executing, or analyzing phase of a marketing plan, you may need more or less hands-on participation from your marketing leader.
By using a fractional CMO to meet your exact needs, when you need them, you create financial flexibility that can significantly benefit any growing company. This financial flexibility can be huge for SMBs in the event that your marketing is incredibly successful and you need to buy more inventory or hire more staff. In the event of an unforeseen emergency or downturn, this financial agility can mean the difference between staying open or closing your doors.
Having cash on hand throughout the year is never a bad thing, especially for SMBs. Hiring a fractional CMO when you need them (and not paying them when you don’t) is just smart business for many companies.
3. You’re a Growing Company That Needs to Define Its Marketing Strategy
Outside of the financial benefits that hiring a fractional CMO offers, there are also several strategic benefits. This will be apparent to many growing companies who have been getting by on pieces together, à la carte marketing activities. At some point, as a company grows, these individual marketing efforts begin to lose their effectiveness and the need for a cohesive, comprehensive strategy will become apparent.
It is incredibly rare for a new company to start off with a full-time CMO. Most businesses start with a single person or a small team wearing many hats. As the business grows, roles may become more well-defined. Entry or mid-level dedicated marketing people may be brought in to carry out marketing functions. In most cases though, a full-time executive-level leader isn’t the next step most companies take.
This is a very natural evolution in a business. The problem is that the need for, and the benefit from, high-level marketing guidance from a CMO usually precedes a company’s financial readiness to commit to an additional six-figure yearly salary. You reach a point where you need a clearly defined strategy but can’t afford the normal price tag.
A fractional CMO can come in and create a fully developed marketing strategy that can help your organization take the step. They can create strategies around brand, digital, content, field, social media, and other forms of marketing that will give you the right marketing mix to supercharge your marketing ROI.
With a much smaller investment, you can create a well-defined marketing strategy to help your company grow. Don’t let the inability to take the big leap of hiring a full-time CMO get in your way of achieving incremental improvement and growth with your marketing. That is what fractional CMOs are all about.
4. Your Previous Marketing Strategies Aren’t Working
Sometimes, not having a CMO (full-time or otherwise) is not a problem for companies in the short-term. Companies can grow and prosper and even create and execute effective marketing programs without an executive-level marketer. It happens all the time. However, this rarely lasts forever. At some point, you will likely experience stagnated growth or a tired marketing strategy and it will be time to get fresh eyes on your marketing.
Any relationship with a fractional CMO should start with a complete audit of your current marketing activities. From there, they can enhance what is working, throw out what is not, and add elements that your company may be missing. They will bring marketing knowledge and experience that no one else in your company is likely to have.
While any CMO should have the skill to turn around poor or stale marketing programs, a fractional CMO offers companies the added benefit of frankness about bad marketing strategies. A fractional CMO is much more likely to tell owners, CEOs, or other company leaders the truth about marketing strategies which will ultimately lead to better marketing and a stronger business.
The reason this happens is that a fractional CMO isn’t tied to a company the same way a full-time CMO is. They don’t have to deal with internal politics, worry about career advancement within a company, or have their entire salary riding on the success or failure of “their” marketing plan.
Getting a fresh perspective on your marketing and honest feedback is invaluable in business. A fractional CMO will be able to provide both of these things, which will undoubtedly benefit both your marketing and the overall success and growth of your business. The longer you stick with stale or bad marketing, the longer your company’s growth will stall.
5. Your Current Staff Is Overwhelmed
Oftentimes, in mid-sized companies especially, there might be someone performing the tasks of a CMO in addition to their other work. These responsibilities often fall to someone such as the head sales manager in many companies. Sales and marketing, while inextricably linked, should be independent functions. They are both incredibly difficult and time-consuming jobs so if you have someone doing both, you are not getting the best in either function.
Both the person in charge of “marketing and…” and the company as a whole will benefit from bringing on a fractional CMO to take the big picture marketing responsibilities off the current leader’s plate. It will allow the current market leader to focus on their true job responsibilities and leave the marketing in the hands of a seasoned pro without committing to a huge yearly salary.
A CMO should focus entirely on all aspects of marketing. From creating a plan to managing your marketing team to creating KPIs to measuring marketing performance against those KPIs. Likewise, leaders in your organization with other job titles should be focusing solely on what they do. When your company reaches a certain point, these joint responsibilities will become far too much for one person to handle.
All that said, this situation, with someone carrying out the responsibilities of a CMO as a small part of their greater responsibilities, is not at all unusual. The problem is, it often leads to burnout and fatigue in addition to making people miss elements in marketing as well as the other areas for which they are responsible. A fractional CMO creates a perfect bridge on the path of growth from “CMO/” to a full-time, dedicated CMO.
The question we started with was: in 2021, does a fractional CMO make sense for your company? The answer will differ for every company but if you see one or several of these signs happening in your company, the answer may be, “yes”.
For companies where a full-time CMO would eat up too much of the marketing budget and reduce financial flexibility, but that also need to better define their marketing strategy or relieve staff who are overwhelmed with marketing responsibilities, a fractional CMO may make a ton of sense.
Want to learn more about how a Fractional CMO can take your marketing potential to new heights? Digital Authority Partner's Chicago Fractional CMO Services or San Diego Fractional CMO Agency offers you a unique approach to marketing strategies, and can confidently take you on a path to reach next-level growth.