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What is a Fractional CMO and How Can One Help Your Company?
Every competitive company knows the power of adding solid marketing leadership to its executive team. Sold-out-good marketing leadership can turn a good business into a great sales machine. That’s why smart organizations choose to bring in a chief marketing officer (CMO).
Unfortunately, not all organizations have the cash to hire a full-time, high-salaried CMO. Perhaps your company isn’t in a good financial position at the moment, or maybe you are not ready to add a new executive role to your senior team. Whatever the reason, a fractional CMO may be your best bet.
With a fractional CMO, your organization will gain the executive marketing experience you need without the C-level cost, risk, and commitment. Keep reading to learn more about fractional CMOs and how one could benefit your company.
What Is a Fractional CMO?
For an average salary of $174,232 (PayScale), pending bonuses, commission & profit-sharing benefits, a full-time CMO is expensive and certainly doesn’t make sense for all organizations. In fact, some of the highest-paid CMOs take home upwards of $6 million annually, according to CNBC.
Enter the fractional CMO. This is an outside marketing executive who is usually brought in to spearhead, establish, or overhaul an organization’s marketing functions on a temporary or part-time consultative basis. A fractional CMO acts in an executive capacity to drive not only marketing and sales development but also company growth and customer acquisition.
As the name clearly suggests, the fractional executive enables companies to benefit from senior marketing advice, and C-level management without paying the full price. In other words, you’ll have a fully dedicated executive marketing leader onboard to help supplement your current marketing team or build one from the ground up. Best of all, your company doesn’t have to carry the fully-burdened costs of a C-level hire.
Fractional CMOs aren’t just for well-oiled companies. Whether you want 10, 15, 20, or more hours of consultation a week, these consultants will work with your schedule, needs, and budget. Contracts are typically for 6 months or longer, giving the CMO plenty of time to establish or reshape your marketing initiatives and strategies.
Most fractional CMOs have spent decades in either mid-level or senior management roles, helping to develop innovative marketing strategies and build a raft of notable brands. When you bring one on board, you will get a C-level partner, senior marketing advice, and an expert leader with the expertise to efficiently get the job done. This is especially the case for companies wanting to develop clear go-to-market roadmaps.
The concept leading to the use of fractional CMOs is not exactly new. Startups and mid-sized companies have employed fractional executives such as CIOs, COOs, and CFOs for decades. The concept has now gone mainstream in the marketing arena.
What Does a Fractional CMO Do?
A fractional CMO can deliver immense value to organizations for hiring a full-time chief marketing officer wouldn’t be viable, either practically or financially. In some cases, they offer the same level of value as a full-board marketing team.
The role of a fractional CMO is often eclectic, but they usually spearhead the implementation of the company’s marketing and growth strategies. They pull in all available resources, both internal and external, to steer the company forward. Their presence is felt across the board, from marketing mix optimization and audit to market automation and sales enablement. They provide actionable insights, develop data-driven marketing strategies, and see them through the execution stages.
Fractional CMOs can be hired to revamp your marketing department. If you feel that your current marketing strategy is not yielding desirable results, these consultants can come in handy. They will swoop in, review your current situation, and shake things up. A fractional marketing executive lends an external perspective, offering a new pair of eyes to help address your pain points from a different point of view without the need to consider as many internal considerations.
If you don’t have a marketing team in place, a CMO will help establish and nurture one from the ground up. In the process, they will establish a clear-cut go-to-market strategy and determine relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) you can optimize to drive growth and sales development.
As a chief officer, the CMO has a fiduciary role in planning and managing budgets, controlling spending, and measuring the ROI of each marketing campaign. They do this by working closely with the company’s sales team, IT team, finance team, HR team, and other senior leaders. If your company works with freelancers, agencies, or internal marketing specialists, the CMO will provide leadership and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Other roles of a fractional CMO include:
- Direct and oversee important marketing communications, including social media campaigns, branding, advertising, product positioning, market segmentation, and even customer service.
- Establish and foster healthy working relationships with trade organizations, professional associations, outside services, and key vendors.
- Determine and hold the marketing team accountable based on well-thought-out KPIs
- Put together and manage an effective and efficient marketing team, including recruiting, onboarding, training, and developing new hires.
- Develop integrate go-to-market and product launch plans for key channels
When all’s said and done, a fractional CMO will help your company achieve the same goals and objectives an in-house chief marketing officer would, but on a short-term and part-time basis.
What Types of Companies Should Hire a Fractional CMO?
Potentially all types of companies could use the services of a fractional CMO, but sizeable, growing, and mid-sized businesses that don’t necessarily have the marketing funds to devote to a full-time position are particularly well-positioned to find this arrangement useful.
Hiring a C-level executive to oversee your marketing operations is quite frankly an expensive proposition. Startups, small firms, or mid-sized businesses might not require a full-time, high-priced executive hire. The ROI will simply not measure up to the exorbitant expense. For this reason, a fractional executive leader tends to make the most sense for small- to mid-sized organizations.
However, no matter the type or size of your organization, you’ll find a fractional CMO to be a good fit if you can’t justify the cost of having a full-time chief marketing officer. Perhaps your company has not grown large enough yet to carry the kind of budget that would allow you to comfortably bring in a permanent CMO. In the meantime, you can contract a fractional CMO to help establish your marketing strategies and direct your growth efforts.
What Are Some Advantages of a Fractional CMO?
- Affordable marketing expertise
Plenty of perks come with a fractional CMO, but the cost-benefit is one you can't overlook. Creating a full-time executive role comes with a hefty price tag; a cost that is out of the question for most small- to mid-sized enterprises.
Nonetheless, you cannot just ignore the importance of marketing leadership. Your marketing department calls for more than a manager; it needs an experienced, visionary leader who can provide actionable guidance and get things done. Bringing in a fractional CMO gives your company executive-level guidance without paying full price.
- Take your business to the next stage
It can be exciting to grow your business from the ground up, but it’s not exactly a walk in the park. You can put in an enormous effort, but that can only take you so far without strong knowledge. At some point in the life of your business, your marketing needs will either outgrow your skillset or start to stagnate. In either case, you need to have tried-and-true expert leadership on your side –- to help refuel your business growth and take it to the next level.
When it comes to marketing, you will want to bring in a veteran marketing leader to help you hit next-level growth goals. That professional is most often a CMO because they know how to convert leads to loyal customers at scale, build credibility, and create an integrated marketing strategy.
With a fractional CMO, your marketing efforts are not siloed in the sales or marketing department. They can work hand-in-hand with the finance team, technology team, or product development crew to create an all-around business growth… Click To Tweet
- Flexibility at its best
The beauty of hiring a fractional CMO is that no traditional bureaucracies get in the way. You can hire one quickly and the CMO will hit the ground running without any delay. Besides, you can choose to work with a fractional CMO for 10, 20, 30, or more hours per week, depending on your needs.
The best outcome is accomplished when creative and strategic minds come together, but flexibility is key. With a fractional CMO, your marketing efforts are not siloed in the sales or marketing department. They can work hand-in-hand with the finance team, technology team, or product development crew to create an all-around business growth strategy.
Let's not forget this is someone who is willing to work around your schedule and eager to put in full-time dedication and energy. You can hire the right person for the job for a specific period of time.
- Improved efficiency
A fractional CMO will help you set up KPIs and use them to determine whether you are on course to hit or miss your marketing and growth goals. There’s no room for failure here because every marketing effort is being tracked and accounted for. And, in the process, this makes sure that every team member reads from the same script, improving both marketing efficiency and team productivity.
If your marketing initiatives aren’t working, or nothing is happening at all, a fractional marketing executive can bring the skills required to change that. In addition to creating a roadmap for marketing success, they can help determine what’s needed for the business to grow and move forward.
When Does It Make Sense to Hire a Fractional CMO?
There are many different scenarios in which your company would want to hire — and, indeed, would benefit from hiring — a fractional CMO. Here are some indications that hiring one could be the right move for your company.
Your company isn’t ready to hire a full-time chief marketing officer. You have a growing business that doesn't have enough funds for a full-time executive position. Perhaps you are a small enterprise, a startup, or a mid-sized business that needs senior marketing guidance, but you don't have the budget or enough work to merit hiring a full-time CMO.
Thankfully, a fractional CMO can cost a very small fraction of what you’d spend on a C-level marketing exec. It provides you with a cost-effective, entry-point for the formative years of your company.
You’re planning to take your company a step further. There comes a time in a company’s life when you need to venture out of your “comfort zone.” Maybe you want to go international or expand your business to other states. A fractional CMO can help you do that.
Hiring a fractional CMO may be a great solution for you if you want to take your brand to the next stage, but you aren’t certain that your current strategy will take you there. The marketing exec will bring an extra set of eyes and proven ideas to take your business successfully into the future.
You wish to redirect your marketing dollars. If your company wants to devote more marketing resources to other areas, bringing in a fractional CMO may be safer than a full-time hire.
You’re in the process of recruiting a new marketing leader. It’s never easy to see a talented and dedicated marketing executive move on to greener pastures or retire. You don’t want to hurriedly hire someone else just to fill the position. Remember this is a top-level, high-salaried talent that must be absolutely a good fit for your company.
As such, you can make use of the expertise of a fractional CMO while you search for the perfect replacement. However, the senior marketing role can’t be left vacant while you need to make sales, acquire new customers, and grow your company. In this case, you can think of a fractional CMO as a pinch hitter, who will sit in for a while as you explore your options for the next full-time CMO.
You feel that your marketing is no longer up to scratch. Sometimes you can sense that something isn’t right with your existing marketing strategies, but you maybe can’t seem to put a finger on what’s wrong. Bringing in an external marketing leader will help put things into perspective and realign your marketing objectives.
A fractional CMO is a flexible, cost-effective alternative to hiring a full-time chief marketing officer. You will get the marketing expertise and leadership your company needs at a discount. The external marketing exec is a great solution for small- to mid-sized enterprises that don’t necessarily have the marketing funds to devote to a full-time position.