But organizations of all sizes have found recruiting a Fractional CMO to be one of the most impactful investments they’ve made for the future of the company. The importance of strong marketing cannot be overstated.
If your marketing fails to deliver the adequate results, no one will ever hear about your amazing solution. The goal of marketing is to be “top-of-mind” for your warm customer leads. Without strong marketing, your rightful customers will choose competitor with better marketing, even if that competitor offers an inferior solution.
In short, marketing is far too important for you to try to “wing it.” If you care about providing a high-quality solution to as many customers as possible, you owe it not only to your organizational stakeholders, but also to the customers themselves, to get your marketing house in order. For many organizations, especially small and medium-sized ones, the most effective and affordable way to do this is to enlist the services of a Fractional CMO.
Understanding the role of a fractional CMO
To understand what a Fractional CMO is, let’s first define “CMO.” A CMO is a chief marketing officer. It’s a C-level executive position that assumes final responsibility for all marketing activities undertaken by the organization that employs them. Large organizations may have a full-time CMO to complement the efforts of the CEO, CFO, COO, and/or CTO.
Smaller organizations, however, may discover that they don’t have the budget for a full-time CMO. But that doesn’t mean the job is any less necessary for them. In fact, for smaller brands with less name recognition, the motivation is even stronger to market effectively.
This is where the Fractional CMO comes in. A fractional CMO is essentially a “CMO for hire.” Rather than being a highly-paid full-time employee, a Fractional CMO is a outside c-level executive that a company hires on a temporary basis.
A Fractional CMO might work for a company for anywhere from three months to one year or longer.
In other words, a Fractional CMO provides strategic marketing services to an organization without the need for that organization to commit to a full-time employee salary for multiple years.
You can see why this is an attractive deal to a smaller organization with fewer resources to spare on luxuries like C-level executives.
What is the role of a fractional CMO within an organization?
Just like the CMO must wear many hats within the marketing department of a large organization, a Fractional CMO assumes ultimate responsibility for the marketing strategy for the company that hires him/her. They usually don’t get into the nitty-gritty of writing copy, running digital marketing campaigns, running marketing reports, etc. Instead, the buck stops with the Fractional CMO on the most important strategy marketing activities, including:
- Train the in-house marketing team. Your Fractional CMO will come to the table with new tips and strategies, your marketing team will have to learn from the fractional CMO how to execute them. One of the roles of the Fractional CMO in your organization is making sure that the systems (s)he implements persist in your organization by training in-house marketing personnel in the execution of that strategy.
- Manage the marketing budget. While companies set the marketing budget based on what is realistic, the Fractional CMO retains ultimate authority over how the marketing budget gets spent. This includes allocating funds to personnel, paid campaigns, and third-party vendors who help assemble the pieces of the campaigns.
- Develop short-term and long-term marketing goals. Every marketing strategy will have near-term objectives, as well as long-term overarching objectives. The role of a Fractional CMO is to set realistic short-term goals, as well as optimistic and challenging long-term goals for the marketing department. This goal-setting often outlasts the tenure of the Fractional CMO, becoming the north star for the marketing department long after the fractional CMO’s services are no longer required.
- Guide the marketing team to adopt analytics and make data drive decisions. Effective marketing campaigns keep their eyes on the data. Analytics are your window into the performance of your marketing campaign. Many marketing campaigns produce so much data that it becomes noise. One of the roles of the Fractional CMO is to cut through the noise and identify which data matters—which indicators represent progress or regression in the campaign. We will discuss this more when we talk about KPIs, but at the end of the day, the Fractional CMO is charged with making sense of the data collected by the marketing analytics platforms.
The Impact a Fractional CMO On a Company
A CMO for hire can have a substantial impact on the direction of the company. By leveling up the company’s marketing efforts, and arming the marketing team with the tools they need to continue a pattern of success, a Fractional CMO can completely transform an organization’s ability to create awareness around its brand. Examples of the lasting impact a fractional CMO include:
- Clear marketing objectives.To get anywhere, it helps to know where you are going. Organizations always fail in their marketing efforts if they have no idea what success looks like.Amazingly, this was always the case of traditional marketing avenues, like billboards or newspaper ads, because it was difficult to quantify the success of any given marketing effort.A Fractional CMO can bring order to the chaos, drawing upon his/her experience to identify clear objectives for the company’s brand-building activities. A CMO for hire can paint a picture of what success looks like from a marketing standpoint, giving the organization a clear target to shoot for.
- A unified marketing strategy.Another challenge organizations face in devising an effective marketing roadmap is that there are many avenues to choose from—traditional, digital, or hybrid.For example, digital marketing includes social media, SEO, email marketing, and much more. A CMO for hire takes responsibility for each marketing channel so that marketing efforts do not contradict each other.One of the biggest advantages a Fractional CMO can bring to an organization is unification—a consistent brand message, in both words and imagery, across all channels, so every member of the marketing team pulls their oar in the same direction.
- An experienced hand on the wheel. Perhaps the greatest impact a CMO for hire can impart to an organization is to eliminate a “blind-leading-the-blind” situation with respect to marketing. A Fractional CMO is an affordable, manageable, sustainable solution for smaller, mid-sized, and even larger organizations to inject experienced leadership into their marketing apparatus.Leadership makes all the difference between success and failure across most business processes. Marketing is no different. A CMO for hire isn’t just a bean-counter or technician. There’s a reason for the “C” in the title. People hire Fractional CMOs when their marketing department is in need of leadership—and not just a confident chancer, but an experienced leader who knows the direction in which to lead.When it comes to a process as well-documented and optimized as modern marketing, there’s no need to start from square one. Why subject yourself to a learning curve that other people have beaten for you?Fractional CMOs have already beaten that learning curve. They have put in their 10,000 hours, learned from all the mistakes, and compiled a toolbelt full of tools that have produced results in the past. They show up to work with that tool belt already intact and ready for your organization to leverage.One of the best advantages of using a CMO for hire is the ability to stop guessing, and instead rely on a tested process. This is especially true of digital marketing practices, which are easy to quantify through digital analytics.
Why You Need a Fractional CMO Your Team
Lean organizations might be opposed to expanding the team. Adding another C-level executive to the team may not be appealing. Nevertheless, a CMO for hire could be just what a small or medium sized organization needs to put their brand on track for success. Here are some signs that your organization might need a Fractional CMO.
- Your marketing lacks direction. Organizations without strong leadership in their marketing departments often treat marketing like dart players with no sense of direction. Think random acts of marketing.They throw a handful of darts in the general direction of a dartboard and hope something sticks.A Fractional CMO knows how to build and to edit a marketing strategy, focusing on marketing efforts most likely to produce short-term and long-term results outlined in their marketing plan. If you don’t know exactly why you are doing the marketing you are doing, a Fractional CMO could provide clarity and even suggest a course correction.
- You suffer from “analysis paralysis.” Another pitfall of a lack of marketing leadership is the propensity to not take any action at all. This is especially true if the C-level of an organization is dominated by visionaries and technicians who prioritize product quality over brand awareness. Remember, however, you can make the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one will buy it.People without marketing expertise may look at the huge menu of strategies and freeze like a deer in headlights. They prefer to retreat to tinkering on the product and hope that “someone else” will take care of the marketing. A Fractional CMO can add “C-level” leadership to marketing, which is all about taking action. A CMO for hire won’t freeze in the face of options—(s)he will direct the marketing team to take directed, calculated
- You don’t know your KPIs.Digital marketing, especially, created a business environment where the impact of marketing could be measured. Organizations who don’t keep track of their marketing data are essentially stumbling around in the dark. Even if you have implemented analytics, you may not know which numbers to track, or what figures represent “success.”Fractional CMOs can help the organizations they serve identify “key performance indicators” (KPI)—the data points that actually indicate progress toward marketing goals. They can devise a strategy based on KPIs and direct implementation of the analytical architecture to track those KPIs, as well as implement a tracking system that will outlive their contract.
- You haven’t yet figured out how to “buy scale.” If you invested a dollar into marketing, are you certain that you could get at least a dollar’s worth of revenue back? Or two dollar’s worth?The power of digital marketing is the ability to dial in a strategy whereby you can “buy” scale. Once you have a digital strategy that produces more revenue than the costs it incurs, you can theoretically spend as much cash as you have on hand.If you have not leveraged this superpower of digital marketing, a Fractional CMO could help put that game-changing tool in your arsenal.
Benefits Of a Fractional CMO
The reason Fractional CMOs exist to provide a service that most companies find too difficult to do on their own or fine the right people with the right skills. Some of the advantages of working with a Fractional CMO include:
- An affordable solution.The minimum compensation for a full-time CMO is in the neighborhood of $175,000 per year, not including benefits. This kind of compensation is out of the realm of possibility for most small organizations, and even mid-sized or larger organizations.By contrast, a Fractional CMO might command a contract fee of $200-$350 per hour. A Fractional CMO helps organizations on a contract basis.A CMO for hire puts C-level marketing leadership within the budget for the vast majority of organizations that desperately need it.
- Just as much help as you need. As mentioned above, Fractional CMOs aren’t necessarily with you forever. Their contracts range from three months to one year, and they may work as few as ten hours a week for your organization.This means you only pay for the services you actually need. Once the CMO has put your marketing strategy in place, you may not need them anymore—your in-house team can execute the strategy.
- Training for your in-house marketing team. Of course, for your in-house team to take the reins from the Fractional CMO, they need to be trained. While your CMO for hire may not explicitly lead every training, (s)he takes the responsibility to make sure the training happens.This could mean selecting training modules, commissioning manuals and standard operating procedures documents, or coordinating outside trainers to make sure that the impact of the Fractional CMO long outlasts the end of their contract.
- Better ROI.As mentioned before, the right digital marketing strategy enables an organization to “buy scale,” tracking KPIs to ensure that every dollar of marketing produces more than a dollar of profit.Even if your marketing strategy includes traditional marketing avenues that are less easy to track, relying on the leadership of a Fractional CMO takes a substantial amount of risk out of the process. The CMO for hire has experience in your industry and has produced favorable results for organizations like yours in the past.
- Speed and efficiency. The final benefit of a Fractional CMO is time. Time is money. Any time spent on an unnecessary learning curve is a waste of time. It may be an active waste of money if that time is spent throwing money at campaigns with a low chance of success.A CMO for hire can implement an effective marketing strategy quickly and with maximum efficiency. By tracking KPIs, the Fractional CMO can detect early if a particular strategy is not working or underperforming. They can then direct the marketing department to correct course, improve efficiency, whereas a less-experienced marketing leader might simply cut their losses.