In 27 seconds: A fractional CMO, or fractional Chief Marketing Officer, is a seasoned, experienced marketing professional who works with a company as a part-time marketing executive on a contract basis. Much like a full-time CMO, they provide strategic direction and oversight for a company’s marketing efforts, including content marketing, digital marketing, marketing campaigns, and the strategic planning process.

Fractional CMOs are ideal for companies that need someone to lead their marketing efforts. While marketing agencies also perform similar functions, there are stark differences between the two and should not be thought of as an either/or decision. Continue reading to learn more…

A fractional CMO, or fractional Chief Marketing Officer, is a seasoned, experienced marketing professional who works with a company as a part-time marketing executive on a contract basis. They provide strategic direction and oversight for a company’s marketing efforts, including content marketing, digital marketing, marketing campaigns, and the strategic planning process. This differs from a full-time CMO, who typically has a long-term commitment to a single company and manages all aspects of the marketing department.

Who needs a fractional CMO?

Aside from small to medium size businesses (SMBs) that may not have the budget or need for a six-figure, full-time CMO but still require a marketing expert with high-level marketing expertise, fractional CMOs are ideal for:

  • Startups that need guidance in developing their marketing strategy but don’t have the resources to hire a full-time marketing executive
  • Companies experiencing rapid growth that need a seasoned marketing leader to help them scale quickly and efficiently
  • Organizations undergoing a transition or facing specific marketing challenges that require expert guidance
  • Larger companies that may already have a marketing team in place but need additional support for specific projects or initiatives
  • Companies with someone who is willing yet not eager to take on marketing but does not have the time or expertise to create and maintain a consistent marketing effort due to their primary day-to-day responsibilities
  • Businesses that have a reactive versus proactive marketing approach because no one individual is the marketing visionary to drive forward consistent marketing efforts
  • Companies that need someone to manage the complex relationships between writers, designers, web developers, ad agencies, vendors, and partners
  • Organizations getting by with impromptu, ad-hoc marketing initiatives and campaigns, but nothing seems to work because no one is dedicated to the marketing function
  • Businesses with no one doing marketing, and for which adding a full-time marketing professional is not in the budget

What does a fractional CMO do?

This will vary from business to business based on specific needs and business goals. A fractional CMO will develop and implement an organization’s marketing and advertising strategies, manage marketing budgets, and use marketing initiatives to drive sales.

Their duties and responsibilities include:

  1. Developing a deep understanding of an organization’s brand, mission, vision, and purpose
  2. Assessing the perception of the organization’s brand from the perspectives of its employees, customers, and other stakeholders
  3. Ensuring the organization’s brand is properly and adequately differentiated to ensure an optimized marketing ROI
  4. Developing a company’s buyer personas to ensure all marketing messages are on point, timely, and meaningful
  5. Studying and monitoring the competition to understand how and why customers attracted to them
  6. Creating, implementing, and managing marketing and advertising campaigns
  7. Measuring, analyzing, and improving the performance of various marketing campaigns
  8. Defining marketing goals and objectives
  9. Developing and managing the marketing budget
  10. Collaborating with the product development, sales, and customer service teams
  11. Staying on top of market trends and customer buying habits to guide marketing strategies
  12. Staying up to date with the latest marketing tools, technologies, and trends
  13. Mentoring a company’s marketing team
  14. Other functions, as needed

Why not hire a marketing agency?

Although there are stark differences between fractional CMOs and marketing agencies, the question of hiring an agency versus a fractional CMO should not be thought of as an either/or decision. The reason is because fractional CMOs typically work with a combination of one or more advertising or marketing agencies, freelancers, designers, writers, vendors, marketing consultants, etc. to achieve a company’s marketing objectives.

One of the primary benefits of hiring a fractional CMO is that they will effectively manage and negotiate those relationships as they can often overlap and conflict with one another. A fractional CMO will keep everyone aligned, on task, and accountable.

Another benefit of retaining a fractional CMO is that they become an integral member of the C-level suite leadership team, and therefore have the upper-hand advantage of understanding a company’s mission, vision, purpose, and culture, which facilitates better decision-making for the company as a whole. In other words, they are focused on sales, company growth, and profitability.

Most importantly, fractional CMOs understand that things happen outside of regular business days and hours and hence are highly responsive to urgent emails and calls. For example, if a company’s website goes down at 8 pm on a Tuesday, or if the trade show booth is nowhere to be found at a convention center the night before the trade show, the fractional CMO steps up.

What does a fractional CMO charge?

The short answer is anywhere from $200 to $350 per hour. But that doesn’t mean you cannot find a strong fractional CMO for less.

Keep in mind that fractional CMOs are part-time contractors who do not need insurance, vacation time, office space, or equipment to do their jobs. They are completely self-sufficient and require no commitment. Also consider that any fractional professional will be willing to negotiate their hourly rate if they are offered some kind of guarantee. So, if you’re merely looking for a short-term engagement of just a few hours each week while you look for a full-time CMO or marketing director, expect a higher hourly rate. However, if you guarantee your fractional CMO 25 hours per month for 12 months, it’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate a lower hourly rate.

Also, consider the value fractional CMOs bring to the table. As many of them have worked in the marketing industry for 15 years or more, yours will not be their first rodeo. They have enough industry knowledge and experience to know what tactics will and will not work, and they know how to create and implement marketing strategies, much like a chef at a 5-Star restaurant knows how to make the perfect center cut filet mignon.

Expect your fractional CMO to take the bull by the horns on day one, allowing you and the rest of your team to concentrate on your day-to-day tasks with the confidence of knowing that someone is finally leading your marketing effort.

Lastly, fractional professionals only invoice for hours worked, which means you get maximum bang for your marketing budget. On the other hand, full-time, salaried employees are paid whether they are productive 12 hours a week or 30. When you consider all the distractions and activities that suck valuable time from your employees’ work week, including meetings, office gossip and politics, long lunches, breaks, vacations, PTO, sick time, checking social media, joking around with co-workers, bugging out a little early on Fridays, etc., the gap in cost closes quite a bit.

Is a fractional CMO relationship right for you?

Hopefully, I’ve answered most, if not all, of your questions about fractional Chief Marketing Officers and how they work.

By now, you should have a gut feeling on whether it may be suitable for your company.

If you’re intrigued by the idea, contact us to learn about how a fractional CMO relationship may benefit your company—no obligation—just a conversation.