What is a Fractional CMO and Who Needs One?

When your business is experiencing rapid growth, sometimes your needs don’t scale uniformly. You may find that you need specialized marketing and strategy services that can help you continue to move forward, but that you aren’t ready for multi-six-figure commitments. While traditionally businesses have either had to choose between options that were less than ideal, our CMOx model offers choices that are a perfect, customized fit. We’d like to introduce you to the Fractional CMO and what someone in this role can do for your brand.

What is a Fractional CMO?

The path to becoming a Fractional CMO is different for each individual but will involve years of experience in leading the marketing strategy and marketing team. 

In the usual course of events, when companies grow enough to need services a Chief Marketing Officer provides but are still not at the level where they can hire someone senior and experienced, they go one of two ways. In one scenario, they hand CMO tasks to a more junior person from within their organization.

This is someone with a marketing experience and background. However, they lack the executive background, which is the other part of the CMO’s job. This person starts out handling tasks like posting to social media, writing blog posts and others. But, over time, they get overwhelmed. If they are tasked with creating strategy for the business, they may be over their heads. Not everyone can handle content strategy effectively. Sometimes you find a diamond in the rough who just needed an opportunity, but those people are rare. Maybe one in 100 effective marketers has the skill to move on to these important executive positions. 

The other path is to take the leap and hire a CMO, either from a competitor or from someone in a similar industry. This can wind up putting a significant drain on a growing company’s funds. When a company is bringing in revenue of around $750,000 per year, tying up a third of that in one salary can be crippling. It can be very hard to make that investment worthwhile. 

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer is someone who performs the function of a CMO without forcing your company to commit to a full-time person in that role. Think of it as CMO as a service.  Many organizations already recognize the value of outsourcing other C-Suite functions, such as the CFO. They may not need the services of a Chief Financial Officer full-time. Instead, they need someone to come in and perform this function for a few hours a week. They bring in someone who has the top-level experience that they need, but who doesn’t tether them to the cost of having someone like that as permanent staff. 

By working with a fractional CFO, the business can get the benefit of a CFO’s guidance and skills without having to have one on staff full-time. A Fractional CMO can be the right fit for a number of organizations. They’ll help an organization maintain a lean structure and cut down on wasteful spending at a time when every dollar counts.

Fractional Chief Marketing Officer

What does a fractional CMO do?

A fractional chief marketing officer acts as the executive level marketer who defines the strategy to make the wishes of the CEO and the board come true.

A typical CMO has their tracks, has their head on the budget, they hire marketing talent to deploy campaigns, they occasionally act as a conduit or bridge between the product team and marketing as well as look for ways to create strategic relationships to drive more eyeballs to the website and more leads to the sales team.

A fractional chief marketing officer differs in their capacity. While many tout being a fractional CMO and are instead just a glorified funnel builder, a true fractional CMO builds a strategic plan and identifies the right talent to do the job at the right time.

A fractional CMO must understand the appeal and the profitability of different products and services. They must understand the entire sales sequence and how sales happen. They must be conversion-rate focused; they must be able to focus minutely on the conversion rates, as well as on the macro problems that face marketing including positioning authority.

Who needs a fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO should be hired when a company either cannot afford a full-time CMO or run the marketing campaigns that the CMO identifies, or simply do not need a CMO due to the relative simplicity of the marketing of the business. It is not necessary for many businesses to have a CMO. Instead, smaller businesses under $1,000,000 would do well to have an advertising technician support them on creating a campaign to get them to the $1,000,000 mark. Companies between $1-50,000,000 a year depending on their profitability would do well to hire a fractional CMO. They are at a critical growth phase and typically need the strategy that only an experienced CMO could bring; however, these companies are typically unable to afford a full-time investment.

What makes a good fractional CMO?

When hiring a fractional CMO, the first question to ask is what process they follow. There are firms that offer CMOs who have experience in big businesses spending tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars per year on marketing budget. These experienced CMOs rarely make sense to employ in your business simply because the way that they solve problems is by buying agency time or hiring an agency. A good fractional CMO is one that is process-driven, who has a track record of helping companies scale that are similar in size or offering to your own. While there are some similarities between B2B and B2C marketing approaches, it is best to choose a CMO who is experienced in your particular business type or industry. If you’re in a new industry, find a fractional CMO who has proven themselves time and again of following a rigorous, predictable process.