I wrote a blog post about the pros and cons of hiring a fractional vs. full-time CMO. Several people were curious about how to actually become a fractional CMO, though, so I thought I’d address that in this blog post.
I gave a lot of thought to my response based on what I did for my clients as a fractional CMO and marketing consultant.
Here are my top tips for what you need to do:
Prove your value-add in the FIRST 90 days
Let’s be honest – a fractional CMO is a contract-to-hire role, just like any other contractor position, except this one is more senior and strategic.
If you are a well-rounded marketer, you should jump in and ramp up quickly. Still, your ability to do that also depends on the size of the company, the complexity of product lines, and the organizational structure of the marketing and sales teams.
By talking to executives or leadership teams during the interview process, or at least the first several weeks, you should have a clear list of specific things they want to get done.
You need to prioritize that list and identify 1-2 (depending on how hairy the deliverables are and the budget situation) projects or tasks that you need to address to get the biggest bang for the buck.
Get buy-in from management about your priorities. Then, craft a detailed plan. Show the plan and deliverables to the management and team because, yes, you need buy-in for that as well.
Pro tip – Focus on locking in a couple of quick wins in the first 90 days. You CAN’T take time to set up a process and then implement it. No one has the patience to wait for you to set up processes. You are hired to do something and show impact quickly! You need to build or rebuild processes AND focus on low-hanging fruit. In a way, it helps the team (and yourself) to crawl and run at the same time.
Skills that a fractional CMO needs
Fractional CMOs are usually tasked with demand generation or working closely with sales. Therefore, the skills below bear that in mind.
Ability to put a plan together: You need to put a marketing plan together based on the company’s needs. Each company’s marketing needs differ based on its business objectives, management expectations, product offerings, business models, target audiences, marketing team structure, and martech stacks (or lack thereof).
A strong grasp of digital: Understand digital marketing in the context of paid, owned, and social media. Ultimately, paid and social media need to drive traffic back to owned media. The question is how to optimize paid, organic, and social media.
Demand generation sequencing and workflow: You need to know how to build customer journey sequences for different marketing channels. For example, when a lead fills out the contact form, what journey do you want to lead them through via emails, SMS, or other channels? You need to have a point of view and guide your team members/agencies through.
Back-end integration: I often debate with other marketers whether back-end integration is part of a marketer’s job. Well, if it impacts how you do your job, then (at least to some extent) yes, it’s your job.
You need to dive in and work with IT or developers to build the back-end integration from marketing automation to CRM so that you can see how leads travel from your outbound marketing efforts down to deals won or lost.
That’s the only way you can claim credit for marketing is the ability to see through the whole process – from MQLs all the way down to deals won/lost.
Pro tip – understanding the gist of branding, messaging, and enabling sales is a major plus. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting things done. Workflow plays a huge role in digital marketing.
Reporting, reporting, reporting
Monthly and quarterly reports are essential. If you can create a revenue-driven dashboard or KPIs, that would be great. If not, you need to consider what KPIs make sense to report.
I am not talking about social media vanity metrics, email open rates, or paid ad impressions. I mean the conversion of MQLs to SQLs, for example, or the number of leads from events, webinars, or other campaign efforts.
Pro tip – ask management and sales what metrics they want to see from marketing. Build your metrics and processes based on that. At least, do your best to have metrics close to what they have in mind.
Follow up and ask for feedback
As I become integrated as a part of the team, I always publish meeting minutes and action items after the meetings I chair via Slack or email. I add them to the project management tools and assign tasks to the rightful owners from the meeting discussions.
That way, everyone knows who needs to do what. If something isn’t done, I will follow up with individuals one-on-one. As a fractional CMO, you’ll notice part of your job is very much herding cats.
As a good leader, you should also ask for feedback on what else you can do to improve. I’ve found this especially helpful in building trust with the team and executives.
Have a seat on the executive table
“You need to be treated as an employee – access to all internal/shared drives and systems; you need a seat at the senior leadership team (SLT) table, a company email address, and an intro to the team/company. It really speeds up the ability to hit the ground running and deliver those quick wins. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the doing – especially in a smaller organization.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Beverley’s comments.
Fractional CMOs are servant leaders. You should lead by example, but also, you need to be willing to get in the trenches with your team to get things done.
Fractional CMOs may need to be a jack of all trades, but you don’t need to know everything. Tap into different experts to help you (especially when it comes to the martech stack, data integration, and paid media).
That said, you still need to stay on your toes and think fast to solve problems.
It’s also important to set firm boundaries. If the deadlines clients request are not reasonable, or the goals are too aggressive, you need to speak up and voice your opinion. You can disagree and still commit, but you need to communicate what you think is right clearly.
One last thing – if you do a great job, don’t be afraid to share that with management. At the same time, also express your gratitude to other members who contributed to your success.
The best way to elevate yourself is to elevate others. I’d love to help elevate you, so if you’ve got more questions on this or any other topic in my wheelhouse, feel free to drop me a line to discuss.