If you follow me on LinkedIn, you might’ve noticed that I recently updated my profile to include fractional CMO services. I’m excited to talk about what that means for me and my clients, so I thought I’d break it down in a dedicated blog post.
We’ll talk about what a fractional CMO is in the first place and get into the finer details of what they do and if you need it.
We’ll also cover how they can help your team succeed, all within budget.
What is a fractional CMO?
Simply put, a fractional CMO is a part-time senior marketing executive who manages and leads the company’s marketing team and strategy to support business growth and sales enablement.
Because they work as needed, hiring a fractional CMO allows teams to avoid paying the prohibitively high cost of a full-time CMO. That results in two great things – more budget and less hassle; you hire the right one that fits your company’s needs.
Forbes broke it down well back in 2021 in an article all about why hiring a fractional CMO is beneficial; be sure to check it out here to get a solid foundational overview!
Under what circumstances should you consider a fractional CMO?
Several scenarios merit considering a fractional CMO hire:
- Your company has grown to a specific revenue goal or a headcount threshold
- Your team encompasses a great and passionate junior staff that needs a strong leader
- You are in a transitional phase because your CMO just left the post
- You don’t have the budget to hire a full-time CMO
- Your team is so sophisticated that it only needs strategic guidance and coaching
Your company has grown to a specific revenue goal or a headcount threshold
This is great news. You are doing well without marketing support or via strong grass-roots marketing. Now, you’re reaching a point where you can take the company to the next level, building broader awareness and getting more leads for the ever-growing sales teams.
You need someone to hire the internal/external teams, build processes and dashboards, enable the sales team, and work closely with the product team. A fractional CMO may be the right option.
Your team encompasses a great and passionate junior staff that needs a strong leader
Many marketing teams I’ve encountered are awesome. They know what they are doing, but are limited in their years of experience. For example, they may be very good at Facebook marketing from community management, post writing, and down to paid ads. They have Facebook down! However, they may not know how to put a solid and integrated marketing plan together or understand how email, events, and other marketing outreach impact their work.
A good fractional CMO can help them connect the dots and help them be more strategic and well-rounded.
You are in a transitional phase because your CMO just left the post
It’s not atypical for a CMO to abruptly leave the company. In the event this happens, you still need to keep marketing running. This would be a great time to consider having an experienced fractional CMO come in to keep things moving forward.
Another option in this scenario is to have one of your existing team members act as an interim CMO, but you need to ensure that this person has the skills and willingness to do that.
You don’t have the budget to hire a full-time CMO
The truth is that all companies have a hiring budget. If they pull the budget together, they can hire a full-time CMO. The question is whether they want to pull that trigger or not.
I’ve noticed that companies prioritize budgets to hire more salespeople instead of growing the marketing team or hiring a senior marketing executive. If you allocate your headcount budget for other needs, having a fractional CMO to lead the marketing team may make sense.
Your team is so sophisticated that it only needs strategic guidance and coaching
You put a solid marketing team together; everyone knows what they are doing. The director and the team have done so well up to this point, but to keep moving forward, they may need someone to come in to show what else they can do.
One of my clients was a perfect example of this; they did everything so well, except for product messaging and content editorial planning. That’s why I came in to help as a fractional CMO to lead the whole team on product messaging development, customer-journey-based content marketing, and building-related processes and workflows.
Pros and cons of a full-time CMO vs. part-time CMO
A full-time CMO is essential when your company surpasses a substantial revenue target or a significant headcount threshold. Most companies have a full-time CMO or VP of Marketing.
The biggest benefit of a full-time CMO is a sense of continuity. A leader anchors the whole marketing team with a clear vision. This person is also an advocate of marketing at the executive table. Additionally, he or she actively engages with every aspect of external communications.
The biggest con is the high-cost. However, if the person is worth it, great!
The biggest benefit of a part-time CMO is agility and cost. If you find someone who can ramp things up fast, has a strong knowledge of digital marketing and martech, and is comfortable in the trenches with the team, then you are in good shape.
The biggest con is that this person is separate from the executive team. It’s hard to know what decisions are being made at the executive level that will impact marketing unless he or she is part of the executive team.
What does a fractional CMO DO?
We do a lot! But here are some key things we do to get your team on track:
- Tell you the truth (there’s no time for sugarcoating!)
- Pull a strategy together with a detailed budget to align executives
- Establish workflows and processes (no processes = no marketing)
- Implement the plan in the trenches with the team
- Monitor the campaigns and report on marketing’s impact on sales
A fractional CMO does the same thing as a full-time CMO. You need a seasoned marketing leader to craft the marketing plan, manage the marketing team, collaborate with sales, and establish martech processes for marketing outreach.
Most importantly, you need this person to ramp fast!
What does an average day look like for a fractional CMO?
I can’t speak for ALL fractional CMOs since we come in all shapes and sizes, but from a personal standpoint, no two days look alike. That’s the beauty of fractional CMO work, though!
Often, a good fractional CMO only works 25-80 hours a month with individual clients. Most of the time, I’d dive in to understand the current marketing status, what works well, and what needs to be fixed. From there, I create an interim marketing plan and then determine what needs to be done within 30, 60, and 90-day windows.
The key is to keep things moving but, at the same time, be able to build processes to scale. I often joke that a fractional CMO works with teams that need to learn to crawl and run simultaneously.
How do you find a fractional CMO who’s well-suited to the task at hand?
For starters, talking to your peers is always a great idea; they may have some great existing connections, which may help cut out a lengthy search for candidates. They can also help you understand the overall landscape and what you should be looking for.
Whether or not your peers have any direct leads, crafting a solid job description before you begin interviewing candidates is essential. Ensure you understand your needs and gaps and articulate them well; this will help you and your potential hires decide whether working together will be a good fit.
Here’s a great guide from Kurve UK that gives lots of helpful information about how to find a great fractional CMO; they go in-depth about the specific things you should look for and questions you should ask as you embark on your hunt for the right person.
Additionally, put an interview team together that includes sales and product teams. The process should feel collaborative, so including these teams will help establish a well-rounded POV. Make sure you ask specific questions based on your collective challenges.
And it’s always a good idea to talk to me, Pam Didner!
Should we work together?
Here is what I bring to the table:
- I know how the internal team works (or doesn’t work) with various groups since I’ve been on the client side for 20+ years.
- I connect the dots with experience in various marketing, product marketing, and sales support.
- I enable direct and indirect sales teams. I’ve supported direct salesforce and distributors such as channel partners, value-added resellers (VARs), and independent solution providers (ISPs).
- I commit to not just “talking” but also “doing.” Let’s get things done.
- I provide updates and progress from 30, 60, and 90-day plans.
- I offer “servant leadership” to rally, mentor, and provide support to team members.
Most importantly, I tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly.
If you want to know more
Get in touch to find out if working together would be a good fit; it’s typically crystal clear after a proper chat about your specific needs.
And, as I mentioned earlier, any good fractional CMO will tell things to you straight; if I think it’s not a good match, I’ll be the first to let you know! I can also give you more specific tips on what you should be looking for, as well as how to go about your search.