In today's fast-paced and highly competitive business world, having a comprehensive marketing strategy is essential for any company looking to succeed. In fact, 2015 research from the University of Notre Dame's Frank Germann found that businesses with a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) performed 15% better than businesses without one.
However, not every business can afford to hire a full-time CMO to lead its marketing efforts. This is where fractional CMOs can be a game-changer. By hiring one, businesses can tap into top-tier marketing expertise on a part-time or project basis without incurring the added costs of a full-time employee.
What Is a Fractional CMO?
Fractional CMOs, as the name implies, only spend a fraction of their time in a certain company. They are essentially part-time employees. They do whatever a regular CMO does, such as providing companies with strategic marketing guidance, but only on a project basis. That is why they are often hired by small businesses that don't have the budget or resources to onboard a full-time CMO. The fractional CMO and company agree on how many hours they will work together each month.
Although they aren't full-time CMOs, that doesn't mean they are any less experienced and knowledgeable. They can help companies develop and execute an effective marketing strategy for only a fraction of the cost. Hiring one is an excellent solution for businesses that need marketing expertise without committing to a full-time CMO.
Six Advantages of Hiring a Fractional CMO
Now that you know what a fractional CMO is, you may be wondering how they can help you unlock the full potential of your business. Here are some reasons why hiring one makes sense.
1. Cost Savings
The salary range for a full-time CMO, as reported by Salary.com, falls between $296,519 and $417,570 annually. While larger companies may have no issue accommodating this expense, it could be out of reach for smaller to mid-sized organizations. In contrast, a fractional CMO can be hired at a rate of only $200 to $250 per hour.
By employing one for just 15 hours a month, you could save a significant amount, paying less than $50,000 per year. This cost-effective option is why more and more companies are turning to fractional CMOs for their marketing needs.
Fractional CMOs offer businesses greater flexibility compared to full-time CMOs. They work on a project basis or for a set number of monthly hours, allowing you to pay only for the marketing services you need. Additionally, you can adjust the contract at any time to accommodate your changing needs, effectively managing your marketing budgets and responding quickly to market changes. Overall, hiring a fractional CMO can streamline marketing strategies and maximize resources.
Fractional CMOs, typically hired on a short-term basis, operate with a keen sense of urgency, recognizing the critical value of time and the importance of prompt, impactful delivery. This acute awareness motivates them to work more efficiently and productively, leveraging their expertise to craft a precise and concise plan of action. They prioritize essential tasks, streamlining processes and optimizing resources to amplify their impact.
Armed with their extensive knowledge and the latest marketing tools and techniques, they can rapidly execute their strategies, delivering tangible results in record time. Their versatile experience and abundant resources make them a good addition to any business seeking to optimize its marketing strategies and drive substantial growth.
Fractional CMOs possess the knowledge and expertise to create marketing strategies that drive consistent, sustainable growth. They emphasize scalable marketing tactics and processes, empowering businesses with the tools and knowledge to continue growing even after their contract ends. This can lead to greater success and a more profitable business model. By partnering with a fractional CMO, you can unlock your potential for growth and take your marketing to new heights.
5. Experience and Leadership
Without a CMO, some businesses may struggle to create a coherent marketing strategy with third-party providers. Others may hire a marketing agency, but things can still get chaotic without a qualified decision-maker at the helm. A fractional CMO can unify third-party vendors and hold the marketing strategy accountable. This expertise can lead to a more effective and coherent overall marketing strategy for businesses.
6. Long-Term Planning and Execution
A skilled fractional CMO will work closely with the organization to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that can continue to produce results long after their engagement ends. This may include implementing best practices and marketing tactics that the internal team can execute without the fractional CMO's involvement.
After all, one of their primary goals is to prepare the internal marketing team to handle these initiatives once they depart, ensuring business continuity. By partnering with a fractional CMO, businesses can reap both immediate execution and long-term planning benefits.
When to Hire a Fractional CMO
Fractional CMOs offer an ideal solution for small to mid-sized businesses seeking to retain strategic marketing leadership without incurring the full-time costs of a CMO. Startups and businesses undergoing major transitions stand to benefit the most from hiring a part-time CMO as they bring much-needed insight to navigate the complex marketing landscape.
It is a practical and cost-effective solution for businesses with a limited budget, but it isn't always the best option for everyone. Here are five questions you need to ask yourself before making a hire.
1. What Are Your Reasons for Wanting to Hire a CMO?
Before anything else, you need to revisit the reasons why you want to hire a CMO. Is it really the best option for your organization? Perhaps you are not even sure what marketing tasks are required, and you are hoping a CMO can help you figure this out.
Don't fall into the trap of assuming you need a CMO, full-time or fractional, right off the bat. Early-stage startups often have specific pain points, such as wanting more press coverage or increased leads and revenue. In these cases, a specialized PR or demand generation person may be enough to tackle the issue.
If your needs are narrow and focused, it may be too early to bring on a CMO with a high salary and give them tactical duties to handle. This can lead to frustration for everyone involved. Instead, consider outsourcing or hiring for the specific skills you need. This will also give you a better idea of what skills and experience are essential in a future CMO.
2. What About Your Marketing Team?
Bringing on a CMO to your business isn't something you can do on a whim. There are rules to follow if you want the best possible outcome. First, you need to ensure the readiness of your marketing department. Make sure to evaluate the level and complexity of your marketing organization.
How many people do you have on your marketing team? How robust are your marketing programs? What are your expectations for function development? Aside from those questions, you also need to determine how much you are willing to pay for a CMO.
While there are benefits to bringing on a CMO early in the game, it is crucial to consider the size of your current marketing team. Do you already have an established marketing team? If you are just making your first marketing hire and planning to keep a small marketing team of fewer than three people for the next couple of years, you can forgo hiring a CMO for now. You need at least 10 marketing personnel to justify a C-level hire.
3. Have You Already Figured out Your Business Strategy?
Marketing isn't as simple as sprinkling fairy dust and hoping things will work out on their own. Success only comes to those who have a solid and well-thought-out plan. So, you need to ask yourself if you have already figured out your business model.
Does your product satisfy your target market? If not, what you need is a comprehensive business strategy rather than just tactical marketing programs. Do you have the right person in place to define and implement this strategy?
For those with MBAs, you may remember the "Four Ps" of Marketing: Product, Pricing, Placement, and Promotion. To be successful, the CMO should be aware of the full scope of the marketing function. But they are often only allowed to handle the last P: Promotion, while the rest are delegated to different departments. We aren't saying all functions should be assigned to the CMO, but they need to be aligned and fine-tuned into a marketing strategy that everyone supports.
As a CEO, it is your responsibility to communicate and execute a well-defined business strategy. If you don't have one, junior employees will have a hard time delivering results, and programs are likely to fail. In this case, consider bringing on a CMO earlier, even if your marketing team is still in its infancy.
4. Who Is Responsible for Revenue?
When it comes to revenue ownership, the default answer for most B2B companies is the head of sales. However, it isn't as straightforward as it seems. What about upstream functions like search engine marketing (SEM), demand gen, email marketing, or sales development that the head of sales depends on? If the CMO owns these functions, doesn't the CMO also own a portion of the revenue?
Some companies appoint a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) or Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) to avoid confusion. But even with these roles in place, the marketing function is often separated. If you are hiring a CMO, it is vital to be clear about who owns revenue and how marketing and sales work together.
As your organization grows, fault lines between departments and leaders are inevitable. But as a CEO, it is your responsibility to create a structure that won't malfunction if these fissures widen. Keep in mind dependencies and gaps, such as those with the CRO/CCO and marketing function and other functions like "growth" that may not fit under sales or marketing.
5. How Critical Is Brand Awareness to Your Business?
Considering the significance of your brand to achieve success, it is crucial to note that the term "brand" encompasses the entire brand experience and not just your website or logo. Does your brand stand out? Do your customers consider brand awareness and loyalty as vital factors in their purchase decision-making process?
Answering these questions can be a difficult task for many CEOs and founders, particularly those with an engineering/product background. They tend to overlook intangible "brand" attributes and focus on specific product features instead. If competitors can't easily replicate these product features, then great! If not, having them patented as soon as possible will prevent intellectual property problems later on. After all, in today's rapidly changing business environment, it is difficult to maintain differentiation based solely on product features.
If your product or service faces such challenges, then brand-based differentiation may be crucial for long-term success. It would be wise to recruit a strategic CMO who can create, embody, and guide that brand across your organization early on. Ultimately, your customers' experience defines your brand, and no amount of marketing can overcome a negative customer experience. So, you should have someone directing everyone in the right direction from the get-go.
The Top Qualities to Look for When Hiring a Fractional CMO for Your Business
When seeking a fractional CMO, it is important to consider a number of crucial factors that will ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Here are some key qualities that a high-quality fractional CMO should possess.
Leadership and Team Management Skills
To get the most out of your marketing team, your fractional CMO must have strong interpersonal skills and ample experience. They should be capable of forging positive relationships with your staff, building a collaborative work environment, and motivating your team to perform their best work. Moreover, they should be equally comfortable leading in-person or remote teams and must be able to build trust among your staff and other key stakeholders.
Project Management and Execution Skills
Superior project management skills are critical for a fractional CMO to ensure that your marketing projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the highest quality standards. This encompasses creating and executing project plans, tracking progress, managing budgets, and providing regular updates to all involved parties.
A top-notch fractional CMO should possess extensive technical expertise in the latest marketing tools and technologies. They should be familiar with marketing automation software, CRM systems, and other cutting-edge tools that can drive superior results for your business. CMOs need to stay on top of the latest trends and best practices in the industry.
Creativity and Innovation
An exceptional fractional CMO who possesses a keen aptitude for creativity and innovation can prove to be an invaluable asset for any business. Their ability to conceive and craft unique marketing campaigns and strategies, which can effectively differentiate your brand from competitors, should be unparalleled. Such proficiency demands an extensive comprehension of digital channels like social media and content marketing, which can be utilized to captivate your target audience and catalyze conversions.
Strategic Thinking and Planning Skills
A fractional CMO must have the ability to think strategically and develop long-term marketing plans that align with your business objectives. They should be able to identify key market opportunities and challenges, as well as develop strategies to overcome them. Additionally, they must be capable of making data-driven decisions to assess the success of your marketing efforts and fine-tune your approach.
It is crucial that your fractional CMO has a deep understanding of your target audience and can provide insights that will help you better connect with them. This requires a strong grasp of customer personas, market research, and analytics. They should be able to provide actionable recommendations for optimizing your marketing campaigns to drive better results.
In addition to strategic planning, a first-rate fractional CMO should be able to execute marketing programs that yield measurable results. This encompasses developing and managing paid advertising campaigns, email marketing, content marketing, social media, and other tactics that will help you reach your target audience and drive conversions.
Excellent communication skills are vital for a top-notch fractional CMO. They should be able to communicate clearly and effectively with your team and stakeholders, provide regular updates on progress, and keep everyone informed of any changes or developments. They should also be capable of providing constructive feedback to your team to help them enhance their performance.
How to Find a Good Fractional CMO
Hiring a fractional CMO can offer your organization access to top-level marketing expertise without committing to a full-time hire, allowing for strategic insights, creativity, and technical skills to bring your business to the next level. Nevertheless, finding the right one can be a challenging task. Here are some tips on how you can identify the ideal person for the job.
Be Clear with Your Needs
First things first, before you start the hunt for a fractional CMO, you need to get crystal clear on what you need. Do you need help with SEO? Are you struggling to make the most of social media marketing? Whatever your specific marketing challenge may be, make sure you know what you are looking for in terms of skills, experience, and specialization.
Look for a Specialist
Marketing is a broad field with many different areas of specialization. When searching for a fractional CMO, it is important to find someone who specializes in the areas that are most relevant to your business. For example, if you are an e-commerce business, you might need someone with experience in digital marketing and conversion optimization. Alternatively, if you are a B2B company, you might need someone with expertise in account-based marketing (ABM) or lead generation. Finding someone with relevant experience can make a significant difference in the success of your marketing campaigns.
Check for Experience and References
Experience stands as one of the pivotal factors to consider when seeking a fractional CMO. Ensure that the candidates you are considering have a proven track record of success in their domain. Look for individuals who have worked with companies similar in size and industry to your own. While assessing candidates, don't shy away from asking for references.
Reach out to their previous clients and inquire about their experience working with the CMO. Were they successful in accomplishing their marketing objectives? Did the CMO effectively communicate and deliver valuable insights? The responses to these queries can aid in making an informed decision.
Post Job Ads on Platforms Like LinkedIn or Indeed
To effectively recruit top talent for your fractional CMO role, it is crucial to tap into job posting platforms such as LinkedIn or Indeed. However, simply broadcasting your open position isn't enough. A well-crafted job description highlighting the requisite skills and experience, as well as the specific marketing challenges, can make all the difference. When sifting through applications, seek candidates with a track record of success in collaborating with businesses like yours.
Once you have shortlisted your candidates, it is time to conduct interviews. During the interview process, pose questions that can help you evaluate the candidate's skills and experience. Ask about the specific projects they have worked on in the past and the outcomes they achieved. You should also inquire about their marketing strategy approach and how they would address the challenges facing your business.
Hire Someone You Trust
Employing a fractional CMO is a monumental decision that can impact your company's growth trajectory. Entrusting them with the responsibility of steering your marketing strategy and managing your budget demands the utmost trust. It is, therefore, imperative to find a candidate who embodies transparency, honesty, and remarkable communication skills. You must be absolutely convinced of their ability to deliver results. After all, the future of your company rests on their shoulders.
Partnering with a fractional CMO gives you full access to the expertise of a marketing professional without costing you an arm and a leg. Although they only work on a part-time basis, that doesn't make them any less skilled or experienced than a full-time CMO. Fractional CMOs bring a fresh perspective, industry insight, and battle-tested marketing strategies to the fore, helping you increase brand awareness, lead generation, customer acquisition, and revenue.
Furthermore, they can conserve resources by streamlining marketing operations, optimizing budgets, and measuring ROI. With a fractional CMO on board, you can establish a competitive edge and secure sustained growth in a rapidly evolving business landscape.