The Value of a Fractional CMO and When Do You Need One
by Mike Khorev
In today’s trend of bootstrapping, it’s actually common for companies to run without a marketing leader or even without any marketing team at all. However, as the company grows, it would only make sense to add marketing leadership to improve your business’s marketing performance in achieving its marketing objectives.
Yet, probably you are not ready to add a full-time marketing leader just yet: you might not have the budget to hire one, or you may feel that there isn’t enough leadership task to justify the cost.
In this case, a fractional CMO can be an excellent solution for your business to get the marketing leadership you need with a lower level of commitment and cost.
What Is a Fractional CMO?
CMO, as we know, stands for Chief Marketing Officer, which is the top leader of an organization’s marketing department, typically in charge of leading and managing all marketing-related activities.
While the main responsibility of CMOs is to lead the in-house marketing department, in cases where the marketing team also work with external agencies, the CMO is also responsible to dictate how the different parties must work together to achieve the marketing objectives, as well as how the marketing team must cooperate with the other departments.
So, what is a fractional CMO?
A fractional CMO is someone (or a team of people) that performs the responsibilities of a CMO while not being a full-time employee of the company. So, we can say that a fractional CMO is a part-time CMO, and because most fractional CMOs work remotely over the internet, they are also often called virtual CMO.
Fractional CMO can come in several different forms:
- An individual or an actual CMO that works part-time and performs CMO responsibilities for your marketing department.
- A marketing consultant that performs advisory services on an hourly short-term contract basis.
- A marketing agency that covers all the responsibilities of a CMO on a contract-to-hire basis
Despite all of these different forms, however, the essence remains the same: having a fractional CMO means you are outsourcing the CMO responsibilities to a third-party vendor, whether it’s an independent marketing professional or a marketing firm.
The essence of the ‘fractional’ part of the deal is that you can get a senior-level marketing leader who will handle full marketing leadership responsibilities but with just a fraction of the cost.
The Responsibilities of a Fractional CMO
Whether in the form of an actual part-time CMO or a marketing agency filling the CMO role, you can expect the fractional CMO to fulfill all marketing responsibilities in your company, including but not limited to:
- Defining marketing objectives: defining both short-term and long-term marketing objectives for the company based on various factors like the organization’s overall goals, available budget, industry trends, and so on.
- Managing marketing budgets: one of the key responsibilities of a fractional CMO is to define and manage the marketing budgets to maximize ROI on marketing investments and ensure cost-efficiency. The Fractional CMO will closely monitor the usage of marketing budgets while considering metrics like customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV) to ensure appropriate budget placement.
- Communications and collaborations: another key role of the fractional CMO is to manage internal communications and collaborations within the marketing team, and also to balance communications between the in-house marketing team and outside parties like third-party agencies, vendors, clients, and so on.
- Reporting: measuring performances of campaigns via analytics to track campaign successes and provide comprehensive reporting to explain ROI for each investment made out of the marketing budget. The fractional CMO is responsible to define and explain the KPIs of marketing campaigns and day-to-day operations.
Benefits of Fractional CMO
Now that we’ve understood the concept of fractional CMO, we’ve also understood that the main benefit of hiring a fractional CMO is cost-effectiveness: while outsourcing to a fractional CMO might not always be cheaper than having a full-time CMO to lead your team, you’ll get more value from what you pay.
However, the benefits of fractional CMO can extend beyond cost-efficiency, and here are some of them:
1. Long-term planning and execution
Hiring a fractional CMO can be a cost-effective option especially for smaller companies to have a proper marketing leadership that can oversee day-to-day marketing operations while also planning for the future without having to commit to a full-time in-house CMO.
A fractional CMO whether in the form of an experienced professional or a full-fledged marketing agency can strategically assess the company’s strengths, challenges, and goals to plan and execute long-term marketing strategies.
2. Experienced leadership
The biggest benefit of hiring the right fractional CMO is that you’ll get a level of professionalism and combined experience of the marketing agency and/or part-time CMO. The marketing professionals in the fractional CMO agency have solved problems like the ones your business is experiencing at the moment and in the future, so they’ll be able to act quickly and more precisely.
3. Transparency and Predictability
Hiring a reputable fractional CMO means you’ll get a transparent marketing strategy and predictable execution. The fractional CMO should be able to contribute an attainable marketing plan, set marketing objectives, and perform a thorough execution of the plan to achieve these objectives.
Not only in terms of cost-efficiency, but a fractional CMO can focus their efforts solely on executing the strategic marketing plans and not delving into organizational politics and interdepartmental conflicts which are common for in-house CMOs.
By outsourcing to a fractional CMO, organizations can bypass the unnecessary administrative responsibilities of an in-house CMO, while getting a skilled leadership that’s focused solely on achieving the marketing objectives.
5. Insights and Knowledge
Investing in a fractional CMO would also mean investing in the marketing agency’s or individual’s knowledge, experience, and insights, which can allow the marketing project to move smoothly and infuses your organization’s marketing strategy with valuable strategic insights in driving toward goals. This can allow the organization to be more effective in winning the competition, even when going against huge enterprises with a higher marketing budget.
Do You Need a Fractional CMO?
Here are a few signs that outsourcing to a fractional CMO could be the right choice for your organization:
Your company is in need of a marketing leadership
Your company might be around for quite some time now, and you’ve probably had a performing team of marketers: copywriters, graphic designers, social media managers, and so on. However, now that your company is preparing for the future, marketing transformation is now a necessity, and proper executive marketing leadership can be the missing link your marketing team needs to move your company forward.
A fractional CMO can help companies of any size and any stage to come up with groundbreaking marketing campaigns and objective-focused marketing strategies to help move your company forward.
You are not yet ready financially for a full-time CMO
Probably you are just a small business with a limited budget, or you are a startup that is not yet ready to commit to a full-time marketing executive.
Sometimes, budget isn’t an issue, but there’s not enough leadership work to justify a full-time hire. For example, if the number of marketing campaigns is fairly small and you only need the CMO for strategic planning.
In such cases, hiring a fractional CMO can provide an affordable and cost-effective option for your company,
You’d like an independent party to review and improve your current strategy
Probably you’ve planned a seemingly great marketing campaign and spend hours researching for the best method and fine-tuning it, only to find the campaign doesn’t produce the desired results.
In this case, a fractional CMO can help review and analyze your strategy, whether to fix its performance or to plan your future campaigns better with the improved insights and planning.
You’re about to launch a new product or service
Especially if you are targeting a brand new market with your new product or service, having a fractional CMO to help plan your strategic approach and guide your company for launching this new product. Strategic leadership can be a very important factor determining the success of your product launch, but if this is only a one-off thing, you might not want to commit to a full-time marketing leader.
Instead, a project-based fractional CMO can be a more sensible solution: you’ll get the leadership you’ll need to give the new product or service the boost it needed while providing you with a more flexible, short-term contract and cost-effectiveness.
You rely on your sales team for marketing efforts
It’s common for smaller businesses and startups to rely on the sales team for producing their own promotional materials and presentations. While it can certainly work in some cases and your sales team might be effective at the moment, your marketing and branding messages might be weaker than they should be, and especially disjointed.
In this case, a fractional CMO can help develop a more coherent and unified marketing message to ensure a stronger brand performance and a more positive customer experience.
You lack insights when making marketing decisions
If you don’t have enough marketing insights that inform your company’s executive marketing decisions, it can lead to various mistakes and wastes of resources and time. For example, because you don’t have enough market data, you start a new campaign targeting the wrong audience, which doesn’t produce any results.
A fractional CMO can help you with these insights, as well as performing additional analysis you need to make informed business decisions for better marketing productivity and results.
Hiring a fractional CMO can be a cost-effective solution for getting the expertise and leadership of a CMO while allowing a lower level of commitment and cost.
Also, even if you are going to look for a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO can fill the gap and provide you with the services you need while you search for a full-time candidate.