What is a Fractional CMO and Why You Might Consider Hiring One

What is a Fractional CMO and Why You Might Consider Hiring One

I was recently asked what to call someone who helps multiple companies simultaneously as a marketing strategist and leader. When I replied, “You just described an answer to the question of What is a Fractional CMO,” they said they had never heard of the term. In all honesty, I first heard of the term at a B2B marketing event in Japan, but there are still a lot of people who might have heard of the term without understanding its meaning or have never heard it before.

I believe a Fractional CMO, especially in today’s work from home environment, can be a boon to many businesses who lack the marketing expertise they need to grow in today’s Digital First environment.

As a consultant I LOVE the concept of being a Fractional CMO so much that I have transitioned all of my consulting clients into my Fractional CMO Services program. Being a fractional CMO allows me to offer a cost-effective high value-add service to my clients where I literally operate as one of their employees with aligned objectives.

A Fractional CMO means a lot of things to a lot of different people, so let me explain how this type of service works and why you might consider engaging someone for this role.

What is a Fractional CMO?

Also called an Outsourced CMO, a Fractional CMO is an experienced marketing leader who becomes a part-time executive addition to your company. You could consider a Fractional CMO to be the same as a part-time CMO, but as you might guess, fractional means that the time spent by your CMO will be shared amongst multiple companies he or she is serving.

In other words, if you’re not quite ready to hire a full-time CMO but don’t want to outsource your marketing leadership to an agency or a general, project-based consultant, a Fractional CMO brings experienced leadership to help accelerate your strategic objectives and reach next-level growth and profitability regardless of products or services you might be marketing at a fraction of the traditional cost of hiring someone full-time for your team business.

The key benefit of this type of outsourced CMO service is that you can hire someone to be involved as if he or she was a CMO but without needing to pay the salary of a full-time marketing executive.

One important distinction to make here is that, compared to an external consultant, a Fractional CMO will often be involved in the day-to-day operations as if they were an employee, as opposed to a project-based external consultant who is often utilized as someone who is brought in from – and often remains in the outside of – key decision-making activities.

What Does a Fractional CMO Actually Do?

A Fractional CMO, while being an external resource, is best thought of as being a part-time executive addition to your management team. This means that the role a Fractional CMO plays will vary from company to company and project to project. Regardless of role, this part-time CMO, or full-time interim executive, should bring innovative digital marketing strategies and unparalleled experience to your team.

In my own experience working with several companies as a Fractional CMO, my role serving small and large B2C and B2B companies has included:

  • Strategic Project Support for the Marketing of Multiple New Brand Launches for a B2B Company
  • Strategic Marketing Advisory Services for CEOs of Multiple Online Brands
  • Head of Digital Transformation of Marketing Project for an Ecommerce Company
  • In Charge of Revamping the Social Media Marketing Strategy of a Global B2B Enterprise
  • Key Strategic Leader in the Establishment of an Employee Influencer Program for a B2C Enterprise
  • Completely Recreated Digital Content Strategy for an Ecommerce Business
  • Create Strategy and Help with Implementation of Executive Online Branding
  • Replace Dependency on PPC Ads with Inbound Content Marketing Strategy Creation and Implementation
  • Launched New Overseas Sales Territories for a B2B Brand Completely Using Digital and Social Media Marketing
  • Complete Management of a B2C Brand’s Influencer Marketing Program

As you can ascertain from the above, the role that a Fractional CMO will play will come down to a combination of the needs of the company hiring them and the skills and experience that the marketing professional brings to the table.

Why Fractional Marketing Leaders Are Increasingly Attractive To Companies

In the Work From Home environment of today, most office workers are working remotely. This sets the stage to have an outsourced resource help you with your marketing efforts. A Fractional CMO is someone that has extensive marketing knowledge and a leader with expertise in everything from developing business strategy and deep understanding of the strategic planning process to being experienced in a role as a marketing department team leader. Should you not have someone on staff in this role, hiring someone to do it for you on a fractional basis is a low-risk investment in your business growth.

With the post-coronavirus economy emerging and the digital transformation having accelerated, there is another reason to bring in a Fractional CMO: The need to bring in experienced leaders who understand the latest trends in digital and social media marketing and can spark growth for your company in these competitive channels.

How Does Hiring a Fractional CMO Compare to Other Marketing Options?

When you need marketing help, there have been traditionally only been a few options:

  1. Hire a Full-Time Chief Marketing Officer
  2. Outsource Your Marketing to an Agency
  3. Hire a Part-Time Consultant for Additional Help
  4. A Combination of the Above

Unlike any of the above options with the exception of hiring someone full-time for your team, a Fractional CMO becomes an integral member of your marketing team and provides you with the same calibre of expert marketing leadership that a full-time member would but for a fraction of the cost. If you are a large enterprise who have the budget and needs to have a full-time CMO on board the need might be less, but if you do not have CMO-level experience in-house, especially if your in-house marketing department lacks the type of experienced marketing professionals for the marketing initiatives at hand, a Fractional CMO is a wise choice.

It should be noted that large enterprises can also take advantage of having a Fractional CMO on-hand with help in marketing execution of their marketing activities, whether as a strategic project leader or as a CMO’s Vice Strategist.

How to Select Your Fractional CMO

When selecting a Fractional CMO, you obviously want to base your decision on a number of factors, such as:

  • their experience as a marketing leader
  • their expertise within marketing
  • their marketing process
  • their system of working with other companies as a Fractional CMO
  • their recommendations as to how they propose to work with you in a marketing function
  • their business model

You should place the same importance on hiring someone on a fractional basis as you would on hiring a marketing leader. The big difference in negotiations, however, will be the specifics of their respective business models for providing outsourced expertise on an interim basis.

How Much Does a Fractional CMO Cost?

The biggest advantage of hiring a Fractional CMO is that it is extremely cost-effective when compared to hiring a Full-Time CMO.

When hiring a Full-Time CMO, in addition to an average base salary being close to $175,000, the variable cost of hiring an employee is generally considered to be 1.25 to 1.4 times greater than their base salary. This means on average the annual cost of hiring a Full-Time CMO is closer to $230,000.

The cost of a Fractional CMO is, as the name implies, a fraction of the full-time cost of a full-time CMO. This is because a Fractional CMO often works with multiple companies as part of their executive management team.

How much the exact cost will be will differ amongst service providers.

You can inquire about my specific pricing by contacting me here, but like other Fractional CMOs, pricing is based on length of contact term and the number of hours utilized per month.

It should be noted that in addition to being cost-effective, Fractional CMOs bring an incredible amount of flexibility to your organization. While you can’t hire someone full-time and plan to let them go in 3, 6, or 12 months, you can hire Fractional CMOs for fixed and shorter terms.

Check Out These Resources for More Perspectives:

Ready to Hire a Fractional CMO or Have Any Further Questions? Contact Me Using the Form Below

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Looking to tap into marketing expertise for your organization? You might want to consider hiring a Fractional CMO. Here's why.
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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