What, exactly, does a fractional CMO do?
When a CEO is thinking, “Why aren’t we growing faster?” or “It feels like we’re not getting the ROI out of our marketing,” it might be time to consider hiring a fractional Chief Marketing Officer. An outsourced CMO brings years of experience to help you accelerate your revenue growth and optimize your business development without incurring the cost of an executive salary.
CEOs are looking for solutions when sales start to falter or marketing efforts are falling flat, especially when you need to stay within a budget. This is where a fractional CMO steps in, figuratively and often literally, into their business.
What is a fractional CMO?
A fractional CMO (chief marketing officer) is a contractual marketing executive who helps with revenue growth, marketing and sales optimization, and strategy development. Your company hires per-hour access to the executive expertise without adding to the cost of full-time staff.
Fractional: Defined mathematically, it means part of the whole. For business, it means the whole in part.
A CMO could be a temporary or long-term hire, a try-before-you-buy personnel situation, or serve as an interim executive that fulfills a project or campaign need.
Consider a fractional CMO role like an on-demand marketing genius who is accountable to goals instead of the delivery of tactics.
What does a fractional CMO do?
Your fractional CMO will begin by auditing your current marketing efforts and building your business development strategy and marketing plan. They’ll then prioritize initiatives, help with budgeting, allocate available resources, and set up a reporting and accountability structure. Often a fractional CMO will lead the improvement of your positioning, differentiation, messaging, and brand while also developing the plans and campaigns to increase current customer revenue, increase leads and improve lead quality, and orchestrate strategic initiatives such as product launches or penetration of new markets.
How to know when you need a fractional CMO
You know you need a fractional CMO when you face one or more of the following scenarios:
- Your organizational goals aren’t being met.
- Your marketing department is lacking the experience or strategy to navigate market changes or new initiatives.
- The company can’t replace the last full-time business development executive in a timely manner.
- The company needs a scalable growth plan but does not have the budget for a full-time CMO.
- You are considering succession plans or the sale of your business.
Depending on your company’s needs and goals, there are fractional CMOs in the following categories and fee levels:
- For-hire or on-demand CMO – They work for a season or a reason. This executive provides leadership in the creation of marketing strategies to empower your company toward profitability. They may or may not see strategy through to the tactical or deployment.
- Revitalization CMO (aka a “turnaround” CMO) – Often seen as a “fire drill” or crisis CMO, this professional is going to come in, clean house, and implement proven strategies to get the needle moving again for the existing marketing team.
- Coaching/training advisor CMO – He or she helps to train your existing marketing team in a tool or strategy, then help to implement a beneficial infrastructure that lasts.
- Provisional/interim CMO – This ad-hoc role functions as a bridge between the period when your former full-time CMO has left the company and the time when you can bring on a permanent hire. This fractional CMO helps to ensure maintenance of daily operations continue smoothly. He or she (or the fractional CMO agency team) can also assist in the interview and selection process.
How much does a fractional CMO cost?
There are three types of fractional CMO engagements to fit different budgets.
Do It For You (DIFY): This type of engagement includes a fractional CMO and a fractional marketing team which includes a writer, graphic designer, social media specialist, and digital marketer. In essence, your marketing department is outsourced in order to keep overhead low and efficiency high. This is ideal for companies that either have one in-house marketer or no in-house marketers. Often based on the size of the company and the complexity of the market, these engagements can range from $20,000 per month to $5,000 per month.
Do It With You (DIWY): In this type of engagement, a fractional CMO collaborates with, oversees, and mentors your current team and vendors to maximize your results and build a scalable growth machine. These fractional CMO rates can range from $15,000 per month (for companies with numerous brands or an acquisition growth strategy) to $2,000 per month. Alternatively, some companies are only seeking the development of the marketing strategy and plan, brand strategy, and/or messaging. This type of engagement lasts from two to six months and ranges from $65,000 to $16,000.
Do It Yourself (DIY): This is a training and ideation engagement that’s ideal for small businesses or for the development of an in-house marketing director. A fractional CMO leads a monthly mastermind where participants will build their marketing strategy and marketing plan, problem solve for current challenges, and learn to pave a road to increased revenue and effectiveness. These engagements may include one-on-one coaching and guidance and can range from $1,500 per month to $500 per month.
“The part-time, fractional CMO engagement enables clients to gain the most valuable parts of having an executive marketing leader, without the expense of a full-time CMO. We provide our highest value marketing leadership, coaching, and direction to help each of our clients accelerate their growth and accomplish their goals.” —Brian Talbot, fractional CMO, working in tandem with The Marketing Blender
Some people ask about a fractional CMO’s hourly rate. While this varies depending on the scope of work and experience of the executive, most CMOs charge somewhere between $275/hour to $150/hour, but agreements are often written with a combination of expectations, goals, and estimated monthly or weekly hours.
Advantages of hiring a fractional CMO
Why hire a fractional CMO? Your business can take advantage of a single, seasoned professional or leverage a CMO + fractional marketing team to focus on results and outcomes without the extra salaries, benefits, and risk of employee turn-over.
Additionally, when you work with a fractional CMO group, if your CMO is not a fit or he or she is no longer available to you, a replacement will be brought in immediately to avoid disruption. Your company will have the oversight of another CMO who reviews outcomes and maintains relationships with your leadership team to ensure progress and value-creation.
From Wikipedia: “The CMO is responsible for facilitating growth, sales and marketing strategy. They must work towards objectives, such as revenue generation, cost reduction, or risk mitigation. The unpredictable effect of marketing efforts, coupled with the need to drive profits, often leads to a short tenure for most CMOs.”
Thus, the advantages of a fractional CMO: There’s little commitment with lengthy and time-consuming recruitment and onboarding. If someone is not a good fit or doesn’t deliver on pre-agreement goals and metrics, you can move on without having invested in their golden parachute, among other things.
The Marketing Blender offers fractional CMO services for:
- Marketing Strategy + Marketing Plan
- Incomparable Advantage Brand Strategy and Messaging
- Reporting and Accountability
- Ongoing Growth
Fractional CMO vs. full-time CMO
You may be wondering about the differences between a fractional CMO vs. full-time CMO. A fractional CMO is often available as a contractor right away and onboard quickly, jumping into the business matters at hand to reach goals sooner rather than later. Their reputation is carried by their best work for every client.
Fractional CMOs are seasoned marketing professionals who are available on a contract, part-time basis to:
- Scale long-term growth
- Fill an interim role
- Build a department- or company-wide strategy
- Launch a product or service
Fractional CMOs often charge an hourly rate to deliver on the desired goals that are agreed upon upfront—a “you get what you pay for” scenario. They onboard quickly and get straight to work. Fractional CMO costs can often show a return on investment far sooner than with a full-timer weighing down the process and taking too long to come through with positive results for the bottom line.
Full-time CMOs take eight months to a year to recruit internally and even longer from outside the firm. The search often requires external headhunters to help locate those who will HOPEFULLY fit the culture of your firm. It can be a costly mistake if the wrong person is hired full-time for the role. The average tenure of a full-time CMO is 41 months.
Examples of fractional CMO work
A renewable energy firm had achieved impressive growth in five years, but their quick growth left gaps in the messaging, sales alignment, and their ability to measure and improve their marketing efforts. As a result, they were losing key opportunities to competitors and unable to cross-sell and upsell their additional services. At the recommendation of his Executive Coach, the CEO hired a fractional CMO from The Marketing Blender for a three-month engagement to improve their messaging and develop the overall business development plan to take them to the next level. “The work and deliverables were outstanding. This is exactly what we were looking for and are thrilled with the execution plan that was put in place for us to follow.”
Nearly $2.5 million dollars in net new business dried up overnight for a professional services firm when the COVID lockdowns hit in 2020. They hired a fractional CMO from The Marketing Blender to create a lead and a new playbook for marketing and selling in a virtual world.
A Texas manufacturer was opening new plants and growing at a rapid pace, but the marketing and messaging was not keeping up. The CEO was dissatisfied with how the business was perceived in the market and not having proactive initiatives for new markets and new products. They hired a fractional CMO to lead the in-house team, report directly to the COO, and create a new brand and positioning strategy. “Our marketing finally aligns with our aggressive growth strategy and we’re getting the attention we need from the market that we were lacking before. We’ve since expanded our engagement and our CMO is now overseeing the marketing for our other companies as well.”
Dacia Coffey, founder and CEO, shares her insight about The Marketing Blender’s fractional CMO services:
“I want for my clients to be represented the right way … I want them to be successful because they tell the truth about who they are. We celebrate and honor the work of the unsung heroes of this economy … They are the movers and shakers behind how the work gets done.”
Here are some of the tactics that you can expect a fractional CMO to actually do:
- Marketing Strategy
- Execution Planning & Management
- Creative Direction
- Messaging Improvement
- ROI Accountability
- Maximized Lead Generation
- Shorter Sales Cycles
- Marketing Agency Oversight
- Differentiation & Positioning
- Brand Elevation
- Mission Alignment
- Rapid Onboarding & Results
- Live Support & High Stakes Strategy
- Team Leadership & Mentorship
- Proactive Planning & Ideation
- Project Management
- Sales & Marketing Alignment
- Technology Optimization
- Strategic Alignment
- Vendor Management & Optimization
- Budgeting & Planning
- Board Communication
What people say about fractional CMO services
“To be successful, the CMO must play a role broader than just leading the marketing organization. The role must include driving revenue, leading innovation, and providing strategic vision.” — Karen Tiber Leland | President | Sterling Marketing Group
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