What’s a Fractional CMO & Why Should You Hire One? (2023)

What’s a Fractional CMO & Why Should You Hire One? (2023)

Explore how a fractional CMO can unlock growth in your business. Dive into the proven benefits and find out how to hire top talent through Go Fractional.

Share on TwitterSeptember 21st, 2023

A fractional CMO can fuel your business growth through transformative marketing leadership — without the full-time marketing executive price tag.

Explore the services they offer and the benefits of hiring a fractional CMO as opposed to a full-time one.

Find out what sets fractional CMOs apart from marketing consultants, how to onboard a fractional CMO easily, and how much hiring one costs.

Further Reading:

What Is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional Chief Marketing Officer is a part-time Chief Marketing Officer responsible for devising a comprehensive marketing strategy that drives revenue growth and improves brand recognition.

They usually report to the CEO and work closely with the leadership team to facilitate a seamless exchange of ideas and practices between marketing and other functions.

They offer top-tier marketing leadership without the substantial overhead of full-time marketing executive salaries (and bonuses).

This gives your company flexibility to scale the marketing effort as needed and maximize ROI — especially if you’re dealing with limited resources or fluctuating marketing needs.

That’s why mid-sized businesses and growing startups often hire this marketing expert as a low-commitment and cost-effective alternative to a full-time executive.

When Should You Hire a Fractional CMO?

You should seriously consider hiring a fractional CMO when:

  • You need someone with experience in your particular product category to hone your current marketing strategy.
  • Your existing marketing team needs skilled leadership to manage several functions efficiently.
  • You require the external perspective of an experienced marketing executive to improve marketing ROI.
  • You're introducing a new product or service and need effective marketing strategies to launch it.
  • You need to delegate and free up time but lack the marketing budget or don’t need a full-time CMO.
  • You need a temporary CMO to fill a temporary vacancy.

What Services Do Fractional CMOs Provide?

Whether you need strategic leadership or someone to train the marketing team, a fractional CMO could be irreplaceable to your business.

Take a detailed look at how they can steer your company in the right direction with their marketing expertise.

1. Strategic Marketing Leadership

Creating a marketing plan requires a structured approach to ensure resources are allocated properly, and you can respond quickly to market changes.

A fractional CMO would first assess your ongoing marketing initiatives and identify any gaps or problems.

They then leverage their diverse experience to provide strategic guidance that aligns with your business objectives. This will result in profitable and customer-driven marketing tactics.

Fractional CMOs will offer you a better marketing ROI, as they can anticipate market changes and seize new opportunities proactively to drive growth.

Nick Perold profile image
Nick Perold
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Branding
Marketing leadership and advisory services from the ex-head of marketing at Bedrock Detroit. Led brand strategy for several global brands.

2. Market Research and Analysis

Without proper market research and analysis, you risk misjudging your audience, making costly assumptions, and steering strategies away from actual market realities.

A fractional CMO can either conduct market research in-house or collaborate with a third-party agency.

The resulting nuanced insights on consumer needs and industry trends will sharpen your product positioning and audience outreach.

It can even uncover market segments with unmet needs. In such cases, your fractional CMO can work with the R&D or product team to develop new solutions.

Dana Doran profile image
Dana Doran
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Brand Strategist
  3. Market Research
  4. Advisor
Marketing leader with 20+ years of experience and expertise in consumer research, growth, GTM, and innovation strategy for DTC & CPG brands

3. Brand Development

A strong brand differentiates you from competitors but also establishes trust and credibility with your target audience. When honed by an experienced fractional CMO, it could become your company's most valuable intangible asset.

For instance, fractional CMOs can:

  • Gauge the brand’s reputation by assessing market opinions through surveys and digital listening tools.
  • Define brand positioning in relation to the target market and competitors.
  • Use brand storytelling to build an emotional connection with your target customers.
  • Select high-impact branding platforms for maximum visibility (e.g., Google ads, social media, print media, etc.)
  • Maintain a consistent voice and brand experience across online and offline touchpoints.
  • Encourage repeat purchases through brand loyalty programs, webinars, feedback loops, etc.
  • Assess brand KPIs for iterative improvements and strategy optimization.

A fractional CMO’s fresh, external perspective lets them easily identify gaps and seize opportunities. As a result, your company could improve brand recall, boost customer loyalty, and differentiate itself in crowded markets quickly.

Matt Spangler profile image
Matt Spangler
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Branding
  3. Product Marketing
  4. Advisor
Former CMO at Compass focused on building tech solutions that scale marketing ROI. Advisor on marketing leadership, brand management, and product innovation.

4. Manage Digital Marketing Channels

A fractional CMO can initiate, prioritize, and oversee all your digital campaigns. These could include:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Social media marketing (paid and organic)
  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Content marketing
  • Public relations (PR)
  • Influencer marketing

Through regular audits and analytics, they will ensure all these activities are coordinated for maximum efficacy and ROI.

The fractional chief marketing officer can also set up omnichannel marketing processes to ensure that all marketing channels work in a coordinated manner and avoid wasting money on siloed efforts.

Ben Ellenbecker profile image
Ben Ellenbecker
  1. Fractional Head of Content
  2. Social Media
  3. Omnichannel strategy
End-to-end omnichannel and social-first content strategy that hits all the right notes with your audience

5. Marketing Automation

An increasingly digital landscape for marketing makes most error-ridden manual processes obsolete. Marketing automation helps your team scale up your scope of execution with the help of multipurpose software.

A fractional CMO knows what processes will benefit the most from automation.

They can select the right software, such as:

  • Content Management Systems (CMS) to create and manage websites
  • Email marketing platforms
  • Social listening and scheduling tools
  • Customer survey tools
  • Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM) to organize customer information
  • AI chatbots for round-the-clock customer service.

Careful deployment of these tools will undoubtedly improve the speed and accuracy of your marketing processes, drastically improving your marketing ROI.

Michelle Hadley profile image
Michelle Hadley
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Marketing Automation
  3. CRM Marketing
  4. Lead Generation
  5. Branding
13+ years of experience in B2C and B2B marketing strategy with expertise in CRM, email automation, analytics, and loyalty. Ex-Disney, Saks 5th Avenue, The Body Shop.

6. Analytics and Reporting

Your company may be sitting on a mountain of data from several software tools and systems. A fractional CMO will help you convert insights from this data into specific action items for your marketing department.

They’ll keep a keen eye on key performance indicators (KPIs) like:

  • Marketing Campaign Performance: Impressions, Clicks, Survey Response Rate, Email Open Rate, etc.
  • Customer Retention: Customer retention and churn rates over a period
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), etc.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), etc.

They can set up a live dashboard with critical KPIs to give the team a bird’s eye view of all marketing campaigns and how they align with broader business goals.

Kat Clark profile image
Kat Clark
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Brand Strategy
  3. Advisor
Marketing leader with expertise in marketing strategy for ed-tech and social impact startups using data-driven insights

7. Budgeting and Forecasting

A fractional CMO can easily identify inefficiencies in current budget allocation. They can then redirect funds to campaigns with a higher ROI.

Suppose your social media engagement continues to be poor despite allocating a huge marketing budget to a marketing agency. A fractional CMO could renegotiate terms, shift to a performance-based payment structure, or reallocate the budget to another agency.

Using market insights and past performance data, they can also predict future budgetary requirements and advise on strategic changes to keep costs in control.

Neha Goel profile image
Neha Goel
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Go to Market
  3. Marketing Automation
Advising startups on how to build repeatable revenue, predictable pipeline, scalable processes, and sustainable growth.

8. Team Leadership and Development

Given their fresh perspective, a fractional CMO could give you a more unbiased evaluation of team performance. They can groom your marketing team and instill a data-centric, productive work approach.

They may:

  • Identify redundancies in roles and restructure for optimal productivity.
  • Educate the team on the latest marketing trends.
  • Train the team to use marketing automation and analytics tools.
  • Establish best practices like cross-training of sales and marketing teams to drive customer satisfaction.
  • Introduce new tools, such as a new performance review system focusing on continuous feedback rather than annual evaluations.

Ultimately, a fractional CMO ensures that your marketing department is fully equipped to take charge of the company’s marketing operations before they move on to their next fractional engagement. They could even help you recruit a team of experts or find a full-time traditional CMO when the time is right.

Regan Wynne profile image
Regan Wynne
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Team Building
  3. Product Marketing
  4. Advisor
Seasoned Marketing Leader who’s built and coached top-performing teams by driving cultural improvements and supporting employee growth

9. Event Strategy

A fractional CMO can leverage their network and industry experience to promote your product via offline avenues like trade shows, fundraising fairs, and/or online events like webinars.

Your fractional CMO will:

  • Pick events and venues with the highest engagement potential for your target audience.
  • Negotiate terms with vendors for better pricing and value-add.
  • Determine an event theme that resonates with your audience.
  • Promote events (online and offline) for maximum reach.
  • Leverage data to ensure cost-effective planning and execution.

In essence, a fractional CMO can provide strategic depth and tactical know-how to your event planning without sticking to traditional methods.

MJ Deery profile image
MJ Deery
  1. Fractional Creative Director
  2. Branding
  3. Copy
Award winning Creative Director with 20+ years of experience. Working on social impact initiatives from corporate brands to grassroots startups

10. Vendor and Agency Management

Managing third-party vendors and agencies is often the biggest time-sink for marketing teams.

A fractional CMO can help you at every stage of your vendor relations. This includes

  • Collecting and reviewing proposals and selecting the right agencies
  • Negotiating and signing contracts
  • Assigning a single point of contact (SPOC) for each vendor
  • Managing and evaluating their performance
  • Setting budgets
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Terminating contracts and transferring data

In short, they ensure that your vendors deliver the expected results.

Stephen Hunton profile image
Stephen Hunton
  1. Stakeholder Management
  2. Content strategy
  3. Governance
  4. Influencer Marketing
A deep background in change management and transforming marketing functions across owned, paid and influencer programs

11. Sales Enablement

The average B2B buyer reads up to 13 pieces of marketing content before buying a product. This shows how intertwined marketing and sales departments should be.

A fractional CMO can align your marketing and sales efforts by:

  • Setting up systems to integrate marketing and sales data into a single pipeline. (For instance, they can set up a CRM system like Salesforce to have the marketing and sales teams operate from the same data set. Once a lead is captured through a marketing campaign, it's funneled to the sales team for immediate follow-up.)
  • Leveraging sales data to gear marketing collaterals for maximum lead generation.
  • Training the sales team in the latest market insights.
  • Redirecting the results of marketing analytics into sales processes (For instance, if analytics show that some leads engaged deeply with content but abandoned their shopping carts, the sales team can be alerted to offer personalized deals to them or answer their queries.)
Amanda Huddy profile image
Amanda Huddy
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Sales Enablement
  3. Speaking
  4. Marketing Operations
B2B expert developing marketing, communications, and brand strategies. Grow Alliant Capital’s revenue from $7B to $9B in less than two years

12. Public Relations (PR) Management

As brand custodians, especially in a small business, fractional CMOs are ideal candidates to oversee your company’s PR outreach, ensuring it aligns with the broader marketing approach.

Your fractional CMO can shape the brand voice in all external communications. Moreover, they can train company spokespeople to represent this brand best during public appearances.

Finally, fractional CMOs are also your first line of defense during a PR crisis.

These senior leaders will strategize a measured response and help you:

  • Draft an appropriate and brand-compliant statement for the press or relevant parties.
  • Engage with key stakeholders to find a resolution.
  • Gauge public opinion via various marketing channels like social media.
  • Navigate customer relations affected by the crisis. (For example, following negative press about a service glitch, a fractional CMO can initiate a hotline for affected customers to ensure their grievances are addressed.)
Jon Amar profile image
Jon Amar
  1. Fractional CCO
  2. Public Relations
  3. Strategic Communications Leader
PR and strategic communications for agencies, CEOs, and more. Focus on thought leadership, ESG, and cause communications and data-driven campaigns.

Clearly, the services a fractional CMO offers can be a huge boon to your business. But there are even more benefits to hiring one.

5 Key Benefits of Hiring Fractional CMOs

Even if you’re tempted to go the full-time route with your CMO position, you should know the numerous advantages of hiring this fractional executive.

We’ll explore a few of these below.

1. Cost-effectiveness

The cost of a full-time employee includes salary, benefits, bonuses, and other overheads. The average annual salary of a CMO in the US as of August ‘23 was up to $349,146. And when one adds overheads like bonuses, 401K, healthcare, etc., this figure reaches $630,004.

This makes hiring a CMO hard for bootstrapped startups or budget-conscious mid-size companies.

Plus, a 2019 analysis by Korn Ferry reveals that the average tenure of a CMO is the lowest of all C-suite executives, at 3.5 years — across 1000 surveyed organizations. This means the decision to hire a traditional CMO who works full-time may not have the expected long-term payoff.

A fractional CMO, on the other hand, makes a much more affordable hire because you only pay for their limited time commitment or specific projects.

2. Diverse Experience

Thanks to multiple short tenures across a range of companies and across industries, fractional CMOs usually have varied experience and broad-based marketing expertise.

Some fractional CMOs own and run successful startups on the side. This gives them the vital entrepreneurial experience of setting business priorities, budgeting, fundraising, and much more. Hiring them gives you the unique opportunity to work with someone who understands the nuances of running a company.

As a result, they’ll foresee challenges better and adapt to the market faster than in-house staff.

They may also have specialized skills – digital transformation, branding relaunch, international expansion, etc.

A full-time CMO usually doesn’t have the same breadth of experience.

Kaitlin Cameron profile image
Kaitlin Cameron
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Brand Strategy
  3. Go to Market
Diverse experience leading performance marketing, content, integrated marketing, and creative in family-owned businesses to Fortune 500 companies

3. Immediate Impact

Fractional CMOs typically are seasoned professionals who can hit the ground running quickly. They are often quicker to onboard and orient than full-time CMOs.

Why?

Because they are used to working for new companies and require less of a learning curve, they can deliver results faster than someone new to the role or the industry.

Plus, because you can hire these fractional marketing executives for limited durations, they’re motivated to meet these objectives quickly and efficiently.

4. Access to a Network

A fractional CMO will have a deep network of vendors, consultants, and even investors from their previous engagements.

You can leverage this network to expand your marketing department, hire third-party marketing services, or find new prospects.

Want instant access to an exceptionally talented and well-connected bunch of people?

Just hire a fractional executive with Go Fractional and unlock an entire network of not just marketing leaders but also sales gurus, tech wizards, finance masters, and more.

Jana Keaton profile image
Jana Keaton
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Creative Director
  3. Copy
Seasoned leader specializing in brand identity, core messaging, market research, product launches, tactical planning, and managing creative teams.

Fractional CMO vs. Marketing Consultant

Maybe you’re wondering why you shouldn’t hire a freelance marketing consultant instead. Couldn’t you get many of the same benefits?

Well, there is some overlap between services that marketing consultants provide, but fractional CMOs offer two irreplaceable advantages over marketing consultants.

1. Overarching Leadership vs. Specific Tasks

A fractional CMO typically provides an overarching direction. They can see how different marketing approaches and channels can work together to create a unified marketing strategy.

More importantly, they can provide a complete range of marketing services, from leadership to strategy to execution.

On the other hand, a consultant's role stops at making recommendations. They’ll offer you a plan to solve a problem, but it’s up to you to implement the marketing initiative into action. They don’t offer strategic leadership or execute the strategies they propose.

Ashley Simon profile image
Ashley Simon
  1. Fractional CMO
  2. Go To Market
  3. Branding
Brand and product marketing leader for high-growth companies. Expertise in customer segmentation, positioning, new product launches, and more.

2. Committed Engagement vs. Low Ownership

A fractional CMO might step into a marketing executive role with decision-making authority. They will have a more holistic view of the company’s success than a consultant just completing a project.

Marketing consultants don’t always have such high-stakes engagement with their clients. They usually only answer for the specific projects they’re entrusted with. Fractional CMOs may work for you in the short term, but they could also hang on for longer-term engagements, staying accountable for their results and ensuring everything runs efficiently.

So that settles it.

Now, let’s find out how you can go about hiring one.

How to Hire a Fractional CMO with Go Fractional

Go Fractional is a community of dynamic fractional CMOs and other marketing leaders. We take the guesswork out of the fractional hiring game by:

  • Finding the best fit for your team without any hidden fees
  • Helping you and the candidate get to know each other’s needs via interviews
  • Managing all the administrative tasks during the hiring and onboarding processes

Just follow these steps to hire a fractional CMO from Go Fractional:

  • Step 1: Connect
  • Step 2: Meet
  • Step 3: Begin

How We Source Fractional CMO Candidates

Rest assured that your candidates pass through a stringent selection process.

  • Applications: Our rigorous selection process primarily zeroes in on individuals already in leadership roles.
  • Interviews: Exhaustive interviews help us gauge their alignment with our community and clientele.
  • Profiles: Go Fractional aspirants must craft a detailed profile encapsulating their past endeavors, assignments, and feats.

Our experts have chosen the fractional route because it allows them to engage with diverse projects and clientele. And they bring this multifaceted background to your table.

How Much Does A Fractional CMO Cost?

The cost of hiring a fractional CMO hinges on the duration of their engagement, range of responsibilities, experience, etc.

At Go Fractional, we customize the pricing model in order to do justice to each fractional executive’s role, skills, and past experience.

Our pricing structure is based on monthly retainers, typically between $10,000 and $20,000.

Our transparent billing operates on a monthly cycle. Regardless of the number of fractional experts you work with, you receive a single invoice.

Ready to Go Fractional for the Chief Marketing Officer role?

Reach out to Go Fractional now!


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