Fractional CMO: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring an Outsourced Marketing Executive

Fractional CMO: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring an Outsourced Marketing Executive

The world today is such that a lot of products and services can be had on demand. There are Uber and Lyft for transportation needs, ready-made apps and software companies can use and integrate into their system (such as SaaS), and Amazon to take care of online shopping needs and product delivery. That trend is continuing into the C-suite. For example, fractional CMOs or outsourced marketing executives.

Some start-ups, as well as companies undergoing rapid growth and transformation, have also made use of on-demand, outsourced expertise. These for-hire experts include fractional chief marketing officers (CMOs), chief financial officers (CFOs), vice-presidents for human resources, and chief information officers (CIOs).

For companies looking to get CMO-level involvement and expertise but are not yet at a size at which getting a full-time CMO is viable, a fractional CMO can be a practical choice.

What is a fractional CMO?

A chief marketing officer (CMO) is not only a marketing manager but is also the leader of all marketing-related elements. These include marketing staff, external agencies, and the integration of marketing with all other departments in the company. The difference between a fulltime CMO and a fractional CMO is that a fractional CMO is part-time (hence fractional) and isn’t an employee of the company.

What is a fractional CMO? An infographic with brief description of what a fractional CMO does

The CMO works with all teams, such as IT, human resources, finance, sales, and customer service. The CMO deals with agencies and holds them accountable for results. The evaluation of agency work quality, selection of service providers and third-party vendors, as well as the negotiation of agency contracts all fall under the purview of a CMO. The CMO role also involves fiduciary responsibilities such as developing and managing budgets, controlling marketing spending, and measuring ROI against actual expenses.

The scope of the role and scale of responsibilities that fall on a CMO usually means you can hire a good one only with a great offer, including benefits and a high salary. But if long-term compensation is impossible budget-wise, a fractional CMO can fill this vital executive role.

Far from being exceptional or rare, this is actually a typical situation in the high world of business today. With the new opportunities that came with the widespread use of the Internet, start-ups and new business ventures have become more commonplace. And even if business is going well, a growing company may not need a full-time CMO. What you do need, though, is someone who can take care of executing your company’s most critical branding and marketing activities down the line.

What does a fractional CMO do?

If you are an established company with an underperforming marketing team, or a growing enterprise unprepared to hire a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO can prove to be the right fit.

However, finding someone who can deliver the services you need may not be so easy. Moreover, during headhunting, you need to have set criteria beyond the credentials and expansive curriculum vitae. Ideally, you should look for an experienced, competent professional who can handle the following tasks and elements:

What does a fractional CMO do? Infographic with brief explanation of what a fractional CMO does

  • Target Markets and Buyers – Identify, analyse, and describe the best market fit for products and services your company offers. Your prospective fractional CMO should know who the decision-makers and influencers are, as well as the key benefits and core value propositions which appeal the most to them.
  • Sales Pipeline – The fractional CMO should undertake to study and improve your current sales funnel. Concerns regarding this include finding ways to get more qualified leads into the top of the sales funnel at the least cost per lead; showing how marketing automation can be used to nurture leads; what members of the sales team should say (script) to prospects and how they close deals consistently and efficiently.
  • Content Strategy and Execution – An essential feature of product marketing is matching the message to each buyer persona. Therefore, the right content is needed to facilitate sales. However, this can only happen after each buyer persona is defined. A fractional CMO will ensure messages are tailored to various buyer personas and will compare these messages with A/B testing. This way, the fractional CMO can identify the exact stage in the sales process where deals break down or fail to move forward. By knowing the weakest link, the fractional CMO can devise ways by which it can be rectified using efficient, targeted messaging or content.
  • Goal Measurement – The fractional CMO has to establish key performance indicators (KPIs) such as cost per lead, lead volume, cost of customer acquisition, and lifetime customer value. These KPIs need to be constantly monitored to ensure lead investments do not go to waste. Monitoring also helps an organisation take advantage of what works and eliminate what doesn’t produce the desired results.
  • Impartial Executive Authority – The fractional CMO you choose needs to be someone who can lend an impartial voice to the marketing team. This person would be someone who would call a spade a spade, whether it involves a high ranking executive, you the business owner, marketing staff, or rank-and-file staff. A fractional CMO has objectives to fulfil, and won’t be in the company forever. Hence, the drive would be focused on achieving set targets and not pleasing different personalities in the company. With the disruption of a fractional CMO, you may find out what the prevailing company culture is within a short timeframe.

How much does a fractional CMO cost?

In Australia, the average annual salary for a full-time CMO is $179,951, plus bonuses set at approximately $35,000, and profit-sharing at $25,000. At the lower end of the spectrum, a CMO salary is estimated to be $125,000 per annum; conversely, at the higher end of the spectrum, the annual salary of a CMO is pegged at $288,000.

When you hire a fractional CMO, on the other hand, you will only be spending a portion of these annual salary figures. The cost will also depend on whether you are hiring someone to focus on strategy or if they also have a team to assist with execution. For strategy alone, a good ballpark figure would range between $3,000 and $7,000 per month; if the job involves implementation work, a corresponding fee will be added. This, of course, depends on the scope of the fractional CMOs tasks and objectives.

Who should hire a fractional CMO?

Generally speaking, businesses earning less than $500,000 per year and looking to grow but have stalled stand to benefit from getting a fractional CMO on board. However, other reasons might compel you to look for one:

  • You have an existing but underperforming marketing team that is sorely in need of executive-level leadership.
  • You are a CEO or C-level executive (including full-time CMOs) who thinks an outsider’s perspective will help your business and improve your marketing strategy.
  • You plan on hiring a full-time marketing VP or CMO down the line, but need to jumpstart marketing activities as you take your time finding the right permanent hire.

When does hiring a fractional CMO make sense?

There are a couple of reasons or scenarios when hiring a fractional CMO makes more sense business-wise. Consider the following benefits:

You cannot afford to hire a full-time CMO

As mentioned earlier, if budget is a concern, especially if you are a start-up or a firm working on a tight budget, getting a fractional CMO on-board can mean substantial savings. Doing so can help you save on recruitment, healthcare, taxes, on-boarding, and relocation expenses.

You need a strategic marketing expert

By getting an experienced fractional CMO, you get the value of an expert outsider’s opinion. A fractional CMO will provide you with fresh perspectives on how to strategize, grow assets, identify strategic partnerships, improve operations, and mentor members of your marketing team. If your firm requires rebranding, repositioning, or refashioning, a fractional CMO should be capable of providing these services.

You need to build a marketing team from the ground-up

A new growing company needs a competent professional who can conceptualise a marketing strategy, and implement it with a carefully selected marketing team. If you get a fractional CMO for this task, they can take care of your staffing needs, strategy, writing, design, lead generation, etc.

You need an expert in content creation and social media

Your firm won’t be able to advance much in terms of digital marketing if you do not have the right content strategy and value-laden content to back it up. Your website will merely function as your web placeholder and not much else. To generate sales from your company website, you need a master content developer who can lead the reconstruction of your website, transform social media platforms into marketing tools, and oversee all other content-related lead generation efforts.

You want search engine optimisation to work for you

SEO is what will help your website rank higher in search engine organic search results. A fractional CMO will know to look into features such as keywords, image tags, title tags, internal links, backlinks, and more. They will know how to generate and analyse SEO-related data to develop or refine your current SEO strategy.

You need results without organisational disruption

Bringing in someone on-board full-time is not only a major expense and risk, especially for small and mid-sized companies. Sometimes, however, hiring a full-time senior or C-level executive doesn’t work out for a couple of non-monetary reasons such as personality incompatibility, poor cultural fit, or strategy mismatch.

You need to get things done within a strict timeframe

Having a full-time CMO means having this executive handle all marketing aspects for your company. They need to be on top of everything to ensure the smallest details are taken care of. However, if you hire a fractional CMO to accomplish a specific task such as a rebranding, product launch, or an overhaul of your digital marketing strategy, this expert can focus on fulfilling the set objectives within a definite timeline. With a fractional CMO, you can reasonably expect to have a task to be efficiently and effectively accomplished with all the deliverables agreed upon.

When should you hire a fractional CMO? An infographic explaining some key points

But what if I already have a marketing manager?

A fractional CMO can work with your marketing manager and any other in-house resources to bring your marketing strategy to life.

Your marketing team can benefit from the fractional CMO’s extensive experience and level of expertise. This executive will only be in the office only a few days every week, working about 15 to 30 hours. Your marketing manager will be there day-in and day-out, overseeing marketing activities under the guidance of the fractional CMO.

As long as the role and responsibilities of each executive are clear, there is no reason to expect any friction between your marketing manager and the fractional CMO, or any disruption in the workplace. In fact, the mentorship the latter will provide, not just to the marketing manager but also to the rest of the team will prove valuable in the long run, long after the fractional CMO’s stint with your company is over.

Types of fractional CMOs

Although most fractional CMOs share similar qualifications, educational backgrounds, and skillsets, there are different types of fractional CMOs. The type you hire would depend on your company’s current requirements.

  • An on-demand CMO works for a specific period. This executive provides leadership in the creation of marketing tactics and strategies to ensure your company experiences an increase in profitability.
  • An advisory CMO (also known as a coaching CMO) helps in training your existing marketing team by helping them hone their marketing skills. They will guide marketing team members in developing strategic thinking and productively implementing the strategies they come up with to benefit your company.
  • An interim CMO or provisional CMO functions as a bridge between the period when your former full-time CMO has left the company and the time when you are finally able to hire a permanent replacement. This type of fractional CMO ensures that daily operations are maintained or continue without disruption. They can also assist in the interview and selection process for a permanent replacement.
  • A turnaround CMO, also referred to as a revitalization CMO, is someone responsible for helping a company with an underperforming marketing team turn things around. This type of fractional CMO may shelve some projects, improve upon others, or come up with completely new strategies to help develop the business and make it profitable.

Where can you find the ideal fractional CMO for your business?

Some companies specialise in providing consulting services, including sourcing excellent fractional CMO candidates. Many individuals have their own websites and market their own brand as consultants and fractional CMOs.

Where to find a fractional CMO? An infographic explaining key points - Pearl Digital Marketing

You can also tap into headhunting or recruitment companies that usually have a pool of C-level executives who are already experienced marketing leaders and consultants.

LinkedIn, of course, is also one other resource you can look into although it may take time getting responses right away, especially if you are in dire need of a fractional CMO. Referrals are also a great way of finding suitable candidates since you can get immediate feedback from those who have worked with your prospective fractional CMOs.

Pearl Digital Marketing also offers a Digital Marketer Certified Trainer as a fractional CMO. We kick off fractional CMO engagements with a 90-day growth accelerator so that businesses we work with lay a solid foundation for growth.

There’s a fractional CMO for your business

Marketing is a common enough field that people have a vague understanding of what it actually does for a company, although sometimes, it can be confused with sales – to which, understandably, it is tied to.

However, the highly saturated and competitive market means that all companies, especially start-ups and rapidly-growing businesses, require insightful, competent marketing expertise. The thing is, of course, not all companies can afford a full-time C-level marketing executive. Even companies that are fairly established need to continuously come up with new and creative ways of engaging with their audience or market.

So, if you require high-level marketing expertise, need someone to revamp your marketing strategy, or a leader to rejuvenate your current marketing team, hiring a fractional CMO can be the best solution. This person will be up for the task, committed, and can get the job done with minimal interference in your current organisational setup (not unless restructuring marketing is part of their role).

Finally, hire a fractional CMO who is not only experienced and knowledgeable but who is also dedicated and passionate. The true value of the fractional CMO you hire will be evident when this executive’s stint with your company is over. This person should be able to make their mark felt long before they have left your company through significant gains in its’ marketing teams’ performance and its overall profitability.