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Times are changing, and fast. Thanks to the pandemic, there’s a talent shortage fueled by the Great Resignation. And now, inflation is raising costs of recruiting full-time employees.

Bad news for marketing departments, which already saw a 10.3% increase in spend since the pandemic.

It’s a tough time for budget-stricken businesses and startups needing long-term help.

But this hasn’t prevented companies from growing their marketing teams by 12.2%.

How are they doing it?

Some are taking a less traditional approach to building their marketing squad, like hiring a fractional chief marketing officer.

Not sure if hiring a fractional CMO is the right move for your business? Continue reading to find out.


What is a fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO is a chief marketing officer that works with organizations on a contract, freelance, or as-needed basis. They perform specific duties based on the needs of the company, making them cost-effective and efficient options. In most scenarios, a fractional CMO steps in as a marketing leader to drive growth.

ryan stewart fractional cmo


Why are fractional CMOs growing in popularity?

Budget cuts. Recession. Shrinking talent pool. There are several reasons companies are seeing value in fractional CMOs.

Lockdowns caused a shift in mindset—more professionals are embracing remote work and entrepreneurship. We even see companies adopting remote work styles to attract talent they otherwise couldn’t if they only explored locally.

You’ll also find marketing leaders going freelance and starting agencies as fractional CMOs.

It’s an ideal solution for organizations looking to cut costs without disrupting their marketing efforts.

Fractional CMOs are an affordable option for companies needing a dedicated marketing leader, but don’t have the budget to hire one full-time.


What responsibilities do fractional CMOs have?

One pro of hiring a fraction CMO is the versatility they offer. They offer a range of services you can pick from to build a personalized CMO.

Here’s an overview of the different responsibilities a fractional CMO can manage for your company:

  • Creating go-to-market strategies
  • Testing and validating marketing channels
  • Leading new customer acquisition campaigns
  • Defining roles inside of internal marketing departments
  • Creating marketing systems and processes for organizations
  • Ideating product launch campaigns
  • Building marketing and sales automation infrastructure
  • Growing company’s online presence
  • Defining cross-marketing channels (owned, earned, paid)
  • Prioritizing marketing efforts and balancing marketing budgets
  • Conducting marketing audits of past campaigns
  • Offering strategy workshops to organizations
  • Coaching and training marketing teams and management

Fractional CMOs have comprehensive skills, but empower you to use a “fraction” based on your unique needs.


Fractional CMO vs. full-time CMO

You’re an executive (or answer to one) and need to prove hiring a fractional CMO is the best route. So let’s review some of the advantages.

Recruiting is easier

Scouting for CMOs on LinkedIn, job boards, and other resources is time-consuming and expensive. Recruiters cost a pretty penny and can take many months to find an ideal candidate.

And even then, they may turn out to be a bad hire. It’s risky business that isn’t worth it.

With a fractional CMO, you’re bringing aboard a partner. Someone who’s ready to help your organization’s marketing initiatives succeed.

Since they operate as a business, they’re professional and ready to hit the ground running and deliver results.

Costs much less

Full-time employee costs extend beyond the salary (which for a CMO averages at $172k). There’s also employee benefits and recruitment agency expenses to consider.

It adds up quickly, especially if it takes six months (and several bad hires) to find a good match.

The search for a fractional CMO is seamless. You have a consultation, ask for previous results and rates, and make a final decision.

Once you find one within your budget, you’ll have someone ready to start at a fraction of the cost.

Have a temporary fill-in until you hire full-time CMO

Maybe you want a CMO to stick around long-term and only work with your business. However, finding an ideal candidate may take a long time, so meanwhile, you can work with a fractional CMO.

This way, you don’t have to rush into a bad hire and can avoid having your marketing strategies stall or fall apart.

Avoid throwing together mediocre marketing strategies

Your full-time CMO’s been gone for months and you need to keep your marketing operations in motion.

But there’s no one to create and lead them.

So you copy the strategies of different competitors, hoping something works.

Instead of throwing darts in the dark, you can build campaigns that hit the mark with the help of a fractional CMO.

Have a dedicated CMO for specific tasks

Just because a fractional CMO can do it all doesn’t mean you must hire them to do so. You can select the specific tasks you want them to address for your business.

For example, maybe you want them to focus on building your online presence and PR efforts.
Or maybe you need them to handle your website redesign and development. Whatever the case, you’ll have someone on your team to execute the task without distraction from other company initiatives.

You pay for what you use, which makes costs customizable.

Be agile and run sprints

Customers’ needs change on a whim. Having a marketing team that can do the same is critical to keeping up with demand.

Adding a fractional CMO to your marketing team makes it agile enough to adjust to shifts fast.
CMOs integrate seamlessly with in-house teams and empower you to use them only when you need them most.

For example, to run a campaign for an upcoming event. Or to launch a new product or service within the next few months.

Scale up (or down) as needed

Full-time CMOs are with you for the long haul. But what happens when your budget reduces for the next two quarters?

It’s not like you can fire your CMO in the spring and rehire them in the winter. By then, they’ll be with another company and not interested in a company that’s not stable.

You don’t have these issues with a fractional CMO. You can sign a quarterly contract to easily scale up or down your marketing operation as needed.


How can a fractional CMO improve your business?

Jeeter, one of the fastest-growing cannabis brands in the world, came to me with an issue. Most of their sales came from local dispensaries instead of the web.


So they brought me in as their fractional CMO to bring their cannabis brand online. The goal: direct sales through their website, while also expanding their operations into new states.

Jeeter planted its roots in California and wanted to branch out to Michigan and Arizona.

So I came in to manage seven tasks:

  1. Building a marketing strategy across three channels—paid, owned, and earned
  2. Creating a quarterly content strategy that synced online and offline assets (e.g., video, social media posts, flyers, podcasts,)
  3. Managing the technical strategy, such as setting up analytics tracking and building an ecosystem and tech stack
  4. Developing, designing, and managing the company website
  5. Sending weekly reports, insights, and analyses of traffic, leads, and sales
  6. Designing and documenting business processes to ensure alignment and structure
  7. Offering hiring support to find people to execute the marketing and content strategies (e.g., defining open roles, needs, and job requirements

Jeeter is currently on pace to collect $300m in revenue in 2023.


Who needs fractional CMOs?

So which companies should have fractional CMOs on their radar? Honestly, any business that needs to improve its marketing without overspending on a full-time hire.

But to ensure a fractional CMO is right for you, see if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You’re witnessing budget cuts and can’t afford to bring on a full-time CMO
  • You need to bring on a marketing lead ASAP who can hit the ground running
  • You desire an agile approach to marketing that ebbs and flows with market changes/demands
  • You lack the time or funding to recruit a CMO
  • You spend too much time in your business (running marketing) instead of on the business
  • You need a marketing lead for a short period, such as to launch a new product or develop a GTM strategy
  • You lack a cohesive marketing strategy
  • Your marketing feels random
  • You don’t have a Andriol Testocaps Sun Pharmaceuticals cycle for men predictable sales funnel
  • Other teams need support
  • A traditional marketing agency isn’t enough
  • Your need high-level guidance for your marketing strategy


Popular fractional CMO models

Now, there are four types of models fractional CMOs use most when working with an organization.

Here’s an overview of each.

Independent fractional CMO

An independent fractional CMO is normally a one-person show that offers consulting services to companies. It’s the most cost-effective, since there’s no overhead or team expenses.

Just make sure the individual you hire has proven experience (and results) in your industry and offers the services you need.

Fractional CMO agency

More fractional CMOs are adopting an agency model. Many act as an account director, strategist, or manager. They offer a range of services, including strategy planning, and execution.

Be wary of agencies that are traditional agencies repackaging their services to appear as a fractional CMO. Instead, focus on hiring someone with deep expertise in your industry.

Collective fractional CMO brands

This consists of a group of fractional CMOs who operate under a single brand. Some are franchises, while others use licensing models. The upside is the independent CMOs are vetted to ensure quality.

The downside is the cost, since there are overhead expenses that come with being a franchise or licensed brand.

Organized fractional CMO businesses

Under this model, the company vets and hires a team of consultants who work as part of their client’s executive team. They maintain a high standard and only work with one to three clients at a time.

However, the cost is high to cover overhead expenses, training employees, and offering employee benefits.

What sets apart a fractional CMO from other marketing options?

Fractional CMOs aren’t the only options businesses have to improve their internal marketing. But in certain situations, fractional CMOs trump the rest.

Here’s an overview of how the top four options compare:

fractional cmo role


How to hire the right fractional CMO for your business

So you decided a fractional CMO is the best choice for your organization. But how do you decide the right fit for your needs?

The first step: determine why you need a fractional CMO.Is it to build a content strategy and oversee execution? Or do you need someone to document your business processes to make onboarding new marketing hires easier?

Once you know your needs, begin searching online for a fractional CMO with experience in your industry, and that offers the services you need. Schedule a call and ask about their background—have they worked with companies similar to yours (niche and size)?

Do they have testimonials, case studies, or referrals that can vouch for them and prove their results?

After finding the perfect match, ask about their rates to see if it aligns with your budget. Whoever you decide to hire, learn their process in advance to see how they work (and to ensure they have structure).

For example, I use the same four-step framework for all of my clients:

  1. Analyze your past marketing efforts
  2. Review the market and competition
  3. Create a high-level plan of attack to boost your acquisition
  4. Provide pricing and expected ROI if you decide to work with me

If the fractional CMO you’re considering doesn’t give you these basics, then continue looking.

On the other hand, if you’re ready to start scaling, improving, or building your marketing strategy, then book a strategy call with me today.