What is a Fractional CMO? And Do You Need One?

There are lots of different roles in today’s expanding digital marketing world. Sometimes, the list of roles, and their acronyms, can get overwhelming. And when you add terms like ‘fractional’ into the mix, it can get more confusing still.

But these roles exist for a reason, fulfilling a business need and providing value to marketing companies. One of these potentially confusing but important roles is a fractional CMO. But what is a fractional CMO and what do they do?


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What is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO is a part-time chief marketing officer who works a fixed amount of hours for a business as a consultant or contractor. They’re generally hired by an organisation for a fraction of the time of a full-time CMO, at a fraction of the cost (hence ‘fractional’).

Fractional CMOs are often hired by organisations that need direction in their marketing efforts. As executives with extensive experience in marketing, they can help bring dislocated marketing efforts together by introducing a clear and cohesive strategy.

As they occupy an executive-level position, sitting within the leadership team, fractional CMOs will not be responsible for lower-level, task-based marketing work. They won’t write social media captions, upload blogs into WordPress or make tea for the rest of the office — it would be a very expensive cup of tea if they did.

A fractional CMO’s time is valuable, all the more so because they aren’t present every day of the week. They can’t; they work with multiple companies at the same time, giving fractions of their time that add up to a full working week. 

Do you need a Fractional CMO?

A wide variety of businesses can benefit from the services of a fractional CMO. There are however certain commonalities between the companies that could benefit from one.

Size

Fractional CMOs work with businesses that either don’t have the money or the time for a full-time CMO. This often means they work with smaller businesses, rather than larger-scale enterprises that work with a full-time CMO. All businesses need direction in their marketing efforts, but while larger enterprises utilise a full-time CMO, and businesses below a certain size won’t have the resources to hire even a part-time CMO, fractional CMOs tend to work with businesses in between.

Change

Fractional CMOs also work with businesses going through a period of change, for example if your marketing efforts are starting to experience diminishing returns — or your business is growing dramatically and you need additional help from someone with marketing executive experience. In these cases, businesses of any size can benefit from gaining a fresh perspective and a set of experienced and professional eyes to identify areas for improvement.

Getting started

Some companies who are just getting started might benefit from hiring a fractional CMO on a shorter contract, gaining as many insights from them during their tenure as possible. You can continue to use the strategies the fractional CMO helped implement once they’ve left, and then potentially hire their services again in the future as and when they’re deemed necessary.

Short-term

Businesses might also choose to bring in a fractional CMO on a short-term basis, for example to quickly solve a problem that needs addressing or to fulfil a short-term goal. This could be if your company was about to bring a new service or product to market and wanted to do a marketing blitz, or if your current CMO unexpectedly resigned and you needed a quick stopgap to steady the ship.

Adaptable

Beyond that, fractional CMOs can adapt to your business, depending on its size, stage and goals. Just remember, they’re called fractional for a reason: they cost a fraction of the price, but also for a fraction of the time.

Fractional CMO services

Drawing on their strategy and leadership expertise, a fractional CMO can provide a variety of useful services. This doesn’t mean you need to take all their services wholesale — after all, a fractional CMO by definition can’t give you everything all of the time. Services include:

  • Generating leads
  • Developing marketing campaigns and executing marketing strategies
  • Managing relationships between the business they’re working with and external marketing agencies, as well as between team members
  • Overseeing and reporting on marketing benchmarks and objectives
  • Developing a brand strategy
  • Implementing and managing marketing processes
  • Developing growth and go-to-market strategies.

Most of these services revolve around providing clear marketing leadership, either to an in-house marketing team or a marketing agency that requires additional insight. Depending on the size of your business, a fractional CMO’s responsibilities can scale up or down, from reporting to the leadership team to providing guidance one-on-one.


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What makes a good Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

A good fractional CMO has experience and expertise. Like full-time CMOs, you should look for candidates with experience in executive teams that have providing leadership and oversight at a high level.

But not any candidate will do. A good fractional CMO for your company should have experience in your industry, and be able to provide examples of succeeding in the aims your business wants to achieve. While some high-level marketing skills are transferable of course, others are more industry-specific.

You’ll want someone with experience in similar positions, with companies of a similar size at a similar stage in the growth process. 

Just because the position is part-time, that doesn’t mean your hiring process should be too. Take the time to pick out the right candidates based on your goals. Though cheaper than full-time CMOs, a fractional CMO is still an investment — and the positive impact they can have on your business if you pick the right one could be huge. Make sure you’re putting the time and effort in (like through reading this blog) to make sure that you’re getting the right person.

Pros and Cons

You think you might need one, and you know what to look for in a good one. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of bringing in a fractional CMO? 

Pros
Guidance: Fractional CMOs can quickly bring guidance, strategy and experience to a new or established marketing team.
Flexibility: Based on budget, size of business, business goals and pace of growth, fractional CMOs can help a range of businesses.
Responsibility: Fractional CMOs, as marketing leaders, take responsibility for the team and the strategies. As consultants and experts, they can help you grow while imparting their own knowledge.
Insights: A fractional CMO, with industry experience, knows how to report on the marketing function. This means you get better oversight of the marketing efforts, and insights into why it’s happening. This helps short and long-term decision-making.
Cons
Learning curve: Despite their experience and expertise, it will take some time for fractional CMOs to get to know your business, your brand and your goals.
Realistic expectations: If you’re looking for a overnight results, like any CMO, a fractional CMO might not be your best bet. They often enter organisations at a time of high-intensity change when their services are needed to produce results quickly.
They’re fractional: While the clue is in the name, it’s important to understand a fractional CMO won’t be around all the time. If your business needs the comprehensive, round-the-clock help of a full-time CMO or digital marketing agency, you have to pay for it – something not all businesses are able to do. 

What are your alternatives?

A fractional CMO isn’t the right fit for every business. Your business might be too big and have the resource to hire an individual or an agency that can provide more than a fractional CMO. Or it be small but growing, and need a team of people to help. Alternatives to a fractional CMO include: 

Full-time CMO

A full-time CMO is there whenever you need them. As a member of the C-suite, they’re responsible for the marketing of your business every day of the week. They can take on more workload and more responsibility — but also, as a full-time position, more pay.

Hiring multiple marketing professionals

If your business needs a lot of day-to-day tasks carried out, or tasks that are too much for one person to carry out part-time, it might be appropriate to hire multiple marketing professionals. An advantage of this approach is being able to bring together people with different expertise and experience.

Digital marketing agency

In many cases, it can be beneficial to outsource your marketing needs to a digital marketing agency. They’ll have a bigger team, with a diverse range of expertise and expertise that can provide fuilfil more marketing requirements, from web design to SEO. This means you don’t have to go through the process of looking for multiple marketing professionals yourself — they’re all included.

How much does a Fractional CMO cost?

The cost varies across industries and depends on the experience of each candidate.

Fractional CMOs tend to range between £170 to £300 per hour.1 On a monthly basis, fractional CMOs can start from £3,000 a month.2 This may seem like a lot, particularly if you’re focused on the cost saving side of the position — but compared to hiring a full-time CMO, you’ll be saving a significant amount.


Given that the average salary of a full-time CMO is around £99,567 per year,3 once you need a Fractional CMO for over 40 hours each month, unless you think that you won’t need their services long term, a full-time CMO might provide better value for money.

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Fractional CMO vs Digital Marketing Agency

Both fractional CMOs and digital marketing agencies help bring marketing leadership, strategies and growth to your business, without needing to pay for a full-time, executive-level salary.

If you’re a B2B, SaaS or tech business looking for a partner to drive sales, traffic, and meet your growth goals, a digital marketing agency like Gripped can help. Get a free growth audit and see how we can help.

Drawing on years of experience, Gripped’s team works closely with your business to offer high-level strategic advice to the daily nuts and bolts of digital marketing, from website development and management to content creation, SEO expertise and digital marketing strategies.

1  What Does a Fractional CMO Cost? A Question Often Asked (& It’s the Wrong One) 

2  Fractional CMO Services | Marketing Strategy & Leadership — Bethan Vincent 

3  Average Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Salary in United Kingdom 

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What is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO is a part-time chief marketing officer who works a fixed amount of hours for a business as a consultant or contractor. 

Do my business need a Fractional CMO?

Whether you need a fractional CMO depends on the size, growth ambitions and budget of your business. Fractional CMOs can help provide leadership and guidance to a marketing department for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CMO.

What makes a good Fractional CMO?

Good fractional CMOs have demonstrable marketing leadership expertise and expertise. Businesses should look for CMOs that have specific experience in their business and can provide examples of when they helped meet business goals similar to the ones your business aims to achieve.

How much does a Fractional CMO cost?

Fractional CMOs tend to range between £170 to £300 per hour or from £3,000 per month. 

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