The idea of a fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is not a new one in the world of business, but it is a model that is gaining more and more traction these days. Companies are discovering that they can reap the benefits of having a CMO without having to hire one as a full-time staff member.
If your company is in need of a marketing strategy or vision, but hiring an expert isn't in the budget or the best allocation of full-time resources, a fractional CMO may be just what your company needs to take your business to the next level.
What is a fractional CMO?
So, what is a fractional CMO, and why should your business hire one?
A fractional CMO is a lead marketing strategist hired from an outside source, be it a marketing agency or another executive staffing business, to work for your company on a part-time basis. This person helps set and drive your business’s marketing strategy and plan for growth.
A fractional CMO is generally responsible for managing marketing activities for the organization by assessing its current position and providing recommendations, performing analytic reports and sharing expert analysis, planning and managing content marketing and social media strategy. This person also develops marketing procedures and strategies that interact with sales activities.
All of these efforts unite both your in-house and outsourced resources to drive a common goal, which is delivering marketing-led business growth for your company.
Reasons to hire a fractional CMO
Companies hire fractional CMO’s for a variety of reasons, but a primary reason is that it saves the business money. If you have a small to medium-sized operation, chances are you don’t have the capital to hire someone for a full-time staff position to run this portion of your business. Salary alone tends to range from $89,000 to $189,000—not including benefits, sick and/or vacation time, and the overhead cost of having an extra body in your office on a daily basis.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t need an expert to handle this position—quite the contrary if you want your business to grow. But hiring someone that can come in once or twice per week instead of full time to help drive the vision, budget and actions of the rest of your team is a helpful alternative. This person will fulfill the duties of developing a marketing plan for your business so that you can spend more time to amplify your own expertise.
Another reason that hiring a non-salaried executive makes sense in saving your company money is the ability to allocate labor costs more efficiently with changes in workload or with seasonal influx. It could also be advantageous to your company if the fractional CMO came from a full-service marketing firm designed to accommodate scalability, such as Jennasis & Associates, so that in times of high work demand there could be access to more workers instead of overloading your marketing staff.
Cost alone isn’t the only reason to hire a fractional CMO, though. An outside expert will merge with your team yet remain unbiased and focused on marketing no matter what else is happening inside the workplace. They will also have access to a broader network of resources to help execute various components of your overall marketing strategy.
How to evaluate a fractional CMO candidate
Companies that typically have more than $2 million in revenue and desire to scale up or those that have a solid executive team and need to amp up their marketing endeavors in a purposeful manner are the most likely to benefit from hiring a fractional CMO. Before hiring a fractional CMO, a company should educate itself on the value this expert can bring to the table. If your company is in need of alignment between its sales team and marketing initiatives, it may be time to bring in a fractional CMO.
Finding the right person to lead your marketing team and drive your business is important whether you are hiring a full-time staff member or a part-time CMO to come in and lead the charge. This person ideally will already have the tools to come in and be able to quickly learn your business and get the ball rolling.
To evaluate whether a CMO candidate is qualified to field the role, be sure to dig into these core experience areas:
A CMO should already possess the marketing insight and ability to develop a strategic plan that aligns with your vision, without much of a learning curve. This will be evidenced by past experience in this type of role and in developing efficient strategies and business plans for all marketing aspects; for example, branding, product promotion etc. Ideally, this experience will include work with one or more clients in similar growth situations or industries to yours.
However, their experience should also be well-rounded. Someone who has experience in a variety of industries will be able to offer more insight as to what will and what won’t work, as well as ideas for new innovations your competitors haven’t tried. Conversely, a candidate that has only worked in your company’s industry could have tunnel vision and propose a strategy that limits your business or maintains the status quo.
Business and financial savvy
While an experienced CMO will bring helpful context from past projects, they must ultimately be able to create a unique strategy customized to your business’s needs—with your resources and budget limitations in mind.
Ask about a candidate’s past experience working with project timelines and budgets, and look for specific experience working with and/or on a senior leadership team. How involved were they with high-level discussions and decision-making regarding the direction of the business?
Additionally, be sure to ask the candidate to describe your company and what you do. How well do they understand your business? Have they put time into researching your industry and company?
With that in mind, how do they see themselves helping to build growth for the company? What are their goals for this position and for the company, and do they align with yours? What milestones do they have in place to achieve these goals? What will success look like in the future? In 3 months? In a year?
Creativity and vision
While practical business sense is an important component of a CMO’s role when leading your marketing department efforts, a qualified candidate should also demonstrate creativity and vision. When hiring internally or outsourcing, a fresh perspective can benefit your established team, generating new ideas and strategies and challenging the status quo.
This knack for creativity will play a crucial role in their vision for your organization and how to get you there.
Ask a candidate to describe examples of past projects they helped drive for an organization—from inception of an idea, to development and execution of a strategy to accomplish that idea. What results did it generate for the organization? Pay close attention to how involved they were in each step of the process, and how their efforts ultimately contributed not only to their measurable goal for the campaign, but to the organization’s overarching business goals and mission.
As you evaluate a candidate’s answers, also pay attention to how they’re communicating with you, and what additional context their descriptions give in how they communicate with a team while overseeing a project. How would their communication style fit the culture of your business?
Finally, any new role comes with an adjustment period—and a fractional CMO is no exception. The right candidate’s answers regarding past experience should demonstrate an ability to bounce back quickly when things change or don’t go as planned.
Ask for a specific example of an obstacle they encountered in accomplishing a past project and what steps they took to overcome it, as well as for an example of a failure—and how they handled it.
Not only is resilience important to their ability to lead marketing efforts for your organization in the fast-paced world of business, it’s an indicator of their ability to problem solve. When they’ve encountered obstacles, were they the ones to identify what wasn’t working? Were they the driver behind the solution, or in making beneficial changes?
Hire a fractional CMO for your business today
Possible candidates for this type of position can be found in a variety of ways, including hiring an executive staffing firm, tapping into your professional contacts or going through a marketing agency, such as Jennasis & Associates.
Jennasis has been spearheading work with fractional CMO’s for our clients over the past several years. We work with organizations that have ZERO marketing team and need help with establishing their vision, tasks, budget, etc. We also have seen success with larger organizations who are looking to compliment their existing staff and resources to scale their business, and to marry their sales and marketing strategy and initiatives together.
Our expert team will begin by performing an assessment of your annual goals against your current tasks and budget. This will help you and your team understand what is and what isn’t working. To start moving things in the right direction, we then establish a vision and strategy that will help your company accomplish its goals, collaborating with your team to ensure buy-in and alignment.
Interested in learning more or moving forward with a fractional CMO for your business?
Contact our experts and discover what we can do to help your company thrive today: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Malcolm is the President and Founder of Jennasis & Associates, a team of designers, writers, developers, and strategists who help brands create more meaningful relationships with clients and consumers. Jennifer is an expert Marketing Consultant, Social Media Strategist, and Brand Developer. Her dynamic business savvy and cross-disciplinary thinking takes individuals, businesses, and speakers to the next level.