The Fractional CMO: A Growing Trend

Fractional CMO
There are four basic types of engagements for a fractional CMO: on-demand, turnaround, interim, and advisory.

Not every small or mid-sized business needs—or can afford—a full-time marketing executive. But those same organizations would invariably benefit from the knowledge and leadership that an experienced and accomplished Chief Marketing Officer could bring to bear. That’s one of the primary reasons that the use of fractional CMOs has become so popular in the last few years.

Beyond just serving as a part-time addition to the C-suite, most fractional CMOs provide specific services to their clients, such as:

  • Advising the CEO on marketing and branding related issues and opportunities
  • Driving strategic and tactical marketing initiatives
  • Serving as the voice of the customer
  • Ensuring marketing/sales/customer experience alignment
  • Leading change management and innovation efforts
  • Coaching/mentoring less-experienced marketing staffers
  • Conducting marketing and branding audits

Working with a fractional CMO also gives the CEO the ability to “rent instead of hire” with no long-term commitment, and it saves recruiting costs, shortens delays, eliminates interviews and relocations, etc.

Types of Engagements

There are four basic types of engagements for a fractional CMO.

On-Demand (Part-Time, Temporary) CMO

If you can’t afford, don’t need, or just aren’t ready for a full-time senior marketing executive, this is a great option. You can leverage a fractional CMO on a temporary, on-demand basis for a short period of time to provide the same executive-level leadership and experience of a seasoned executive—at a fraction of the cost. As an integral member of your C-suite, he/she can bring a market-based perspective to help drive the strategies and tactics that will ensure profitable growth.

Turnaround (Revitalization) CMO

A common challenge facing many CEOs is understanding how to “fix” an under-performing marketing team. Bringing on a fractional CMO to revitalize your marketing efforts or to implement a complete marketing-led turnaround for your entire company may be just what the doctor ordered.

Interim (Provisional) CMO

Another common scenario is figuring out how to keep the marketing department moving ahead when your current CMO resigns, and you need to fill the gap while looking for your next full-time CMO. Leveraging a fractional CMO as an interim/provisional marketing leader enables you to maintain continuity and day-to-day operations while you search for and interview permanent candidates. And your fractional CMO can even help with the interviewing and vetting process if needed.

Advisory (Coaching) CMO

Do you have a capable marketing person or marketing team, but they just don’t have much experience? Then bringing on a fractional CMO to serve in an advisory or coaching role might be a great option. Whether it’s helping your junior marketers master the skills of functional marketing, think more strategically, develop departmental leadership abilities, or simply make better decisions, your fractional CMO can improve their level of contribution and help accelerate their professional growth.

Increasing the Chance of Success

No matter which type of engagement is appropriate for your situation, there are several ways to dramatically improve the likelihood of having a successful experience when working with a fractional CMO:

  • Hire a fractional CMO who is skilled not only in developing strategy, but also in executing the appropriate tactics. The greatest opportunity for failure occurs when your CMO creates a marketing and branding plan but isn’t given the authority to execute it and isn’t held accountable for the results. Mark Ritson, a leading authority on marketing and brand, says, “Marketing strategy is where we play and how we win in the market. Tactics are how we then deliver on the strategy and execute for success.”
  • Assuming you choose the right fractional CMO candidate, he/she will of course be expected to effectively lead your marketing and branding efforts. But finding a marketing leader who can also serve as your company’s primary champion for change and innovation is almost equally important. Fortunately, that ability is commonly an innate characteristic of the most successful marketers.
  • Finally, be sure that your fractional CMO is laser focused on continuous improvement at all times. Doing so will increase the likelihood that your marketing, branding, innovation, and leadership initiatives will produce increasingly predictable, measurable results over time.

A final thought: “Probably the most important trait of a successful fractional CMO is his/her ability to translate the CEO’s vision into an insightful, measurable, and actionable marketing plan.” ~Forbes