When You Should Consider a Fractional CMO

By Aimee Meester
June 17, 2023
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With the average salary for a traditional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role ranging from $200,000 to over $500,000, it’s no surprise that many organizations are hesitant to hire a CMO full-time. However, many organizations often don’t realize that hiring a traditional full-time CMO isn’t their only option. They can hire a fractional CMO instead – and it may just be one of the best marketing decisions they make.

Over the last year, the fractional CMO role has gained immense traction, with more than 1,150 organizations searching for fractional CMOs to head their marketing efforts. This increased interest begs the question: “When should organizations hire a fractional CMO, and is it worth the investment?”

Let’s take a closer look at what fractional CMOs do, when to hire them, and if they’re actually worth bringing on.

What is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO is an experienced marketer who takes on a portion of an organization’s CMO responsibilities. Essentially, fractional CMOs work with businesses on a part-time contractual basis, where they agree to lead key marketing efforts, such as strategic planning, branding, budgeting, and other large campaign initiatives. In addition to overseeing these functions, fractional CMOs also take full ownership of the results, despite spending a fraction of the time in the role compared to a full-time CMO. They are also paid a fraction of the salary.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Fractional CMO?

The main benefits of hiring a fractional CMO are expertise, money, and time – three of the most valuable currencies for any organization.

Industry Expertise – Fractional CMOs are seasoned marketing experts who have extensive experience leading teams and developing effective campaigns. Often, full-time CMOs become fractional CMOs so that they can create a more flexible working schedule. When a company hires a fractional CMO, they often reap the benefits of the fractional CMO’s industry tenure and marketing experience.

Lower Cost – Because fractional CMOs are typically hired part-time, they are a lot less expensive than hiring a full-time in-house CMO. Therefore, organizations will gain similar levels of expertise at a fraction of the cost if they hire a fractional CMO instead of a full-time CMO.

Expedited Hiring – Because organizations don’t have to complete the arduous executive search process when they hire part-time fractional CMOs, they experience expedited hiring timelines. This efficiency enables organizations to reap the benefits of marketing expertise and cost savings much more quickly than if they hired a full-time CMO.

When is Hiring a Fractional CMO a Good Call?

While there isn’t a single surefire indicator that spans every organization, there are many instances when companies should consider hiring a fractional CMO. Here are a few contextual cues that can help companies recognize when it’s time to go the fractional route:

Lack of a Centralized Marketing Vision – When marketing efforts lack unity, gaining any traction in the market can be challenging. Therefore, if companies experience fragmented marketing strategies that don’t create a cohesive front, it may be time to look into hiring a fractional CMO who can create a centralized vision for marketing.

Lean Budgets – As mentioned earlier, fractional CMOs cost much less than traditional CMOs. For this reason, companies that have limited budgets may want to consider hiring a fractional CMO. Creating a fractional position will enable them to reap the benefits of a seasoned marketing professional at a fraction of the typical industry cost.

Limited Expertise – If an organization’s marketing team lacks niche expertise or its members are relatively inexperienced, hiring a fractional CMO who can fill the gap may be wise. By bringing on a marketer with experience in leading teams and developing dynamic strategies, organizations can fill gaps in expertise while simultaneously bolstering their marketing team’s skillset.

Gaps in Hiring and Talent – Oftentimes, traditional CMO roles experience significant turnover, with the average tenure for the position lasting approximately 40 months. Moreover, the average executive search process can take anywhere from six to 12 weeks or longer. Therefore, if an organization is experiencing a gap in hiring and talent for its CMO role, it may be a good time to look into hiring a fractional CMO who can provide leadership and strategic direction in the interim.

How to Find a Great Fractional CMO

Finding an effective fractional CMO is actually much easier than finding a full-time one. Most organizations find fractional CMOs through word-of-mouth referrals and network connections, as well as through job postings on LinkedIn and other networking and job search sites. Additionally, many marketing agencies, like Madison Taylor Marketing, offer fractional CMO services that span a diverse array of marketing functions. Working with an agency to contract out fractional CMO responsibilities is a great way of building long-standing partnerships while leveraging extensive industry expertise at a fraction of the cost of hiring a traditional CMO.

How Do You Know If Your Fractional CMO Is Effective?

Most organizations who hire an effective fractional CMO will notice a variety of benefits across key marketing and business functions. One of the first places organizations can look to see if their fractional CMO is effective is organizational and campaign KPIs. If an organization’s marketing and overall growth initiatives are performing well, then odds are your fractional CMO is doing their job correctly. Moreover, when efficiencies appear both within marketing functions and across business segments, this is another positive indicator. For example, when organizations see increased alignment between sales, marketing, and customer success, there’s a high likelihood that their fractional CMO is a primary driver of this alignment. Lastly, when your marketing team and other employees collaborate frequently and effectively with the fractional CMO, this is a sign of positive team chemistry and an indicator that your fractional CMO works well with others.

Fractional CMOs May Be the Way to Go

When hiring a CMO, going the fractional route may be the best solution for many companies looking to save money without skimping on expertise. Not only do fractional CMOs provide a host of benefits, but they are also very well-suited for various businesses and industries. At the end of the day, every organization is different, but the importance of hiring a sound marketing leader remains the same. Hiring a fractional CMO is a great way for organizations to secure a seasoned leader without the added hassle of traditional hiring and compensation practices.

Interested in learning more about fractional CMOs? Check out this article or visit www.madisontaylormarketing.com.