What is a fractional CMO? And do you need one?

Do you have big management and leadership needs but not the budget for a full-time, executive-level marketing position right now? A fractional CMO (chief marketing officer) may be your answer.

A fractional CMO is a contracted, seasoned, executive-level marketing professional who can work alongside other C-suite executives. If you are a small or mid-sized company, you may not need an executive-level person just for marketing. However, may need someone with high-level thinking, who understands strategy development, helps drive growth and knows how to manage employees and marketing agencies. This is a fractional CMO.

Why some companies hire fractional CMOs

There are several reasons why a fractional CMO might be what you need. A full-time CMO can cost a six-figure salary. But fractional CMOs typically work on a contract basis for a set number of hours per month. They divide their time across several companies, yet they are still embedded in your organization and should be seen as part of your team.

Or, you may not yet know what you need and are hesitant to invest in a position this important. This is often the case for a startup, or a company going through internal transitions. Similarly, companies in these categories realize there may be some ambiguity in how the marketing department is organized. What skills are needed in-house vs. outsourcing? And what type of agencies are needed? What should the budgets be?

A fractional CMO can help answer these questions and ensure that the marketing team structure is aligned with business goals and budgets, not hiring those unnecessary for the long haul.

What to Consider Before Hiring a Fractional CMO

  1. Do not take this position lightly, even though the fractional CMO is not full-time position and not an employee. Hire as you would for any other C-suite position. They may have great experience, strong marketing skills and demonstrated results, but they also must fit in with your culture, as they should be considered part of your executive team.
  2. As with CEOs and CFOs, not all CMOs are the same. Identify and align your needs with the experience and backgrounds of potential candidates. Do you need a go-to-market strategy, a startup experiencer who’s worked in the manufacturing sector, or someone who can build marketing organizations from scratch? Should they have strong mentoring skills, or a track record of knowing how to work closely with sales teams and the CFO? Think about these things before casting your net and get references. At such a high-level position, references are crucial.
  3. Make sure the fractional CMO has your company’s best interest in mind. Some fractional CMOs work independently, while others work for a larger marketing agency that offers a broad range of services. If the latter is true, make sure they are not pushing for tactical marketing solutions from only their agency. A strong fractional CMO will have your company’s best interest in mind and find the optimal solution balancing strategy and budget.

Hiring a fractional CMO can be a great way to quickly get the benefits of having an executive-level marketing expert developing and growing your business quickly, without the high cost of hiring a full-time CMO. ●

Dean Ilijasic is co-founder of Long & Short of It

Dean Ilijasic



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