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What is a fractional CMO, and when should you hire one?

Your business is ready to grow, and you know you need someone to manage your marketing to create that growth; someone like a chief marketing officer (CMO). But, with an average salary of $341,815 per year, many small and mid-sized businesses simply can’t afford to hire one. Using a fractional CMO, on the other hand, gives you the skills and knowledge of a highly experienced marketing leader in a more scalable and sustainable package.

What is a fractional CMO?

Also known as CMO-as-a-service, a fractional CMO is an outsourced senior marketing executive who performs the functions of a CMO for your company, as well as others. You gain the expertise of a marketing leader without incurring the costs and risks associated with recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a full-time, in-house marketing leader.

Although the functions and exact job responsibilities of a company’s fractional CMO will differ according to the organization’s needs and goals, they are generally tasked with leading marketing teams to drive results. Like any marketing leader, they’re responsible for all of the marketing in your organization––including developing a marketing strategy, optimizing marketing efforts, and managing teams and stakeholders in your marketing department.

Why use a fractional CMO?

A team of researchers found that, on average, companies with a CMO performed 15% better than companies without one. But not every company needs (or can afford) a full-time CMO, which is where a fractional CMO comes in.

Here are some of the benefits of working with a fractional CMO:

  • Wide range of experience: Fractional CMOs have typically helped numerous companies through various stages of growth
  • Flexibility: You can create contract terms that meet the evolving needs of your company
  • A fresh perspective: As an outsider, a fractional CMO offers new ideas and insights and may find it easier to identify areas for improvement
  • Less risk: A fractional CMO is easier to replace than a full-time employee if he or she doesn’t perform to your expectations or lacks the skill set you need
  • Value for money: Fractional CMOs are more affordable than traditional CMOs because you can get many of the benefits of making a full-time hire without the associated cost burdens

You may also be interested in: 5 benefits of using an outsourced marketing director

Who needs a fractional CMO?

Many organizations across industries, from start-ups to the middle market, can benefit from quickly onboarding a fractional CMO. For scale-ups or start-ups with funding in place, a fractional CMO can provide vital market and customer perspectives; middle-market companies that have never seriously invested in marketing, can’t afford to hire a full-time chief marketing officer, or have too few projects to justify a full-time employee can benefit from the valuable leadership and expertise of an experienced executive; more established companies gain incredible value from a fractional CMO when they are in a growth phase or launching a new product or service.

When to hire a fractional CMO

  • You want to grow your business and improve your marketing without committing the time or money required to find and hire a full-time CMO
  • Your C-level management team is spending too much time on marketing projects
  • You need a new, independent perspective on your marketing strategies and initiatives
  • You have an existing strategy but need executive-level guidance and leadership
  • You need help managing agency relationships
  • You need executive-level guidance and nimble execution capabilities to help you achieve growth
  • Your marketing and messaging are not cohesive or effective
  • You want to hit the ground running with major go-to-market strategies
  • You have a specific pain point that you think an experienced marketing leader could solve
  • Your business growth has stagnated, and you’re curious how an investment in marketing could change the trajectory of your business

What to look for when outsourcing your marketing leadership

Once you’ve decided to outsource your marketing, you need to find the right team to manage, lead, and deliver a return on investment (ROI). Here are some characteristics to look out for:

  • Experience in the level of growth that your company is working towards and in managing or building the same size team
  • Leadership skills to bring out the best in your team, as well as manage day-to-day functions
  • A proven track record of creativity and innovation in marketing campaigns
  • Ability to deliver and demonstrate ROI
  • Technical skills across your marketing tech stack
  • In-depth marketing insights to be able to create relevant and effective marketing strategies
  • Well-developed planning and organizational skills to bring strategy into execution

You may also be interested in: How to choose a digital marketing agency for your small business

How much does a fractional CMO cost?

Hiring a full-time chief marketing executive costs upwards of $300,000 annually, excluding hiring costs, bonuses, and benefits. A fractional CMO can offer a high level of expertise at a fraction of the cost; some charge by the hour ad hoc, and others work on a retainer. At Brighter Messaging, we offer a variety of packages to meet the needs of your business. Contact us to learn more about our pricing.

You’ll also need to consider the various skills you’ll need for effective marketing. Our packages include a full-service digital marketing team that can create strategies, build websites, write copy, create graphics, manage social media, run paid ads, and manage all the day-to-day requirements. A solo fractional CMO may require access to other skill sets in order to execute your marketing strategy, so you’ll need to consider those additional costs in your marketing budget.

Demystify marketing with the right team behind you

Strategic, effective marketing creates awareness, builds your brand, generates leads, attracts new customers, supports retention of existing customers, and accelerates your business growth. In our role as your Outsourced Marketing Director or Fractional CMO, we offer ongoing digital marketing support to help you stay consistent, evaluate opportunities, and use your data for growth and improvement. Get in touch with the Brighter Messaging team for a free consultation.


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