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Should I Hire a Fractional CMO? 10 Cost-Saving Things To Ask

Should I Hire a Fractional CMO

You’ve started a business, launched a product, or perhaps you’re scaling up. 

Your morning starts with an overflowing inbox, a calendar dotted with meetings, and a to-do list that could intimidate even the most productive workaholic.

All this, and we haven’t even gotten to marketing yet. 

Yeah, I know you’re wearing more hats than a shop at a renaissance fair, but have you considered offloading the marketing helm to a professional?

Maybe it’s time for you to ask: Should I hire a Fractional CMO?

For the uninitiated, a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is essentially a part-time executive who brings their marketing expertise to your table, but without the commitment of a full-time salary and benefits package. 

Think of it as dating before marriage. Only in this case, you’re evaluating how well they can boost your brand and spike those conversion rates.

The importance of making a cost-effective decision here can’t be overstated. Marketing isn’t just an expense (sunk cost); it’s an investment. 

And like any smart investor, you want to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. 

An overpriced or under-skilled CMO can drain your funds faster than a teenager in a tech store. 

On the flip side, a Fractional CMO allows you to access high-level expertise at a fraction of the cost, without the stress of a long-term commitment.

So let’s cut to the chase.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely pondering, “Should I hire a Fractional CMO?”

It’s a question worth its weight in gold—or at least in the customer conversions you’re aiming for. 

Stick around, because we’re about to dive into the 10 cost-saving questions you need to ask before making your move. 

Grab that cup of coffee; you’re going to want to be wide awake for this.

The growing trend of hiring fractional executives

SMEs often need seasoned expertise but face budget constraints tighter than a hipster’s skinny jeans.

When your business is growing but not quite at the Fortune 500 level, hiring a full-time C-level exec might feel like overkill.

It’s like buying a Ferrari just to make a quick grocery run.

when hiring an executive staff member goes wrong
When hiring an executive staff member goes wrong

This is where fractional executives come in—giving you high-level insights and strategy without the sticker shock. 

They offer adaptability in an ever-changing business landscape and enable you to scale up your efforts strategically. 

And honestly, who doesn’t want a taste of expertise without emptying their wallets?

What exactly is a Fractional CMO?

You’re probably wondering, “What does a Fractional CMO do when they’re clocking in those part-time hours?” 

Fair question. 

A Fractional CMO is essentially your marketing strategist, brand builder, and tactical implementer rolled into one. 

They’re the Swiss Army knife of the marketing world.

Their role often includes developing a marketing strategy that aligns with your business goals—think customer acquisition, retention, and everything in between.

They’re experts in customer segmentation, targeting, and positioning. Oh, and they’ll probably do it faster and more efficiently than a full-time executive who’s juggling internal politics and long-term employment.

Responsibilities can range from overseeing digital campaigns, analysing data, to fine-tuning your brand’s messaging.

They’ll often work closely with your existing team, filling in gaps in expertise and bringing new perspectives to the table. 

The end goal is always the same: to optimise your marketing efforts and drive ROI, but without taking up a permanent parking space at the office.

What you stand to gain

You’re probably wondering what’s in it for you if you take the plunge and hire a Fractional CMO. 

One of the biggest wins is the level of expertise they bring to the table. These are individuals who’ve seen the good, the bad, and the downright cringe-worthy. 

So, their learning curve is more like a straight line, allowing them to make impactful decisions quickly.

Then there’s the flexibility factor. In traditional arrangements, a full-time CMO would be, well, full-time. 

That means a fat salary and long-term commitment.

cmo average salary from payscale in 2023
Cmo average salary from payscale in 2023

But life and business are unpredictable. A Fractional CMO gives you the leeway to adjust the relationship based on your needs and budget, like a streaming subscription you can dial up or down depending on your binge-watching habits

You get to dictate the:

  • Terms
  • Time commitment
  • and even the focus areas

Are Fractional CMOs the right fit for every business?

Let’s be real. Fractional CMOs are not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

If your business is in the infancy stage, you might not have the resources or the scale of operations to fully utilise their skill set.

It’s like hiring a five-star chef to make instant noodles; sure, they’ll be the best instant noodles you’ve ever had, but is it worth it?

On the flip side, if your company is a sprawling enterprise with complex marketing needs, a Fractional CMO might not be able to give you the time and attention you need. 

Think of it like a part-time gardener tasked with maintaining a botanical garden; even the most skilled can only do so much in limited hours.

So, before taking the plunge, evaluate your business needs carefully. A Fractional CMO can be a game-changer, but only if the game you’re playing is the right one for them to join.

10 cost-saving questions you must ask

Okay, so you’re almost sold on the idea of hiring a Fractional CMO. But let’s not rush into this like it’s a Black Friday sale. 

Before you swipe that corporate card, you have some questions to ask. And not just any questions—these are the hard-hitting, money-saving questions that can make or break your decision.

What is the scope of work?

  • A clear scope of work keeps everyone on the same page, like a script for a movie. Are they handling social media, analytics, or perhaps your entire marketing strategy? Knowing this upfront helps you evaluate their worth.

What is your track record in my industry?

  • Expertise is one thing, but relevant experience is its own animal. Ask for specific examples of their work in your industry. This isn’t snobbery; it’s due diligence.

How do you measure ROI?

  • Bottom line: you’re in this for the returns. So how exactly do they gauge the success of a campaign? Clicks, engagement, conversions? The answer can tell you a lot about their focus.

What’s your communication style?

  • Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, business or otherwise. Are they a Slack person, or are we talking weekly Zoom calls? The goal is to find a communication rhythm that fits your style.

Are there any additional costs?

  • Ah, the fine print— it’s where budgets often go to die. Clarify if the quoted price includes everything, or if you’ll be nickel-and-dimed down the road.
advertised costs vs hidden costs
Advertised costs vs hidden costs

Can you provide client testimonials?

  • Reviews and testimonials can offer insights into not just the Fractional CMO’s capabilities, but also their work ethics and personality. Kind of like Yelp, but for professionals.

How flexible is your commitment?

  • Is this a three-month gig, or are we talking a more extended fling? Knowing how flexible they are with commitment can help you adapt as your business needs evolve.

How do you handle conflicts of interest?

  • Imagine discovering your Fractional CMO works for a competitor on weekends. Not cool. Ask how they handle potential conflicts to ensure your interests remain their priority.

What are your payment terms?

  • Money talks, so make sure you’re fluent in its language. Is it a monthly retainer, hourly, or project-based fee? Knowing this can help you budget more effectively.

How quickly can you start?

  • Finally, are they ready to hit the ground running, or is there a waiting period? If you need quick action, this could be the deal-breaker or the deal-maker.

Pitfalls to watch out for

Now, before you start thinking a Fractional CMO is the magical elixir to all your marketing woes, pump the brakes. 

There are pitfalls, just like stepping into a seemingly shallow puddle and finding it’s knee-deep. 

One common mistake is ignoring cultural fit. 

A seasoned pro might have all the right skills but be as out of place in your company as a penguin in the Sahara.

Another trap is expecting immediate miracles. 

Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and setting unrealistic expectations can lead to unnecessary disappointments. 

Lastly, watch out for the ‘jack-of-all-trades.’ Just because they claim to do everything doesn’t mean they do everything well.

Alternative solutions

If you find that a Fractional CMO doesn’t quite fit the bill, don’t worry. There are other paths to wander down. 

For smaller scale needs, marketing consultants or agencies might offer the specialised expertise you need.

Another option is grooming an internal team member for a more strategic role. Think of it as homegrown talent; they may just need a little watering and sunlight to blossom.

Reflecting on the decision-making journey

So here we are at the end of our journey, at least for now. 

Deciding whether to hire a Fractional CMO is like shopping for a new smartphone. 

You weigh the features, cost, and how much you’ll actually use it.

And just like that smartphone, the real value of a Fractional CMO becomes clear over time as they become integrated into your broader strategy.

Remember, it’s about the long game. The Fractional CMO you bring in today could be the catalyst for a marketing transformation, or a stepping stone to a full-time role. 

Or maybe, they’ll be the mentor your in-house team needed to leap to the next level. 

Whatever the outcome, it starts with asking the right questions and being aware of what you’re diving into. 

So go ahead, take that calculated plunge. The water’s just fine if you know how to swim.

Josiah is a multi-award-winning digital marketing consultant and former journalist for the Australia Times. He now helps 6-7-figure brands as a Fractional CMO to generate predictable leads and sales growth.​

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