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What is a Fractional CMO? Why 81% of Businesses Don’t Regret Hiring One


According to the Harvard Business Review, a CMO’s tenure is only 20-30 months. CEOs have long been worried about finding trustworthy officers within their company – 80% don’t trust or are unimpressed with their current CMO.

The high turnover rate for CMOs is alarming, especially considering how much potential online marketing has to help a company grow.

With the significant investment required to hire a salary-based CMO, no wonder CEOs are reluctant to repeatedly go back to the long-winded hiring process.

That’s where a fractional chief marketing officer (CMO) comes in.

A fractional CMO is an experienced marketing leader who can work part-time and provide the same kind of insights and guidance that an in-house CMO would.

They’re often brought on board to fill a gap, such as when you’re growing too quickly for your current team to handle or when you don’t have enough resources to hire a full-time CMO.

The best time to hire a fractional CMO is when there’s an urgent need for marketing leadership and guidance, but the company isn’t yet ready for a full-time commitment.

This type of flexible leadership has become increasingly popular in recent years as businesses are looking for ways to stay competitive and save costs while still enjoying the insights of experienced marketing professionals.

But when exactly do you need to bring on a fractional CMO, and what will they do for you? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a fractional CMO and what do they do?

A fractional CMO is a part-time executive who works with organisations to provide valuable leadership, strategy, and guidance.

They can be an excellent alternative to hiring a full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), as they offer the same level of expertise without the high cost and long-term commitment.

According to a new survey by MarketerHire, they can benefit the team as a whole, too. The survey found that of respondents who recently hired freelancer CMOs, 81% said that freelance support made the marketing department more effective.

a chart displaying the percentage impact of freelancers on marketing teams. the chart shows that freelancers improve marketing teams in various ways. the majority of respondents agree that freelancers make marketing teams more creative and effective, with 81% for both categories. additionally, 79% of business leaders believe that freelancers help marketing teams work faster. overall, the chart suggests that freelancers can have a significant positive impact on marketing teams.
3 key benefits of hiring freelancers that improve marketing teams

Fractional CMOs are usually brought in to help companies on a project-by-project basis, providing strategic guidance and support in areas like marketing strategy and execution, brand identity development, digital marketing optimisation, and more.

But what are their roles and responsibilities? Depending on their speciality, they can help you with:

How much does a fractional CMO cost?

When it comes to your strategic marketing initiatives, there are a lot of different options out there. You can hire a full-time CMO, outsource to a freelance marketer or digital marketing agency, or even do it yourself.

But what’s the best option?

Well, it all depends on your needs and budget. If you’re looking to save money, outsourcing to a freelancer or agency is the way to go.

On average, a fractional CMO will only charge $4,000 per month — this pales in comparison to the median salary of a chief marketing officer, which is around $175,395 annually (at the time of writing).

Consequently, by hiring fractional CMOs, you could be spending a fraction of the cost and would potentially save up to $127,395 each year.

this image depicts a chart with salary data for chief marketing officers, showing the average base salary of $175,395 per year. the chart also indicates the median salary at $175k, with the lowest 10% of cmos earning $87k and the highest 90% earning $273k. this information can be helpful for those seeking to understand the typical compensation for this executive role.
Source: Payscale

Aside from the obvious benefit of saving money, fractional CMOs are responsible for providing valuable insights and fresh ideas while quickly adapting to changing market trends.

They can also step in and out of projects as needed, providing organisations the flexibility they need to succeed.

Moreover, they can help to free up internal resources and provide valuable guidance in areas where your team may lack expertise.

When is the best time to hire a fractional CMO?

When do you need a fractional CMO? The best time to bring on a fractional CMO will vary depending on your company’s marketing needs and objectives.

Generally, they are best suited for organisations that:

  • Need strategic guidance to launch a new product or service.
  • Have limited marketing resources.
  • Are in need of an outside perspective or fresh ideas.
  • Want to take their business to the next level.
  • Need help developing digital strategies.
  • Are looking for short-term assistance with your overall marketing goals.
an image showing the common outsourced marketing services including link building, seo, content development, email marketing, ppc, and content marketing. these services can help businesses improve their online presence and reach more customers.
6 marketing services that are often outsourced

At the end of the day, utilising fractional CMO services is up to you. But whatever your needs may be, know that this approach can provide businesses with the guidance and expertise they need without committing to a full-time hire.

Where to find fractional CMOs?

Before you begin your search for an outsourced CMO, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What areas do I need help with?
  • What goals am I trying to achieve with this hire?
  • What is my timeline and budget for the project?
  • How long do I plan on working with this CMO?
  • Do I have internal resources available to help with the project?
  • Are there any specific skills or experience that my CMO should have?

By having a clear understanding of what you need and why will make it easier for you to identify the best fit for your team.

For finding your first hire, I recommend using Upwork to find a suitable candidate:

the image shows josiah roche's upwork profile.
Source: Josiah’s Upwork profile

How do fractional CMOs work once you’ve hired them?

Once you’ve identified a good fractional CMO for your project, it’s important to establish a strong working relationship. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Set clear expectations – ensure you agree on deadlines, deliverables and payment terms.
  • Be proactive and communicative – always update your CMO on any project or timeline changes.
  • Respect each other’s time – be mindful of how much work you assign and set realistic expectations for completion.
  • Provide feedback – let your fractional CMO know what is working and what isn’t, and provide constructive criticism where necessary.

Is outsourcing your marketing the way of the future?

According to a recent study, 44% of businesses outsource their marketing, and this number only seems to be rising every year.

Outsourcing your marketing to a fractional marketing executive can be a great way to get expert help without breaking the bank.

By asking yourself key questions, establishing clear expectations and respecting each other’s time, you can ensure that hiring a fractional CMO will be an effective decision for your business.

The flexibility offered by this approach allows businesses to adapt quickly in today’s ever-evolving market while also freeing up valuable internal resources.

Ultimately, the decision to outsource your marketing will depend on your unique needs and objectives, but it is worth exploring as a potential solution for businesses looking for fresh ideas or guidance.

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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