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What’s a fractional CMO? (And how to find the right one)

Your marketing team needs two things to be successful: a clear strategy and experience in all the different subcategories of marketing, like SEO, digital, and PR. 

A Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) can provide both. However, hiring a full-time CMO may not make sense financially for a smaller or mid-sized business. Engaging the services of a fractional CMO lets you get the benefits of a CMO without the associated cost. 

marketing team

What is a CMO? 

The CMO is the senior executive in an organization who oversees all marketing, advertising, and promotional activities. 

A CMO’s Background

Marketing is a diverse department. Marketing professionals can come from many different backgrounds and have very different skill sets. Two projects happening in your marketing department at the same time can be wildly different. Your CMO has to understand all of the different facets of marketing and how the marketing department relates to the other departments within your organization. 

What a CMO is supposed to do

A CMO will work closely with the other executives in the organization to establish company-wide productivity, growth, and profit goals. Then, they help make sure what the marketing department is doing aligns with those goals. To succeed in their role, the CMO needs to be a well-rounded marketing expert. If any of the smaller teams that make up the marketing department are struggling with a project, the CMO needs to be able to step in and offer guidance. 

How Does a Fractional CMO Work? 

A qualified CMO can be a huge boost to your business. However, C-suite executives notoriously make substantial salaries and expect a complete benefits package with things like health insurance, PTO, and a retirement fund. 

A fractional CMO has all the experience and qualifications of a traditional CMO, but you engage them as a consultant or part-time employee. They will likely charge you an hourly rate, but this can be 60% to 80% less expensive than paying an executive’s salary, and you don’t have to offer any benefits. 

Most companies hire fractional CMOs for a limited engagement to cover an unexpected vacancy, manage a specific project, or quickly accelerate growth. Medium-sized businesses can benefit from engaging a fractional CMO to help them scale their marketing operation as they grow. Companies that are pivoting or refocusing their marketing strategy may also bring on a fractional CMO to help get the new program off the ground. 

How to Choose a Fractional CMO

While a CMO may only work part-time, they are still a member of your team. Just like any other team member, you want to make sure that they are a good fit for your company’s goals, needs, and values before you bring them on. When choosing a fractional CMO for your business, consider culture fit, workflow, and budget. 

Understand Your Goals 

You’re hiring a fractional CMO to help your business reach a certain goal. Before starting the hiring process, you need to iron out exactly what those goals are. How will your company be different once you’ve finished working with the fractional CMO? Whenever possible, set specific, measurable goals.

 If you want to see an increase in revenue, choose a specific dollar amount or percentage increase. You should also set a deadline and establish a budget. Knowing all this information before you start meeting with potential candidates helps you have more productive, focused interviews. 

Get to Know Their Processes 

When interviewing candidates for a fractional CMO, you want to learn more about their experience, including what size companies they usually work with, what industries they have experience in, how long they’ve worked in marketing, and what other roles they’ve held. Once you understand what they do, you want to understand how they do it. 

How closely will they work with different members of your team, and how involved do they plan to be in your daily operations? Are they willing to learn and try new things, or do they have a method they swear by? Ask for examples of work they’ve done in the past and how they have handled certain situations. You should also be willing to have a frank conversation about your values as a business to make sure that theirs align

Collect and Compare Proposals 

Before you make any final decisions, ask the candidates—at least your top few favorites—to create a proposal. A proposal will specifically outline the scope of work they will do for you, including deadlines and a budget. This gives you a more concrete set of expectations for working with them. If you are torn between two candidates who seem like a great fit, a proposal gives you an objective set of criteria to help you decide. One might offer a better pricing structure, quicker turnaround times, more services, or better flexibility. 

Of course, you don’t have to decide purely based on objective criteria like timelines and cost. If one fractional CMO candidate offers you what is technically a slightly better deal, but you feel that another candidate is a better culture fit and isn’t outrageously more expensive, choose the candidate who will work best with your team. It is still a good idea to collect their proposal for your own internal record-keeping and planning purposes.

Final Word: Is It Worth Hiring a Fractional CMO?

There are many advantages to hiring a fractional CMO, but fractional CMOs aren’t the right choice for every business. If you’re a very large company trying to coordinate multinational marketing campaigns, it’s more efficient and cost-effective to hire a full-time C-suite executive to lead your marketing department. 

But if you’re a small- to medium-sized business without the budget for a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO gets you the experience and leadership you need at only a fraction of the price. A fractional CMO can work with almost any sized business. If you’re a start-up with no marketing staff, you can bring on a fractional CMO to handle all your marketing on a part-time basis. Even if you already have a marketing team, a fractional CMO can work with them to fill in any experience gaps.

At Verta, we’ve seen the difference a fractional CMO can make for a growing business. We offer fractional CMO services tailored to your specific needs. Reach out to us and get an understanding of how we can help out. 

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