What is a Fractional CMO and Does Your Business Need One?


Figuring out which resources your business needs usually starts with knowing and understanding exactly what’s available. No one comes into the business world knowing everything, after all, but that’s okay. Today, there are a lot of valuable resources out there to help you learn what you need to know. In this small business advice blog, we’ll take a look at what could be an important part of many businesses: the fractional CMO. 

Marketing plans are a must-have. Even the business that’s been doing fine with its own marketing plan to this point might be realizing that they can’t keep going that way. In 2021 and beyond, the world of marketing is different than it ever has been before. If nothing else, your perspective could be getting a little tired, and it might be a good idea to look to someone else for a fresh perspective. 

This is where the fractional CMO can come into play. A full-time role might not be on the radar for your company, but you don’t have to have the space for that, per se. You can instead work with a part-time, outsourced marketing exec that will give you the powerful feedback and insights that you need without costing you a full salary and benefits. Plus, these professionals are more likely to provide straightforward, realistic advice and feedback since they’re not tied to the company and have no agenda. 

The state of marketing is changing. Most companies lack a cohesive plan that focuses on the right marketing initiatives, or they simply don’t have the people or resources to focus on marketing at a dedicated level. That’s where a fractional CMO can come into play. Let’s talk more about what this person is, what they can do for your business, and why you might need one. 

First though, a quick look at some marketing statistics that will show you why now is the time to focus on creating cohesion in your business. 

The state of marketing in the modern business

The Internet has changed marketing in several different ways. For starters, everything is much more accessible and affordable than ever before. However, digital marketing is much different than traditional marketing, so brands need to work with people who understand the differences and can help them get the assistance that they need. 

  • Mobile searches account for more than half of all Internet searches, meaning you need to be mobile-ready.
  • Mobile optimization is an important part of modern SEO.
  • The average US person has 10 or more connected devices in the household.
  • As much as 59% of the global population uses the Internet actively, which is about 4.6 billion people.
  • The top-performing salespeople say they get better leads from their company’s marketing efforts when there is a dedicated team in place.
  • Automation is the 4th-most popular investment for businesses looking to improve marketing. 
  • Marketing automation and outsourcing are used by ¾ of all businesses today. 

These are just a few things to keep in mind when you’re considering the addition of a fractional CMO or other marketing professionals for your business. Now, let’s talk about the role of this person and whether you need one. 

What is a fractional CMO?

As the name would imply, a fractional CMO is an outsourced, part-time marketing executive that can help your business with sales development, customer acquisition, and growth. The full name of these professionals is Fractional Chief Marketing Officer, putting them in the C-Level position of handling marketing for your organization. 

Regardless of the size of your business, this type of assistance could be beneficial in several ways. For starters, you can get executive-level experience without having to pay a full-time executive salary. This isn’t a new concept, either. For companies where having a full-time CMO or CFO (Chief Financial Officer) wouldn’t make a lot of sense, either practically or financially, virtual and outsourced executives have been available for several years. 

Glassdoor reports that CMOs earn between $73K and $306K per year, with plenty of variables to make up for the salary range. At any cost, though, you’ll also have to factor in benefits, bonuses, 401ks, other perks, payroll taxes, onboarding expenses, and so forth. By the time it’s all said and done, you’ll have invested far more in this role than you might be able to afford.

A fractional CMO, on the other hand, usually has a rate somewhere around $200 to $250 per hour, and you can hire them on an as-needed basis. Then, you’re not paying for onboarding, benefits, or a full-time salary when you only need part-time assistance. They will have the same duties and responsibilities as a full-time executive, but you won’t have to make the big investment (or the big commitment). 

A CMO will help you create an effective marketing plan, allocate a marketing budget, manage any staff that you have, and help you better understand how this strategy is going to benefit your business. They’ll even do the work on the backend to help determine the ROI and ensure that you see the benefits of their assistance in all that you do. 

While a fractional CMO could be beneficial to several companies, not everyone is sure they’re ready for such an investment. If you’re wondering what your business needs, here are some things to keep in mind. 

Surefire signs your business needs a fractional CMO

The next question on everyone’s list, of course, is whether they need these services. At some point, every business will find themselves in need of a marketing leader at the C level—that driven, powerful, results-focused leadership that you don’t find in the typical mid-level marketing team or agencies out there today. 

As mentioned, not everyone is going to find themselves in a place where they can afford to add a full-time team member. Others might just not have a need for a full-time commitment at this level because outsourcing will take care of their intermittent needs at a more affordable cost. However, there are definitely some signs that it’s time to start looking for a fractional CMO for your business:

  • You don’t have room in your budget for a full-time executive. If your hiring and staffing budget is limited (or nonexistent), it can be hard to fill all the roles that you need filled in a business. Outsourcing with the available virtual executives and other talent available today can provide you with everything that you need at a fraction of what you’d spend on hiring someone in-house. 
  • There’s no one in the leadership role overseeing your marketing department. Your marketing team can’t just be left to their own devices. If you don’t have the right leadership in place for marketing, just like any other department, your business will suffer. Even if you have the best marketing team, they need a qualified leader, and your business needs one conductor to drive the marketing train. 
  • You don’t even have a marketing department. If your sales team is handling their own marketing, they’re doing double-duty and that can be a detriment to your business. If you don’t have a marketing team at all, you at least need someone to lead the charge—a fractional CMO could be the ideal solution. 
  • You don’t have the ability to make informed decisions at the executive level. Taking advice is one thing. Hiring a consultant is a step up. However, a fractional CMO can take complete control of your marketing and provide you with reporting that will help you make the informed decisions that will help your marketing thrive. 
  • You need a consultant or short-term stand-in. Some companies are between talent, but don’t want to let their marketing fall by the wayside in the meantime. A fractional CMO can be a great investment to keep your marketing up to par while you’re finding the next person for the job. Plus, it’ll even give you more time to find the right person for the role because you’re not rushed since the CMO is standing in. 

There’s a lot that could point to the need for a fractional CMO, but these are some of the biggest factors that businesses notice. They can provide the instant relief that you need for your marketing solutions, no matter how big or small they might be. 

How to choose the right fractional CMO for your business

So, you’ve decided this could be the right move for your company—what now? The next part comes in choosing the right person for the job. Every business is going to have slightly different needs, of course, but there are some general guidelines and best practices that you can keep in mind. 

1. Reputation and Experience

Of course, your first concern will be the reputation and experience that someone has. After all, you are outsourcing to get a better solution. Hiring someone with limited experience or a bad reputation will generally make things worse. Check out their background, what they’ve done in the past as a fractional CMO, and reviews from businesses that have worked with them previously. 

2. Marketing Expertise

Although every CMO should have marketing expertise, some have special areas of interest or may focus on a certain type of marketing. Consider this along with what your business needs for marketing so that you can find the best person for the job. If your online presence needs some work, for example, you’d be best to hire a CMO that’s got experience with digital and social media marketing. 

3. Available Services

What kind of marketing services does the individual or agency offer? Do they have all-inclusive solutions or provide the choice to create a customized strategy based on your needs? These are things to consider so that you get someone who can deliver the right services for your marketing needs. 

4. Rates

While price shouldn’t be a primary or deciding factor, you do have a budget to think about. Therefore, you’ll want to choose to outsource with someone who offers plenty of services for an affordable rate. Don’t just pick the cheapest option—they might not be able to deliver the solutions that you need. Look more closely at what you get for the money. 

5. Perspective

This is where you capitalize on getting a consultation from anyone that you consider for the role. Take a minute to discuss the needs of your business and see what their perspective is and how they would approach solving your marketing issues. Again, this outsourced individual has no real stake in your company, so they’re going to provide honest perspective every single time. That’s what you need. 

The state of marketing is changing. Getting an honest assessment of where your business stands can help you in more ways than you think. However, you can’t do that without having the right person for the job. These factors will make it easier to choose the best candidate for your business needs, no matter what you have in mind. There may be other factors that you want to consider, as well, but these are the ones that should be first on your list. 

Outsource more than marketing when you partner with Smith.ai 

While you’re finding the right person to lead your marketing to success, you probably also need someone who can handle the admin tasks and communications. Even if you’ve got a receptionist, or if your sales team fields their own calls, it doesn’t have to be that way. Take advantage of outsourcing yet again by hiring the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai to handle it all. 

Our 24/7 agents are dedicated to delivering the solutions you need, from after-hours answering and live website chat to lead intake, scheduling, payment collection, and so much more. When you’re running a business on a shoestring budget, but you want a superior communications solution, partnering with Smith.ai will get you there. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation to discuss what the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can do for your business, from communications to admin and more. You can also find us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484.

Marketing Advice
Written by Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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Take the faster path to growth.
Get Smith.ai today.

Affordable plans for every budget.