What is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a marketing executive that’s outsourced to another company to provide the expertise of a salaried executive without the need to invest and commit to a full-time, on-premise CMO.

By adding a fractional CMO to an early-stage startup or a small-to-mid-sized business (SMB), companies can add valuable executive leadership at a much lower cost while focusing critical funds elsewhere.

Are you interested in learning more about fractional chief marketing officers?

Would you like to learn how to find a fractional CMO with the skill set to plot a course for growth for new businesses from day one?

Do you want to learn how to utilize an outsourced marketing department with a highly specialized senior team led by a fractional CMO, while still retaining the feeling and direction of an in-house strategic partnership?

In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about what they do, how to hire them, and how businesses and their clients can benefit from their addition.

Table of Contents:

Understanding Fractional CMOs: A Quick Guide

Understanding Fractional CMOs: A Quick Guide

No matter the industry, a fractional chief marketing officer is a strong investment for an organization. Hiring a fractional CMO—one that can bring a specialized, senior team with them—should usually be your first hire.

What is a fractional CMO hired to do?

Sometimes referred to as “CMO as a service,” fractional CMOs operate in a part-time capacity, but can potentially have as much impact as a full time resource. This highly strategic role is not defined by the number of hours spent at work, but the precision of the leader’s output.

For example, here’s a job description from an organization looking for a CMO recently posted to LinkedIn:

Example Job Description and Scope of Duties

Fractional CMOs are capable of leading multiple marketing initiatives at more than one startup at a time. They can confront unique challenges inherent to varying industries and provide the right focus and function for a company’s marketing endeavors to drive growth.

Entering the market from ground zero is extremely challenging, and while a fractional CMO might seem like a short-term, project-based role, it’s actually quite the opposite. Stable marketing leadership can bring guidance and clarity to untested startups to withstand what can often be volatile beginnings.

Plus, a full-time CMO will usually command a six-figure salary, benefit requirements, a larger tax burden, severance packages, and more—liabilities that do not apply to a fractional CMO.

What are fractional services?

The responsibilities of a fractional CMO can include, but are not limited to:

  • Lead key marketing initiatives central to a company’s growth
  • Earn the trust of their teams
  • Empower and manage direct reports
  • Present to key stakeholders—CEO, CSO, CFO, board of directors, investors, et al
  • Onboard new marketing team members
  • Create programs and systems to facilitate ongoing training and knowledge development
  • Bring senior-level guidance to the task of prospecting for new employees
  • Provide direction for branding, public relations, creative ideation, copywriting, logo development, brand naming, et al.
  • Provide thought leadership to internal sales and marketing staff
  • Create blueprints and guides for content marketing creation
  • Review and provide approval of these marketing materials
  • Deliver an appropriate return on investment (ROI) on all marketing efforts
  • Track key performance indicators (KPIs) against core objectives and overall marketing strategy
  • Drive and maintain focused brand positioning, segmentation, and consistent brand messaging across all marketing channels and brand touchpoints.
  • Improve product pricing and launch endeavors to find the perfect cost-to-revenue ratio
  • Focus on improving the overall digital marketing experience for clients and customers by creating consistent criteria for the marketing and sales teams to follow when cold-calling, handling a customer support call, connecting with potential clients, following up with existing customers, etc.
  • Build a marketing plan, develop the necessary creative assets to execute it, and work to improve sales infrastructure as you grow and scale.
  • Prepare comprehensive marketing reports on a monthly or quarterly basis or when funding comes up for renewal.
  • Make resource-focused choices, such as deciding which paid search or organic search marketing tactics to invest in for long-term growth.

Reasons to hire a fractional CMO

From day-one marketing strategy development to a consistent scaling of marketing efforts as revenue increases, there are many reasons to invest in fractional CMO services for your startup or business.

Some of those reasons include:

  • Your business lacks robust marketing insights and needs direction. Without a marketing plan developed by an experienced marketing executive, it can become difficult to make good, confident decisions as an executive team. A fractional CMO will be able to lead the in-house marketing department and manage team members of varying experience levels to uncover valuable insights and present multiple options for sound executive decisions. Having insight, research, and data driving the marketing programs for your company is critical, and so is the ability to interpret it and build a cohesive marketing strategy around it. Marketing strategy not built on this foundation will most likely fall short of expectations.
  • Your company doesn’t have the resources for hiring a full-time CMO or an in-house senior marketing director. For startups or small businesses that are just getting ready to launch or beginning to see growth, the need for marketing leadership direction is vital. However, bringing on a full-time CMO is capital intensive, and your business may not be ready for this yet. That’s okay, and that’s why a fractional or outsourced CMO is a great alternative to consider when planning the direction for your company’s next-level marketing strategy.
  • Your company is well-established and scaling well, but you don’t have anyone with expertise leading the marketing process. Just because your business is doing well now doesn’t mean it will do well in the future, especially if you don’t have a savvy marketing leader or a robust marketing plan. Hiring someone to act as a marketing leader (fractionally) is an excellent way to provide strategic leadership to your marketing team, so that future financial success can become a reality for your business.
  • Your sales team is currently handling most of your marketing materials. A more established startup will ideally have a sales team and a marketing team that works together. However, some startups and SMBs mistakenly put the marketing responsibilities exclusively in the hands of their sales team. If your sales team is handling your company’s current marketing plan and materials like ad campaigns, presentations, digital marketing efforts, and more, then your branding and overall marketing message may end up being inconsistent, raising your customer acquisition cost (CAC). A fractional CMO will be able to manage your marketing strategy, keep your assets organized, watch your CAC like a hawk, and organize your marketing department in a more efficient way than your full time executives know how to do.
  • You need a person in a position of leadership to take over a vacated position. If a leadership position was recently freed up in your startup, you might find it difficult to find someone to fill the role while you search for a new leader. With a CMO on your team, you can fill an important leadership role in the meantime. A CMO is a multi-faceted, flexible leader that can handle much more than just basic marketing needs, and provide you with an expert opinion 24×7 (while not requiring you to split equity with a co-founder).

There are many more use-cases for a fractional CMO, no matter your business size or niche. But even with all of these reasons to invest in a fractional CMO, is it really worth the cost?

How much does hiring a fractional CMO cost?

According to numerous salary aggregate websites, the costs and average annual salaries of a CMO vary a bit across the U.S., but consistently start in the six-figure range in all major metros except Detroit. Full time executive hires can easily reach over $200k per year in some larger cities.

Let’s take a look at what an average annual salary for hiring a full time marketing executive looks like:

Chief Marketing Officer Salaries by City (as of Q2 2021)

San Diego – $104,378

Los Angeles – $183,331

San Francisco – $223,676

New York City – $200,148

Chicago – $176,238

Phoenix – $109,009

Detroit – $97,805

Miami – $222,519

Houston – $181,499

Philadelphia – $216,342

San Antonio – $123,705

Dallas – $164,492

San Jose – $238,706

Those are some hefty yearly salaries, but the costs don’t stop there. A business that chooses to staff a full-time position will have to pour resources into searching for prospects, investing in onboarding & training, as well as long-term costs like insurance, benefits, etc.

To put it simply, it can be an extremely expensive strategy for a company to have a full time CMO in the early stages. That’s why opting for a partnership with a startup marketing agency like HypeLife Brands could be the best decision you haven’t made yet 😉

Rather than hire a full time CMO—and endure the short term business expense—when you engage our agency at any of the levels we offer, our Founder and CEO Curt Cuscino remains your single, lead point-of-contact throughout our work together (typically spanning years). He not only provides the benefits and support of the fractional CMO services you need, but he’s also backed by our talented, award-winning senior team who works along with an established brand + marketing development process and methodology to deliver next-level strategic marketing direction.

How do you find a fractional CMO?

There are a number of different ways to find a fractional CMO of this style and caliber. Typically, most startups will turn to job boards and similar platforms to find freelance CMOs and part-time marketing professionals, which can take a significant time investment to sort through, find, and call upon prospects. There is also the option of contracting a marketing agency to provide overall marketing services, which include a fractional CEO in addition to a full outsourced marketing team.

Another option is for your business to work directly with HypeLife Brands. Our Founder and CEO Curt Cuscino can help your business save a significant amount of money by outsourcing your fractional CMO needs, helping you skip many of the costly mistakes we hear about from startup founders, entrepreneurs at the early stages, and even CEOs of more established brands.

HypeLife Brands is a startup-focused brand development and marketing agency that helps startups of all sizes and at all stages in creating the perfect, strategically-tuned brand development, marketing, and advertising mix for their unique needs.

We understand that many startups have limited funding, and having a full-time CMO can be too much cost to bear (this is normal for most pre-revenue, early-stage startups). With HypeLife Brands, your startup can save money while also reaping all of the rewards of having a fractional CMO as a part-time executive on your team. This gives you, the founder, the visionary entrepreneur, the freedom to rest easier at night knowing that you’ve got other hands on deck to handle your marketing leadership and to also provide strategic insight into getting your new brand from point A to point Z.

Contact our team today to learn more about how HypeLife Brands can take your startup to the next level!