Why Hire A Fractional CMO?
For a lot of start-ups, the early team involves significant expertise and understanding of product development, operational organisation and fundraising. These are usually the three most pressing needs at the start, so it’s natural that they’re fulfilled first.
And sometimes, with the right product, those three areas of expertise can be enough to get the growth of a company off to a flying start. Sometimes the product just fits the market’s desires in such a way that organic and word-of-mouth growth run the marketing show on their own at the start, complemented by some on-the-fly marketing experimentation by the existing team.
But not all start-ups are so lucky as to get this natural growth. And even if they did at the start, it’s unlikely to last – sooner or later the business will need some marketing expertise to grow the customer base, reduce the overall cost per acquisition, and ensure the company has the best chance of maximising its potential.
At this point, you have a decision to make. “Do I need a full time chief marketing officer? Do I need to find an agency? I keep hearing about fractional CMOs, would that work for me?”
What is a fractional CMO?
A fractional CMO, also known as CMO-as-a-service, is a highly experienced marketing expert who is brought in on a short term or part time basis. Typically they will come in, evaluate marketing efforts to date, create a strategy and execute on that strategy with the help of more junior team members or agency support.
These people have generally been heavily involved in start-up or growth marketing before, either agency-side or client-side, and should have a proven track record of success.
They are typically brought in on 6-12 month part-time terms to ensure they have the time to create a thorough strategy and give it time to bear fruit. They’ll usually be working with several different companies at the same time and will bring with them the benefit of experience across multiple sectors.
What are the benefits of hiring a fractional CMO?
Hiring a fractional CMO is an extremely popular approach at the moment, and with good reason. There are three main benefits:
- They’ll improve your growth and marketing. Assuming you hire someone with a strong, bona fide track record, your business will benefit hugely from their experience and knowledge. A lot of non-marketing people have the mistaken belief that marketing is simple, or can be done by inexperienced team members. But it’s really not – successful marketing needs great data understanding, solid experimental processes, and excellent strategic and creative instincts. A good fractional CMO can bring all of these to the table and implement focused strategy, useful objectives and KPIs, and best practices for growth.
- They’ll help you get more from your marketing budget. With proper research and a carefully considered strategy, your marketing budget will go further – you’ll waste less on fruitless exercises and futility. A fractional CMO will do this for you. They will also be able to ensure that your growth experiments are properly considered, set-up and tracked, so they’ll have a higher chance of success. Finally, they’ll be able to set up detailed attribution and reporting so you will have a better understanding of where those marketing pennies are going and what they’re generating for the business.
- They don’t cost as much as full-time CMOs. Because they’re not full time, they don’t come with the executive-level costs of a full time CMO in terms of salary, benefits or stock options. Therefore if your company needs growth, but is still not ready to invest that much in the marketing department, a fractional CMO can be a fantastic interim option.
Should I hire a fractional CMO or a full time CMO?
This is a question worth thinking very carefully about.
A fractional CMO is better than not having any marketing experience in-house. However – they will be part time, so they won’t be available all the time. They will have other commitments and won’t be able to devote the same time or headspace to your business as a full time CMO.
It’s also worth remembering that skilled people with strong track records get offered jobs a lot. If you get to the end of your term of work you may wish to keep hold of them and find that you can’t because they’ve got a bigger offer elsewhere. A full time CMO, with share options and other benefits, would be far less likely to jump ship.
Of course, that goes both ways. You don’t want to offer a full time, well-rewarded CMO role to someone only to find out that they’re not as good as you thought they’d be. With a fractional CMO, you can try multiple individuals within a year without spending all of your recruitment budget.
Should I hire a fractional CMO or an agency?
The answer to this question is – why not both?
A fractional CMO will generally advise on the level of marketing support they need to execute their strategy, and that could involve bringing in agencies or freelancers as opposed to (or in addition to) hiring full time junior or mid-level marketing staff. Often fractional CMOs will have agency or freelance partners they’ve worked with and trust, which will cut down on the amount of time you need to spend receiving pitches.
It’s also true that many agencies can offer an arrangement very similar to an individual fractional CMO. They may have strategists who can commit to a fixed amount of time per month working for you, working in a very similar way to a fractional CMO. If this is something you’re looking for it’s worth saying this at the start of any pitch process, so the agency can confirm whether it’s a service they offer.
It’s very important to remember that a fractional CMO is an executive-level worker – you shouldn’t be hiring them to do day-to-day marketing leg work such as writing email copy or managing Facebook Ad campaigns. If you want strategy and execution all in one place, an agency might be a better option.
At Growth Division, that’s what our agency model is built for. We have a team of growth strategists who can act as fractional CMOs, if that’s what the client needs. These strategists have access to a stable full of specialised experts in order to execute the strategy and give it the highest chance of success.
Talk to a Growth Advisor
We create a clear, focused marketing strategy by combining our expertise with your knowledge of your business.
By now we’ve all seen the Y Combinator note to founders which accelerated the wave of fear and uncertainty...
Cast your mind back to 2013, if you can. I know, it’s difficult, a lot of fairly important changes...