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“You Want a Piece of Me?” – Evaluating the Value of the Fractional CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)
Have you ever wandered by the cookie stand in the mall looking for samples? Just one little bite that is virtually calorie-free is all you need! After all, the first taste is the most powerful, tickling all of your taste buds and leaving you, for the most part, pretty satisfied. Recently, the concept of Fractional CMO has come to my attention. This blog post explores its value proposition and whether getting a piece of a senior marketing professional has the same effect as that “oh so wonderful” bite size morsel.
What is a Fractional CMO?
Generally, Fractional CMOs offer senior, Fortune 500-level guidance and a holistic marketing approach to small-to-midsized companies (SMEs) on a part-time basis. For SMEs, hiring a full-time CMO is typically not cost-effective and they would likely experience diminishing returns. Chief Outsiders, a company that provides part-time marketing executives to growth-oriented and mid-sized businesses, claims to provide its clients with the human capital of an entire executive marketing team for a “fraction” of the cost.
How does it Work?
There seems to be many models of Fractional CMOs with some placing a professional on-site, full-time for shorter periods of time and others working longer-term on a partial week basis. Regardless of the exact set-up, SMEs get a sliver to a slice of marketing experience to guide their marketing efforts and help drive their CEOs growth agenda forward.
It appears that the Fractional CMOs are not meant to be one man bands. They oversee their client’s in-house marketing personnel and/or a team of sub-contractors to implement the strategic marketing plans that they create and promote.
Why is the Concept rising in Popularity?
SMEs need to operate smarter than ever. During these tighter economic times, many of their larger competitors with bigger marketing budgets and human capital resources are fishing downstream for clients. SMEs are also facing pricing competition from firms of equal size and smaller. Marketing, without an overall strategy to ensure that resources are being maximized, is the equivalent of gambling which is what many SMEs do – roll the dice and hope for the best. Fractional CMOs are often able to provide that top-level guidance and steer the ship in the right direction.
Are Fractional CMOs Too Good to Be True? Maybe not!
Based on my experience with SMEs, I love the idea of Fractional CMOs! Many SMEs hire marketers at the Coordinator and Manager levels, mainly due to cost/ investment concerns, and expect them to be able to deliver strategic guidance. In reality, not all professionals are capable of being “big picture” thinkers. They might be terrific tacticians but need some marketing leadership to ensure their efforts are being optimized.
Marketri is often brought in to provide SMEs’ tactical marketing professionals with direction although we have never coined the term “Fractional CMO”. This tends to be an effective model as we can provide the senior-level support, an outside perspective and current marketing best practices while leveraging an in-house professional’s tactical skill set and strong relationships within the company.
When it comes to the modern day Marketing Department, SMEs should keep an open mind and be willing to be flexible over time as the needs of their organizations change. It could be that a Fractional CMO is just the bite-size morsel needed to jump-start an effective, results-driven marketing program.