I – Debra Marie Collins (my maiden name) – was a very pampered child. Don’t get me wrong, I had a middle-class upbringing and wasn’t necessarily spoiled with material things. I was spoiled with love that continues to this day, especially from my mom. Some days, I work from her house just to spend precious extra time together. And, almost always, I catch her bragging about me as a successful entrepreneur during her many daily phone calls with friends.
Then I hear, “Well, I don’t know what she does… It’s strange. She’s a piece of a marketer for companies or something like that.”
These moments make me realize that my role as a B2B fractional CMO for middle-market companies is unique, leaving not just my mom but even seasoned business owners and executives saying, “Huh?” In a nutshell, fractional CMOs are strategic marketing consultants with a twist—tasked with running all planning and strategy while also following through with marketing execution.
In this blog, I’ll explain the difference between the widely recognized strategic marketing consultant and the largely unknown fractional CMO. I’ll also reveal the types of exciting projects, challenges, and ongoing responsibilities I own on behalf of my clients when functioning in this capacity.
Strategic Marketing Consultants vs. B2B Fractional CMOs
Clear distinctions between strategic marketing consultants and fractional CMOs can be drawn based upon the length of the relationship, the breadth of responsibilities, the fee arrangement, and how integrated a marketer becomes into that company. For example, when Marketri – the B2B strategic marketing company that I own – is brought in to act as a strategic consultant, it’s typically for a discrete project. Common types of engagements include:
- Creating a strategic marketing plan, something we commonly refer to as a marketing roadmap
- Developing a content marketing strategy and igniting an inbound marketing program
- Evaluating a company’s digital marketing presence and platforms and moving its program into the modern era
Here’s the twist: A Marketri fractional CMO can be asked to do all of the above as well as to oversee the execution of plans – including staff supervision – and to measure the results and ROI. In the B2B fractional CMO role, we lead the marketing function for firms that either have never had a true marketing department or have tried to build one with lackluster (or worse) results. The average fractional CMO engagement lasts for about three years, although I once had the pleasure of working with a middle-market CPA firm for eight years.
Rather than completing project after project, the B2B fractional CMO is responsible for overseeing the overall marketing strategy and roadmap, following through with execution, and analyzing and reporting on results. In some cases, as with Marketri, the fractional CMO has an entire team behind them, so businesses get the benefit of an entire fractional marketing team (for a fraction of the cost of an in-house team).
The Typical B2B Fractional CMO Scope
The fractional CMO’s monthly time investment is generally flexible enough to slide up or down as the organization’s needs evolve. In the role, we become an integrated part of the team and may even assume a company title and email. We’re hands-on, in the trenches and sometimes regularly onsite, and we get to know a company from an insider’s perspective. To the outside world, the fractional CMO is typically viewed as an employee. I’ve been listed on websites and social media accounts as if I were the client’s in-house CMO. Inside the company, many of us prefer to be viewed as third-party consultants, as this reminds the leadership team about why we were hired – to be their marketing experts.
As I explained to my mom, B2B companies buy a slice of our time each month. While this arrangement may sound a bit strange, it actually works extremely well.
Fee arrangements are typically different for strategic marketing consultants and fractional CMOs. Consultants most often work for one fixed fee based upon their estimated time investment on a project. They are particularly mindful of project scope and vigilant about avoiding the dreaded scope “creep.” In contrast, fractional CMOs almost always work on a monthly retainer based upon the estimated time investment each month multiplied by an hourly rate. The average B2B fractional CMO cost ranges from about $175 – $300 per hour on average. The fee relationship is more fluid given that the commitment is longer term, and there is less concern about scope “creep.”
What does a B2B fractional CMO do? First, we generate leads.
You may have heard of inbound marketing—a method that uses content to attract, engage, convert, and delight visitors online, transforming them from virtual strangers to revenue-generating customers. One of our clients, a technology product company, was always a big believer in inbound marketing and felt it had all of the necessary pieces to get online leads flowing into the top of the sales funnel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working.
So I helped work through the issue:
- The Problem: Their existing content was too complex and/or sales-oriented. This caused their lead faucet to flow at a slow drip, leaving my client extremely thirsty for good leads (and maybe even a bit dehydrated).
- The Goal: Build a steady and rapid pace for new online leads that could be passed to the sales team.
- The Action: Create a “Top-of-the-Funnel” automated marketing workflow in HubSpot with lead scoring capabilities. We structured the workflow to send a timely, relevant, and authentically helpful piece of content every seven business days to cold leads in the client’s database (as well as any new conversions through landing pages or forms on the website). Cold leads were then scored based on engagement with the emails, as well as their website activity.
- The Result: After three weeks, the workflow had the following effects:
While some of our clients are focused on brand awareness and share of voice, most of our clients are concerned about leads first and foremost. As a B2B fractional CMO, it’s my job to understand what drives business decision-makers to move down the marketing funnel and talk to a salesperson.
A fractional CMO also manages day-to-day fire drills.
When a client calls on Friday to say a U.S. Vice Presidential nominee will be at their facility on Tuesday, it’s all hands on deck! The client wanted maximum press coverage for their town hall meeting and rally, and they wanted to highlight a common view shared within their construction trade.
- The Problem: Very little lead time to gather facts and coordinate with both internal and external parties.
- The Goal: Attract all local news stations, as well as some national outlets.
- The Action: I enlisted the help of an outside public relations vendor to bolster resources. Together, we developed the media advisory and had it out to all local and select national news outlets within 24 hours.
- The Result: We had over 45 media outlets attend the rally, including:
- The Philadelphia Inquirer
- The Associated Press
Fractional CMOs really function as part of an organization’s team and will make themselves available to shift deadlines and respond to “fire drills” as needed. While we aim to keep clients on track (and employ project managers and supporting team members to help internally), we understand that opportunities come up and can adapt and change as circumstances do.
Marketing new software? Drive the creative process.
We had a client that’s widely known as a real estate services provider. After receiving encouraging feedback from a few customers and prospects, they wanted to mount an aggressive push of proprietary B2B SaaS solution. The company predicted the software would help differentiate the company from competitors and boost sales.
- The Problem: The software was complex, and most of the sales team wasn’t familiar enough with it to introduce the software to customers.
- The Goal: Create a piece of marketing and sales collateral that would act as a conversation starter.
- The Action: We created a two-minute-long, animated “explainer” video that told a story of a facility director that used the software. Within six weeks, we had found a video partner, storyboarded the video, reviewed the beta version, and launched the final video.
- The Result: Now the sales team uses this video as the primary tool for getting companies interested in a software demo. We also sent out an email blast of the video, and we posted it to their website and on social media.
The B2B fractional CMO is, above all, a strategic thinker, and there’s a lot of creativity behind that. We base creative decisions on carefully researched buyer personas so we can understand what decision-makers will respond to and use your unique value proposition to appeal to those pain points.
The benefit of a fractional CMO leading or partnering on creative decisions is that it will always be tied to your business goals.
What’s coming up on the road ahead? Check your GPS.
At Marketri, we work on a wide range of projects in dynamic settings. As a fractional CMO firm, we have hundreds of stories just like these that demonstrate our flexible strategic thinking, conversion-minded creative output, and adept project management.
My clients find the fractional CMO model is a cost-effective, results-driven approach, and my prediction is many more companies will be test driving it over the next few years.
If you’re interested in engaging our services, don’t be afraid to contact us to learn more about the B2B fractional CMO today!
More questions about what hiring a fractional CMO looks like? Check out our new guide for executives: