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The B2B Fractional CMO in Simple Terms

I – Debra Marie Collins (my maiden name) – was a very pampered child. Don’t get me wrong, I had a very 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 B2B 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. In Part I of this two-part blog series, I’ll explain the difference between the widely recognized strategic marketing consultant and the largely unknown Fractional CMO. In Part II, I’ll reveal the types of exciting projects and challenges I’ll try to answer “What does a Fractional CMO do?” in terms of the 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 the company that has hired him or her. 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 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.

The Fractional CMO’s monthly time investment is usually set for periods of six to twelve months and 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 on site, 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. 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.

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 ranging from $200 – $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.”

As I explained to my mom, B2B companies buy a slice of my time each month. While this arrangement may sound a bit strange, it actually works extremely well. Want to learn more and hear about some very interesting projects I’ve successfully tackled as a Fractional CMO? Be sure to subscribe to the growth marketing blog to get insights delivered straight to your email inbox or news reader!

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