Fractional CMO Trends to Watch for in 2021

by Trisha Gallagher | August 26, 2021

Less than a decade ago, a Google search for “fractional CMO” would have yielded next to no results. Even just eight years ago, search volume was too small to measure. Today, there are about 900 keyword searches per month for this term as awareness and interest in fractional chief marketing officers continue to spike.

Today, many companies, including Marketri, offer fractional CMO services, which provide strategic and budget-friendly marketing leadership for companies looking to upgrade their marketing programs and optimize results.

So what’s influencing this rise in interest? And what trends can you expect this year?

Related: What Does a Fractional CMO Cost?

What is a fractional CMO?

A fractional chief marketing officer offers the welcome combination of strategic marketing leadership and direction at a reduced salary. According to, the average CMO-level strategic marketer earns nearly $250,000 per year, which is out of range for many small to medium-sized businesses. A fractional CMO, on the other hand, typically manages a company’s marketing function on a part-time basis (while maintaining other clients) for a fraction of the price.

Fractional CMOs, also known as CMO-as-a-service, are ideal for companies seeking deep marketing knowledge and experienced leadership on a more affordable or short-term basis. They can establish key performance indicators, advance big-picture thinking, and institute growth strategies and best practices.

Many companies have learned that one marketing generalist cannot do everything and do it well. This often leads to churn in the marketing field and underwhelming results from the marketing department. A fractional CMO, however, can give shape and direction to marketing strategy and deliver results in a matter of months–especially if they have a good team behind them.

Is your company looking to invest in a new marketing function? Gain an outside perspective on the best go-to-market strategy? Interested in exploring more channels or opportunities? A fractional CMO could be a great fit.

Fractional CMO trends to watch

As the fractional Chief Marketing Officer role continues to grow in organizations of all sizes across the globe, notable trends in the field showcase where and how part-time CMOs are making an impact:

Outsourcing is on the rise, with no sign of a slowdown.

In a recent survey of digital agencies, 80 percent said they would explore, continue or increase their use of outsourcing.

Businesses are more comfortable with virtual work and outsourcing than they were two years ago. The gig economy and outsourcing are at all-time highs as more workers prefer flexibility and more companies seek affordability. In just two years, more than half of the U.S. workforce will likely be gig workers or those who have worked in independent freelance roles over the course of their careers, according to MBO Partners. Nearly 42 million workers in the United States are already pursuing independent roles.

The fractional CMO role is well-suited for the outsourced economy, providing senior leaders the opportunity to consult on a part-time basis while giving companies the expertise they need. Gone is the extensive salary and benefit costs of a full-time high-level position. And good fractional CMOs have a whole team behind them to help deliver results.

Fractional CMO role meets the job force where it is.

The Great Resignation of 2021 has seen workers leave jobs en masse to pursue something more meaningful, flexible or sustainable. The fractional role helps to minimize the ongoing risk of turnover and assists organizations struggling to fill key positions.

As more companies are recognizing the need for improved work-life balance for employees, fractional positions give workers the ability to better manage their personal lives and career goals. Organizations interested in building employee longevity and satisfaction are instituting more flexible positions and policies, and fractional positions fit the bill

The pandemic continues to play a leading role.

The global pandemic continues to wreak havoc on companies’ best-laid plans. Many businesses that planned to recall employees have shifted back to remote work while others continue to evolve safe workplace guidelines and expectations.

Marketing trailed in the shadow of sales for many companies prior to the pandemic. However, when trade shows and other sales channels shut down nearly overnight, digital marketing came to the rescue.

RELATED: When Virtual Tradeshows Don’t Work Out

Now that these companies have invested in more modern marketing techniques, there should be no looking back.

Flexible positions such as fractional CMOs are helping companies continue to make headway in challenging times. To that end, operating in a virtual environment also opens up the pool of potential applicants.

The pandemic altered budgets, marketing strategy, and hiring plans, and will continue to play a role in the coming year. Fractional CMOs are a great match for companies seeking expertise on a part-time or short-term basis in order to further their marketing initiatives and strategy.

Making a strategic decision

Marketing is a discipline of specialties: strategy, creative, content, SEO, technology, development, social media and more. To power up a marketing function that can drive a consistently high return on investment, companies need all of the above. Simply put, one marketing generalist should not be tasked with juggling this many different disciplines. This will only lead to greater churn and decreased results.

A strategic CMO can manage the marketing component that is most often shortchanged: strategy. And fractional CMOs can do so in fewer hours and months, leading to strategic wins for the organizations that employ them.

At Marketri, our fractional chief marketing officer services bring top-tier marketing leadership in house and under budget, designing and running your marketing program with a full team for significantly less than a full-time marketer’s salary. You can scale with fractional services that realize predictable lead generation and advance your marketing department through a proven methodology.

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of a fractional CMO or making a hire, we’d be happy to talk more about the possibilities. Let us know how we can help!