Why Fractional Marketing Is On The Rise — And How It Can Fuel Growth

by Debra Andrews | January 26, 2023

This blog, written by Marketri Founder and President, Deb Andrews, was originally posted on the Fast Company blog. Deb Andrews highlights a new way for companies to approach their marketing efforts. By utilizing fractional marketing, companies can achieve their marketing goals with greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness, making it a game-changer in the B2B marketing world.

Revenue growth is a top goal for most companies. But data from McKinsey shows it’s tough to achieve, with only one in eight companies realizing over 10% annual revenue growth between 2010 and 2019.

Growth-minded companies typically look to marketing to drive revenue gains. Yet, structuring the marketing function to deliver a high ROI is challenging today. And that’s leading many companies to rethink old marketing structure models.

In my work as founder and president of a company that provides outsourced marketing services, I’ve noticed two primary reasons why traditional marketing departments struggle to drive revenue growth. Here, I’ll discuss what those are—and how a fractional approach can turn marketing into a growth generator.  

Marketing Your Way to Growth is Complex

It’s never been harder to attract the right buyers and convert them to customers, because the customer’s buying journey has never been more complex.

Gone is the linear cycle of a buyer contacting a sales rep, receiving information, and making a purchase. Now, buyers want to access much more information about your product or service—on their own, online—before they engage with a sales rep. In fact, Gartner says today’s buyers only spend about 17% of their journey with sales.

The buying journey is longer, more complicated, and almost entirely digital—and companies are no longer in the driver’s seat. To generate growth by converting leads into customers, you need to provide exactly what each buyer requires at each point in their journey, moving them closer and closer to a decision to buy from you. That’s no easy task.

Structuring a Growth Marketing Engine is Challenging

Adding to that complexity is the fact that marketing has become highly specialized. Before, a single generalist could develop and oversee the execution of a marketing plan that generated new business. Now, it takes a village to attract ideal buyers and turn them into loyal, profitable customers. And that’s a major pain point when it comes to structuring the marketing function.

In the past, businesses either staffed up in-house, hired an agency, or tapped freelancers—any of which might have worked. But that was before marketing became a discipline of specialists and before a tight labor market made it incredibly hard to attract and keep top talent. Consider what it takes to engage in modern marketing that generates revenue:

With Google making thousands of algorithm changes a year (some of them significant), you need the help of a search engine optimization expert.

With buyers consuming so much information along their journey, you need a top-notch content developer.

With your website serving as the hub for your buyers’ journey, you need web experts to create a site that’s compelling on the front end and highly functional on the back end.

This is all before you even get to specialties such as paid search, marketing automation, analytics, social media marketing, and many more.

Beyond tapping the right people, growth marketing requires the right processes and technologies. For example, 10 years ago, business leaders didn’t give much thought to their marketing tech stack; now, it’s much harder to move the needle on revenue growth without technologies that automate marketing processes and optimize results.  

Why Leaders are Considering the Fractional Model

When you combine a complex buying journey with a highly specialized marketing field, an organization’s finite marketing resources become stretched fast. (And with inflation driving wages and other costs higher, that math won’t change soon.) Yet, businesses have growth goals to achieve. That’s causing senior leaders to rethink how they structure the marketing function—and to view the fractional model as an alternative for driving growth in today’s environment.

The fractional model has been gaining traction in other fields; witness the rise in demand for fractional CFOs, fractional COOs, and now fractional CGOs (chief growth officers). Companies are tapping these highly experienced professionals to get a slice (or fraction) of their time and capabilities, without tying up capital in a full-time position they likely don’t need. The fractional model allows them to gain the flexibility of outsourcing, without the inefficiency and waste that often plagues traditional outsourcing.

Now marketing is taking a page out of that playbook. Companies are scrutinizing the structure of their marketing functions and evaluating which disciplines are best staffed in-house and which could be tapped fractionally. As with any strategic decision, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Choosing whether or not to fractionalize your company’s marketing function (and if so, how) will depend on your organization’s business goals, culture, and marketing plans.

For example, if you plan to embark on a thought leadership campaign, hiring an in-house content writer may be the right move. But if you need a seasoned professional to help set the strategy and direction for your marketing (a critical foundational element), it’s less likely you’ll require that expertise ongoing and more likely a fractional expert is a good fit. A strong in-house generalist might be the best person to lead your marketing plan’s execution, but you might want a fractional chief marketing officer to break down sales and marketing silos and get the two functions locking arms, working toward the same goal of generating revenue.

Whatever the right makeup of your company’s marketing structure, adopting a fractional model could prove a game-changer for driving growth. When you combine the optimum structure for your marketing function with a well-conceived strategic marketing plan and the right supporting technologies, that’s when great things happen.