We asked ChatGPT what it thinks about the most asked questions about chief marketing officers. We used our very own engineered prompts which took hours to perfect. Hope you enjoy! Here's Part 2. And you can take a look at Part 1 here.
What is a fractional CMO and what do they do?
A fractional CMO is a highly-experienced, A+ marketing professional who works on a part-time or project basis. They usually work on a contract basis (e.g., monthly subscriptions), for a specific period of time, or for a specific project (e.g., paid search or Meta ad campaign, etc.)
They provide the same level of expertise and experience as a full-time CMO, but at a fraction of the cost (hence the name). This means that a fractional CMO can help a company establish and execute a successful marketing strategy without the financial commitment and overhead of hiring a full-time CMO, and without bearing the cost of the executive benefits that come with the role. Your finance department might fall in love.
They can help companies with creating a comprehensive marketing plan, developing a strong brand, and driving sales. For example, a fractional CMO can help a startup develop a marketing plan that includes a website redesign, social media marketing, and email campaigns to drive sales. Of course the effectiveness of these tactics will depend on the availability of budget and marketing operators to implement them.
They can also provide support and guidance to the in-house marketing team, this means that they can help with training and mentoring the marketing team members and with implementing new processes and technologies to improve the team's performance. Marketing Technology also known as MarTech and Revenue Operations also known as RevOps are key pieces that a lot of newer companies struggle with getting a grip on when they start a business.
When to hire a fractional CMO?
A company may consider hiring a fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) when they need a high-level marketing professional to lead their marketing strategy and execution, but do not have the resources or need for a full-time CMO. As seen with several startups over the years, this can be a cost-effective solution for teams that have limited budgets or need specific, short-term marketing support (but from an A+ pro).
For example, a small tech startup that raised a seed round of $250,000 may not have the budget or need for a full-time CMO (yet) - but need to launch their product with traction. They may hire a fractional CMO (sometimes called interim CMO) to develop and execute a launch plan, including market research, product positioning, and lead generation. This fractional CMO would work on a part-time or project basis, allowing the team to leverage the expertise necessary, without committing to the cost of a full-time employee (or c-suite benefits whew..)
Who should hire a fractional CMO?
It really depends on the use case / scenario in play. But here’s what I think:
- A growth hack for startups on a budget: Small startups or companies that are looking to establish a strong brand and marketing strategy, but do not have the resources or budget to hire a full-time CMO. CMOs who have good experience in their relative fields charge anywhere from $175,000 to $300,000 a year for a full-time position. And don’t forget the C-suite executive benefits that must be added, in addition to health benefits and other insurance yadi yadi yada.
- Move past "word of mouth" growth: Companies that are in the process of scaling up and need help building a marketing team and developing the necessary processes and systems to support growth. A lot of times, a technical founding team will build out a product and reach 5-6 figures in revenue and plateau. The reason is that a good product can only grow so much via word of mouth and other non-scalable marketing channels in 2023. And so this is where a startup can benefit the most by bringing in an interim CMO to help them.
- Scaling in a new market: Companies entering a new market and needing expertise and experience to navigate the challenge. This is a common case. When you first learned to drive your car, did you just behind a wheel, hit the pedal and hope for the best? No. You went to someone who’s been doing this for X years and learned from them. Scaling a company in a new industry is the exact same - although some growth principles may be agnostic, the best tactics for your product must be adopted from someone who’s done it multiple times before i.e., an experienced interim CMO (or fractional CMO) whatever you want to call them.
- Auto-pilot certain projects: Companies that need a marketing leader to manage a specific project or campaign, such as a website redesign or a product launch. There have been multiple cases where a startup will build and launch a channel, only for it to plateau/underperform. This is where you bring in an expert to manage and scale said campaign while your other team members focus on doing what they do best - product & sales.
- Temporary replacement for a full-time CMO: Companies that are need to fill a temporary marketing leadership gap, such as during a transition period between CMOs or when finding your first CMO. It’s tough to emphasize how important of a growth hack this. Imagine you’re able to bring in an ex-CEO who scaled a startup from $0 to 8-figures in revenue. And you can do this without the risk of him taking up equity, starting a political war with your investors and a 12-month commitment.. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t say yes to this? lol
Should I hire a fractional CMO?
When considering hiring a fractional CMO, companies should consider the following criteria. Disclaimer here is that although these are sound pointers, you should weigh this against your reality, funding, team’s comfort to bring in outside expertise, etc. Let’s dive in:
- Experience and expertise: Look for a fractional CMO with a proven track record of success in marketing, and expertise in the areas that are most relevant to your business. This can include experience in your industry, expertise in specific marketing channels, and knowledge of marketing technologies. “Success leaves traces.” And so when you do get in touch with a CMO, ask detailed questions about their past work and clients to gauge what they did and how good they truly are at it.
- Communication and leadership skills: A fractional CMO should ideally have strong interpersonal/soft skills to effectively manage a team and work with stakeholders across the organization, especially C-suite folks. Very underrated skillset and a lot of the times, a company doesn’t appreciate this until they’ve had a terrible experience or two with someone who doesn’t fit the right profile.
- Flexibility and adaptability: A fractional CMO should be able to adapt to the unique needs and challenges of your business, and be able to work effectively within the constraints of your budget and resources. Pretty standard. You want to work with someone who morphs a bit to fit how your company’s environment operates. Obviously, there must be a compromise from both ends at times. What’s important to note here, is that the variables (such as budget, project scope, etc.) must be communicated ahead of time as much as possible by your company to your CMO. Don’t let facts hit your CMO from left field after they join - do your best to proactively let them know ahead of time.
- Availability and responsiveness: A fractional CMO should be available and responsive to your needs, and able to work with you to establish a schedule that meets the needs of your business. One thing to bear in mind however, is that if you’re working with an interim CMO, there’s a good chance they’re also working with other clients, along with your company. And so aligning on time commitments proactively is extremely important. Don’t allow yourself (or your CMO) to be disappointed. Just be honest about expectations and expect the same from your CMO.
- Cultural fit: A fractional CMO should be a good fit for your company culture and values, and be able to work effectively with your team and stakeholders. This goes without saying - don’t hire someone who doesn’t identify with your executive/management/founding team thinks. But this applies more to 3-6-9 month commitments with a CMO. If you’re only looking to bring someone on for 4-8 weeks, then the cultural fit may not be the #1 criteria to look out for. It’s a good thing to gauge regardless.
And that's it for Part 2! I'll come back and post some more of the best responses. If you find these helpful and would like to explore bringing on a CMO to help your team, come book a call with me. See you on the next episode (haha). We've got some more articles on CMOs and startups if you're interested to read on! :)
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