Why it's hard finding a reliable CMO for hire in 2024

Eliza Jaskolski
Talent Manager at HireCMO

This blog shows you our findings from running HireCMO and interacting with several founders, c-suite executives and chief marketing officers. Hiring someone credible for your marketing leadership team may sound straightforward. But getting a CMO for hire can get very murky because of the all the big words and fast talking most charlatan applicants will do to get past your bullshit detectors - after all, there's a 6-figure salary and incredible bonuses if they get hired.

It can be scary and greasy finding the perfect hire from a sea of mystery candidates, but I'll do my best to make it straightforward so you can do this without our help.

And btw, if you want us to find a fractional CMO or full time chief marketing officer for you within 2-3 days, just drop us your email on our homepage directly.

But first - what exactly is a CMO for hire supposed to do?

And no, before you feel bad about asking this - it's not a dumb question. You're here to read up on something you want to know more about. You're already ahead of the other 80%. Give yourself some credit. Let's jump in.

In recent internet years, everyone and their mom is claiming to be a fractional chief marketing officer. We write about the dangers of hiring one in detail here.

But before all that craziness there was the classic, 40-hour a week full-time chief marketing officer. This person's part of your C-suite, working closely with the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) and other company leaders, and takes ownership of Marketing function of your entire company.

At a high-level, here are a few of the critical roles a chief marketing officer plays. Do bear in mind that this may vary depending on your industry, market timing, budget, company size, vision, etc.:

Creating & Implementing Marketing Strategies

Developing comprehensive marketing plans aligned with the company's quarterly and yearly goals. This includes working closely with the product and sales teams to align on how their challenges and objectives align with the marketing vision of the company. Tough stuff. Never easy!

Brand Management

Overseeing the organization's brand identity and ensuring consistent brand messaging. One of our brand experts (and fractional chief marketing officer) Uana talks about how she thinks companies can build and maintain their branding. Check out her thought-provoking responses here during our interview (10 min read.)

Customer Research and Insights

Conducting market research to understand customer needs and preferences. This includes not just going out to market and talking with current and potential customers, but also interacting with internal team members to see how they understand the company's ideal customer profile.

The CMO's role is to investigate and course-correct the true image of who (consumers or businesses) the company serves, as this'll reflect on all sorts of inbound and outbound channels and mediums for the company. And align the sales and product teams with the on the correct production positioning. Critical.

Marketing Campaign Management

Planning, executing, and tracking marketing campaigns to drive customer acquisition and retention. And this includes both organic channels like social media and SEO, and also paid media like advertising on LinkedIn, TikTok, etc.

Although your chief marketing officer may not be privy to every minute detail on these campaigns, they bear the responsibility of ensuring that your company does not lose money on customer acquisition and is able to scale these channels profitably. Quick reminder here that your internal marketing teams alone may not be responsible for managing all these channels.

Thinkific for instance, hires multiple agencies to manage different (or sometimes even the same) organic/paid channels. Your own company's marketing strategy and approach will differ. Better hire a cmo (great blog piece) that knows what they're doing haha!

Budget Management

Responsible for your marketing budget and allocating resources effectively. This one's a no-brainer. But what's critical here is making sure that you hire a CMO who has handled marketing budgets in the range that you're currently at. The risk and cost appetite of a $50M startup is different from that of a $2B corporation, which'll impact how your marketing teams think about your marketing strategy.

Product or Service Launches

This one's huge. Strategizing and executing product or service launches and promotions is key. If you're a $50M+ annual revenue company, your brand revamp and product launches can't afford to be messy. Working with a marketing leader (or outsourced CMO) who has (a) had experience with similar launches at past companies and (b) knows how to set the scene by building partnerships in advance, can truly be the difference between a successful launch and utter failure. True story.

Analytics and Metrics

I know you're probably rolling your eyes at this one. But setting up your "MarTech" (short for Marketing Technology stack) and analyzing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to actually see if your marketing function is working is kind of a big deal. It's how you hold your CMO accountable, and how your Board and investors measure success.

It's why you even hired your chief marketing officer (LOL). And so this is a critical role that your full-time and fractional CMO/outsourced CMO plays.

Team Leadership

I'll rant a bit here. So a lot of people in the market, for some odd reason, think that a fractional CMO somehow gets to "bypass" the responsibilities of a full time CMO since they're only working part-time.. this is absurd. Sure, they won't be attending all your recurring meetings and CC'ed in every email, but a fractional CMO's ownership and accountability should be the exact same as a full time CMO's.

There may be instances where their responsibilities only cover the day-to-day of the marketing team and nothing outside of it. But if I'm being frank... if you're going to a hire a fractional CMO for your company, be sure to read the fine print to make sure you're not paying for an overpriced marketer who'll avoid the dirty work and "only cover the strategy stuff." Lots of charlatans. Many more bullet dodgers. And you want to be well-equipped to get what your money's worth. I digress.

A CMO (again, whether or not they are an outsourced CMO) must be ready to communicate with other business leaders within your company to align the company's marketing leadership to the overall marketing picture. This is a heavily oversimplified way of saying that your CMO is a leader. And they must act like one - which includes working with other decision makers, training other junior marketers on the team, having those difficult conversations to bring the focus back to revenue growth, etc.

At HireCMO, we don't stand people who try to skip their responsibilities. And so my team integrated this principle into how we hire and who we bring onto client engagements. Critical both for your success and ours :)

But wait - what kind of CMO should I even hire?

I'll warn you here. Most employers like yourself get FOMO when they hear the word "fractional CMO". It sounds sexy (and vague tbh) and most executive recruiters who'll do the hiring on your behalf, will act like you're getting 10x the value for one tenth (1/10) the price of a full time CMO. This couldn't further from the truth as there's nuances that are often skipped by greedy middleman firms.. so I'll explain it all in simple terms and be as honest as possible with you!

The full time CMO: 40+ hours a week

This is your knight in shining armour. He wears the accolades of the greatest marketer known to man. Has executed marketing strategies effortlessly in the past, handled 8-figure budgets, trained entire rooms of marketers, has 10 podcast episodes, delivered shiny presentations at those pricey conferences and excels at deploying any kind of marketing strategy in any type of scenario.


Hate to break it to you, but that CMO doesn't usually exist. And if they do, you'll have to be connected to deep networks (like ours at HireCMO) who have developed relationships with senior marketing executives for years - nice way of saying that I usually get an email if a CMO is thinking of jumping ship 4-5 weeks ahead of time. What better way for you to jumpstart your search, before she even opens up her docket to everyone else? :)

In your search, you'll find that the perfect CMO does exist, but they're usually T-shaped. Fancy way of saying they usually do one thing very, very well. And for the other domains of marketing, they'll have a "mile wide and inch deep" approach where they can guide you through the basics but are not experts on said topics.

Some good examples of T-shaped CMOs are on our CMO interview series - Brayden and Roger for instance, are terribly good at paid media buying. Meaning, they're the ones who can setup, test and optimize your paid advertising marketing campaigns on LinkedIn, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, etc. But are they the best at SEO? Not entirely, and so we have another guy who has been a thought leader on SEO for 10+ years. There's levels to this.

The fractional CMO: 2-3 days a week

This is still your knight in shining armour, but instead of paying for them to attend countless standing meetings and giving away fat severance packages, you're only paying for them to do the work that pushes your revenue needle forward. We should trademark that: Push the revenue needle.

"Fractional CMO" really just means a full time CMO who's only billing you for the work that gets done by them. That's it. Some call them part time CMO, freelance CMO, outsourced CMO, temporary CMO, interim CMO, etc. I know we have our prejudice and biases which makes us mentally "lessen" the impact and effectiveness of their title when we hear the words "freelance" or "outsourced".

But here's the uncomfortable truth - how your hire will perform depends on their character/qualifications and not how many hours they're at the watercooler per week. This may sound funny, but in 2024, when everyone's trying to slash OpEx (Operating Expenses), we need to think efficiently about demanding more from our hires while being reasonable about the number of hours we expect them to spend with us. And bringing on a fractional CMO is one clever way of winning at this.

The reason my team even got into this business of finding a fractional CMO for startups and companies is because the best ones tend to be execution-focused, and are absolutely tired of spinning their wheels and getting their marketing efforts blocked by red tape.

This doesn't of course mean they're rowdy (lol) but they'll trim the fat and get to the point with you. They'll show you exactly what isn't working, what needs fixing and candidly explain the potential right way to win. Well, at least the ones we bring on at HireCMO are like that. And our founder (who also founded a similar company in the past) onboards them personally and is extremely picky with their character, qualifications and work ethic.

So we know there's 2 types of CMOs now. But... if you're not an ex-marketer, it'll take you a few hours to wrap your head around what a marketing executive even does. I know I personally needed a few weeks and 7+ conversations with marketing directors (lol) to start grasping all of it.

Okay, so what's a good CMO job description?

I'm glad you asked. But before we dive in, if you're looking for job descriptions for other marketers in your company or know someone who could use a reference/template, this piece we wrote may be very helpful!

And before you even go on and hire a fractional CMO, you should first get your own house in order. Harsh, I know, But it's the reality and my team wrote about it here.

A full time CMO job description is just basically derived from the responsibilities section above in this article. But I've consolidated it all for you on a Google Doc here, in case it's faster. For a fractional CMO job description however, I'm personally a little passionate about it, so I've decided to give you some bonus points below that you can use to vet the applicants that come your way. These are generally 80% of the responsibilities that a fractional CMO may be expected to deliver when she joins your team:

Customer and Stakeholder Conversations

Creating your company's growth strategy from scratch (if needed) by having deep customer and internal stakeholder conversations. Ensuring the marketing team is aligned with said key decision makers/business leaders and facilitating those discussions so they are able to push the needle. Marketing communications is key!

Strong Alignment

Confirming that they understand their role (marketing) is not a silo function and must align with business development, product and sales efforts that were/are/will be in effect for the following 30-60-90 days.

Scale Profitably and Lower CAC

Finding the inbound marketing channel most profitable for your company to grow (trade shows, direct sales, SEO, email marketing, etc.) and then helping test, set up and optimize them over time with in-house resources and external marketing agencies. Side note, most of our CMOs actually have their own agencies/freelancers, so they can 2x the speed of execution when they join your team! Crazy, I know.

Post Mortem for Data Points

Aiming to lower the cost of customer acquisition by investigating your current marketing channels in play, marketing automation that may need revamping and analyzing previous marketing programs that failed or succeeded to find ways to impact your revenue growth. Important.


Coaching the founding team, helping prioritize activities, reviewing marketing strategy, ensuring marketing efforts across the board are aligned with the 3-6-9 month vision, etc.

Training junior marketers (like any good marketing leader does) and helping to vet new marketers or agencies that may need to be onboarded to execute on the strategic marketing plan e.g., putting out an RFP for a social media marketing agency so that your marketing efforts don't stay stagnated due to the lack of resources/employees at your company. Btw, one of our fractional CMOs is intensely great at scaling on social media. Thought you'd want to know!

Marketing Technology and Data Analytics

Creating marketing dashboards, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reporting to the Board and investors. I know some companies who offer fractional CMO services will try to weasel out of this one, but again, when you're hiring a fractional CMO, you're bringing in a marketing leader and not an overpriced freelancer off the street.

Roger was once telling me how reporting to the Board is one of the key activities that a good CMO can offload from the founding team/CEO's plate since there will be elements that a non-marketer just won't be privy to. Roger's that passionate fractional CMO on our team who loves to nerd out on setting up and consolidating marketing technology (often called MarTech) across clients for accurate data reporting, which ultimately enriches the accuracy of KPIs that you'll show your stakeholders.

That's great, but should I go for a full time or a fractional CMO?

My favourite question. And just so you know, HireCMO can help you find both types. Just share your email on our homepage and I'll send you some potential profiles from our team. Here are the questions you need to ask yourself/your marketing team/CXOs in order to determine the right answer here:

What's our core marketing focus right now?

Bringing in any chief marketing officer, throwing money at him and expecting him to turnaround your company .. will not work. The most effective marketing strategies are not cookie cutters, and if any fractional CMO tells you otherwise, run.

Ask yourself if your team needs execution (i.e., setting up facebook ad campaigns and bringing in qualified visitors to your site) or just needs more strategic leadership (i.e., product positioning, brand management, etc.).

What's our alternative, really?

Do we have the bandwidth, capital and expertise in-house to meet our immediate marketing needs effectively? If not, are there alternative ways to do this instead of bringing in a fractional CMO? Side note, if capital's tight, our CMOs can also coach your marketing/CXO team on a weekly basis on key growth initiatives. Great for being a sounding board and course-correcting as needed - if interested, email us at [email protected]!

Can we even commit resources to an outsourced CMO?

Many times, sadly, a company will hire a fractional CMO services company and go through all the hoops to hire a CMO, only to realize that they don't actually have the capital or in-house manpower to support that new hire! It's depressing for both parties.

My team obviously does due diligence prior to matching you with your new hire, but if you're on your own, I recommend having the "let's get real" conversation with your team so you can actually commit resources to your new hire. There's one fractional CMO on our team who has their own agency to execute on the strategy that he builds. Pretty clever imho.

What's our definition of success for the outsourced CMO?

May be tough to define for your team at first. But walking blindfolded into a discovery call with your new chief marketing officer doesn't make your team look prepared and quite frankly should scare any applicant, as this is an obvious sign of misalignment of incentives on your end - sorry!

How much can we really spend on a fractional CMO?

My team allows you to hire one for a monthly subscription (yay!) but you must sit down with your marketing and leadership team first to align on how much you're willing to spend on bringing in your new chief marketing officer. Critical. For us, it starts from $5K/month and goes up based on the scope of their work with you! :)

Wrapping up!

Sincerely hope this helped. We tried to cover everything and be super honest about it. This article should contain 70-80% of the things you need to do before/during your search for a marketing leader. If you have any questions, or just want to have a casual chat about this whole process (with 0 obligation to purchase anything) just email us at [email protected], or just find some time on our founder's calendar directly.

We wish you best in your search! :)

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