Fractional Leadership and the Fractional CMO

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This blog series will outline some high-level considerations and offer some insight into the five major types of Fractional Leadership: marketing, sales, operations, finance, and technology.

The information is a consolidation of my personal experience as a Fractional Leader (FL), retaining other FLs in businesses I managed or manage, interviews with FLs on my podcast, Win-Win—An Entrepreneurial Community, and my network and relationships with other FLs.

My experience in operations and being a Fractional Leader in companies running on EOS certainly contribute to my knowledge of operations. I am not, however, a subject matter expert in marketing, sales, finance, or technology. These topics are written in reliance on business owners and FLs in those fields — from a 30,000-foot perspective.

For this blog, we’ll focus on the Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (FCMO).

Know When Your Marketing Strategy Needs Help

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re not fully satisfied with the results of your business’s marketing strategy. You know there’s room for improvement, and chances are you’ve come to one or more of the below realizations:

  • Your marketing efforts are scattershot without a clearly defined story and message geared toward a clearly defined target market that runs through every single thing you do.
  • You’re frustrated with the declining results you’re seeing from your sales and marketing and know you need to step up your game, or things will fall apart.
  • You’re also frustrated with and know marketing agencies are no longer the answer for your particular problem because they require so much of your or your team’s time to direct and supervise, or perhaps they don’t get what you need.
  • Your company has a gross revenue of $5–$50 million. Most of your growth was based on your strength in sales, but you’ve probably never had a marketing leader who has “been there and done that” as a partner with a sales organization and cannot afford one full-time.

So, what is next? You have or can get more tactical, in-the-trenches marketing help internally or through a marketing agency or consultant. But you recognize that you might be throwing away money on this without an FCMO to take over the strategic leadership of these resources.

Do You Need a Marketing Agency, Consultant or an FCMO?

How do you know whether you should engage with a marketing agency or consultant or a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

The short answer is that marketing agencies and consultants are generally suitable for short-term, discrete projects like setting up your target market, brand messaging, creatives, a new website, or a rebrand. If you have the capacity and internal leadership to supervise the consultant and then carry out all the follow-through that naturally comes after their project, this may be a good option.

If, however, you lack that internal bandwidth, you may be throwing away a lot of money by hiring a consultant because you’ll lack the focused attention to oversee the engagement while it’s going on, as well as for the follow-up execution afterward. You won’t get the full advantage of what you retained them to do.

Marketing agencies can oversee ongoing pay-per-click, print, email, blog, content marketing, videos, or other kinds of marketing campaigns on an ongoing basis. But who’s leading them? Who’s ensuring that their efforts are part of a cohesive strategy? Do you or does someone on your team know what to look for so that the money you’re spending with them isn’t going to waste? Are they continually iterating and improving? Are the messages they’re putting into the world on your behalf consistent with what your salespeople are saying and communicating? Do they reflect a message that demonstrably gets your clients or customers the way you do?

If you or someone on your team has the experience and capacity to oversee a marketing consultant or agency’s work and can continually ensure its effectiveness and consistency with your business and its clients, then that’s great! Those are likely the best resources for you, especially in your earlier stages of growth.

But if you don’t have the bandwidth to oversee their efforts in a robust way, an FCMO is an excellent and cost-effective resource. They can give you a fast, low-risk way to bring that experience, expertise, and bandwidth in-house to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your precious marketing buck.

Be Sure to Ask These 3 Questions When Hiring an FCMO

If you’ve decided that hiring a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer is the best course of action for growing your business, there are specific questions you should be sure to ask when vetting for an FCMO.

  1. Ask them to tell you about the marketing teams (including external vendors and internal teams) they’ve built or led. You want to find someone who hasn’t just been a solo consultant where they did all the heavy lifting themselves. Even if they did a great job as a solo practitioner, this does not mean they can do it at the CMO level for you if they haven’t successfully done that before.
  2. Ask if they have been a CMO fractionally before and inquire about that experience. Fractional C-level leadership requires different skills than full-time leadership. Even those FCMOs who have successfully been full-time C-level executives before may not succeed in a fractional engagement.If they seem very tactics-focused, this may be a bit of a red flag. It may indicate that they don’t understand strategic marketing leadership. Most of the great CMOs I’ve met and heard from almost always emphasize the target market, story, and message before they get into specific tactics.
  3. Probe whether they are on the same page with you regarding the purpose of marketing in your business. Is it purely and only a lead generation tool — performance marketing? Or are you looking to build brand and reputation for the longer-term — brand marketing?This type of distinction will make a huge difference in their focus. If you’re out of sync on what kind of outcomes you’re looking for, then the whole experience will be very frustrating for both of you. Clearly explain what’s important to you without any embarrassment and ask them to explain their point of view or plan on that.

These considerations are just some of what goes into understanding what a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer can do to bring your company to the next level. If your current marketing is in good (or good enough) shape, is your sales team properly capitalizing on the demand created by the marketing team? In our next blog in this series, I’ll discuss how engaging a Fractional Chief Sales Officer (FCSO) can ensure they do just that.

Ben Wolf Author
Ben Wolf, founder and CEO of Fractional Leadership, has been on both sides of the Fractional Leader search process.
As a leader in companies where he served as Fractional Integrator (outsourced COO), he has searched for and found multiple Fractional Leaders for clients. And as a Fractional Integrator, he has gone through many cycles looking for new clients at the successful conclusion of each engagement.
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