Growing a business is no small feat. As a fellow entrepreneur running a marketing agency, I know the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to make a company succeed. And I also know that even with the most dedicated team, having the right marketing leadership in place can make all the difference.

That's why I want to have an open and helpful conversation about fractional CMOs - how they can be invaluable partners in your company's growth journey. Fractional CMOs have gotten a bad rap in some circles, seen as mercenaries who swoop in, make a few changes, collect their checks, and peace out. But the reality is far more nuanced. The right fractional CMO, with the proper fit and incentives, can catalyze transformational growth even at early stage companies.

So in this article, I draw on my own experience as an operator and advisor to give a transparent and balanced perspective. Whether a fractional CMO model is right for your business will depend greatly on your needs and constraints. My goal is simply to explore the key considerations so you can make an informed decision. I hope you find this advice genuine and useful.

The benefits of fractional CMOs are no secret. In fact, according to a recent study, over half of all businesses with under $250 million in revenue will utilize a fractional CMO in the coming year. Not only do fractional CMOs bring diverse experience and creativity to the table, but they also cost 60-80% less than full-time employees.
Fractional CMO Traditional CMO
Work arrangement Part-time basis Full-time basis
Cost Less expensive More expensive
Expertise Broad range of expertise Deep expertise in marketing
Focus Results-driven Strategy-driven
Availability Available on demand Available 24/7

When do you need a fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO is a type of CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) who has a contract with the company to provide services. A fractional CMO may be called a "half-time" or "quarter-time" CMO, which means they work a reduced schedule at half or less than full-time hours per week.

A fractional CMO can help you if:

You are an early-stage company and don't need someone full-time or want to pay for it right now.
You want someone with marketing experience but don't want the extra cost associated with hiring someone full-time.
You have already hired your own marketing team but are looking for assistance in areas where they may not have the expertise, such as PR, social media, or SEO/SEM strategy.

Determine which fractional CMO model is suitable for you.

Fractional CMOs come in two different forms:

  • The most common type is the CMO-as-a-service, where a company hires an outside firm to handle all its marketing needs. This option allows companies to focus on their core business while still getting expert guidance from a seasoned professional. It's also easier for companies with limited resources because they don't have to hire or train any new staff members.
  • The other option is the CMO-as-a-consultant, where a large firm brings in an experienced leader who works on specific projects rather than taking over entire operations at once. This approach gives businesses more control over their marketing plans but requires more overhead costs since more people are involved (though this may be worth it if you need help making significant changes).

Find the skill set that matches your need.

Look for someone who has experience in your industry. Fractional CMOs come from various industries, so you may have to search outside your own industry if you're looking for a specific type of experience. If possible, find someone with recent experience at a similar company and try to learn as much as possible about their background and approach before choosing them as an advisor or consultant—especially if they are going to be working with employees on the front lines of customer-facing roles at your company once hired.

Look for someone who has experience with your culture. If there are cultural factors that impact your business model (for example, if there is significant variation between how customers are treated based on their demographic or geographic location), then it would make sense to select an advisor whose style meshes well with yours while they take charge of those aspects under their purview during this temporary period where they fill some critical holes left by senior leadership vacancies.

Learner's mindset

A critical characteristic you should look for in someone who's going to run a fractional CMO is a learner's mindset. This means they are open to new ideas and willing to learn from their mistakes and listen to others around them.

It's essential to find someone who wants to take risks, try new things and learn from successes and failures.

Talk to your team to get their input.

It's always a good idea to ask your team for their input. Many factors go into choosing the right fractional CMO, and it can be easy to miss something. By discussing the candidates with them, you'll see if they have any reservations or doubts about one or more of them. They may also have some ideas on how you could find a better CMO candidate than those who came up during your research phase!

Look for someone who cares about your company.

When choosing a fractional CMO, look for someone who cares about your company. A fractional CMO should be invested in your success and have a vested interest in seeing your company succeed. They should be interested in working with you because they see something special that they want to help achieve. The best fractional CMOs will understand what makes you different from other companies and share your passion for being unique.

An excellent way to determine if someone is passionate about working with you is by asking them super specific questions about their past experience working with similar companies like yours (if applicable). A great response would include particular examples of how he grew their business through his efforts, as well as details on how he accomplished these goals.


1. What is a fractional CMO and how does it differ from a traditional CMO?

A fractional CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is a senior marketing executive who works with multiple clients on a part-time basis. They are typically hired by companies that cannot afford to hire a full-time CMO or do not need one on a full-time basis. Fractional CMOs bring the same expertise and strategic thinking to the table as a traditional CMO, but they work with several clients at once. This allows them to offer their services at a fraction of the cost of a full-time CMO.

2. What benefits does a fractional CMO bring to a company?

A fractional CMO can bring several benefits to a company. For example, they can provide a fresh perspective on the company's marketing strategy, help to identify areas for growth, and provide guidance on how to achieve marketing goals. They can also help to build a team of marketing professionals, develop marketing campaigns, and measure the success of those campaigns. A fractional CMO can be a valuable asset to a company looking to improve their marketing efforts.

3. How much does a fractional CMO typically cost?

The cost of a fractional CMO can vary depending on the scope of work and the level of experience of the CMO. Typically, a fractional CMO will charge a monthly retainer fee that is based on the number of hours they work each month. This fee can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per month, depending on the CMO's level of experience and the complexity of the project.

4. What qualifications and experience should I look for in a fractional CMO?

When hiring a fractional CMO, it is important to look for someone with extensive marketing experience and a proven track record of success. Look for someone who has worked in a leadership role in marketing, has experience working with companies in your industry, and has a deep understanding of marketing trends and best practices. Additionally, look for a fractional CMO who has excellent communication skills, is able to work well with a team, and is passionate about their work.

5. How do I determine if my company needs a fractional CMO?

If your company is struggling to achieve its marketing goals or lacks a clear marketing strategy, hiring a fractional CMO may be a good option. Additionally, if you do not have the budget to hire a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO can provide the expertise and guidance you need at a more affordable price point.

6. What kind of results can I expect from a fractional CMO?

The results you can expect from a fractional CMO will depend on the scope of work and the goals you have set for your marketing strategy. However, in general, a fractional CMO can help you to improve your brand awareness, increase your website traffic, generate more leads, and increase your overall revenue.

7. How long should I expect to work with a fractional CMO?

The length of time you work with a fractional CMO will depend on your specific needs and the goals you have set for your marketing strategy. Some companies may only need a fractional CMO for a few months, while others may work with a fractional CMO for several years. It is important to have a clear understanding of your goals and the scope of work before you hire a fractional CMO.

8. Can I work with a fractional CMO remotely?

Yes, most fractional CMOs are able to work remotely. This can be an advantage for companies that are located in different parts of the country or the world. Remote work also allows fractional CMOs to work with several clients at once, which can make their services more affordable for clients. However, it is important to establish clear communication channels and set expectations for communication and collaboration when working remotely.

9. How do I ensure that a fractional CMO is a good fit for my company culture?

When hiring a fractional CMO, it is important to look for someone who shares your company values and culture. Look for someone who is passionate about their work and who is a good communicator. Additionally, you can ask for references from other clients the fractional CMO has worked with to get a sense of their working style and approach.

10. What is the process for hiring a fractional CMO and how long does it typically take?

The process for hiring a fractional CMO will vary depending on the individual CMO and the company's needs. Typically, the process will involve an initial consultation to discuss the company's goals and needs, followed by a proposal outlining the scope of work, timeline, and budget. Once the proposal is agreed upon, the fractional CMO will begin working on the project. The length of time it takes to hire a fractional CMO will depend on the complexity of the project and the availability of the CMO, but typically the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.