Article | 26 Jan 2024

Fractional CMOs: What, Why & How They Can Transform Your Business

Posted in Business, Marketing, Freelancer, Industry news,

Freelancers and independent consultants rose in demand in 2023. Businesses strove to adapt to an unpredictable climate, achieve global regulations, and keep a competitive edge - all without sacrificing commercial goals.

So, leaders turned to agile talent. Talent that could provide strategic consultation and skilled input, working as an extension of the team. It's an effective model, and it's no longer relegated to senior or mid-level talent.

Fractional CMOs are rapidly becoming a market alternative to the permanent format. They bring the same executive capabilities as their traditional counterpart, but use expansive experience and industry know-how to amplify results, and do so on a more flexible and cost-conscious basis.

Here's your guide on the Fractional CMO, and how they can truly transform your business.

What is a Fractional CMO?

A Fractional CMO is a Chief Marketing Officer who's been deployed in a business on a contracted basis to oversee the strategic direction of a brand's marketing - from research to planning, development to execution.

Sitting alongside the CEO, CFO, and other key members of the Board, a Fractional CMO aligns recommendations with wider business objectives. They may work for one brand at a time, or have a portfolio of clients, much like any other independent professional.

Although the idea of a non-permanent CMO isn't new, the responsibilities and functions of the two roles aren't one and the same.

Interim CMOs have been used by companies for years, helping steer marketing activity at a top level in lieu of a permanent fixture. Typically, an interim is designed to take the position while a permanent CMO is sourced and recruited, or during a period of widespread change. Much as the name suggests, that individual will only sit in that role for an interim period.

Fractional CMOs are the more flexible, agile alternative. They benefit from having an outsider's point of view and often have diverse experience. They will look critically at what a brand is doing right and what they can do better. Usually, a fractional will partner with a business on a part-time basis, providing ongoing support as and when they're needed.

The popularity of the role is rapidly growing in the market - and the benefits are vast.

Why hire a Fractional CMO?

There's a perception that C-Suite only comprises permanent members of the workforce. The roles determine big-picture, long-term, often global company matters. So it's easy to assume that only permanent execs could have an in-depth understanding of, and act on a business' best interests.

But the landscape of business has changed drastically in recent years, triggering a shift in how we view talent. More and more brands are opting for external consultants to support their operations - including at the very top of decision-making.

A business might hire a Fractional CMO if they're a startup or scaleup, or if they have revenue goals (or other KPIs) that require senior support. Fractionals are also a great option for brands with limited resource but big ambitions, and for those undergoing transformation.

Maintaining an agile, flexible business model is one of the biggest attractors. Talent can usually be sourced and deployed swiftly, saving on longer-term costs associated with recruitment and permanent hires. It's also worth noting that interims are motivated to drive high impact for clients, not least because they have a finite amount of time to do so, but also to maintain their reputation in the industry.

Fractional CMOs and Business Transformation

Business transformation is as vital as ever. Like many independent professionals, Fractional CMOs are ideally positioned to drive fundamental change within an organisation. Quality talent will be as capable as a traditional CMO, but with the added benefit of bringing an external perspective into C-Suite.

Amongst other functions, a fractional looks at a brand's position without bias, and consults on current marketing activity. And importantly, they'll develop a path forward with the business's long-term objectives and the current market in mind.

Unlike CMOs promoted within an organisation or recruited from the industry, independent talent often have diverse experience - whether that's from different sectors, industries or skillsets. There's also a pool of Fractional CMOs with region-specific experience, making ideal hires for brands looking to expand overseas.

Building market value and relevancy requires innovation. Innovation which is often challenging to ideate in a stagnant workforce. But it also requires a degree of forward-thinking.

Opting for independent talent means greater access to insights. Fractional CMOs have a vested interest in keeping an ear to the ground, and assessing how trends, public rhetoric, and strategic decisions of competitors could influence the future of the market. Developing a plan that meets a brand's immediate needs, and longer-term position.

Changing tides in C-Suite…

For some, the concept of a Fractional CMO is still novel. And we understand better than anyone that hiring a Board member as a part-time consultant can feel contradictory to traditional business operations. But every leader has felt a shift over the past 5 years, and the future of talent will be more led by individual needs of individual businesses - rather than industry norms.

If you're interested in learning about Fractional CMOs, or other freelance professionals, get in touch with our team today. Or, if you do want to opt for an Interim CMO for now, we can help there too. Your talent, your terms.