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Pros and Cons of Hiring a Fractional CMO

The Pros and Cons of a Fractional CMO

Author
Jon Pielak
October 11, 2022

The CMO is often the black sheep of the executive team. Sure, they have the coveted “C” in their title, but it’s uncommon for marketing to hold the same space. Marketing is used as a tool to communicate with an audience. Like a phone, or a mic – it’s simply perceived as a conveyance for true value, value that lies in someone else’s domain. As a result, CMOs struggle to last*

For those of us in the field, we’d have a hard time with the counterpoint on this one. The perception is valid, yet businesses need to grow to be understood, to resonate with their audience in order to thrive. On top of that, invaluable data needs to flow to leaders who can make informed decisions about how to adapt and react to the market and competitive landscape. This comes from marketing, and more specifically – a sharpened CMO.

In today’s environment, we’re seeing the CMO reborn into other versions of themselves. Chief (Brand, Experience, Strategy, Digital, Growth, Innovation) Officers of various flavors and agendas are taking the station instead.  The evolution toward digital and technology, coupled with a growing demand for authenticity, means the typical CMO toolbox of storytelling, buzz and bs is losing steam.

The net effect being that Fractional CMOs are gaining traction, particularly in mid-market where the talent pool begins to thin out. Whether it’s recently retired CMOs from upmarket, or currently employed Marketing Directors looking to get a taste of the next level, there is an eagerness to perform without the degree of commitment behind it. Whether or not this is a fit for your organization remains to be seen, but many businesses are seeing success. Here’s some pros and cons to help get you started.

 

Pros

 

1 Depth of experience in your market.  Someone who has been through this before for a larger business upstream would bring a lot to the table and help cut out a lot of exploration time otherwise. Less seasoned experts, and agencies, have a tendency to experiment, learn, refine and continue. Imaging being able to jump to the end of that chain, saving valuable time and resources.

 

2An Outsider’s Perspective. Marketing must resonate with people that aren’t you. Having an outside perspective, both unadulterated and unbiased, helps to weed out the cheerleading often found with embedded staff.  Coupled with their industry experience, now a Fractional CMO can provide honest and clear direction from a fresh perspective. Most agencies attempt to meet this need, however its faulty. In order to keep profits up, agencies  relegate as much as possible to junior staff. On top of that, turnover is so problematic that continuity suffers.

 

3Perfect for a transition or launch Fractional CMOs don’t have to be long term, you can use them strategically and surgically. That means you may have more junior staff managing marketing for now, but as you go through key transitions like pivots, M&As, product launches, geographic expansion, etc – a Fractional CMO can inject a new level of leadership helping to calm the storm while creating new efficiencies.

 

To be honest, there’s a lot more Pros to list here, but we’re keeping it to the top three.

 

Cons

 

1 A champion for your brand is not fractional Asking someone to only invest a handful of hours a week, yet be fully capable of being an evangelist, champion and cheerleader all in one is a big request. Instead, look to the CEO to step into that role, while your marketing leadership focuses on traction and growth.

 

2The substitute teacher dynamic Your established marketing and sales staff will often struggle with a measure of resentment, having a ‘temp’ guide them to the promise land. They no doubt feel this is their cross to bear, and they don’t want this know-it-all taking it off the rails. As problems arise, they expect the newcomer to blame any stumbles on their inadequacies. Let the spitballs commence.

 

We tried to think through a third, and it just sounded like a variant of the ‘they are part time, which is less than optimal’ theme. So we’ll keep it to two.

 

If you’re interested…

and you decide you’d like to try a Fractional CMO for your business, or are considering becoming one yourself  just let us know!

 

*Harvard Business Review: Why CMOs Never Last > Part 1 of 5 Spotlight Series: The Trouble with CMOs