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What is a Fractional CMO: Everything you need to know

Fractional CMO: Everything you need to know - Allura Digital Blog

The marketing challenge facing a lot of B2B businesses out there

Are you a SaaS startup or an SMB struggling to make marketing work for your business?

Maybe you have a small marketing team, but they’re using a ton of different tactics without any sort of a plan or a strategy. Maybe you’ve hired a couple of freelancers but they’re not reliable and you’re having a hard time managing them. Maybe you’ve outsourced your marketing to an agency, but they’re not living up to their promises.

These are all signs that you lack the right marketing leadership in your business. A lot of founders and CEOs out there think they can just hire a couple of people with a college degree and maybe 1-2 years of marketing experience and drive amazing results. Clearly, that doesn’t work for most companies.

In order to make marketing work for your B2B business, you need an experienced leader by your side - somebody who can analyze your business, your competition and your target audience to build a cohesive marketing strategy. They can then provide ongoing support and guide your team on how to implement that strategy to build brand awareness, align the company's goals and messaging with the needs of its target audience and drive revenue.

If you’re looking to hire a marketing leader, you have two options:

  1. Hire somebody full-time as an employee. Full-time CMOs typically cost between $150,000 - $200,000/year, plus benefits. Unless you’re a well-funded startup or a large company, this is going to be very expensive for you, and frankly, you don't need one.

  2. Hire a Fractional CMO instead. This model allows companies to access the expertise and experience of a CMO without the full-time commitment or cost. A Fractional CMO is the best option for startups or small businesses that don't have the resources or need for a full-time CMO.

In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about a Fractional CMO, including the benefits, cost, different models and how to choose the right fractional CMO for your business.

Jump to:

What is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO, also known as a part-time or interim CMO, is a marketing leader who works with a company on a part-time or project-based basis. Fractional CMOs are typically experienced professionals who have a track record of success in marketing and can bring a fresh perspective and expertise to a company's marketing efforts.

A fractional CMO is typically responsible for developing and implementing marketing strategies, overseeing marketing campaigns, analyzing market trends, and managing budgets and resources. They may work closely with the company’s leadership and sales teams to align marketing efforts with business objectives.

Demand for fractional CMOs is growing, especially after the pandemic. As remote working became normal, a lot of companies are realizing that they don’t need a full-time marketing leader in-house. An outsourced executive with the right experience can be just as valuable and deliver the same results - while working remotely. It also allows companies to save a lot of money.

Benefits of hiring a Fractional CMO

There are several benefits of hiring a fractional CMO for your business. Here are the top ones:


One of the main benefits of hiring a fractional CMO is the expertise and experience they bring to the table. Fractional CMOs are typically highly knowledgeable about marketing and have a deep understanding of the strategies and tactics that drive results. They are experienced professionals who have led marketing teams to success at companies, and as fractional CMOs, they work with a wide range of clients, allowing them to bring rich and diverse experiences to new clients.

They can provide valuable insights and guidance to help a company develop and implement a cohesive marketing strategy that covers:

  • Messaging

  • Positioning

  • Content strategy (creation + distribution)

  • Marketing channels (website, social media, search, email, PPC, trade shows etc)

  • Tactics for each channel

  • Budget

  • Resource allocation and more.

They also implement the right SOPs and proven frameworks to bring more efficiency to your marketing efforts and ensure your limited resources are being optimally utilized.


In addition to expertise, hiring a fractional CMO also provides companies with flexibility. By hiring a fractional CMO, a company can get the benefits of a CMO without the commitment of a full-time hire. Unlike a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO can be brought in on a part-time or project-based basis, allowing companies to scale their marketing efforts up or down as needed.

This can be especially beneficial for companies that are in a growth phase or are looking to make a significant change in their marketing strategy.


Another benefit of hiring a fractional CMO is cost-effectiveness. Because fractional CMOs are only hired on a part-time or project-based basis, companies only pay for their time and expertise as needed. This can be a more cost-effective solution than hiring a full-time CMO, especially for smaller companies or those with limited marketing budgets. As we mentioned earlier, hiring a full-time CMO can cost you $150,000-$200,000/year plus benefits. Plus if you take into account the time you spend in recruiting, onboarding and training one, the overall cost is even higher.

A fractional CMO on the other hand comes at a fraction of the cost, you don’t need to pay them any benefits and with the vast experience have, they can hit the ground running, saving you a ton of time and money in training and onboarding. You can save almost 80% with a fractional CMO, while getting the same value and results.

Fresh Perspective

Fractional CMOs can also bring a fresh perspective to a company's marketing efforts. One of the biggest roadblocks for companies is that there’s a strong bias in the leadership team about the way things ought to be done. When you’ve been running a business for a while, it’s easy to stop seeing things objectively. This can affect your decision-making, particularly when it comes to marketing your products or services. You stick to the traditional tractics that you’ve always implemented, not realizing that there are other, often better ways of doing something.

Because a fractional CMO is not as closely tied to the company's day-to-day operations, they can bring new ideas and approaches that can help a company stand out in its industry. This can be especially valuable for companies that are entering into new markets, launching new products/services or have simply hit a wall with marketing ideas.

A fractional CMO can come in and identify problems that you probably didn’t even know existed in your organization, that were the ‘real’ reasons why your marketing isn’t working.

When to consider hiring a Fractional CMO

There are several reasons why a business might consider hiring a fractional CMO. Here are a few scenarios in which it might make sense to bring on a fractional CMO:

  • The business does not have the resources or need for a full-time CMO: If a business is small or has limited marketing needs, it may not make sense to hire a full-time CMO. In these cases, a fractional CMO can provide the expertise and guidance needed to develop and implement marketing strategies without the full-time commitment and the subsequent high cost of a full-time hire.

  • The business needs to improve its marketing efforts: If a business is not seeing the desired results from its marketing efforts, a fractional CMO can help to assess the current strategy and recommend changes to improve its effectiveness.

  • The business is experiencing rapid growth or change: Rapid growth or significant changes to the business, such as launching a new product or entering a new market, can put additional pressure on marketing efforts. A fractional CMO can develop and implement marketing strategies to support this growth and ensure that the company’s marketing efforts are aligned with the company's goals.

  • The business is lacking marketing leadership: A business may have a marketing team in place, but lacks the leadership and guidance needed to effectively execute on marketing strategies. A fractional CMO can provide the necessary leadership and oversight to ensure that marketing efforts are aligned with the company's goals.

  • The business is facing a specific marketing challenge: A fractional CMO can help identify and address specific marketing challenges, such as a decline in sales or a need to rebrand the business.

Ultimately, whether or not to hire a fractional CMO will depend on the specific needs and resources of the business. It may be worth considering a fractional CMO if the business is in need of marketing expertise and guidance, but is not ready or able to commit to a full-time CMO. From our experience, most small businesses and early-stage startups do not need a full-time CMO. For them, a fractional CMO is ideal.

Responsibilities of a Fractional CMO

The responsibilities of a fractional CMO can vary depending on the specific needs and goals of the organization, but some common responsibilities may include:

  1. Developing and implementing a marketing strategy: A fractional CMO will work with the organization's leadership team to identify its target audience, analyze the competitive landscape, establish the messaging and positioning, define marketing goals, and develop a plan to achieve those goals.

  2. Managing marketing campaigns: A fractional CMO will be responsible for overseeing the execution of marketing campaigns, including managing budgets, overseeing website optimization, creation and distribution of content, and managing paid campaigns.

  3. Market research: A fractional CMO will also be responsible for identifying and analyzing market trends and consumer behavior to inform marketing decisions and campaigns.

  4. Working with external partners: The fractional CMO will coordinate with external partners such as marketing/advertising agencies, PR/media outlets and freelancers to execute marketing campaigns and initiatives.

  5. Analyzing and measuring marketing performance: A fractional CMO will use data and analytics to track the success of marketing efforts and identify areas for improvement and optimize for future campaigns using custom reports and dashboards.

  6. Providing marketing leadership: As a part of the leadership team, a fractional CMO will work to align marketing efforts with the overall strategy and goals of the organization. They may also act as a mentor/coach for other marketing team members.

Fractional CMO models

There are main models for fractional CMOs, including:

  1. Retainer model: In this model, the fractional CMO is hired on a retainer basis and is paid a fixed fee for their services. The fractional CMO works with the company on a regular basis, but their scope and involvement and may vary depending on the needs of the organization.

  2. Project-based model: In this model, the fractional CMO is hired on a project-specific basis. They are brought in to work on a specific marketing campaign or initiative, and their involvement ends once the project is completed.

  3. Interim model: An interim fractional CMO is hired on a temporary basis to fill in for a full-time CMO who is absent or has left the company. They may be hired to cover a leave of absence or to lead a company through a transition period until a permanent CMO can be hired.

Key Considerations: What to look for in a Fractional CMO

There are several key considerations to keep in mind when hiring a fractional CMO. Here are a few factors you should keep in mind:

  1. Expertise and experience: It's important to consider the expertise and experience of the fractional CMO in relation to the specific needs of the business. This may include specific industry knowledge, experience with certain marketing channels, or expertise in a particular area of marketing.

  2. Communication and collaboration skills: A fractional CMO will need to work effectively with your team and other stakeholders, so it's important to find someone with strong communication and collaboration skills.

  3. Track record: Look for a fractional CMO with a track record of success in marketing and a proven ability to drive results. This may include metrics such as increased website traffic, higher conversion rates, or increased sales.

  4. Availability: Consider the availability of the fractional CMO and how it aligns with your business needs. Determine how many hours per week or month you need the CMO's support and ensure that they have the availability to meet those needs.

  5. Fees and compensation: Be sure to discuss fees and compensation upfront and ensure that it is in line with your budget and expectations. Also, consider whether you want to pay the fractional CMO on a project, hourly or on a monthly basis.

  6. Contract terms: Be sure to carefully review the terms of the contract with the fractional CMO, including the length of the engagement, the scope of work, and any exclusivity clauses. This will help to ensure that both parties are clear on expectations and that the arrangement is mutually beneficial.

  7. Cultural fit: It's important to find a fractional CMO who is a good fit with your company culture and values. Look for someone who aligns with your business goals and who can work well with your team.

Once you’ve hired a fractional CMO, you need to clearly define the following:

  1. Scope: It's also important to clearly define the scope of the CMO's role and responsibilities. This will help ensure that both the company and the CMO have a clear understanding of what is expected and can set clear goals and expectations.

  2. It's also important to establish clear lines of communication and establish a process for regular updates and progress reports. This will help ensure that the CMO is effectively collaborating with the rest of the team and is able to deliver the results the company is looking for.

The biggest mistakes companies make when hiring a Fractional CMO

As we’ve explained, hiring a fractional CMO can be a great way for companies to access high-level marketing expertise on a part-time or project-based basis. However, there are some common mistakes that companies make when hiring a fractional CMO that can hinder their success. Here are some of the biggest mistakes companies make when hiring a fractional CMO:

Not having clear goals and expectations

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when hiring a fractional CMO is not having clear goals and expectations. It's important to communicate your business goals and what you hope to achieve with the CMO's help. Without clear goals and expectations, it will be difficult for the CMO to deliver results.

Not providing enough support and resources

A fractional CMO is not a full-time employee, so it's important to provide them with the necessary support and resources to be effective in their role. This includes access to data and analytics, a dedicated point of contact, and any other resources they may need to be successful.

Not giving them the authority they need

A fractional CMO needs the authority to make decisions and implement strategies in order to be effective. Without the necessary authority, they may struggle to drive change and make an impact on your business.

Not setting clear boundaries

It's important to set clear boundaries with a fractional CMO to ensure that they are focused on their specific tasks and responsibilities. Otherwise, they may become too involved in other aspects of the business, which can be counterproductive.

Not providing feedback and tracking progress

Providing regular feedback and tracking progress is essential for the success of any employee, including a fractional CMO. Without this, it will be difficult for them to understand what is working and what needs to be improved.

By avoiding these mistakes, companies can effectively utilize a fractional CMO and achieve their business goals.

How much does a Fractional CMO cost?

The cost of a fractional CMO will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the company, the scope of work, the experience and expertise of the CMO, and the length of the engagement. Generally, fractional CMOs are hired on a part-time or project basis, rather than as a full-time employee.

Fractional CMOs may charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for their services. These rates vary, depending on the CMO's experience and the complexity of the work. Flat fees may be based on the scope of work, with the CMO providing an estimate of the number of hours required and a corresponding fee.

It is also common for fractional CMOs to offer packages or retainer agreements that include a set number of hours per month or quarter, with additional hours available at an hourly rate.

At Allura Digital, our Fractional CMO retainers start from $1500/month, which is significantly lower than what you would need to pay a full-time CMO, while getting the same level of experience.

In general, you should focus on the value that a fractional CMO brings, rather than the cost, as they are highly experienced professionals who bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. It is worth noting that the cost of a fractional CMO may be more cost-effective in the long run compared to hiring a full-time CMO, as it allows companies to access top-level marketing expertise on an as-needed basis without the added cost of benefits and other overhead expenses.

In Summary

Hiring a fractional CMO can be a valuable strategy for B2B companies looking to improve their marketing efforts without making a full-time hire. By bringing in an experienced professional with a deep understanding of marketing, companies can gain valuable insights and expertise, as well as the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of a part-time or project-based hire.

By carefully considering the expertise and experience of the CMO, clearly defining the scope of the role, and establishing clear lines of communication, your business can effectively leverage the benefits of a fractional CMO to drive marketing success.

Ready to hire a Fractional CMO for your business? Here's how we can help.


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