Published 27 Jun 2022

Why Should You Hire a Fractional CMO? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Hiring a fractional CMO is often a good strategy for a medium-sized company that either cannot afford to hire a full-time chief marketing officer or has too few projects to keep them busy. They provide useful leadership and offer the expertise of an experienced executive without the hefty price tag.

Why Should You Hire a Fractional CMO? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Euan Black

Euan Black

Worked with Zuellig Pharma, Manulife, & Philips.

Marketing departments are finally shrugging off the pandemic’s effects. The 28th edition of the annual CMO Survey found that marketing spending increased by 10.3 percent within 12 months before February 2022 – the highest growth rate in more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the size of marketing teams grew by an average of 12.2 percent over the same timeframe, with marketing executives now expecting the number of marketing professional hires to increase by 10.5 percent over the next year.

As the global economy bounces back, chances are you’re thinking to expand your marketing capabilities as well, and hiring a fractional chief marketing officer (fractional CMO) might be your best next move.

Here’s everything you need to know before making the decision to outsource one.

What is a fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO is someone who performs the role of chief marketing officer on a contractual basis. They’re called fractional CMOs because they work at your company for only a ‘fraction’ of their time, often for just a few hours every month. Thus, they are part-time employees.

Hiring a fractional CMO is often a good strategy for a medium-sized company that either cannot afford to hire a full-time chief marketing officer or doesn’t have that many projects. They provide useful leadership and offer the expertise of an experienced executive without the hefty price tag.

What does a fractional CMO do?

Typically brought on for a minimum of six months, fractional CMOs are responsible for developing a marketing strategy, optimizing marketing efforts, and managing your marketing department. They provide leadership and executive-level expertise to help companies deliver clear and unified marketing campaigns on a short-term basis.

Their exact job responsibilities are flexible and should adapt to the needs of your company.

What are the key differences between a fractional CMO and a chief marketing officer?

The key differences between a fractional CMO and a chief marketing officer are the hours they work and the salaries they receive.

Hired on a temporary contract, a fractional CMO typically works part-time, for no more than 20 hours per week, whereas a chief marketing officer works full-time hours and is compensated accordingly.

As a result, fractional CMOs’ salaries are just a fraction of the cost of chief marketing officers’ wages. Job insights company Glassdoor reports that the average salary for a chief marketing officer is about $177,000 a year. suggests the median salary is even higher, at $253,000.

A fractional CMO, meanwhile, charges about $200-$300 per hour. So, they will be compensated about $48,000 per year to $72,000 annually if you hire them for 20 hours a month.

What are the benefits of hiring a fractional CMO?

In 2015, a team of researchers led by the University of Notre Dame’s Frank Germann analyzed data from up to 155 publicly traded firms to determine the value that chief marketing officers add to their companies. They found that companies with a CMO performed 15 percent better than companies without one on average.

Here are some of the specific benefits of hiring a fractional CMO: 

  • Experience and leadership – A fractional CMO will organize your team and devise bulletproof marketing plans that draw on relevant consumer insights to hit your KPIs
  • Flexibility – A fractional CMO’s contract can be stopped and started to meet the changing needs of your company
  • Fewer hiring risks – Hiring a fractional CMO is less risky than hiring a full-time CMO, as the recruitment process is faster and they can be more easily replaced if they perform badly in the role
  • An outside perspective – Outsiders find it easier to identify areas for improvement. They also offer fresh ideas and insights.
  • Chance to test ideas – Hiring a fractional CMO allows you to test different skill sets in the role without the fear of being permanently locked into a disagreeable arrangement.
  • Budget savings – Fractional CMOs are more affordable than traditional CMOs as their salaries are lower and they are entitled to fewer benefits than full-time employees.

How much does a fractional CMO cost? What is a fractional CMO’s hourly rate?

The exact cost of hiring a fractional CMO depends on their years of experience and expectations. As mentioned earlier, a fractional CMO’s hourly rate is between $200 and $300 per hour.

If you hire them for 20 hours a month, you’ll pay between $48,000 and $72,000 every year.

When should you hire a fractional CMO?

The best time to hire a fractional CMO will vary from company to company. But generally, you should use fractional CMO services if:

  • You want to improve your marketing and grow your business without committing to a full-time CMO
  • You need fresh digital marketing strategies and marketing initiatives with an expert to implement them
  • Your company needs marketing leadership and guidance
  • You have the team members to execute a strategy but none of the marketing insights to do the strategic planning
  • Your marketing message is inconsistent across different channels
  • Your management team needs to delegate work
  • You have a specific pain point that you think a marketing leader could solve
  • You need help managing agency relationships
  • You need a full-time CMO’s services without the right marketing budget for it

When shouldn’t you hire a fractional CMO?

Mike Trigg, an angel investor who previously worked as a chief marketing officer for recruitment firm Entelo and file-sharing service Hightail, says startups often make the mistake of hiring a chief marketing officer before they need one.

He says if your company wants to overcome a specific problem – such as too little media coverage or too few customers – then you should consider hiring for these specific skills rather than taking on an experienced executive who demands C-suite remuneration. 

“If your needs are acute and specific, it may be early to hire a CMO, pay them a C-level salary, and put them in charge of tactical tasks,” he told his LinkedIn followers.

“That approach is going to be frustrating for everyone involved.”

Trigg offers a general rule of thumb when it comes to hiring a CMO: “Your marketing team should be at least 10 people – either already hired or approved to-be-hired headcount – to justify a C-level marketing hire.”

Fractional CMO vs hiring a marketing agency: Which strategy is right for your business?

Whether you should hire a fractional CMO, engage a marketing agency, or form a stronger in-house team will depend on the needs of your company. 

The qualities you should look for in a fractional CMO

Jobs site Indeed lists the following six skills as essential for chief marketing officers:

  1. Leadership skills – Fractional CMOs must have the interpersonal skills and experience necessary to bring out the best in your marketing team.
  2. Creativity – Creativity is crucial to ensuring your marketing campaigns are innovative and able to generate more revenue for your company, hit the right metrics, and ultimately meet business needs.
  3. Technical skills – CMOs should have strong next level technical skills in case they are called upon to use CRM programs, social media, content marketing, or SEO tools.
  4. Planning skills – A fractional CMO must have well-developed planning skills so they can help your company achieve its marketing goals and objectives.
  5. Communication skills – Good communication is crucial to ensuring your company’s marketing messages speak to your target market. It is also essential to the efficient functioning of your marketing team.
  6. Marketing insights – CMOs must have an in-depth understanding of market trends and how they affect consumer behavior so that your company’s marketing strategies are relevant and effective.
  7. Marketing programs — Since fractional CMOs are there on a short-term basis, it would be best for them to conduct marketing programs to enhance your teams’ understanding and capabilities in the long run.

How do you hire a fractional CMO?

Asking your social and professional network for referrals is a good place to start your candidate search. And freelance websites and job platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn are also helpful.

But such methods are time-consuming and not guaranteed to deliver results, which is why business owners across the world trust Hire Digital as their go-to market for marketing experts that help meet business needs.

We make it easier for you by helping you engage with the right talent from a pool of pre-vetted outsourced CMOs who can get started as soon as 48 hours. Get in touch with us today to gain access to a network of highly skilled global talents.

Read more:


Marketing Hiring
Chief Marketing Officer
Hiring Guide
Marketing Team
About the Author
Worked with Zuellig Pharma, Manulife, & Philips.
Euan Black is a thought leadership writer specialising in fintech and business technology. With six years of journalism experience across Asia and Australia, Euan has profiled former prime ministers and Forbes-listed millionaires while writing about a wide range of industry sectors. His past clients include Epson, Manulife, Zuellig Pharma, and Philips, among others.View More

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