The concept of a fractional executive or “Executive-as-as-Service” is nothing new as several sizable agencies have been offering up on-demand CXO’s for decades.  A fractional exec can be structured in many ways but is typically a part-time, contract, scalable relationship with someone who engages deeply in the business but serves other clients.

Recently, there’s been a shift in the demand for these services, particularly in the marketing space, and here’s why:

  • Freelancing and the gig economy are growing at an incredible rate.  In fact, predictions are the the majority of US workers will be freelancers by 2027. [source]
  • C-level executives are no exception, and companies who want the brightest talent are meeting these freelance executives on their terms, including part-time, project-based, and fractional relationships.
  • Online resources from UpWork to Toptal are connecting freelance executives with opportunities like never before.
  • Marketing is more closely tied to revenue than ever: In a recent benchmarking survey, 28% of companies reported having specific revenue quotas for the marketing organization. [source]

To summarize, talented executive level marketers are going freelance while companies are taking notice of marketing’s ties to growth.  Enter a great solution for both parties: the fractional CMO.

Signs You Might Need a Fractional CMO

If you are under pressure to get quick results, engaging a strategic marketer without all of the hiring hassle is great way to get things moving.  Or, you might be stuck in any or all of the following areas looking for expert guidance to build out your marketing org:

You’re programs are getting stale or your market is facing significant change.

If you need fresh thinking and better results on your marketing programs, a fractional CMO is just the right level of strategic thinking and execution you might need without adding to your full-time staff.  If your business, like many others, has staffed up marketing resources organically as needed or funded, your focus may have been on resource gaps related to programs and projects, making agility for strategic business changes extremely hard.

Not to mention, in quickly growing companies, most marketing teams are very busy, but despite all of the programs and projects, many CEOs still don’t have a handle on their marketing results.

You are just starting to think about marketing automation, using data, and marketing operations.

When you hear “marketing operations” are you only focused on project management? Then it’s time to bring in an experienced marketing leader who can define it, clean it up and implement a marketing tech stack that aligns with your strategic goals and needs.  Marketing operations are about optimized execution through the use of data and technology, and it has become one of the most critical skills of a marketing leader.

A fractional CMO can help research and recommend appropriate marketing tech, while making sure it is tied to a broader strategy that achieves marketing goals. A great fractional CMO can also oversee the implementation of the technology and processes and roll up their sleeves to define recommended practices on the platforms.

Your brand is in need of a refresh.

This is not another opinion on your logo — a CMO can architect a long-term brand strategy for your corporate identity and product or service hierarchy.   CMO’s use research to determine how people should experience your brand and how to make sure it’s working for you and not against you.

If you’re employees are confused about brand names, strategies, and structures, it’s a good indication that the market doesn’t get it either.  And never underestimate the value of ‘fresh eyes’ on your approach and opportunities [a great little video on the importance of fresh eyes here].  Whether it’s a definition, evolution or measurement of your brand, CMO’s can be the brand-boosting minds that all companies need.

If you already know that you need help across the board, or just want to explore new marketing territory, a fractional CMO is a great solution.  You can avoid another executive salary on the payroll while getting the strategic level input on your marketing — from infrastructure to operations to branding.

What to Look for in a Fractional CMO

  • Relevant experience. Recently, this article about “Godlike” CMOs went viral – and for good reason. The job descriptions are getting lengthy and expectations are unrealistic.  The solution? Find a marketing leader with some key areas of specialty that apply – whether it’s digital transformation or operational excellence, no one person is highly skilled at all things marketing (and if they say they are, run).
  • Versatility.  Knowing your CMO is going to be skilled in some areas, but not all, look for someone who is resourceful and who can access the tools, people, and network to help span all aspects of marketing (from strategic planning all the way to content creation).
  • Not afraid to get their hands dirty.  This is not a consulting gig where you coach from the sidelines.  This is about adding productive resource to the team.  A fractional CMO can (and should) do more than simply guide decisions, they can set up the day-to-day operations and plans that will help a company grow.
  • Writing skills. Find someone who can, and will, write consistently for your brand building – whether it’s a blog idea, a product asset, or an industry article. Some portion of marketing writing should take place at this level.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EI).  Marketing is often high-demand and high-visibility and the higher the EI of an individual, the more likely they are to achieve positive results under those circumstances (EI covers everything from empathy, to authenticity, to follow-through).

In today’s business environment, it’s increasingly common for leaders to lean on marketing to help drive change, growth, and a fresh perspective.  A fractional CMO might be just the partner you are looking for.

// Julie

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