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Why Hire a Fractional CMO?

Fractional CMO for Early Stage Brands

I've been a serial entrepreneur since 1997, because I love nothing more than building, launching, and scaling businesses.

I started this business, which delivers Fractional C-everything-O and implementation team services to drive growth for early stage brands and new corporate innovations, when I realized that I'd been building for so long, this was actually a useful service that I could bring to businesses like the ones I'd nurtured and grown. The focus of my work has always been revenue growth, quite simply because without revenue growth there is no business. But the work I do crosses all of the functions, because that's what it takes to build and scale a business from zero. 

So often, early stage brands are led by exceptional founders who need a second set of eyes on marketing, revenue, ops, product, and financial strategies - but they don't necessarily have fully fleshed out executive teams because they're not necessarily at a point where they can financially justify that leadership team.

Bringing these services on a part time basis, along with the tight systems and processes to implement efficiently, is game changing for brands that want a smart approach to growth without the price tag of a C-suite. So let's dig in.

The Fractional CMO Meaning

Employing a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer, Fractional Chief Revenue Officer, or Fractional Chief Growth Officer can be challenging - but the reward is almost always worth it. Momentum, pace, and efficiency come to the table ready to work.

That said, there is a lot to consider when it comes to this role. You need to find an individual or team that knows how to build structure into your high growth startup, focused on delivering against the revenue targets that your leadership team and board expect.

While the process can be daunting, however, it’s a worthwhile investment. Before we get to that, though, let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is a Fractional CMO, Fractional CRO, or Fractional CGO?

Simply put, fractional executives are leaders brought in to help take a business from point A to point B, at a point at which internally filling the role(s) on a full-time basis isn’t yet justified. Such executives have usually worked in positions such as President, CEO, CxO, SVP, or VP - and the right ones for your company have done so in a similar stage of business.

So what top things should you look for?

  • Senior level experience leading companies in your high level category:  while marketing principles remain the same, consumer brands and SaaS are not. 
  • Specific experience at your stage of business and revenue level: the processes and needs are completely differently for a business doing 9 figures versus a business in the early 7s.
  • Strong operational skill set: Fractional executives need to be masters of efficiency and come to the stage with a starting mindset of operational excellence.

Download our Fractional CMO Budget Calculator

Why Early Stage Brands Need a Fractional CMO

If you’re a big corporation, you’re gonna want to look at people and teams that come from that world. If you’re a scaling startup or new corporate innovation, however, your needs are totally different. Your fractional executive and team’s expertise needs to have its foundation in your business stage. After all, you don’t need a 1% YoY expert - you need a six-figures-to-seven-to-eight-figures schemer.

Fractional executives typically offer their services as independent consultants or through organizations like ours - for example, we have built, launched, and scaled over 60 early stage brands, new corporate innovations, and brand transformations over the last five years.

Fractional CMOs Do the Work

Fractional executives are not your traditional consultants, and firms that offer fractional leadership and teams are not your traditional they-think-you-do consulting shop types. Although bringing the same (or greater, ahem) knowledge and experience to the table, great fractional executives adopt an active role in your business. They introduce, conduct, and lead - just like their permanent hire counterpart. 

They may not be employees of the companies with whom they partner, but for all intents and purposes, they’re a very real day-to-day part of your team. Great fractional CMOs are either bringing a team or have an excellent network that can deliver against the go-to-market strategy that they'll help you build and refine.

  • Digital expertise
  • Brand expertise
  • Creative expertise
  • Growth marketing expertise

This kind of role was born out of the needs of smaller companies to have serious executive leadership and infrastructure-building - without the full-time executive price tag.

Fractional CMO Hourly Rate + More

Look, every business is different, and you're going to get the answers from your numbers. Fractional CMOs typically give you more for less. In North America, CMO's salaries average just under $180K USD and top up anywhere up to $340K USD.  You can get the same level of expertise - or even more - at a fraction of the price with your Fractional CMO. A Fractional CMO hourly rate typically ranges between $200-$350 USD, and a strong fractional exec can deliver in 10 hours a week what a scaling business needs from a marketing leadership perspective. 

Beyond the fCMO, building a standard marketing team can hit the hundreds of thousands in annual expenses in short order - a Fractional executive and team can bring a competitive price tag with a pre-built engine, coming in with processes, tools, systems, and an immediate ability to work together for partners to deliver results.

I'd use a calculation similar to this to think about how to budget your fCMO.

Fractional CMO Budget Calculator for Consumer Brands-1

In this example, if you're anticipating a full time CMO and marketing team budget similar to this, you'd be looking at a cost of $445,000 annually.

For each role, you can calculate a comparative hourly rate for the role, which range from $120.19 to $21.63, senior to junior. If that $445,000 is just too rich, you can either hire the roles one at a time - risking serious burnout (which I've seen time and again) in those you do hire due to anything from lack of functional leadership to lack of tactical implementation support - or you can slash the budget and ask how you could spend half as much on a fractional solution.

Setting our fractional budget to $222,500, you can again calculate what an hourly might like look - I've use a 2x and 3x factor to demonstrate potential range but of course this is all dependent on who you hire. But overall you can see how you've cut the budget in half and gotten less hours out of equivalently qualified people.

The difference? Your Fractional CMO and team are experts in your category and stage of business, meaning they walk in the door with process and systems, ready to roll on your strategy. Operational efficiency in a Fractional CMO is of paramount importance.

When you get the right partner, you should be buying more - and spending less.

Download Our Fractional CMO Budget Calculator

Fractional CMOs Bring Wide Experience

Due to vast and varied experience in delivering consulting services to a significant volume of brands, Fractional CMOs bring an understanding informed by range in a specific niche that full-time contemporaries don't.

Fractional CMOs deliver a highly strategic but thorough process in every aspect of your operations. They can help with external growth, sales, and marketing, hiring - and even mentoring and educating of your current team.

It doesn't matter if you already have a marketing team in place either. Fractional CMOs are familiar and skilled with not disturbing your existing infrastructure, rather using it to your advantage. Just remember to keep communication open and clear so that your current full-time team understands exactly how all the pieces will fit together.

Hiring a Fractional CMO and implementation team prevents serious time-based opportunity cost and let's you compete at a higher level without the C suite expense.

Jacquelyn Corbett, MBA

Brand builder, brady buncher, mathemagician. Fractional CMO, educator, trainer. Feminist AF. 25 years in startup mode.


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