Fractional CMO: What is it and When Do You Need One?

fractional cmo chief marketing officer

There comes a point in every company’s journey when all their initial good ideas have run their course. What follows is stagnation. You can fill every page of your company’s story with profitable decisions and still wind up at a dead end. What you may need is a new playbook.

This is where smart business leaders think about what they don’t have. Marketing is critical to a brand’s success but often comes with unjustifiable costs, especially for smaller businesses. The solution? Fractional CMO services.

A quality fractional chief marketing officer is many things:

  • A fresh voice in the boardroom
  • An experienced strategist
  • A cost-effective alternative to an in-house marketing chief
  • A person who earns you more than what you pay them

We’ll cover everything you can expect from these services, the fractional CMO cost, and why this may be a great decision for businesses struggling with growth or who simply want to increase profitability. Discover why you need to consider a remote fractional chief marketing officer for your business.

What is Fractional Marketing?

Fractional marketing is the practice of outsourcing part of your company’s marketing department. How much is outsourced in fractional marketing? That depends on your preferences – you get to choose the size of the fraction for your remote fractional chief marketing officer to handle.

Using fractional CMO services means that may still retain marketing staff or partners for day-to-day purposes such as implementing strategies and creating content. What you are outsourcing here is the creative vision behind those strategies to your remote fractional chief marketing officer.

Why Outsource?

Many businesses favor outsourcing because it’s often cheaper than hiring in-house personnel. This is especially true for small businesses that need to spend a significant proportion of their budget on operational costs. These businesses might struggle to pay the salaries of an entire in-house advertising team and prefer the fractional CMO cost.

A perceived drawback of outsourcing is that you have less control over the quality of work. This is more likely to be true when you outsource the entire department or you send grunt-level work to an agency – while there are some superb agencies out there, there’s often no guarantee of quality when it comes to tasks like social media posts and brand content. This causes some CEOs to shy away from the outsourcing model. Like anything in business, there are marketing tasks better done in-house and others that can be outsourced.

We typically recommend that things such as social media posting / engagement or e-mail marketing be done in house when possible, as it can be time consuming to review every post or e-mail before it is sent out. Tasks such as paid ad management, search engine optimization, web or graphic design, and custom e-mail marketing templates can easily be outsourced. The benefit? You get a whole team working for you at a fraction of the cost. What’s great about having a Fractional CMO is that they can oversee what is being done in-house as well as what is being outsourced and make sure you are getting the most out of your marketing budget.

How Does Outsourced Marketing Work?

Outsourced marketing can include having an agency perform many tasks, such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media Ads (Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, etc)
  • Organic Social Media Promotion
  • Search Engine Marketing (Pay Per Click Ads)
  • Traditional Print Advertising (Flyers, Vehicle Wraps, Signs, etc)
  • Referral or Affiliate Program Management
  • Radio and/or TV Advertisements
  • Lead Generation Services
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Consulting With the Sales Team
  • Setting Up Systems & Processes

Outsourced Marketing is simply outsourcing parts of your marketing to a person or agency rather than hiring a full time employee. This way you are able to get one person who is great at social media marketing, one (or several people) who are great at SEO, one (our several people) who are great at managing pay per click ads, etc. Even better, you often can get all this for less than what it would cost to hire a full time “jack of all trades” marketing manager.

While outsourcing all of these individual services is great for many businesses, having a Fractional CMO coordinate the strategy and make good marketing decisions is a great move if your budget allows for it.

Fractional Work & Outsourcing

The fractional model is a type of outsourcing, but they’re not necessarily the same. Outsourcing often refers to a fully remote team; you might hire an agency to develop and implement a marketing strategy for you in the traditional sense of “outsourced work.” With fractional work, you find a balance between in-house and external work that suits your needs.

You may have a competent marketing department but struggle to attract a full-time CMO because you can’t afford the salary associated with that role. The role is well-paid for a reason: this is the person tasked with creating and implementing marketing strategies that take your brand from strength to strength. It’s a lot of responsibility, and you’ll struggle to attract top talent for an in-house position with limited resources.

Work is traditionally outsourced to reduce costs. That’s precisely what we’re doing here. It’s just that rather than outsourcing the nitty-gritty work that should be supervised in-house (if there’s a person in charge of your brand’s social media account, they should be within arm’s reach at all times), you’re outsourcing the visionary role. This also happens to be the most expensive role, so it represents more savings than outsourcing lay positions.

But wait – isn’t that a big job to give someone who isn’t a full-time, in-house part of your company? It sure is. Read on to learn why that’s not a problem.

So What is a Fractional CMO?

Fractional CMO services focus on strategy. You won’t be outsourcing labor – you’ll be working with an experienced professional with a track record of success delivering forward-thinking marketing strategies for brands like yours. You’re looking for someone who has vision and understands the difference between a good idea and an actionable plan.

A remote fractional chief marketing officer takes on the role at the very top of the marketing department. As mentioned, this might seem like a risky position to outsource. In fact, it’s much safer to seek outside assistance for this role than it is to send day jobs to freelancers and agencies, where you have limited control over the experience of your contractors. To secure work in a senior position like this, an individual needs an impressive portfolio – it’s much easier to vet candidates for quality.

Do You Even Need a CMO?

A common problem small businesses face is that the CMO position is just too expensive to fill. If you’ve got a competent marketing team working in lay positions, including a supervisor, the most straightforward answer might seem to be: leave the position unfilled! Why try to make space for a job that often commands a six-figure salary when your team works hard and can turn out decent ad copy by itself?

The reason is that decent ad copy is only a small part of a successful marketing strategy. Your in-house team might be able to handle any task that gets thrown at them, but who’s doing the throwing? As the CEO, you don’t have the time (or possibly the relevant expertise) to build every marketing campaign yourself.

Likewise, competent marketing managers can become inspirational leaders, but it takes years of experience to learn how to command a company-wide branding strategy confidently. You need the top dog at an affordable fractional CMO cost.

How Does a Remote Fractional Chief Marketing Officer Fit Within Your Business?

Here’s how the executive fits into your company as a remote fractional chief marketing officer:

  • Providing a critical eye. Why are you looking to fill this position? Because you’re stuck. The remote fractional chief marketing officer performs a critical appraisal of how your brand presents itself. They’ll use this information to identify strengths you’re not playing on, weaknesses you’re falling prey to, and find sales you’re not making.
  • Listening closely. You’ll want to prepare as much information as possible when hiring fractional CMO services. When you’re appraising fractional CMO candidates, the best individuals will have portfolios and case studies that inform their work. This tells you they know the value of information when devising an evidence-based strategy. Provide them with essential information, and let them develop a picture of how your business can move forward.
  • Taking the lead. A remote fractional chief marketing officer will be tasked with your marketing strategy. They will devise it from the ground up using the information you’ve provided and their considerable experience. Remember that they will answer to you, but they’ll have complete creative control over brand strategy.
  • Budgeting. You may be thinking “That’s the CFO’s Job!”. A good Fractional CMO will work with the CFO to determine a marketing budget. While the CFO may decide how much can be spent on marketing, the CMO will decide the specifics, continuously monitoring each strategy for performance to determine what marketing channels get the highest % Return on Investment.
  • Overseeing. The executive will work directly with your in-house marketing team to ensure that ideas are properly implemented. This oversight may also extend to working with freelancers – an advantage of many top fractional CMO services is that they have excellent working relationships with quality freelancers and agencies. This means that you don’t need to vet additional outsourced services if you need some extra labor.

How Involved is a Fractional CMO?

Fractional executives work with you at the highest level. They’ll liaise with the CEO, CFO, and other company directors. They’ll also communicate with the marketing department as they need to know the team implementing their strategies. They need to know everything about your brand to identify its growth conditions.

You won’t be working with a freelancer in the conventional sense of the word. Freelancers often work for a brief time and might offer some creative input, but they take on less responsibility and offer less extensive services than a fractional CMO.

A remote fractional chief marketing officer steps in at a critical moment to transform your business. They appear when you need them most, and then they’re a part of the team until the job is done and you’re on the path to success.

They must become part of the team because their strategy needs to speak with your brand’s voice. This type of executive will become an integral part of your team as long as you work together. They’ll initially act as a fresh pair of eyes and troubleshoot issues you’d struggle to see from within. After that, they’ll be a committed part of the company, working towards the same goals and speaking the same language. Simply put, a Fractional CMO is as involved as you need them to be.

What Does a Fractional CMO Do?

You don’t hire this type of marketing professional because they do “solid work,” and you can depend on them to turn up to work every day. You hire fractional CMO services because you want results. The best professionals in the business are 100% focused on results because that’s the only metric on their CV that matters.

Below are the critical determinants of success for chief marketing officers. You might think they look similar to those offered by a traditional CMO, and you’re right. The difference is that these factors are delivered at a comparatively low fractional CMO cost.

Lead Generation

The core goal of any successful marketing strategy is lead generation. The plan needs to identify where customers can be found, how to bring them to your business, and when to make the pitch.

This is where almost all small businesses struggle at some point, and it’s the main reason for bringing in some outside expertise. Top-notch fractional CMO services will dramatically increase lead generation for your business.

Long-Term Strategy

Surprised? These professionals aren’t part of your in-house team, so why would long-term goals be a part of their work? Because a core goal of successful chief marketing officers is to implement evergreen procedures and strategies that your brand can fall back on to attract sales consistently. It’s no different with your remote fractional chief marketing officer.

Short-term campaigns are designed to maximize sales over a short period. Long-term marketing tactics include developing a strong brand identity that people will come back to again and again.

Let’s illustrate the point with an example. McDonald’s advertises limited-time products like new chicken sandwiches to give customers something fresh and exciting. This can drive crazy sales spikes. But what happens when there’s nothing on the “specials” menu? The company slaps a picture of a Big Mac on billboards all around your town and reminds you that there’s always a good reason to go to McDonald’s.

Now, you might not have the resources that McDonald’s has. But a good fractional CMO understands the logic of leading brands’ strategies and can implement them on a more local scale. When they build these strategies into your business’s DNA, you’ll see the benefits for years, even if you only work with the CMO for a limited time.

Short-Term Campaigns

A remote fractional chief marketing often sees quick results as a welcome challenge. After meeting to learn more about your brand’s identity, they’ll devise a powerhouse short-term campaign to start bolstering lead generation. You can be sure they’ll have a follow-up strategy for retaining customers drawn in by this initial campaign to further capitalize on this boost, keep sales high, the lead generation coming, and increase customer loyalty, even through only a short-term campaign.

Customer Loyalty

Successful marketing strategies are about attracting and retaining customers. If your customer engagement practices need an overhaul, you can expect your fractional CMO services to let you know – and to have plenty of suggestions for how they can be improved.

It pays to be a good listener if customer retention has been a problem for your business. This is because so much of the time, poor customer retention comes down to not hearing your customers! Customers may have funny ways of letting you know what they want, but they do let you know. You just have to be wise to it and devise an appropriate response.

Start by listening to the fractional marketing expert, and you’ll learn that all good relationships are based on communication. They’ll identify how your customers try to find you and remove obstacles that keep you isolated. They’ll help you develop a strategy for giving each customer a personal response and 5-star service, vastly increasing the chance of a repeat visit.

Data-Driven Strategy

If you’re already struggling to find money in your budget for a full-time CMO, the last thing you want to hear is the suggestion that you should hire a data analyst as well. Don’t worry – you don’t need to. Data analysts can easily be found freelance, and any fractional CMO worth their salt will either have a data analyst they work with or be able to analyze the data themselves.

While sometimes you strike gold at random, most successful marketing campaigns are built on the failures of previous campaigns. This doesn’t mean that the previous campaign was bad – but by breaking it down, a data analyst can see where it performed well and fell short. The next campaign won’t have this weakness because your marketing officer will take this information into account and tailor their next strategy to address these shortcomings.

Coordinate All Marketing Channels

A Fractional CMO (or traditional CMO) will often coordinate each marketing channel and determine which marketing channels are used and how much time and money is spent on each channel. The CMO will help you figure out where your money is best spent.

Good Messaging & Brand Consistency

A Chief Marketing Officer will coordinate your branding and ensure you maintain brand consistency across all marketing channels. They will help you with messaging and how to simplify your message so that it is communicated to both existing and potential customers effectively. Essentially, they are in charge of your marketing efforts and their responsibility is to help grow your business.

Fractional CMO vs. Traditional CMO: Part-Time vs. Full-Time

Perhaps you have the money for a traditional CMO, but you’re wondering if the lower fractional CMO cost option can deliver a comparable service. Why wouldn’t you? There’s no sense paying full price if you can spend less and get the same results. Below are the key advantages of each type of professional.

Advantages of a Remote Fractional Chief Marketing Officer

  • Flexible. A fractional CMO is available whenever you need their services. However, if you decide to focus on other areas of your business for a while, you don’t have to pay their salary, just a fractional CMO cost.
  • Affordable. Because of the part-time nature of the role, it’s much easier for small businesses to hire a fractional CMO than a full-time executive. Say you need their services for one quarter: your marketing budget can accommodate the associated fractional CMO cost. You’ll have a full-time commitment from a trained professional during that time.
  • Results-driven. Fractional CMOs never get comfortable. Their personal success depends on delivering excellent results for every client they work with. A comfortably salaried in-house executive might sit on their laurels after a while. You’ll never get that with a remote expert.
  • Wide-ranging experience. You’ll have access to case studies and expert analysis from someone who has delivered outstanding results for brands in numerous sectors in fractional marketing. If your in-house chief marketing officer has had as many jobs as their fractional counterpart, unfortunately, there’s a good chance they’ve just been fired a lot.
  • Fresh insights. This executive approaches your business from the outside and sees its vulnerabilities. When your company has been consistently struggling for growth, you develop a fortress mentality and find it hard to see where you’re going wrong. That all changes when you hire fractional CMO services.

Advantages of a Traditional Chief Marketing Officer

  • Always there. A traditional CMO is easy to access – you know where their office is. Admittedly, the internet makes it easy to contact fractional CMO services anytime.
  • Knows the company. As one of your top personnel, your CMO will get to know the company over time. They’ll develop a personal commitment to your brand’s success.
  • Knows the team. A good CMO will get to know the in-house team. This is a benefit as long as their long-term relationship is healthy!


The roles and responsibilities of each position are the same. The difference is in the approach. You’ll often find greater dynamism and insight when hiring an outside professional, and fractional CMO services are available just when you need them.

These services from a fractional CMO cost very little compared to what you’ll pay for a permanent executive. And forget notions of “part-time employee means a part-time attitude” – for as long as they’re with you, your remote fractional chief marketing officer will have more than a full-time impact. You don’t get far in this role without total commitment to the mission, and that’s what you’ll get while enjoying paying the fractional CMO cost.

Is a Fractional CMO Right for Me?

Need help deciding if fractional marketing services are right for your business? Ask yourself the following questions.

Are You in a Small Business that Doesn’t Need a Full Time CMO?

Small businesses benefit most from brief, punchy campaigns that drive lead generation at a fractional CMO cost. A follow-up strategy to keep customers engaged and coming back for more might be all you need to see you through for a while. The salary of a full-time CMO will eat into the profits you make from this increase in leads.

This makes a fractional CMO cost-effective by comparison and precisely what you need to get the best returns for the lowest investment.

Are You Stuck With Budget Constraints But Need Marketing Strategy?

Whatever size your business is, you need a marketing strategy. You might have a great head for business and a superb product, but if you struggle to get the word out, it’s time for some outside help with fractional marketing.

Fractional CMO services fill those knowledge gaps and help you build a long-term marketing strategy for your business – without the long-term costs of hiring a permanent executive. You’ll learn from the relationship and know you’ve always got a wise head to call the next time your business needs a boost.

Do You Feel Like You Need Someone to Head Your Marketing Department?

You might have a competent marketing department that will deliver its brief every time. However, a consistent team can get stuck in the mud if fresh ideas are lacking. What you need now is a leader to deliver that brief!

A fractional marketing expert will give your department the shake-up and sense of direction it needs to flourish. It’s the perfect augmentation and doesn’t break the bank.

How Much Does a Fractional CMO Cost?

Now we’re at the business end. You want to know how much you’ll be spending. Remember that you’re hiring an industry expert who will have a meteoric impact on your profit margins. Short answer: you’ll need to put some money aside for these services. Here’s the breakdown.

Are Fractional CMO Services Cheaper Than In-House?

Yes. Asking how much does a fractional CMO cost compared to an in-house marketing executive is like asking if it’s cheaper to book a 5-star hotel room or just buy the penthouse. You get the same luxury experience, but why would you pay all that money when you know you’re not going to live there full-time?

You’ll pay only for the services that you need. Each time you hire this type of professional, they’ll come with a fresh appraisal of the best strategies for your brand. When you’re struggling to grow your business, hiring a fractional marketing professional provides invaluable insights on a budget. For example, a quality, full time Chief Marketing Officer will often cost an average of $174,500 per year base salary plus benefits and bonuses. Compare that with a fractional CMO’s. A Quality Fractional Chief Marketing Officer typically will charge anywhere from $150 – $500 per hour depending on experience, portfolio, case studies, etc.

Do the Math to See if it Works for You

Say you have a Fractional CMO service that charges $250 per hour (this is what we charge at Web Chimpy). Let’s say you have them on a fixed monthly retainer and get a discount of $200 per hour for 10 hours / month. You are spending $2,000 per month on your Chief Marketing Officer instead of paying a six figure salary plus benefits, bonuses, etc.

Choose Quality Over Quantity

It is important to remember that a good Chief Marketing Officer will cost nothing. To clarify: Assuming you have a good, marketable product or service, a quality Chief Marketing Officer will oftentimes cost nothing. While nobody is a magician, quality and motivated CMO’s will typically bring in significantly more revenue (and profit) than what you pay them. Additionally, a quality Fractional CMO will oftentimes get a lot more done per hour than a cheaper CMO. Focusing on what they can offer you and the value they provide is much more important than their hourly rate. Just like the old saying goes: You get what you pay for.

Do Fractional CMO Services Help with Budget Management?

Yes. Whatever your fractional CMO costs, they should calculate this figure into the returns you make using their marketing strategies. The best CMO’s will set you up with processes in place so you can see where each lead and sale came from. This can be accomplished through a CRM, simply asking customers how they found out about you, call tracking numbers, specific landing pages, etc. That way, you know exactly what the ROI percentage is for each marketing channel. The Chief Marketing Officer then will continue to evaluate where the marketing budget is best spent. The CFO will have final say in how much can be spent on marketing. The CMO will then help determine where that money is most effective. A Fractional CMO should always work closely with the CFO and/or CEO to decide where marketing dollars should go.

How to Find & Hire the Right Fractional CMO Service

Ready to take advantage of the fractional CMO cost and services? Here’s what to look for when you’re in the market for a fractional marketing expert.

Professional Recommendations

They should come highly recommended by former clients. Check out what niches their past clients occupied and where they had the most success. You can also find out if they have experience in your industry.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for diverse experiences. If they’ve moved from niche to niche and succeeded everywhere, you can bet that you’re hiring someone who knows where the rainbow ends. The gold’s as good as yours.

Digital Appearances Matter

Is their website well-presented? Does it provide accessible evidence to prove why you should hire them, or is it just pages of marketing fluff? If they can’t hire someone to organize their website (or do it themselves), it’s unlikely they’ll be able to organize a marketing department.

A neat, information-rich website is the 21st Century equivalent of a sharp suit and a firm handshake. It just feels right.

Is the Pricing Transparent?

You should be able to find out their rates either on their website or through a free consultation. Emphasis on the “free” – don’t pay for anything until you know how much the fractional CMO cost is.

Check Their Portfolio & Case Studies

Take a look through the nitty-gritty. Do they use case studies? This is generally a good indicator that you’re working with someone serious and passionate about their field.

How Exclusive Are They?

Fractional marketing means hiring someone who isn’t joining your company. That doesn’t mean that they’re not loyal or committed. The best fractional CMOs often work with repeat clients and will make you their #1 priority for as long as they work with you. You’ve got to have a steady thing going.

Save Money By Going Remote

Small businesses with no visible opportunities for growth and limited marketing budgets are everywhere. Small business leaders with the vision to bring in a fractional CMO to transform their brand strategy at a budget-friendly price are far less common – and far more successful in the long run.

Why should big brands have all the fun? You don’t need to pay out a six-figure salary for a permanent marketing executive. Fractional marketing is a game-changer for small business owners who understand that brand growth sometimes means being brave and starting a new chapter.

It’s time to start playing by new rules.


Fractional CMO services are an affordable way for small businesses to break free from stagnation. They bring unparalleled insight to companies that traditionally couldn’t afford a full-time CMO role.

Fractional marketing puts power into the hands of small business owners. Work with an experienced fractional CMO to change the way you see opportunity today.

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