By Eric Dickmann

June 1, 2024

Fractional CMO

As your business grows, you face the challenge of building awareness in the marketplace for your products and services while generating leads for your sales team. This is where marketing fits into your overall business strategy. But frequently, companies assign marketing tasks to managers with other responsibilities and skills, which can leave the marketing strategy in limbo. If your business needs a marketing strategy for revenue growth, you might be considering hiring a full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), but a full-time executive hire is not always necessary, especially in the early stages of developing a strategy. A more practical solution might be to hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer to provide experienced marketing leadership and manage your marketing department on a contract basis.

Understanding the Role of a Fractional CMO

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer provides an effective outsourcing solution for organizations that need strategic marketing direction without bringing in a full-time, in-house CMO or marketing leader. Fractional CMOs are highly experienced professionals and can join a company quickly, helping organizations ramp up marketing efforts focused on achieving specific business goals. This CMO level of expertise, knowledge, and speed enables fractional leadership to manage in-house and external vendor resources to solve marketing challenges and drive new revenue.

Moreover, a fractional CMO presents numerous advantages over in-house candidates. Hiring is much quicker and more affordable than searching for or training an internal candidate. Due to their high commitment level, fractional CMOs stay as involved in day-to-day tasks as any full-time executive, from guiding company projects to presenting at leadership meetings. It's clear that fractional CMOs present a cutting-edge approach with all the benefits of hiring an in-house executive without the tremendous costs or risks of finding an equivalent full-time hire.

Not All Businesses Have a Chief Marketing Officer

It's important to note in this discussion that not all businesses have the executive role of Chief Marketing Officer. This is especially true of small and midsize companies. In those firms, they might have a VP of Marketing, Director of Marketing or even a Marketing Manager. The title really doesn't matter. The concept of a fractional CMO is an experienced marketing manager who can help create a comprehensive strategy and manage its execution.

No matter what title may or may not exist within your organization, if you're looking to grow, chances are you'll find significant value and should contemplate the decision to hire a fractional CMO for your business. Contact us to learn more.

The Benefits of Hiring a Fractional CMO over a Full-Time CMO

A fractional CMO differs from a full-time CMO or VP of Marketing in several ways. The most prominent difference is that a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer is not a full-time employee. Fractional executives get hired for a contracted engagement to help implement new marketing strategies or work on specific projects. They work part-time and often remotely to manage the creation and execution of impactful marketing strategies. The names for these consulting services vary, but they are also known as a Virtual CMO or a CMO On Demand. Generally, these are short-term engagements lasting less than a year, but fractional executives can also be hired on an interim basis or for a long-term engagement in an executive-level position.

Enhancing Marketing Efforts with a Fractional CMO


Saves Money - Outsourcing executive marketing services could cut salary and benefits expenses by half or more.


Elevates the Product - The outside perspective of a Virtual CMO can offer an unbiased assessment of your products and services, providing insights to give your products the boost they need.


Broadens the Network of Resources - working with a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer, your talent pool extends beyond your physical location, providing exposure to a wider range of trusted resources and expertise.


Delivers Consistent Results - All fractional marketing leaders will prioritize providing your business with marketing strategies that deliver consistent, measurable results.

The Fractional Chief Marketing Officer comes from outside your company, which might seem dangerous. The reality is these “outsiders” come with an unbiased perspective. They are marketing experts and have previously worked with similar companies and business leaders facing familiar challenges. Their experience outside your organization allows them to cut through the noise and quickly focus on delivering strategies to address your company's marketing challenges and help grow your marketing team's skills.

Identifying Companies in Need of a Fractional CMO

Full-time executive-level professionals with deep experience usually command salaries in the upper six figures, but you can access similar talent at a lower cost through a fractional CMO engagement. Companies can begin by engaging them for several hours weekly, then adjust as your business grows. As executive advisors, they will review your existing marketing programs with new insights based on their years of experience. They will identify ways to boost your growth potential and create an effective strategy to support your marketing endeavors.

The Fractional CMO understands different marketing systems and recognizes how technology can be used as an advantage in various work setups. Aside from these, CMOs can maximize your marketing channels and tactics given the budget to ensure consistency in results.

They come with a strong background in managing diverse groups of resources and the skills to communicate with internal and external stakeholders. As an outsider, they bring an unbiased perspective and are experienced marketing leaders with expertise working with other clients. When looking at a problem too long, companies can sometimes become blind to new opportunities and potential solutions. Other times, they don't know where to start. A seasoned CMO has extensive experience understanding problems and proposing the right approach.

The Responsibilities of a Fractional CMO

As the modern business landscape evolves, so do the roles within marketing departments. Instead of hiring a full-time marketing executive, marketing leadership roles are increasingly being supplemented by fractional CMOs - individuals responsible for managing a specific part of the marketing strategy. As such, fractional CMOs help organizations adjust to trends, develop and execute marketing strategies and troubleshoot challenges as needed.

Although the exact responsibilities of a fractional CMO will vary from company to company, common tasks include:

  • Developing both short-term and long-term marketing strategies that align with organizational objectives
  • Determining which type of marketing tactics should be used to reach desired audiences
  • Proposing and managing a marketing budget
  • Measuring, monitoring, and reporting marketing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Leading the day-to-day operations of the in-house marketing team
  • Mentoring marketing staff
  • Recommending, onboarding, and supervising external vendors, freelancers, and agencies

The Importance of a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy

Developing a marketing strategy can be a difficult process, and without the right expertise, it can feel like an overwhelming endeavor. A fractional CMO can bring a track record of experience and strategic insight to ensure that any campaigns are well-planned and executed in a timely manner. By tapping into their industry knowledge, they can help companies understand their target audience better so that campaigns are tailored to reach the target market effectively.

Creating an impactful marketing strategy requires unified action and a strong leader in the top marketing role. Unfortunately, many organizations, especially smaller ones with tighter budgets, have difficulty building a good long-term strategy. Without expert marketing leadership to guide the effort, it can seem like a lost cause to bring all elements of their marketing efforts fully in sync.

In such cases, a fractional CMO can step in to become the unifying force that brings disparate vendors and their individual strategies together into a coherent strategy. The fractional CMO's job is to provide leadership and guidance so that everyone involved is working toward the same goals while also managing marketing operations. Additionally, they serve as a checkpoint to ensure progress is being made towards those goals and that any changes are properly vetted before they are implemented across all channels. With this extra layer of oversight, organizations can confidently move forward without fear of throwing money away on haphazard initiatives. For meaningful marketing transformation, organizations need a senior marketing leader with seasoned experience to help drive business growth.

Creating a Plan for Growth

A fractional CMO can provide the expertise and support your business needs to increase lead generation, grow revenue, and optimize your marketing mix. They will work closely with other members of your team to develop a plan for next-level growth. They will analyze the current state of your business and market landscape to find opportunities for growth. Once complete, they can then develop a marketing strategy and create a plan to achieve measurable results within a specified time frame. This can include anything from optimizing websites and landing pages to developing targeted campaigns on social media platforms and search engines.

Cost Considerations: Fractional CMO Rates

An executive marketing leader is a critical role for any organization. It's their responsibility to get the word out about the products and services offered. A company needs a well-designed marketing strategy to be successful. However, due to their experience level and demand, hiring a full-time CMO can often be expensive and cost prohibitive for many companies, particularly those just starting out. The average salary of a full-time CMO or executive marketing leader can be a hefty price tag which is enough to scare off potential employers.

For instance, some businesses may wish to enlist a knowledgeable and experienced CMO but find themselves hard-pressed in terms of meeting budgetary restrictions. That’s why many opt instead for fractional CMOs who offer their services at an hourly rate - theoretically easing these financial burdens while providing top-tier marketing insight. The typical fractional CMO hourly rate varies from agency to agency as well as depending upon a user's geographic region; however, this option remains viable for businesses seeking quality top executive advice without compromising bank balances.

One of the primary benefits of hiring a fractional CMO is cost savings. For comparison, according to, as of June 2024, the average annual salary is $360,672 for a full-time CMO, $288,093 for a VP of Marketing, and $187,609 for a Marketing Director. However, total compensation is even higher when recruitment fees, benefits, and stock option costs are included. Additionally, fractional CMOs do not require benefits, which can save businesses even more money.

The cost of a fractional CMO is lower since they work for multiple companies at once on a part-time basis. Factors affecting pricing include contract term length, hours needed per month, and level of marketing expertise. An experienced marketing executive will charge more than someone with fewer years of leadership experience.

Fractional CMO Cost 2024

Hourly and Flat Rate Engagements

A fractional CMO typically costs around $150-$400 per hour; however, it's more common for an engagement to be based on a flat-rate contract. Generally, this monthly flat rate is based on the equivalent of one day per week. This provides budget predictability for both the client and the consultant. For most engagements, it's reasonable to expect a flat monthly rate of between $5,000 - $10,000 based on a set number of hours or days per week. A typical flat-rate engagement is based on up to 10 hours per week. For companies with more aggressive marketing needs and timeframes, an engagement with more time may be needed at a high flat monthly rate.

Experience level is also a factor in fractional CMO pricing. Based on a December 2023 survey of disclosed fractional CMO pricing, here is a breakdown of average monthly retainers for fractional CMO services by experience level (years serving as a CMO, fractional CMO, or equivalent position) :

  • Junior-level (0-3 years): $3,000-$5,000 per month
  • Mid-level (3 -7 years): $5,000-$7,500 per month
  • Senior-level (7 or more years): $7,500-$10,000 per month

Outsourcing Marketing Team Leadership to a Fractional CMO

When considering outsourcing an executive marketer position, it is important to know that marketing differs from other roles due to the uniform principles of marketing products and services. While important differences exist in market strategy, messaging, and target customers, most companies will use similar tactics to reach their audience. This is why marketing agencies can assist clients in a variety of industries. Ultimately, marketing tactics remain consistent across industries and products. Hiring a fractional CMO can be beneficial because they offer an outside perspective. As experienced marketing professionals, they can also serve as mentors to your marketing staff and enhance the effectiveness of your marketing department.

Who Needs a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

  • Companies that have an existing marketing team but need executive-level guidance, perspective, and leadership.
  • CEO's, VP's of Sales or Marketing who would like an independent, outside perspective on their business and go-to-market strategy and tactics.
  • Companies that are planning on hiring a VP of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer but want to get started on major marketing activities while taking the time to find the right full-time hire.

When is the Right Time to Hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

As companies grow, they tend to invest in the resources they feel are most important at the given time. Often, that means the first hires are the people who can build out a product or service. Once it's ready for the market, then salespeople are added to the mix. With customers, there's a need for customer service, so hires are made in support. As the organization grows, resources are needed to manage HR and accounting. So, where does that leave marketing?

Signs Your Company Needs a Fractional CMO

  • Your company isn’t ready to spend the money for a full-time marketing executive
  • Growth has stalled or revenue isn't growing fast enough
  • There is a marketing budget but no comprehensive marketing strategy
  • The marketing team is too junior and doesn't have enough experience or the right skillsets
  • Messaging isn't resonating with your target customers or driving new leads

It's often the case that marketing is neglected until later in a company's lifecycle. The company is busy putting the foundational pieces in place. The marketing function is often assigned as a side responsibility for other managers or turned over to junior-level employees who lack deep domain expertise. Without a comprehensive marketing strategy and the right skills to execute the plan, a company may starve for new leads and revenue. This is when a marketing executive is needed, and a fractional CMO can greatly benefit a company in creating lead-generation marketing programs.

Need Short-Term Leadership

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer might also be an excellent temporary solution for companies looking to hire an experienced marketer full-time but cannot justify the cost of hiring a seasoned executive. A contract hire provides a way to get a sound strategy in place and kick off the execution of marketing activities while avoiding the costs of an executive salary. Money saved on salary expenses can be used to pay for the marketing campaigns instead! Hiring an independent marketing consultant isn't meant to be permanent, but it provides expertise to clients and managerial experience on the leadership team. As the head of marketing working on a fractional basis, they can go to work quickly managing the marketing function and internal marketing teams at your company at a lower cost than hiring a full-time, experienced marketing leader.

Lack a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy

Building the marketing strategy is a key component of any fractional CMO engagement. It's a roadmap to what needs to be done and the results required. Since marketing initiatives can take time to produce results, it's important that the marketing efforts focus on both short-term and long-term goals and are aligned with business objectives and the executive team's strategic goals.

Deciding and committing to which marketing efforts are best for your business, such as SEO, content marketing, paid advertising, social media, digital marketing, events, etc., is an important part of developing a comprehensive marketing plan. Too often, companies substitute a marketing budget or campaign plan as their marketing strategy. While understanding marketing spend is important, this approach fails to consider the full buyer's journey, product-market fit, and how various marketing tactics must work together to generate awareness and accelerate business growth. A good marketing strategy drives leads and new revenue opportunities.

Looking for a Specialized Marketing Skillset

Fractional CMOs possess a specialized skill set that can help businesses make meaningful, data-driven decisions for the future. They can make critical decisions, such as- what kind of marketing automation software to invest in, how to allocate your marketing budget, and the best vendors and strategic partners to use for each initiative. If you're planning a new campaign, the Fractional CMO can provide guidance to help companies understand the steps needed to achieve their marketing goals quickly. Along with the progress, fractional marketing leaders make sure there are established metrics and dashboards to track and monitor performance to deliver consistent and sustainable results efficiently. These might not be skills your current leadership team poses and hiring a fractional executive would:

Other Considerations

For growing companies, the pace of change can easily cause rifts within the company's organizational culture. Communication might suffer, causing severe problems in marketing efforts and leading to fewer sales and even negative customer experiences. In some companies, the CEO tries to manage every issue, overloading themselves and stifling organizational development. This often happens when the CEO isn't confident in the knowledge and skills of those tasked to complete the work. An experienced fractional CMO can assess the problems and the resources available and work with the CEO and members of the management team to put a plan in place that offloads the work from others and lets them concentrate on other business priorities. The planning skills that a fractional CMO brings to the company can help everyone better understand the marketing roadmap and what results can be expected from the successful execution of the marketing strategy.

Fractional versus Interim Engagements

A fractional CMO is a part-time marketing executive who works with multiple companies simultaneously. They are responsible for developing and implementing marketing strategies to increase sales and revenue. On the other hand, an interim CMO is a temporary marketing executive who fills the gap when a company's CMO leaves or is unavailable. They are responsible for managing the marketing team and implementing marketing strategies until a full-time CMO is hired. The main difference between the two is that a fractional CMO works part-time while an interim CMO is a temporary full-time position.

Leveraging the Expertise of a Fractional CMO for Business Success

As a business grows, it needs to increase marketplace awareness of its products and services and develop a predictable lead generation engine that provides a steady stream of new opportunities for the sales team. A comprehensive marketing strategy is critical for any growing business. A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer provides seasoned leadership to craft and execute plans at a lower cost than a full-time hire. If your business is looking to grow and wants to put a marketing plan in place, consider a fractional CMO to jumpstart your marketing strategy and secure long-term results.

It's time to grow your company!

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Eric Dickmann

About the author

Eric Dickmann is the Founder / CMO of The Five Echelon Group, host of the weekly podcast "The Virtual CMO" and YouTube series "Work-Life" and a fractional CMO for a variety of small and midsize companies. An executive leader with over 30 years of experience in marketing, product development, and digital transformation, he has worked with large, global companies and small startups to develop and execute marketing strategies to bring innovative products to the market.

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