By Eric Dickmann

March 30, 2023

Fractional CMO

When companies seek marketing expertise to increase brand awareness and lead generation, they must consider how best to build a team using internal and outsourced marketing resources. Hiring a full-time marketing leader and in-house staff is not always the most cost-effective option. Additionally, recruiting the right talent is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor with no guarantee of finding available hires with the right skills and experience.

When hiring in-house staff isn’t feasible, outside consultants or agencies can be tapped for expertise on a more flexible basis. Outsourcing gives businesses access to specialized expertise, industry experience, and affordable pricing that fits most budget constraints. In short, fractional marketing is a great way to enhance your team's capabilities and accelerate growth affordably.

Building Your Marketing Organization

Fractional marketing, also known as an outsourced marketing service, is used to describe the practice of delegating specific marketing tasks and activities to a contractor or agency on an hourly, flat rate, or project basis. This type of marketing approach is ideal for companies that lack the internal resources and expertise to successfully execute their own campaigns yet still require access to certain specialized skill sets in order to meet their marketing goals.

When it comes to fractional marketing, the focus should be on finding the right partner who can offer comprehensive services and expertise at an affordable price point. A fractional marketer can provide companies with effective marketing strategies tailored to their target audience and budget requirements - helping them achieve their desired results faster. Additionally, they can take advantage of opportunities that may otherwise go unnoticed by providing valuable insights into emerging markets or niche industry trends.

The most important benefit of fractional marketing is that it allows companies to leverage experts' knowledge, skills, and experience without committing time or money to recruit full-time staff members. Companies no longer have to worry about training employees or dealing with expensive overhead costs that can negatively impact the overall marketing budget.

What Is Fractional Marketing?

Fractional marketing teams are fast becoming a popular way for companies to get the services of experienced marketing professionals on an as-needed basis. A fractional marketing director or fractional CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) leads these teams. They can handle any duties that an in-house marketing team would fulfill, such as content marketing, digital marketing, email marketing, SEO (search engine optimization), online advertising, social media management, web design, and more. What sets these teams apart from other marketing services is their flexible availability. Instead of being employed full-time by one company, the team members might work for multiple companies at once on a fractional basis, dedicating a predetermined number of hours per client. This allows companies to scale their marketing activities as needed and ensures they receive top-quality service without committing to a long-term contract. Fractional marketing teams are often provided through marketing agencies or as consultants and freelancers who charge on a contractual basis, so companies have more control over the cost of their marketing spend.

What are the Benefits of Fractional Marketing?

A fractional marketing team can be an amazing asset for your business. Having business leaders with the right skills and strategic thinking can be invaluable in achieving your goals. They are able to bring their expertise and insight to inform marketing decisions, freeing up time that would otherwise have been spent on research or deliberation into what is best for the brand. This way, business owners have more time to concentrate on other aspects of their organization while still getting the results they want from their marketing initiatives.

These teams also come with many advantages, like flexibility regarding hours and structure. An entire team doesn't need to be dedicated full-time to a project; instead, certain parts of the marketing function can be outsourced for short-term periods, allowing for cost-effectiveness and efficient use of resources. This makes setting up and growing a marketing team much easier than hiring an internal team, as there’s no need to provide benefits or long-term contracts – all that is needed is to find and hire excellent outsourced marketers who are experienced in growing brands through tactical campaigns.

One option is to hire consultants or agencies who can help bring different perspectives and fresh ideas for consideration. Consultants often offer flexibility, independent thinking, and the ability to complete projects quickly since they’re already experienced and knowledgeable marketers. An agency may be able to bring additional resources like graphic designers, content creators, and social media specialists who can assist with ad campaigns and website maintenance that are outside of your immediate capabilities. Both options allow for an outsourced approach without making an initial commitment to a long-term relationship.

Another option is to consider engaging a fractional CMO or outsourced marketing manager. These fractional marketing leaders could be a great way to enhance your team with industry knowledge and expertise. This can be a cost-effective solution for small and mid-sized businesses because it allows you to outsource parts of the management or marketing process that require specialized skills or experience. With fractional CMOs, you pay an hourly rate rather than a full-time base salary. This means that you can devote resources only when needed, and you don’t have to commit long-term to staff that may eventually become a financial burden.

Fractional Marketing Leadership Roles

Fractional marketing leadership roles are the perfect way to get experienced and knowledgeable marketers into your organization without committing to a long-term relationship. Fractional marketing services can fill several types of roles, depending on what’s needed from the team. By hiring experienced consultants, fractional CMOs, or other marketing leaders on an as-needed basis, businesses can get the help they need without paying for a full-time CMO or another full-time executive. This allows organizations to access the best talent available in order to accelerate their business growth. While many of these leadership roles sound similar, the difference generally boils down to how much experience the professional has and their going level of involvement in marketing operations once a strategic plan is in place.

Fractional CMO or Fractional VP of Marketing

Whether you call the role a fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or fractional VP of Marketing, fractional leadership can provide mid-sized companies with experienced marketing skills to build a market strategy and manage customer acquisition, sales development, and overall company growth without the need for a full-time hire. This can be beneficial since it requires less of an upfront cost and allows companies to effectively make use of the knowledge that a marketing executive has to offer.

A fractional CMO is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the company’s comprehensive marketing strategy, including creating and overseeing campaigns, managing budgets, and leading the team. A fractional CMO is a great way to access world-class market insights and know-how and transform your marketing programs without becoming an employer. Referred to as ‘executive on demand,’ it provides experienced executive talent that can work with you on shaping a brand-building process and marketing transformation aimed at achieving competitive business advantage. This fractional CMO will be with you every step of the way, building strategic marketing plans and providing marketing operations oversight.

Unlike hiring a full-time marketing executive at a significantly higher cost, engaging a fractional CMO on a part-time basis provides expertise that can be tailored to the scope of the engagement along with substantial savings. The cost of a fractional CMO is typically covered by an arrangement such as a retainer basis, flat rate, or hourly contract based on the number of hours/duties required for any particular engagement. Savings can then be reallocated into the marketing plan while simultaneously speeding up the time required to reach the desired business goals. Therefore, leveraging a fractional CMO may be the best option if you need continual guidance from an experienced marketer or specialized industry experience for a product launch, rebranding, or new initiative.

Strategic Marketing Consultant

A strategic marketing consultant is a professional with an in-depth understanding of the marketplace, capabilities, and strategies that can be used to enhance an organization's marketing efforts. Their role is often explored when things aren't quite working as planned, and the solutions proposed usually involve strategic thinking and creative solutions tailored toward meeting distinct business objectives. As such, they are concerned only with uncovering solutions to problems. Once identified, they will develop plans and then provide guidance on how to enact those plans, though they won’t typically be active players in the implementation process.

In essence, their role is that of problem solver and nothing else—they look solely at identifying solutions for problems that exist at present. They don’t get involved in any leadership or management activities–the primary focus is solving a particular problem from a strategic standpoint. Hiring a strategic marketing consultant can be a good opinion for companies that already have strong execution capabilities but need an outsider's perspective to help with a product launch, rebranding, or other project initiatives.

Fractional Marketing Director

Fractional marketing directors are highly skilled part-time contractors who provide invaluable services to businesses. With their experience and knowledge of the current marketing trends, they can help businesses plan and launch successful marketing campaigns. Fractional marketing directors use their digital, social, SEO, web, and event acumen to research and strategically execute campaigns that help their clients grow. They lead in managing the company’s entire marketing department, working a few hours each week with each client on all the necessary tasks to ensure maximum results.

Businesses often choose fractional marketing directors as an alternative to hiring full-time staff or filling strategic leadership roles. These experienced professionals can provide exactly what’s needed in terms of skills, knowledge, and insight into most modern forms of marketing. They are active advisors in devising plans which involve powerful imagery and effective messaging while also taking care of daily tasks such as content creation and distribution processes related to product launches or promotional activities. While generally not as experienced as a fractional CMO or strategic marketing consultant, a fractional marketing director can quickly bring their skills and hands-on experience to a marketing team.

Outsourcing Your CMO

With so many options, why should companies consider hiring an outsourced marketing leader? Having a full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) on your team usually means additional expenses, often involving high salaries and other benefits. Not every business has the capital to make this kind of commitment or needs an executive for 40+ hours a week. Fortunately, businesses can engage a fractional CMO who acts as a consultant rather than an employee.

Fractional CMOs offer their expertise part-time; they help businesses adjust their strategies and provide real-world experience that otherwise couldn’t be obtained with more junior-level staff. Their experience comes from developing and managing the marketing campaigns of various companies across industries, improving processes and tactical execution for better results. These professionals bring decades of experience in marketing, strategy development, and implementation, which can give businesses more insight into what works and what doesn't. Business owners have access to seasoned marketers without needing deep pockets or long-term commitments, allowing them to get exactly what they need without worrying about overspending.


In conclusion, fractional marketing and a fractional CMO can be the secret weapons your business needs to improve your marketing efforts and accelerate growth. By accessing top-tier marketing talent, without the commitment of a full-time CMO hire, you can gain valuable insights, strategies, and execution plans that will help you achieve your business goals faster. So, don't let limited resources hold you back. Embrace the power of fractional marketing and take your business to the next level!

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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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