By Eric Dickmann

March 17, 2023

Fractional CMO

Outsourcing can be a useful tool to help businesses grow and improve their marketing efforts. For example, if your team is stretched thin and you’re having difficulty getting campaigns off the ground, outsourcing certain tasks to third-party specialists can alleviate some of your team's operational pressures. However, it may be the most cost-effective way to accelerate revenue growth for many businesses.

Depending on the nature of your business, it may make more sense for some marketing tasks to remain in-house or handled with a combination of in-house and external staff members. You can typically take three routes: either outsource your entire marketing strategy, keep your marketing efforts in-house, or find a happy medium between the two by selecting only certain parts of your strategy to outsource. With careful consideration and planning beforehand, outsourcing could be an effective tool for streamlining the development of an effective marketing strategy and the execution of a tactical marketing plan.

What Is Outsourced Marketing?

Outsourced marketing is an important approach that can help businesses accomplish their goals. Instead of building a small internal team, business owners hire outside professionals to collaborate with in-house team members to design and execute a marketing strategy. By tapping into the expertise of outside experts and leveraging their resources, companies are able to increase visibility and promote their services or products more cost-effectively than by hiring full-time marketers.

Hiring an outsourced marketing service ensures that your company stays up-to-date on industry trends and practices. The outside marketing firm will provide fresh perspectives and ideas based on current market conditions, which may have been overlooked internally. This helps build long-term success for the company by introducing new strategies, approaches, technologies, and channels for engaging customers and driving revenue growth. Outsourcing also lets internal marketing staff focus on core business operations while letting outside experts handle strategic planning and tactical execution.

How Do You Know If You Need Help with Marketing?

  • You have a strong tactical marketing team; however, you do not have a marketing person sitting at the table where company decisions are made about the vision, mission, strategy, tactics, and growth plans for the next 3-5 years
  • Your business lacks a comprehensive marketing strategy or plan
  • Your company needs a sustainable marketing engine that delivers predictable results
  • You spend money on marketing, though you see little ROI or do not have the capabilities to track budgets, measure performance, or forecast results
  • You need better competitive analysis and market research to know if you are talking to your target customers or delivering the right products and services
  • Your business needs a full assessment of current marketing strategies, personnel, and abilities to ensure long-term success.
  • Your company lacks the expertise needed to implement digital transformation and automation solutions into your marketing technology stack
  • You want to implement advanced tactics or implement marketing technologies to help the organization best utilize its data and assets to improve the customer experience
  • Your leadership team needs an expert to assist with enhancing customer loyalty, decreasing customer attrition, and aiding the business development team in reaching its growth objectives
  • The in-house marketing team's efforts have not significantly impacted revenue, leaving potential opportunities in the market unexplored.

The Role of the CMO

In the business world, the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is responsible for marketing a company's products and services. Most CMOs will have many years of experience in strategy development and tactical execution. Small and midsize companies might not have a formal role for a CMO but still require a leader responsible for developing and executing their marketing strategy. Whatever title or formal structure, many companies should consider outsourced CMO Services as a way to get experienced marketing leadership to help drive growth at a lower cost than hiring a full-time CMO or marketing leader.

The CMO's role is to work with the management team and strategize on expanding markets, increasing brand awareness, building customer loyalty, driving engagement, and growing revenue. They are responsible for creating the “voice” for the organization through its brand experience. The CMO is also the brand ambassador, engagement advocate, and customer champion. They are tasked with creating a comprehensive strategy that aligns with the organization's vision, goals, and objectives. This involves the cohesion of teams and resources, such as budgets and timelines. The CMO oversees the marketing department and ensures the plan is followed in order to reach the established marketing goals.

What is an Outsourced CMO?

An outsourced CMO becomes a part-time addition to your executive staff, bringing a market-based perspective to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and manage the marketing function. Think of it as an "executive-as-a-service." An outsourced CMO is also called a Fractional CMO, Virtual CMO, or CMO On-Demand. One way to think about the value of a Fractional CMO is that you are "renting" precisely the type of marketing leader your company needs.

  • Speed– Recruiting is a slow process often limited by the candidates available in your geography. Why recruit a CMO when you can "rent" one quickly? No hiring delays, headhunters, interviews, or relocations. They can start working for your business as soon as an engagement contract is signed!
  • Convenience– Being able to select from a broader range of candidates means you can find an outsourced CMO who closely matches your company's specific needs and values.
  • Cost-Savings– Hiring an outsourced CMO costs 30% - 50% less than a full-time hire. No recruiting, relocation, or benefits costs. The savings add up; a fixed-rate contract means you know your expenses.
  • Up-To-Date– A significant benefit of hiring an outsourced CMO is that they have experience from multiple engagements and stay current with the latest technologies and trends.
  • Connected– It's not always feasible to have a large marketing team. A well-connected leader with access to other consultants, vendors, and marketing partners means they can quickly execute your marketing plan without additional hiring.

CMO as a Service

CMO as a Service refers to outsourcing the role of a Chief Marketing Officer to a fractional executive. This service is becoming increasingly popular among small and medium-sized businesses that do not have the resources to hire a full-time CMO. 

CMO as a Service providers offer a range of marketing services, including market research, branding, digital marketing, and advertising. The provider works closely with the business to develop and implement a marketing strategy that aligns with the business goals. This approach allows businesses to benefit from the expertise of a CMO without the cost of hiring a full-time employee.

Outsourced CMO's Responsibilities

Your marketing strategy should define the direction you and your business will take to reach the goals decided upon in the strategic planning stage. To do this, you must understand what your customers want and how they view your product or service, including potential trends and competitors. An effective strategy will leverage digital and traditional marketing channels, such as PR campaigns, SEO, online advertising, website design, event promotion, content marketing, etc. Once the team identifies and agrees upon these channels, you must create a detailed plan for executing the desired activities.

What are the functions that a marketing organization needs? These don't necessarily map onto individual hires; not every marketing team has every capacity, particularly early on. But as companies grow, they often need resources either as part of their internal marketing team or as outsourced resources focused on many of these areas:

  • Content CreationContent marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Content is a critical component of an inbound marketing strategy.
  • Brand Awareness and PositioningBrand awareness is the level of consumer consciousness of a company. Brand recognition is an important metric that evaluates how well a customer can identify and relate a company's brand to its products or services. This is achieved through inbound and outbound marketing efforts. When significant competition exists in an industry, brand awareness, especially a company's online presence, can be one of the business's greatest assets.
  • Marketing Communications (MarCom) Marketing communications and public relations refer to the tactics a company adopts to convey messages about its products and services, either directly or indirectly, to persuade customers to purchase. In other words, the different mediums that the company adopts to exchange information about their goods and services to the customers.
  • Events -These can be either live, in-person events such as trade shows, conferences, seminars, etc., or virtual events like webinars. While in-person events are expensive, they also provide unique opportunities to meet customers and prospects face-to-face and build relationships.
  • Lead Generation Helps a company grow by the acquisition of potential customers. Lead generation involves multiple marketing channels and digital marketing tactics, including paid search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), social media, email marketing, and advertising. For many companies, this usually represents a significant part of their marketing budget.
  • Customer EngagementFocuses on getting engagement and potentially additional sales and referrals from existing customers. Tactics include email, newsletters, promotions, direct mail, etc., to maintain contact and incentivize customers to purchase additional products and services.
  • Business DevelopmentStrategic partnerships can be essential in scaling your business. Partnering with other companies to create win-win relationships can expand your reach and give your company access to new pools of potential customers.
  • Analytics and MetricsYou can't successfully implement a successful marketing strategy without knowing what you need to measure and how you will measure it. Analytics and tracking metrics are critical to monitor the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and strategies. Optimizing your marketing programs through data analysis can save on marketing costs.

Benefits of an Outsourced CMO Service

Hiring an outsourced Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) can provide many benefits for your business. First and foremost, an outsourced CMO brings a fresh perspective and objective analysis to your marketing strategy. They can also provide a level of expertise and experience that may not be available in-house. Additionally, outsourcing your CMO can save your company time and money by eliminating the need to hire a full-time employee. An outsourced CMO can also be more flexible and adaptable to changes in the market, as they are not tied down to the internal politics and bureaucracy of the organization. Overall, hiring an outsourced CMO can be a smart and effective way to improve your company's marketing efforts and achieve your business goals.

An outsourced CMO service brings many benefits to an organization:

  • An outsourced CMO is the fastest way to grow your company, with less cost than a full-time employee and lower risk. These fractional CMOs are driven to demonstrate immediate, ongoing results focusing on business growth.
  • Experienced outsourced CMOs can quickly spot trends, gaps, and problems in a company's sales and marketing strategy through their years of experience in helping growing businesses. This experience and outside perspective provide enormous value to drive an increased ROI for marketing activities and new sources of revenue.
  • Executive outsourcing is more cost-effective than hiring a digital marketing agency or an in-house marketing manager. Demand for competent and experienced marketing executives is high. An outsourced CMO costs significantly less than an in-house manager, allowing your company to invest in growth programs rather than high salaries and compensation packages. Savings of 30% to 50% are typical in salary and benefits alone. Add to this the savings of being able to ramp up marketing activities without a lengthy onboarding process, and the savings add up.
  • Companies prioritizing growth understand that an outsourced CMO is a cost-effective and efficient way to create and implement marketing strategies.

The Impact on Marketing of Hiring an Outsourced CMO

Understands Your Vision

Have a big vision for growth? An outsourced CMO will explore how you'll get from here to there and what steps are necessary to grow your business. There are no cookie-cutter plans. Each business is unique, and a comprehensive strategy only works with a detailed understanding of where you want your business to go.

Creates a Strategic Plan

An effective marketing strategy can be crafted and executed efficiently with market-based insights. An outsourced CMO will collaborate with you and your team to determine areas of opportunity and how to build a plan to capitalize on market potential. An outsourced CMO brings the best ideas, within or outside your industry, to deliver results. This executive-as-a-service model lets you engage the best marketing minds in a cost-effective manner. Time is money, and an outsourced CMO gets your strategy underway quickly.

Executes, Measures, and Optimizes

A strategy is only as good as the results it produces. To that end, using the right tools to execute tactics, measure results, and analyze outcomes is critical to an effective marking plan. An outsourced CMO knows the tools, metrics, and resources needed to help your company get the best ROI for its marketing investments.

Cost of an Outsourced CMO Service

While an outsourced CMO service is an increasingly popular option for businesses looking to maximize their efficiency and minimize costs, the exact cost of outsourcing your marketing will depend on the scope of services being provided and the amount you decide to outsource. Generally, outsourcing your marketing can be more cost-effective than hiring a full in-house marketing team.

An outsourced CMO,  Virtual CMO, or fractional CMO are all titles for highly experienced marketing professionals who work on a part-time or project basis for multiple companies. Outsourced CMOs bring years of industry-specific marketing experience, insights, and expertise to businesses at a lower cost than hiring a full-time marketing leader or full-service marketing agency.

One of the primary benefits of hiring a outsourced CMO service is cost savings. For comparison, according to, as of February 2023, the average annual salary is $342,859 for a full-time CMO, $269,443 for a VP of Marketing, and $177,827 for a Marketing Director. However, total compensation is even higher when recruitment fees, benefits, and stock option costs are included. Additionally, outsourced CMOs do not require benefits, which can save businesses even more money.

Fractional CMO Cost 2024

What Do Outsourced CMOs Charge?

When it comes to the cost of an outsourced CMO service, it can vary depending on the individual's experience level, the scope of work, and the amount of time required to manage the marketing programs. An outsourced CMO service may charge a flat fee for a specific period or an hourly rate for ongoing work. Hourly rates can range from $150 to $400 per hour, while flat fees can range from $5,000 to $10,000 monthly for a one-day-a-week engagement.

In these cases, hiring an outsourced marketing service could be an attractive option. A outsourced CMO is generally hired on a retainer basis, where they dedicate a set amount of time to your company in exchange for a fee - this outlay is often much lower than that of a full-time employee. This can provide smaller businesses access to the same level of expertise at a more affordable rate than their bigger counterparts. You may also benefit from assistance on specific marketing initiatives or campaigns while avoiding long-term commitments when engaging fractional services, which can offer flexibility in both budget and time allocations.


To stay abreast of trends, recognize opportunities, align resources, implement strategies, and reduce wasted money, having a competent leader is critical for any organization's success. Whether working within the existing leadership team or as an outsourced contributor, having a seasoned and experienced marketing professional can significantly impact your growth. An outsourced CMO provides the experience to create, define, build, manage, and execute the many tactics necessary to achieve your revenue goals. If you lack the right internal resources, outsourcing the Chief Marketing Officer function can allow businesses to engage an experienced resource for the required time and budget the company can afford today.

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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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