Every company eventually hits a growth plateau or decline during its lifetime. As a company grows, an owner-operator may no longer have the time or expertise to oversee the marketing strategy and operations effectively. Because marketing strategy is essential to the business’s success, having the right approach and not the wrong one is crucial.


The person creating the marketing strategy can make or break the business, meaning someone with the right expertise and skillset should be completing this. This is when a fractional CMO can step in. These professionals have decades of experience to draw from to develop a marketing and sales strategy needed to overcome the business’s challenges or goals.


So what is a fractional CMO, and should you hire one? Keep reading to find out.

What Is a Fractional CMO?

A fractional CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) is a marketing leadership professional who works part-time with your company. They take on the responsibilities of a traditional CMO to help you achieve growth without the need to hire someone full-time. They offer strategic guidance to organizations to help them establish goals and develop marketing strategies aligning with them.


Through market research and a SWOT analysis, a fractional CMO can identify suitable strategies based on a business’s growth targets. This helps provide the overall direction a company should head in along with a realistic timeframe. It doesn’t, however, include developing an annual marketing plan.


Typically, a marketing plan is created by a marketing director or manager who has a better sense of team dynamics and accomplishable timelines. They take the overarching marketing strategy and develop the marketing plan against that strategy. They also oversee the marketing team’s operations, whereas the fractional CMO would not. At the hourly rate a fractional CMO charges, you do not want to invest their expertise into this.


You can think of a fractional CMO as an experienced growth consultant. Their decades of experience in the industry allow them to guide you and find the best opportunities for your business.


Fractional CMO vs Marketing Director

Marketing directors don’t have the same experience or aptitude as fractional CMOs. As such, they might not be able to provide a game-changing strategy that enables you to overcome market challenges or overtake competitors. Instead, they are the ones who can ensure things that need to be done, done correctly, and on time.


Marketing directors focus more on day-to-day marketing operations than the overall marketing direction. They lead and execute tactical projects alongside the marketing team.


Fractional CMOs tend to have at least 20 years of marketing under them, compared to about ten years for marketing directors. Their strategic outlook timeline is longer, typically for about three years. A marketing director usually has a shorter timeline of about 1 year.

Note that the client relationship duration of a fractional CMO is typically only three to six months, compared to 12 months or more for a marketing director. Fractional CMOs normally have high salaries, so this can have a significant impact on company funds. This is why they’re generally more suitable for companies that have already experienced some growth.


While rates vary, a typical fractional CMO may change between $200-$350 per hour for their services. Hiring them on retainer is a common choice, often around $8,000 monthly (for 40 hours total). Ensure you know how much you can budget for this before hiring a fractional CMO.

Hiring a Fractional CMO

A fractional CMO can provide the same high-level marketing expertise as a full-time CMO, but you won’t have to make the same financial commitment. They usually work a couple of hours a week and coordinate with your leadership team, typically on retainer for three months. Fractional CMOs maintain a minimum commitment to ensure they can create a suitable impact.


Finding the right fractional CMO can be difficult. There are a few things you can do to make it easier to find the ideal candidate:

  • Figure out what kind of CMO you need
  • Make sure they know how to structure teams
  • Request referrals
  • Get insight from a marketing professional

A fractional CMO doesn’t need experience in your industry, but it can be beneficial. Knowing how much time you expect a fractional CMO to work with your business (typically three to four hours a week) is best. Understanding the associated costs is also ideal. A fractional CMO with a higher level of expertise will usually cost more.


Able & Howe offers various marketing services and can help you find the right fractional CMO for your company. We can discuss your business, including your needs and goals, to find the perfect fit.


What Do They Do?

Generally, a fractional CMO performs the same tasks as a full-time CMO. Some of these include:

  • Developing long-term marketing strategies
  • Setting milestones for business goals
  • Ensuring marketing objectives align with business goals
  • Conducting market research
  • Creating the mandate for the marketing team
  • Building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders
  • Growing brand awareness

It’s also important to understand what they don’t do, such as creating marketing plans, coordinating day-to-day marketing activities, or strategizing and executing marketing initiatives.

Signs That Your Business Needs a Fractional CMO

While the size of your business is a big factor, it’s not the only thing you should consider. There are several signs you can look out for that indicate you may need a fractional CMO:

  • Your marketing team lacks leadership and organization
  • You lack executive-level marketing insights
  • Your business growth has plateaued or is dropping consistently
  • Your business needs a fresh outlook
  • You don’t have a marketing strategist in-house who has been able to achieve your business goals
  • You need a marketing leadership professional for growth
  • Your past marketing strategies failed
  • Your marketing and sales teams are disjointed

If you start noticing these signs, consider bringing in a fractional CMO.

Achieving Your Goals With Fractional CMO Services

Now that you’re no longer asking “What is a fractional CMO?”, you may be thinking about the services that your business needs. Consider the point your company is at in relation to your goals to help you decide.


Able & Howe provides various marketing services to help businesses of all sizes. We’ve developed an In-source Marketing Model that focuses on growth and business goals by offering a unique and innovative solution. Take a look at our fractional CMO services page to find out more about how we can help your business.

Written By:

Anita Lo

Anita is the epitome of a modern digital marketer; chic, successful, and savvy. Having spent years on the front-lines and in strategy rooms, she has translated her insights into a profound understanding of today’s consumer. Her approach exploits sophisticated data testing to remain adaptive to new trends and digital tools.