All the C-level positions are important but I will respectfully submit that a fractional CMO can sometimes be the most important of all. In fact, if you have the right person, a fractional CMO can be a company maker, or at the least, a valuable part of the executive team. And I am not just saying this because it has been my role for much of my career (well, perhaps it does influence my thinking a bit!).
Fractional CMOs range from highly strategic to highly tactical, and everything in between. You probably need one that has a mixture of these skills. I’ve seen CMOs who were great at coming up with big ideas, but very poor at the execution part. Conversely, there are CMOs who can execute really well but don’t move the needle on strategy. This is equally true for full-time and fractional CMOs.
CMOs are not cheap and if your company has the means and can find the right person, by all means find a full-time person to fill out your executive team. But please don’t scrimp in this area. I started my company, Fusion Marketing Partners, 11 years ago by transitioning from a full-time role at my last employment situation, to a fractional CMO role at the same company, with no loss of productivity.
Characteristics of Quality Fractional CMOs
As with anyone else you hire, there will probably be some tradeoffs but you do want your fractional CMO to have as many of the below qualifications as possible. Note that these credentials also apply to the full-time CMO role:
Experience. Experience is helpful in both your specific domain as well as all important aspects of marketing and revenue generation. Beware of hiring a specialist who views every problem as being solvable only with his or her specialty. Also beware of anyone that has the same experience repeated year after year. You want someone familiar with the latest strategies.
Expertise. Notwithstanding what I said above, you still want some deeper expertise in the areas that are most needed. For example, if you lack a strong online presence, some expertise from your CMO in this area is valuable.
Vision. You should look for someone who elevates the discussion of what your company can be, not just someone who will settle for incremental gains. The “vision thing” can be a great thing.
Open-minded. No matter the talent level, the chosen individual should not come across as a know-it-all but rather someone who will listen and learn. It is a very bad sign if they start telling you what is wrong with your company, and how to fix it, after only a cursory examination.
Customer lifecycle oriented. By this, I mean that your CMO should not be obsessed with short-term revenue (although this is important) but rather with facilitating a buyer journey that builds profitable relationships now and into the future. This is a skill that has hugely beneficial implications.
Solid communications skills. Since a fractional CMO does not carry the credentials of a long-term employee, and may be seen as a threat, they need the ability to express themselves in a manner that breeds trust and cooperation, especially with their counterpart in the sales organization.
Revenue driven. It is rare that a company needs someone with a title like fractional CMO to deal only with issues that don’t impact revenue. The right individual can have a big impact on future revenue, especially if they thoroughly understand the lead-to-revenue (L2R) process. If you’re interested in learning more about lead-to-revenue, view the recent webcast I presented on this subject.
Outside perspective. Not all, but most fractional CMOs will have been exposed to many types of business and revenue models and go-to-market strategies. They can leverage this experience to benefit your organization not only in a fraction of the time, but also at a fraction of the cost of a full-time CMO.
Fractional CMOs work best when the CEO and other executives are open to new ideas and an outside viewpoint. If the company is more interested in executing standard operating procedures (SOPs), you are probably better off hiring someone less strategic (and less expensive).
Fractional CMO Example
I’ve performed the role of Fractional CMO a number of times during my career and am currently serving in this capacity for two companies, one of which is called Next Phase of Life (www.NextPhaseofLife.com). I was able to bring my B2B expertise to this B2C organization. My responsibilities include:
- Establishing the branding and top-line messaging.
- Researching target market segments and ranking by priority – followed up with testing each of these segments before scaling marketing efforts and expenses.
- Creating an effective lead-to-revenue (L2R) model that outlines exactly how the company will make its revenue targets. In this case, the objective is to build enough website traffic, subscribers and social media followers to attract affiliate offers and online advertising.
- Working with the webmaster and his team to ensure the website is optimized both for visitors and Google and other search engines – depending heavily on optimized search engine optimization (SEO).
- Developing a partner program to attract and retain industry thought leaders for content syndication and affiliate/channel marketing purposes.
- Hiring the marketing team and developing the process and technology framework to facilitate sustained growth.
It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway), that although I have assigned responsibilities, I am flexible to the company’s needs. Planning is great but things change and every fractional CMO needs the ability to pivot to take advantage of circumstances.
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