4 Alternatives to Fractional CMO Services

Last updated on Dec 7, 2020

Enter the Fractional Chief Marketing Officer

The fractional CMO is obviously the part-time and possibly short-term alternative to the full-time marketing executive, providing marketing leadership at a fraction of the salary cost, similar to the common role of "fractional CFO." While this C-suite role can take your current marketing to the next level, this usually entails a high hourly rate, especially if you are targeting a unicorn marketing leader. Also, you may wonder why your unicorn isn't working for a larger or highly successful company in the first place – a valid question. 

When looking for that fractional, outsourced CMO partner, businesses should beware of a few things. Agencies and marketing "gurus" can pose as expert-level CMOs when in fact they only excel at buzzwords and tactics rather than generating strategic outcomes. Additionally, agencies or consultants may try to lock clients into burdensome agreements. Long-term contracts and high minimums essentially negate the value of the fractional CMO solution.

Finally, there are those who don't focus on the full marketing mix. Agencies or consultants that specialize in only one small aspect of marketing (i.e. social, SEO, paid ads, email marketing, etc) rather than all other channels will be detrimental to your success.

Alternatives to Fractional CMO Services

1. Hiring Abroad: Dangerous but Cost-Saving

It can be tempting to consider hiring abroad in order to reduce costs. There is certainly international talent who may be just as brilliant as a domestic CMO, but don't underestimate the issues of time zone, language, the accuracy of written English, ability to proofread perfectly, culture, and educational level in the country of origin. Furthermore, just as is the case domestically, the best of the best are probably already working for a successful company. You may have success finding a full-time chief marketing officer or fractional CMO on sites like Upwork.

2. Outsourcing marketing functions

Some go so far as to outsource large portions of their marketing initiatives, such as social media or SEO, or even the development of a marketing plan, but this is equally dangerous, often resulting in an assembly of tactics with no underpinning marketing strategy to support your key initiatives while driving the outcomes and KPIs you desire.

While that can work in some areas of your business operations, it can be a disaster for your marketing department's success. 

Outsourcing: The Quality Factor

It is difficult to tell which outsourcing companies provide quality, and at what standards. Low-quality standards could harm your brand if not attained. Furthermore, cost-benefit and ROI questions are sometimes difficult to answer. 

Have you ever tried to outsource paid advertising to a consultant or company without a firm grasp of the English language, let alone storytelling, advertising principles, creative design, and other must-haves without completely wasting ad dollars? If so, you understand the huge risk of lower-quality standards in outsourcing.

3. Hiring Multiple Vendors

You can of course hire multiple vendors to take on portions of the CMO role and what they would supervise in terms of execution. However, this can get out of control and jumbled quite quickly. We have seen companies fire entire marketing teams because they had so many vendors that no single vendor knew what the others were doing. These vendors rarely communicate and share knowledge, let alone act as a true extension of your team.

This causes inefficiency to skyrocket, results to plummet, and costs to soar. At a certain point, the CEO asks the marketing team, "what are you actually doing here?"

We call this inefficiency "vendor spaghetti." Consolidating to a single, fractional marketing team is the best solution to vendor spaghetti, which we cover next.  

4. Fractional Marketing Teams: The Intelligent Alternative

A fractional marketing team is an alternative to the above options, but also a supplement if you already have the CMO role filled. A fractional marketing team extends your team with their own, essentially creating two teams that work as one. 

Now you can backfill gaps in roles and skillsets without having to hire a vendor, contractor, or employee for each skill, at a lesser cost than a fractional CMO (lower hourly rate), without the need to "herd cats" among disparate vendors or contractors, or the need to worry about the major time and cost of hiring (and firing) employees. 

A fractional marketing team has already done the magic of team-building, cultural fit, performance management, ensuring top-level expertise, and unicorn recruitment, which otherwise would fall on your shoulders. Furthermore, the CMO-level strategy comes from a team of minds rather than one single mind. If you do happen to already have a CMO, then it's just one more set of minds to add to your marketing muscle – fractional marketing teams actually work great when there is already a CMO role in place.

All that is required is a strong marketing leader on your end in order to interface with the fractional team. In today's world, it really is quite easy: you communicate via Slack, Zoom video meetings, a project management portal, even text messaging on the go, just as you would with any of your current team members.

Fractional teams can reduce costs as you scale and grow by avoiding or delaying the need for new hires, or be used to fill gaps if you do have to reduce or furlough staff in order to cut costs during difficult times.

Fractional teams do not pull business-critical operations or components out of your company and hand it over to someone else, which is the case with outsourcing – instead, they enhance and amplify what you already have

You’ve probably heard the term “fractional” as in “fractional CMO.” However, a fractional CMO does not have an entire team at their disposal – this is the key difference between a fractional CMO and a fractional marketing team. Fractional CMOs often hire contractors and others to fill in the gaps, but those people (1) don’t know you, (2) don’t know each other, (3) often don't even know the fractional CMO, (4) are generally much less efficient than a team, and (5) don’t share the same knowledge, processes, culture, and desire to serve you.

What A Fractional Marketing Team Looks Like

Any of these roles can be filled by your company, by the fractional marketing team, or both via role supplementation

Marketing Side

Marketing Manager
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CMO / VP of Marketing
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Business Analyst
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Lead Marketing Strategist
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SEO and Analytics Expert
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Paid Advertising Specialist
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CRO Expert
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Copywriter
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Graphic Designer
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Tech Side

Chief Technical Strategist
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Technical PM
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Lead Technical Architect
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User Experience Designer
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Web Designer
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Front-end Developer
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Back-end Developer
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Data Scientist and Analyst
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CRM Specialist and Integration Expert
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Learn More About Fractional Marketing

Common Questions

But I already have a CMO or some of these other roles filled

Great! Many of our clients do. But unless you are already a team of 16 or 17 and are hiring to complete the final roles, it makes more financial and functional sense to hire a fractional team.

Why can’t I just hire another marketer? 

Marketers these days are feeling the burn as digital marketing gets more and more complex. They are being asked to wear so many hats, and it’s impossible for them to wear all 18, and painful to wear more than a few. This leads to burn-out and sub-par results. 

As a marketer, I feel threatened! 

We are here to have your back. The people we work with every day are marketers. We work for them, alongside them, with them, and even befriend them. 

We don’t replace any of your existing marketing team — rather, we multiply their brainpower, capacity, abilities, and actually make them more relevant and effective at their jobs. 

If anything, we keep the threat of upper management at bay because you start producing better results by working with us! As a company grows, they do bring some of these roles in-house, and that’s ok and we are happy for them when they do!

Contact Us Now to See a Fractional Marketing Team in Action

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O8 is a web and digital marketing consultancy based in Minneapolis, MN offering expert-level UX Design, CRO, and strategic consulting, as well as highly-technical capabilities in Drupal, WordPress, and HubSpot

We work differently from traditional agencies in that we extend your team with ours.