What Is Fractional Marketing?

Fractional marketing is like outsourcing parts of your marketing while keeping in-house marketing team members doing what they do best. You may know that you don't have the internal expertise or skill set to manage some aspects of your marketing efforts, or you may not be seeing the ROI you'd imagined. At the same time, you also know that a part-time marketing hire is much harder to fill, especially for any kind of marketing executive, many of whom and the best of whom are already employed with full-time work.

Fractional marketing allows you to supplement your marketing department or fill roles entirely. You pay only for the time and services rendered, which is a fraction of the cost. It also gives you more flexibility in determining how much to commit to the role.

Fractional Marketing Leadership and CMOs

At some point, a company needs marketing leadership. A chief marketing officer (CMO) is often a key player in an organization's strategic marketing plan and take results to the next level. Such an individual would have the skillset to be a key strategist for the company's marketing efforts.

But a full-time CMO might be too much for startups, small businesses, or even larger businesses who already fill parts of this role across several team members. A marketing executive can be a leader in the company's marketing efforts but could be cost-prohibitive. In some cases, it can even be advantageous for a CMO to have access to another CMO to bat around ideas and further strengthen strategy.

Fractional marketing emerged as a way to fuel a marketing team with experience but without the full-time or ongoing commitment. Instead, fractional marketing experts can guide your marketing plan, but on a short-term or on-demand basis.

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It's Not Just About Fractional CMOs

It's common to associate the words "fractional" and "marketing" with the CMO role. However, that's not the only gap that needs filling in most marketing departments.

Let's say, for example, that you have a business analyst who can interpret marketing results but you also need someone to guide marketing strategy and write copy. You can look to fractional marketing for your specific marketing needs. In essence, you are getting an experienced marketing consultant or two, three, four....

You may need a marketing leader such as a fractional CMO to guide the strategy, but also a copywriter to write that killer copy you've always dreamed of, and a content marketer to make that copy actually take off and bring in leads. The CMO's time is highly valuable and should not be focused on things like copywriting, except maybe for the most important, strategic copy, such as the company tagline or homepage messaging.

You may also have a specific project that needs extra attention. If you are rolling out a new product or service, you want to make sure to hit the right channels with the right messaging - but are unsure what that messaging should be. A fractional marketing team can also help with this type of effort on a short-term basis.

For companies that offer fractional marketing services, they are able to allow their staff to focus on key specialties. Rather than expecting one person to have expertise in every aspect of marketing, services can be purchased a la carte and hours of a team member's time can be purchased on an hourly basis.

This also benefits businesses, as they can focus their budgets on particular aspects of their marketing needs. If the budget only goes so far, it can be hard to hire a single person that meets every need within a marketing strategy.

Impact on Marketing Team Performance

Marketing is more than just putting content out into the world. It requires a lot of strategy and thoughtfulness to make marketing dollars produce results.

For a long time, small to large businesses have attempted to manage marketing efforts themselves. There is a common thread in "wearing too many hats", i.e. attempting to manage and do so many things that the job itself becomes stressful, results stagnate, and marketing team dynamics become prone to burnout and toxicity. 

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In order to take marketing to the next level, businesses have to recognize the level of skill involved in marketing. It is far more than managing day-to-day. There are external forces, including what competitors are doing, that drive marketing strategy and the underlying marketing plan.

Marketing also changes at a rapid pace. Google's algorithm, for example, has a long history of changes. These changes can impact strategy, keyword usage, ranking, and more. Businesses need to be aware and stay on top of changes to ensure their marketing efforts are still performing well. 

Marketing teams need to be able to look at themselves and say, "What are we good at?" If it's not marketing, that is where fractional marketing can come into play. It can fill those marketing needs and allow the business to focus instead on what it does best.

Signs Your Company Needs Fractional Marketing

How do you know if fractional marketing is right for your business? Have you reached a point where you know marketing is not delivering your expected results, or are you simply unsure if your marketing program can be better?

Here are some ways to know that fractional marketing services might benefit your business.

1) Your Marketing Is Based on Guesswork

two people drawing on a whiteboardIf you are basing your marketing decisions on hunches rather than industry insights or data, you are not making informed decisions. Pay-per-click feels like money thrown away. Your ad copy misses the mark, but you're not sure how.

Fractional marketing can fill that need. By building reporting and bringing expertise to the marketing department, you can navigate your marketing efforts in the right direction.

2) Your Marketing Needs Are Not Full-Time

Whether you lack the amount of work or the budget, there are many reasons that companies simply do not need full-time marketing staff. Startups and small businesses routinely find themselves in this position. Often, they are fighting against large players in the market with entire marketing departments that make decisions.

Additionally, not all industries need complex marketing strategies, and you may simply need someone to do a few hours of work per week. You may be getting fantastic results from PPC advertising and only need someone to manage the ad spend and monitor the analytics. 

3) No One Is Leading Your Marketing Efforts

Empty conference room with empty table and chairsMarketing has changed dramatically over the decades. Well-established companies may have been built long before marketing strategy included a multi-channel marketing approach. Gone are the days of relying solely on print ads and trade show booths.

Today's marketing efforts are often complex. Automation can work to a business's advantage. Fractional marketing staff would know how to put the best tools to work to save you time and money.

4) Your Materials Are Created By Different Departments

From your sales team to your customer service, your business is continuously putting content in front of prospects and customers. You want the message and branding to be cohesive, regardless of its origin. Your marketing strategy should touch on all aspects of your business. 

If your sales team is creating their own PowerPoints or flyers that list features/benefits, you risk diluting your message and your brand. Prospective customers are savvy. They can tell which companies take pride in consistent, professional content.

5) You Have a Specific Marketing Project

You could have very specific short-term needs for additional marketing staff. You could be replacing someone who is on a leave of absence. Or maybe you plan to hire a full-time marketing person but need someone to fill in while you find the right talent.

You could also have a project with a specific start and end date. Even if you have existing marketing staff, you don't want to over-burden them. As-needed fractional marketing can give your project the attention that it needs.

6) You Are Not Satisfied With Your Marketing ROI

person writing on white paper with markersYou think your marketing could be better. You may have a solid strategy in place that is working, but you feel your money could be put to better use. You are ready to tackle your channels with a different approach. 

Fractional marketing can fill the role of A/B testing to see if there are improvements to be made. Shifting dollars from one channel to another may yield better results. Different email campaigns may result in more click-throughs.

You may not have the time or experience to try different strategies. Fractional marketing can lead that effort. Conversions can guide your go-forward marketing plan.

Benefits Of Fractional vs. Full-Time Marketing

If you've identified one or more of the signs that your business needs to improve its marketing approach, what is the next step? Why does fractional marketing make more sense than hiring a full-time chief marketing officer? Let's look at some of the key benefits of a fractional marketing team.

Less Disruption

To onboard any new employee is an effort. You can more seamlessly transition a fractional marketing team. You won't have to worry about the day-to-day management of the people involved.

If your needs change in the future, you can "swap out" resources on your fractional marketing team.

Combined Experience

two women looking at a laptopYou'll benefit from the collective knowledge of a fractional marketing team. Marketing is so multi-faceted that it makes sense for individuals to specialize. If you hire a single individual, you will need to rely on that person having expertise in all areas of marketing.

Marketing experience is not about the number of years in the industry. It is about staying current on trends and a broad range of expertise. Fractional marketing teams bring knowledge from their work with many different clients.

Solid Plans and Goals

Fractional marketing consultants can assess your company's strengths and challenges. They can help you develop long-term strategies that meet your goals. 

By outsourcing your marketing needs to a fractional team, you will have some predictability. As your client, the team needs to deliver as promised. If an employee does not end up delivering, you could need to start all over with your marketing efforts.

Built For Efficiency and Responsiveness

Your fractional marketing team has a single objective: to meet your goals. The results have to be measurable. That means the team will work quickly and efficiently to produce.

Whether it is day-to-day tasks, applying tools, or testing strategy, the fractional marketing team has to deliver. They can make sure that you can compete against huge competitors. By coordinating their efforts, your marketing strategy will have the greatest impact.

The marketing climate can change by the minute. Both internal and external factors can force a change in your approach. A fractional team is positioned to be responsive and know the best next course of action.

Grow and Scale as Needed

woman placing sticky notes on a whiteboardYour fractional marketing team knows that your primary goal is growth. If the team is delivering results as promised, you may find that your marketing needs increase.

You can add additional members to your fractional team that makes the most sense as you grow. If you are managing an internal team, this would come with additional HR and administrative responsibilities.

Timing can also be critical in adding additional talent. You want to be ready to meet your marketing growth as it occurs. Adding to an in-house team would take time and resources and could miss marketing opportunities.

At the same time, changes in economic conditions could cause your company to need to scale back its marketing efforts. You could decrease your commitment with a fractional marketing team much more easily than you could with in-house staff.

Your Marketing Needs for 2021 and Beyond

Many companies are recovering from a tumultuous year in 2020. From changes in their customers' buying behaviors to organizational changes, 2020 was the year that forced everyone to adapt quickly. This included many changes in market strategy to meet the needs of their prospective customers.

Now businesses are looking ahead and wondering, "What comes next?" What is the right strategy, and what is the best use of resources?

As you look at your current marketing efforts and your marketing plan for 2021, consider fractional marketing as an alternative to any full-time commitment. Rather than bring on a c-suite marketing professional, you can identify your specific project or needs and hire a fractional marketing team accordingly.

Fractional marketing makes marketing talent affordable. At O8, we can align your team and ours to deliver the results you want from your marketing dollars. Contact us today to speak with a marketing expert.

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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.