Five Moments of Truth When You Need a Fractional CMO

A good marketing function should be accelerating business growth, feeding into your bottom line, winning and retaining new customers and leading the way to achieving your organisation’s mission. The business leaders we work with want to understand how to unlock marketing’s potential. Fractional CMOs are board level marketing experts brought in on an advisory, temporary basis to achieve just this. It is a short injection of investment in marketing for long term value and benefits. In this article we take a look at five of the most common situations where a fractional CMO has fast and lasting impact and is ultimately a game changer for the businesses they work with. 

1. “We need to unlock profitable growth…”

…following new investment, after an IPO, by entering new markets, through new product development. Whatever the context, profitable growth is the objective and marketing is one of a business’ most powerful tools to get there. In order to maximise new opportunities, companies in growth mode need to make radical changes. This requires commerciality and expertise as well as the seniority to influence the company’s stakeholders and successfully embed a new strategy. If you find these skills do not already exist in your marketing team, perhaps they’re more tactical, or you’re also not ready to make such an investment on a permanent basis, a Fractional CMO can quickly unlock value in the business at a pivotal moment in time.

2. “We need to review the effectiveness of our current marketing resource”

Talent audits, organisational design, even supplier reviews, these are highly emotive projects that are almost impossible to undertake internally without some level of (conscious or unconscious) bias or subjectivity. It might be that there’s been a previous CMO mis-hire or an unexpected departure – the objectivity of a fractional CMO is invaluable in identifying the best structure and talent for the business going forward. These projects need to be done by a highly credible marketer to have the experience and gravitas to steer the business through change, and ultimately, get stakeholder buy-in to the successful adoption of a more robust marketing structure. For supply chain reviews, a fractional CMO can quickly identify overspend, recommend tried and tested agencies and suppliers and negotiate contracts to get you the best deal. The result? An efficient and cohesive team that is aligned to business objectives, suitably supported by suppliers, and will be able to deliver results.

3. “How can we use data to gain actionable customer insight?”

We need to know more about what customers are doing to drive better performance, but what MarTech should we be using and how do we instil a data culture? These sorts of innovation projects require a subject matter expert, someone who can select and implement the right systems, and ensure the success of what is likely a large investment. These projects are front-ended in the resources needed to get it off the ground and therefore require expertise and time beyond the existing marketing function, who still have their current roles to fulfil. Most marketing teams have embarked on ‘digitalisation’ to some extent but is the potential of automation and AI, for example, really being realised? When systems are underutilised, they leave you exposed, threaten retention and leave you no competitive advantage or potential return on investment. Bringing in focused expertise to embed innovative technologies could save huge costs down the line.

4. We need clearer brand differentiation

If a business isn’t achieving competitive advantage, an overhaul of the brand strategy can be the best way to create more blue water between you and your competition. This is a transformation project, encompassing a lot of change, and these sorts of projects are notoriously difficult to onboard. Businesses often think that bringing in an ‘outsider’ to lead on brand repositioning could cause controversy, but our research shows that having a laser-focus on brand management and being that catalyst for change ensures no split focus and more clarity. They have the gravitas to initiate top-down adoption of the brand. And by the very nature of the role they play in businesses, fractional CMOs know how to embed themselves into an organisation, understand the heart of the business and achieve that all important brand differentiation.

5. “Why is marketing underperforming?”

Marketing performance can have a massive impact on business growth. As marketing moves up the business agenda, it’s vital to ensure the marketing strategy is keeping up the pace and delivering that all important customer acquisition focus. An independent marketing audit, be it a commitment of 10 or 20 days work, could result in a massive gear change for the business. Such audits provide clear conclusions, and options, for business leaders to then overhaul their strategy and ensure their marketing is fit for purpose. You can easily achieve this by investing in positive disruption: hiring a Fractional CMO who offers a combination of independence, diverse thinking and sensible solutions.

Fractional CMO vs permanent hire?

The gig economy, allowing businesses to bring in additional resource on a temporary basis, is relatively well-established in the UK. Certainly at management level and below it is common practice. However, applying the same flexibility to board-level positions is a newer, but infectious concept. Businesses quickly realise true value when bringing in a top level marketer to put them through what has been likened to HIIT training…it’s high intensity, it has rapid impact, it’s focused and it’s bold…and the results are transformative. We’ve seen many first hand examples of this, especially in the USA where the fractional CMO market is more mature.

The advantages of a fractional CMO over a permanent hire boil down to experience, objectivity, flexibility and value. You can see from the preceding examples how it works in practice, but in summary:

  • A fractional CMO is brought in for a specific, often time bound project, and therefore has direct experience in that area. You wouldn’t necessarily have such tunnel vision if recruiting a permanent CMO, but for project work, it’s ideal. Bring someone in who is laser-focused on the challenge you want them to tackle.
  • We talk about objectivity a lot in this article. A fractional CMO will likely have a diverse portfolio of clients, across multiple industries, so have a creative outlook on what will have the most impact for a business. This is how you can shake off the “this is how we’ve always done things” mentality and really see results, quickly. Our fractional CMOs also have the wider Growth Partners and tml Partners networks at their fingertips whenever it would benefit their client.
  • When you’re in the thick of it, dial up your senior marketing resource. When you’re getting the results, dial it down again. Yet you can still retain your board level marketer as an adviser or mentor, akin to an NED. This sort of flexibility is impossible with a permanent hire, but it’s the very nature of a fractional CMO. 
  • There’s huge value in being able to access top level talent offpayroll, without the full time employee obligations and costs such as benefits or bonuses. 

If you’re ready to move the strategic dial in your business, get in touch with us to discuss how a Growth Partner will be your game changer.

Emma Morrison
Head of Growth Partners
+44 (0) 203 995 4222