The Necessary Skills and Qualities of the Modern Fractional CMO

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From flipping burgers to becoming an astronaut, every job takes some degree of skill and ability. But, the more advanced the job is, the more difficult it can be to define the skills and qualities that will make someone truly successful in that role.

When it comes to hiring a fractional CMO, this process can become even more difficult for three reasons:

  1. You may have never hired a CMO before.
  2. The fractional element entails a different type of relationship.
  3. Marketing is a multifaceted discipline; it can be hard to know which core skills your ideal leader needs (i.e. communication, analytics, digital, etc.).

What Skills Are Essential for a Modern Fractional CMO to Have?

Fractional or not, all CMOs need to integrate and lead a wide range of skill sets all while keeping leadership looking forward.

“In the future, the CMO needs to be the Sherlock Holmes of the C-suite—an intuitive customer behavior genius, a sociologist of sorts. Lose sight of your customers for even one minute and you’re in trouble.”
American Marketing Association

What does this mean your CMO needs in terms of skills?

  • The ability to influence and guide leadership to focus and align on their vision for growth and the business, instead of always putting out fires.
  • The skills to create and maintain a consistent, compelling brand narrative.
  • The experience to build and lead teams of internal and external resources to support marketing execution.
  • The chops to interpret and apply analytical data to make incremental improvements to marketing channels and programs.
  • The mindset of a CTO to help navigate the increasingly complex world of MarTech: bringing forward the right solutions, at the right time, and at the right scale for the business.
  • The commitment to demonstrating revenue impact: defining and measuring the key metrics that move the needle on sales.

After you’ve determined that your CMO has the skills you need, it’s time to take a look at their qualities.

Balancing Necessary Skills with the Right Qualities

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These skills need to be balanced with the right qualities. But, which qualities are most important for a fractional CMO to have?

  • A fit to your culture. Many growth businesses who are hiring their first-ever marketing leader make the mistake of looking primarily for industry-specific experience, or someone who has marketed similar solutions. The reality is, the most important quality to seek in a marketing leader is an alignment with your company’s values and vision. Will this person work well with your leadership team, and do they understand what the role requires? If you get the right person in the right seat, an experienced marketing leader will be quick to learn your products or services and align strategy and execution. It’s great when the right person also brings industry or solution experience, but don’t overlook the leader that best fits your culture.
  • Experience building marketing teams and programs of similar scale (i.e. taking marketing departments from the first generation to the next generation). A marketer who has led programs, teams, and vendors for a $5-50M business in the past knows what it takes to do that successfully. By contrast, a marketing leader with only enterprise-level experience may find it challenging to execute without large budgets or a deep bench.
  • Willingness to “roll their sleeves up” and the ability to support both strategy and execution. Your fractional CMO should provide high-level support when it comes to marketing strategy, but still be hands-on in the day to day integration, direction, and execution.
  • Ability to be both a sounding board and a coach to executive teams. This helps business leaders align their vision with realistic expectations, criteria for success, and the best mix of marketing activities to balance resources and results.
  • Expertise in helping leaders from across departments align, make decisions and hold each other accountable. The most effective and sustainable marketing programs are developed through leadership alignment, documented plans, and measurable results that inform ongoing iteration. It’s all about building the discipline of planning, execution, measurement, and ongoing evolution—with strong alignment from the top down.
  • Experience in hiring and coaching internal marketing team members to build the strongest support for the business as it grows. An experienced marketing leader knows how to create the right balance of internal and external talent as programs evolve. A fractional CMO will also help define the criteria for their full-time successor, helping the company hire the right leader to take their marketing team to the next level.

Finding a fractional CMO that fits the bill can be challenging, but getting the right leader in the seat is essential for success. Authentic Brand makes this process easier by helping match the best fractional CMO to your culture and needs, aligning you with a seasoned leader that will help your business attain next-level growth.

Fractional CMOs Need All the Skills of a Full-Time CMO and More

Your fractional CMO will be in charge of driving all marketing efforts for your company. Trusting someone with that level of responsibility can be uncomfortable at first, but having a complete understanding of all the skills a fractional CMO needs can give you the confidence you need to make a decision.

That being said, here are some additional skills to look for in a fractional CMO.

  • Ability to quickly assess and take charge of a company’s marketing program.
  • A proven methodology and toolset that allows them to provide tangible value quickly, and ongoing value with consistency. Authentic Brand’s Marketing Traction process does just this: equipping our clients with documented strategies that a future marketing leader can continue to lead after the fractional leader has moved on from the role.
  • Ability to make the right hires or create the right relationships to ensure your company has the resources it needs.
  • Ability to help you hire and onboard their replacement, and the mindset that this day will come.

These skills will help your CMO hit the ground running, bring the right tools, and set your company up for long-term success.

How Authentic Brand CMOs Are Different

You need more than basic marketing skills. As we’ve seen in this article, fractional CMOs are the astronauts of the marketing field. That’s why at Authentic Brand our fractional CMOs:

  • Follow a proven process for creating successful marketing programs and develop tangible deliverables that help teams align for execution and ongoing iteration (Messaging Traction Framework™ and Marketing Traction Roadmap™).
  • Provide fast impact and flexibility to help growing businesses develop their marketing programs and teams until they are ready to make a full-time leadership hire.
  • Are always one step ahead in planning for the next step in your company’s marketing growth.

Learn how an Authentic Brand fractional CMO can help your organization gain alignment and traction to build strong marketing muscles. Click here to set up your consultation, and get the skills you need to hit your company’s long-term goals.

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Jennifer Zick

Founder and CEO at Authentic Brand
Jennifer Zick is the Founder and CEO of Authentic Brand, a Minneapolis-based marketing consultancy that helps great businesses attain next-level growth through Marketing Traction™.
Jennifer Zick
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