When is a Fractional CMO Right for Your Business?

Fractional CMO

When starting a business, most founders need to focus their attention on developing their core product or service and acquiring new customers. While sales is absolutely a top priority at this stage, marketing is often on the back burner, and that’s normal.

A lot of businesses see early success and growth with a sales-focused model. But eventually, a time comes in every organization where the ability to grow to the next level becomes increasingly difficult without the support of a strategic, fully executed marketing plan.

As the organization reaches a certain size, often between $5M to $50M in revenue, questions begin to surface about the various marketing tactics that they have tried in the past:

  • “We think we’re doing some things well, but how do we know for sure?”
  • “We’re investing a lot of money into getting more leads. Are we getting the right quality and value in return?”
  • “How can we find the time to prioritize and dive deep into marketing?”

If these questions sound familiar, it may be time to look at your marketing leadership (or lack thereof). When times are good, revenue is coming in, and the sales team is crushing it, there may not be a lot of motivation to do things differently. But in leaner times, when budgets are constrained, it can be tough to invest in marketing expertise. This cycle of staying the course when things are good and being resource-strapped when times are tight is a recipe for stagnation and stunted growth. Without strategic marketing leadership, you can’t activate and integrate a strategy that consistently creates new demand, opens new verticals, empowers sales with resources to close deals, and builds a brand.

All of this begs the question: With only so much budget to go around, how do you bring on a marketing leader in the least risky, most flexible way?

It might be time to consider bringing on a fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). A Fractional CMO is a senior marketing leader who works within your business on a part-time basis, building strategy and leading execution that aligns marketing and sales to drive revenue for your organization. A fractional leader provides growing businesses with the experienced leadership they need, with the flexibility to scale and control costs as they grow. There are a number of signals that can help you determine if and when your organization is ready to engage a Fractional CMO.

Recognize the signs you may need a fractional CMO

To improve marketing within your business, it’s crucial that you recognize the symptoms of weak marketing. Here are a few signs that your organization needs marketing leadership:

  • You have no marketing plan or budget;
  • Your marketing department only has one or two inexperienced staff members;
  • Your CEO / Founder or Head of Sales still owns the marketing strategy (but admittedly doesn’t really “know” marketing);
  • Marketing is reactive to sales and executive requests, but not strategic or proactive;
  • Marketing activities feel tactical, non-integrated, project-based, flavor-of-the-day;
  • You lack marketing metrics that can demonstrate ROI or sales impact;
  • Sales are slowing down or stalling.

If one or more of these apply to your business then it’s a good indicator that you could benefit from marketing leadership. But where do you even start?

Use natural shifts to determine when to hire a CMO.

Changes occur in sales or marketing departments all the time. Harnessing one of these shifts could be the answer. After all, if there are already people changing roles or leaving the organization, it might be the ideal time to introduce new leadership.

For example, a sales leader or marketing manager might be already leaving for a new job or retirement. This is a great time to start general conversations about change at the company. This could lead to specific questions about whether the current marketing strategy is still suitable. You could follow this up with visions, plans, and systems to install a fractional CMO.

However, a timely opening won’t always present itself. If there are no natural shifts to take advantage of, you might need to pick your own moment.

Acting early gives a CMO the best chance of success.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but the right time to bring on a marketing leader is well before you feel that you need one: while business is good and sales are growing. Ideally, one or even two years before you anticipate the need for increased pipeline. This way, a new fractional CMO has a runway to ramp up, organize systems and talent, implement and integrate programs, measure outcomes, and optimize marketing performance. It usually takes 12-18 months of sustained, strategic, iterative marketing execution to reach a point of predictable growth. For B2B businesses who have a 6-12+ month sales cycle, this motion needs to start at least two years in advance to fuel future revenue.

Find the right fractional CMO solution for your business

If you’re a young, growing business, hiring a marketing leader is often way down the list of budget priorities. It can be tempting to only focus on short-term growth and sales.

But a CMO will help you secure future business growth. Their precise planning, development, and execution of a marketing strategy will generate a wider customer base with better long-term revenue.

You need to be able to accurately size up your revenue team’s gaps and opportunities so that you can take action at the right time, and bring on the right person, to help amplify your marketing efforts.

And when bottom-line is a consideration (as it is for every growing business!), a fractional CMO is a great option to get top-tier expertise without the commitment of a full-time hire. Talk to us today about bringing strong marketing leadership to your organization.

Share This Post

Follow me

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
Follow me