Fractional CMO: Should You Outsource The CMO Position?

Jason Berkowitz • August 31, 2022

Fractional CMO - Should You Outsource The CMO Position

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Disclaimer: Break The Web does not offer Fractional CMO services. Need help finding the right person for your brand? Get in touch and we can try and pair you up with some great options.

Do you need a strong leader to guide your marketing efforts on a startup budget?

You probably need a fractional CMO. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) position is one of the most important C-level executive positions in an organization.

A CMO is especially crucial in startups and companies that regularly release new products because no matter how groundbreaking a product, its sales will suffer without marketing support. We’ve heard it said that sales and marketing efforts could make or break the success of a newly-launched product.

And it is the CMO who is responsible for planning and executing a robust marketing strategy, in addition to overseeing marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, highly experienced CMOs also come with hefty salaries.

Salary for a Full-Time Chief Maketing Officer
According to, the average salary of an executive-level CMO is $176,000 per year.

That’s a huge amount, especially for a startup that’s just beginning to penetrate the market.

However, operating without an experienced CMO can also be a risky strategy. Many young companies outsource marketing services and try to ‘extend’ their internal marketing teams through the help of agencies.

And while there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing marketing services, problems can arise when there is no coherent strategy for campaigns and brand launches due to the absence of a CMO at the helm.

Even experienced marketing departments can have a hard time implementing marketing efforts without a clear roadmap. Marketing is notoriously agile, and opportunities for growth can easily fall through the cracks when there are too many ideas and no clear direction.

Enter the Fractional CMO or Fractional Chief Marketing Officer. Fractional CMOs are a relatively new and innovative role that addresses marketing leadership problems for many organizations, especially the up and coming ones.

What Is a Fractional CMO?

A Fractional CMO is a high-level marketing executive outsourced by a business or organization to perform the CMO role on a part-time basis. A person in a Fractional CMO role is expected to be highly experienced and adept at handling multiple teams and projects to drive growth and deliver the results a company needs.

Fractional CMO services provide organizations with much-needed leadership support from top CMO talents when they cannot afford to hire a full-time CMO or only need one part-time.

Organizations benefit from hiring Fractional CMOs because they can ‘hit the ground running,’ so to speak. Especially for businesses that may be on a tight budget, hiring a Fractional CMO also reduces the costs associated with searching for the right candidate.

Fractional CMOs function just like in-house CMOs, except that they are hired on a retainer basis. During their engagement with the company, Fractional CMOs have the same responsibilities as in-house CMOs, such as overseeing the marketing department’s activities and output, attending meetings, and presenting budgets and projects to the board.

They’re called ‘fractional’ CMOs because:

●  The CMO-as-a-service model allows you to pay only a fraction of the CMO’s salary.

●  Based on your contract with them, you are entitled to a fraction of the CMO’s time. For example, you can pay a CMO for 20 hours a week. This also means that a Fractional CMO can also have similar contracts with other companies.

What Does a Fractional CMO Do?

Fractional CMOs are responsible for all departments and efforts that fall under marketing. Some examples of the responsibilities of a Fractional CMO are:

●  Handling multiple marketing teams

●  Branding and PR

●  Content marketing

●  Driving messaging, segmentation, and positioning

●  Improving the brand’s online presence

●  Overseeing product pricing, go-to-market, and launch efforts

●  Marketing via paid and organic search

●  Creating loyalty campaigns

●  Streamlining workflows and improving automation infrastructures in marketing and sales

●  Creating lead generation campaigns and nurture programs

●  Filling in gaps by hiring new, quality talent

●  Presenting marketing efforts and budget requests

How Can a Fractional CMO Help My Business?

For starters, hiring a Fractional CMO is a smart way to access a person’s time and expertise, especially if you do not have the budget for a full-time, highly-paid CMO. They can also be great for companies that do not require a full-time CMO post, such as tech companies that only activate marketing efforts during product launches.

Fractional CMO services are also great for traditional marketing teams who want to learn more about current trends. If the current marketing department is working well but would benefit from fresh, insightful leadership, a Fractional CMO can lead them in the right direction and help them improve their current workflows.

You can specify the period for which you will need a Fractional CMO. and during this time, they can help you address crucial issues, streamline workflows, or get programs (ex. Loyalty program) up and running.

To know if your organization will benefit from working with a Fractional CMO, here are some helpful criteria that you might want to consider.

“The Fractional CMO model works well for brands that have a marketing budget, but not a large enough one or high enough profit margins to bring on a full-time CMO. Even before a brand’s launch or before there is a meaningful budget for spending, some brands may consider bringing on a FCMO to help them think through what would be an appropriate marketing plan, including budget, for launch.”

Orli LeWinter, Consulting CMO and Founder of Constellation

A Fractional CMO would be great if you:

●  Already have an existing marketing department in place, but one that would benefit from executive-level mentorship, leadership, and management

●  Are interested in investing in or starting a new marketing function

●  Would like to gain valuable insight concerning marketing best practices in light of your current workflows, go-to-market strategy, and marketing strategies

●  Need to conduct an in-depth market study or would like to penetrate a new local or international market

●  Don’t have the resources to hire a full-time CMO

Won’t an Agency Do the Same Thing?

The main benefit of having a Fractional CMO is having a strong leader to guide your marketing efforts and get better results. Agencies don’t operate on a similar framework.

“An agency is usually going to place an existing agency framework and team on the account. An FCMO going to be embedded within the org to restructure and utilize the in house teams empowering the brand to be self sufficient.”

Stephane Gringer, Partner, Interim CMO at Chameleon Collective

While agencies are helpful if you only need to execute marketing plans and initiatives, they’re not really the right resource to tap if your problem is rooted in leadership and a lack of direction when it comes to marketing initiatives.

Agencies deliver quality work, which is why several companies choose to outsource. However, they still need to be given direction. You have to provide the direction, the goals, and the strategies needed to execute your vision and a CMO, fractional or otherwise, is the best person to help you do that.

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Fractional CMO?

A good CMO is highly-experienced, decisive, and can deliver results that support an organization’s business goals. Good Fractional CMOs bring their expertise to a new organization and steer them towards growth.

“A great fractional CMO knows what their strengths are so they can prioritize where they can add the most value with limited time available. They know where to find resources to fill in gaps. They know how to stretch budgets and minimize added costs. They know what they don’t know. And they’re transparent with their clients about demands on their time so that they can set clear expectations going into any project.”

David Berkowitz, Founder of Serial Marketers

Experienced Fractional CMOs have already helped countless organizations and marketing teams. Thus, they can draw from their experience to tackle problems unique to your organization. They are already familiar with the common risks associated with certain projects and can, therefore, mitigate them proactively. 

Fractional CMOs are also great at bringing new ideas to the table, thanks to their experience with various brands and companies. They know how to build a team and are familiar with the skills, characteristics, and processes that go into forming a robust, in-house marketing team.

All in all, a Fractional CMO’s goal is to set you up for success and help you have a strong team in place, if necessary. With that in mind, a good Fractional CMO needs to have skill sets across the following parameters:


A Fractional CMO needs to have great management skills. They need to be capable of handling the marketing team’s day-to-day functions and making quick decisions in times of crisis. Despite being present only for a limited timeframe, good Fractional CMOs can mentor teams and improve existing workflows and processes.


Needless to say, a good Fractional CMO must be an excellent leader. They need to earn the trust of the team/s they handle and establish rapport with other C-level executives. A good marketing leader helps other C-suite executives understand the value of marketing, especially in industries where ‘soft’ business methods like marketing are still frowned upon.


Good CMOs make decisions based on data and experience, not on a whim or ‘gut feel.’ Firm decision-making skills can help drive success and increase ROI, especially in highly competitive marketing opportunities.

For example, think of digital ads that need to be bid on based on a clear marketing strategy, or maybe a partnership opportunity with an influential but unethical brand. An experienced marketing executive can quickly call the shots in such cases.

Here are some key areas where a CMO’s decision-making skills will come in handy for a small business or startup:

●  Implementing a go-to-market strategy

●  Establishing and implementing best marketing practices

●  Establishing key performance indicators

●  Fine-tuning campaigns based on data

Wrapping It Up

Working with a Fractional CMO can be highly beneficial to your organization. They can help you build your marketing infrastructure, support business goals, and increase ROI.

With a Fractional CMO on board, you’ll get to work with a professional who can help you create a unified strategy for your marketing efforts moving forward. You can also reap the benefits of having a skilled and highly experienced CMO at a fraction of the cost of a regular CMO, which is always a good thing.

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Jason Berkowitz

SEO Director

Since 2010, Jason has been strategizing & leading SEO campaigns for brands of all types.

As the SEO Director at Break The Web, Jason takes point on the strategic direction of client campaigns and internal frameworks & execution processes.

Originally from New York City, when he’s not nerding out to SEO, Jason can be found playing with strangers' dogs or falling from the sky as an avid skydiver.

More about Jason

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