Hourly Rates for Fractional CMO Services

Fractional CMO Hourly Rate and Fees Structure

The average hourly rate for a Fractional CMO varies significantly because of how many service providers claim to offer Fractional CMO services.  You should first determine if you are paying for the services of an actual senior marketing executive with atleast five years of experience as a as a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or VP of Marketing, and a proven track record. Many claim to be Fractional CMOs although they do not have actual experience developing comprehensive strategies to achieve the organizations short and long term goals, and improve sustainability. A truly experienced CMO will cost more than self-proclaimed Fractional CMO.

Fractional CMO has become an extremely popular buzzword in the business world.  It generates over 1,000 keyword searches on Google every month. The popularity of “Fractional CMO” has resulted in a number of organizations claiming to offer Fractional CMO services.  Advertising agencies, marketing consultants, digital marketing firms, professors, and even staffing firms now claim to be Fractional CMOs. Unfortunately, there is no standard or certification required for earning the title of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Which creates confusion and begs the question “What is a Fractional CMO?


Key Takeaways – Fractional CMO Hourly Rate and Cost

  • It is important to understand that the hourly rate is not the total cost. There are other fees to consider like additional marketing resources, increased marketing expenses, situational fees such as travel etc. Yet, the most significant is the loss of potential revenues by missing  opportunities .
  • The hourly rate of a Fractional CMO varies significantly because so many service providers claim to be Fractional CMOs. They do so in an attempt to justify charging higher fees for tactical marketing services. Someone with a proven track record and at least five years of actual experience as a CMO averages about $400 an hour, while the same with Marketing VP experience averages $250 an hour.
  • A Fractional CMO is an investment in growing your businesses revenues. The true measure of a Fractional CMOs worth is the ROI they generate on your investment. A truly qualified and experienced CMO costs a little more, but they can generate  thousands, or even millions of dollars of additional revenue.
  • A highly experienced and well qualified Fractional CMO will develop a comprehensive scope of work that includes a fee for the project. This is because a true CMO strategic and focused on key goals and larger projects. Hourly rates are used for tactical activities that can be done fairly quickly, are short term, and smaller projects.


Are You Paying for a Qualified Fractional CMO

There are three qualifications that we suggest considering for a Fractional CMO:

1. Experience – A high-caliber CMO will have held the position of Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Vice President of Marketing in a large company or Fortune 500 corporation. If your business is under $100 million in revenue, you may want to consider someone with experience as a Vice President of Marketing in a mid-market company.

2. Education – We recommend a Master’s Degree, preferably MBA, or Masters of Marketing.

3. Results –  The right Fractional CMO for your needs should have a track record of quantifiable results that exemplify their skills and abilities.

The issue is that many of these “Fractional CMO” service providers do not have actual experience in developing and executing marketing plans, growth strategies, executive management, or department development. Furthermore, most lack the big-picture perspective and knowledge of Geo-Economical and political factors that are critical in today’s digitally connected and highly volatile global marketplace.

These factors should be considered when asking, What is the average Fractional CMO Hourly Rate?

fracton cmo hourly rate and cost

Focus on ROI for the True Cost of a Fractional CMO   

The demand for Fractional CMOs has grown significantly over the past five years or so, following suit with the demand for other outsourced executives, such as CFO’s and CIO’s. This Outsourced CxO aka Executive-as-a-Service model has proven to be highly cost effective and financially advantageous for many organizations.  It provides the most valuable benefits of a CxO and improves the bottom line by eliminating some of the traditional employment costs, including benefits, paid time-off, bonuses, resources and equipment, etc.

However, the Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the only Executive-as-a-Service that generates revenue, essentially making the Fractional CMO an investment, rather than an expense. Many organizations fail to realize that the hourly rate for a fractional CMO is less important than the revenue growth a Fractional CMO should generate. In other words, the cost of a Fractional CMO should be a small portion of the revenue growth they generate for your business.

Therefore, a Fractional CMO is not someone you want doing your day-to-day marketing activities. They are not who should be creating content such as blogs, social media posts, and videos. They should not be the ones creating advertisements or designing graphics. These functions are not worth the rates that an experienced Fractional CMO charges. If the Fractional CMO is focused on these activities, then they are doing a disservice to your business by not providing the strategic planning  and leadership skills that you should expect. The skills that strengthen your brand, create demand for your products and services, improve profit margins, and generate substantial growth. These are results that generate an optimal return on marketing investment.

Return on Marketing Investment (RoMI)

Retaining a Fraction CMO is an investment, at least for a highly qualified CMO. Just as with any other investment, it should be measured by Return on Investment (ROI). We view Return on Marketing Investment (RoMI) as a primary KPI for the analytics that we report to our clients.  RoMI analyzes marketing expenses and measures them against revenue growth during the same period. This single metric provides a summary of the financial return generated by the Fractional CMO.

The true cost is not determined by the Fractional CMO Hourly Rate, it should be measured as a percentage of the Return on Marketing Investment (RoMI) generated by the CMO. Actual CMOs do not quote hourly rates because of the complex nature and longer time frame required to accomplish strategic goals.

Just like many other high value services, pricing is provided as a set fee that is determined by the Scope of Work. One of the greatest complaints about attorneys is that they do not provide a set fee, rather they bill by an hourly rate.  

How Much Does a Fractional CMO Cost?

Instead of asking the Fractional CMO’s hourly rate, the better question is “How much does a Fractional CMO cost?

While an hourly rate is common for outsourced work, it is best suited for simple services or unique projects. As the complexity and depth of the service offering increase, so does the variance between estimated billable hours and actual total fees. Experienced and knowledgeable Fractional CMOs will be able to provide a thorough proposal that provides a flat fee structure and clearly defines the scope of work. These fractional cmo packages provide a great example.

Hourly fees are often an indicator of an amateur. Quoting projects by an hourly fee is often an indication that the service provider lacks the experience to accurately gauge the entire scope of work. They do not actually know what exactly is needed to achieve the client’s goals, therefore they cannot calculate the cost of delivering Fractional CMO services.

We have all been surprised by a repair person’s invoice after a service call. Although an hourly fee is quoted, there are additional charges, such as drive time, supplies, materials, and more. Resulting in a total cost that can be significantly greater than the hourly fee quoted. Hence the difference between price and cost. When applied in consideration of retaining a Fractional CMO, there are significant factors that impact the overall cost. These factors are both direct and indirect, including opportunity cost.

Opportunity Cost of Poor Fractional CMO Service

The world of business moves at hyperspeed, that includes opportunities. If there is one thing history has taught us, it is that markets are cyclical, and economic downturns are inevitable. That is why identifying opportunities and making the most of them, while they last, is crucial.

When an organization is seeking a Fractional CMO, it is more than likely planning on making significant changes in its growth and marketing strategies. The wrong choice could go unnoticed, and the cost could be devistating. There are two scenarios in which a business owner may not realize the cost incurred by choosing an underqualified  Fractional CMO services provider:

1. Completely missing an opportunity

2. Failing to make the most of an opportunity

To help understand the true cost of each scenario, we will provide examples using the following hypothetical data,

  • A company has annual revenues of $20 million
  • The current annual growth rate for the industry is 8%
  • The Fractional CMO chosen bills at $100 an hour for 40 hours a month

Example 1: The Fractional CMO fails to identify an opportunity to take existing products into a new market segment, that segment is estimated to generate 3% additional growth for the business. The result is a loss $600,000 in potential revenues. ($20MM x 3%).

Example 2: The Fractional CMO was able to achieve 3.5% growth for the year. At first sight, choosing the lower cost Fractional CMO looks like a good investment. That CMO cost $48,000 (40hrs x $100/hr x 12 months) annually and generated $700,000 ($20MM x 3.5%) in additional revenues. Resulting in a total net revenue increase $652,000.

However, given that the industry growth rate is 8%, the reality is that the CMO failed to capture $900,000 in new revenues by not achieving the industry growth rate. (8% – 3.5%) = 4.5% x $2oMM = $900,000.

Had the company hired a Fractional CMO with actual marketing executive experience, at a rate of $300/hr. That CMO would cost the company $144,000 for the year. Let’s assume that the CMO was only able to achieve a 6% growth for the year and not the 8% industry growth rate.

In this scenario, the experienced Fractional CMO would generate $1.2MM in additional annual revenues. The net revenue increase is $1,056,000, after factoring in the higher hourly rate this CMO charges.

The reality is that an experienced CMO will generate higher growth rate because they have the strategic expertise, advanced skill sets, and executive leadership experience needed to develop comprehensive multi-channel marketing programs. Programs that address all of the key marketing areas to yield greater results.

View our Fractional CMO Package Rates for Small Businesses

Fractional CMO Fee Structure (Not Hourly Rate)

Every organization is unique, each has its own goals, challenges, and resources. These factors directly impact the scope of the   a Fractional CMO engagement and fee structure. The most common are a per project fee, and a recurring monthly fee. Rarely does a highly-experienced, executive-caliber Fractional CMO quote an hourly rate.

In most cases, experienced CMO’s will be able to gauge what is needed to complete a project and achieve the desired goal(s). An experienced Fractional CMO should be able to accurately asses their cost and provide a quote for the project, rather than charge hourly. This is advantageous to the client because it sets clear expectations and enables accurate budgeting. Paying an hourly rate for a service often leads to surprises.

There is not a set standard for a Fractional CMOs hourly rate. The rates vary by firm. This creates a challenge in determining the quality of service that firm will provide. The average Fractional CMO hourly rate is $250 an hour for an actual experienced marketing executive. Someone with several years of actual experience as either a marketing director, Marketing VP or Chief Marketing Officer. 

Below is a table that is intended ONLY to provide a general gauge for a Fractional CMOs Average Hourly Rate. The range for an actual Fractional CMOs hourly rate is between two hundred dollars an hour on the low end and up to six hundred dollars for a seasoned expert with years of experience in large or public corporations.

• Fractional CMO with experience leading a very large or public corporation approximately $350 to $600 per hour

• Fractional CMO with experience leading a SMB ($20 to $200 million) approximately $150 to $350 an hour

• Other service providers claiming to be Fractional CMOs, approximately $75 to $150 per hour 

Advisory consulting services for Chief Marketing Officers from leading consulting firms such as Deloitte , EY, BCG. McKinsey, and PWC can be greater than $1,000 an hour.

If you have any questions or would like further clarification on What a Fractional CMO costs or what exactly a Fractional CMO does?

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