What is a Fractional CMO?

What is a Fractional CMO?

To adequately address What is a Fractional CMO? it would be wise to understand What is a Chief Marketing Officer? and what they do.  A Chief Marketing Officer is a senior marketing executive in a large business or publicly traded company. They determine the brand’s direction and marketing strategies. In addition, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is primarily responsible for driving revenue by increasing sales through marketing activities.

It is important to note that Fractional CMO has become a very popular buzzword adopted by a wide variety of non-qualified marketing and employment service providers. This article was developed with factual information about the objectives and responsibilities of an actual Chief Marketing Officer. Numerous reputable resources are referenced within this article.

Fractional CMO Definition

A Fractional CMO is an outsourced senior marketing executive offering their leadership experience and marketing expertise on a fractional, as-needed basis. The Chief Marketing Officer is responsible for the development and implementation of strategies that generate revenue growth while achieving a strong Return on Marketing Investment.  

Astute Group

What does a Fractional CMO do?

It stands to reason that a Fractional CMO would have the same objectives, and perform the same duties, as a full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Granted a Fractional CMO is not an employee of the business and works fewer hours, at a lower pay rate. That should not change the objectives or duties.

The most valuable services that a Fractional CMO can provide are leadership, planning, and development. Some examples of duties a Fractional CMO would perform

    • Develop and implement marketing strategies 
    • Manage execution of key projects
    • Source the best in class technology, talented people, and proven processes
    • Lead, mentor, and develop the marketing department
    • Develop and manage budgets
    • Measure and assess KPIs
    • Optimize brand perceived value and recognition
    • Align products with markets to increase perceived value
    • Continually evolve to counteract market changes and remain ahead of competitors 

Which minimizes the importance of price in decision making, creates demand,  generates leads, increases sales, and ultimately realizes profitable revenue growth.

What a Fractional CMO Does Not Do

A Fractional CMO does not perform tactical marketing operations. In other words, they are paid too much to do activities like

  • Design graphics
  • Write blogs
  • Create ads
  • Post on social media
  • Write and send emails to customers

or anything else that a marketing specialist or content developer can do at a much lower cost.

What are the Benefits of a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer?

The primary objective of a CMO is to drive strategic long-term growth. That is the ultimate benefit we provide to our clients. The Fractional CMO modes also offers a signficant cost savings by providing all of the benefits of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), for a fraction of the cost.

Outsourcing a CMO eliminates the challenges and expenses associated with finding, hiring, training, and equipping a new senior marketing executive.  Because Fractional CMOs are not direct hires, they eliminate the costs and commitments associated with an employee.

The Fractional CMO provides numerous benefits to organizations that do not have a dedicated marketing executive.  We provide the marketing strategies, leadership, and tools that successful corporations use, scaled to a level that is right for your business. Making it possible to,

  • Generate demand for products and services
  • Increase customer acquisition and retention rates
  • Optimize brand value and drive brand loyalty
  • Develop a favorable customer brand experience
  • Minimize the impact of price on purchasing decisions

to ultimately drive more sales, at higher profit margins, for long-term growth, and greater sustainability.

Fractional CMO benefits

How does a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer Work?

Astute Groups Outsourced CMO services are offered in the traditional Part-Time CMO and Temporary CMO format, as well as tailored engagements for your specific needs. These include,

Part-Time CMO

Get all of the benefits of a CMO for a fraction of the cost. Your CMO is available on a scheduled basis to ensure continuous progress and optimal results.

Temporary CMO

A CMO on an interim basis, ideal for filling urgent needs with unexpected vacancies or to provide extra bandwidth for critical strategic marketing projects .

Advisory CMO

A trust advisor for strategic planning and performance assessment. Usually engaged on a monthly or quarterly basis for an entire to define objectives, develop plans, and gauge performance. Accessible for advice along the way.

Virtual CMO

Ideal for start ups, or companies facing physical barriers to working with a high-caliber Fractional CMO, such office location.  The Virtual CMO is a  more affordable solution because it eliminates the expenses associated with having a Fractional CMO on site.

Recovery CMO

A Fractional CMO to quickly turn-around consecutive losses and overcome the risk of financial disaster. This program is extremely agile and designed to provide relief quickly.

The Role of a Fractional CMO 

A good Fractional CMO will eliminate the stress that marketing and growth challenges create for CEOs and business owners. They will hit the ground running and get right to work, with minimal ramp-up. Leading the marketing efforts of your business and building a high-performance marketing department. One that is tailored to your business, its budget, and its goals.

It is not uncommon for executives to become entrenched in their perception of markets, competitors, and their own organization. Often resulting in executives unconsciously forming a bias toward data that validates their opinion. This disregard for research that does not conform with their perspective is known as  “confirmation bias” and it has led to the demise of many businesses that were once prosperous.

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer from Astute Group will also provide an unbiased view that provides a new perspective. They will devise innovative strategies drawn from experience and extensive research to gain deep insight.  Then we develop and implement a strategic marketing plan, especially for your business and its goals. A plan that integrates strategies from end-to-end to achieve greater results as a whole.

For smaller projects, we develop a strategic plan that is highly focused on a specific function or objective. These include,

Fractional CMO Job Description

You would think that the CMO job description would define the responsibilities of a Fractional CMO, with the exception of being on a fractional basis. The role of the CMO is no longer focused on advertising and promotion to generate brand awareness and leads. Today, CMOs have the primary responsibility for growth strategies and generating revenue.

The duties of a Chief Marketing Officer are to,

      • Oversee the planning, development and execution of marketing and advertising initiatives
      • Generate revenue by increasing sales through successful marketing for the entire organization
      • Coordinate marketing efforts with the company’s financial and branding goals
      • Define marketing strategies to support the company’s overall strategies and objectives
      • Develop a feasible marketing plan for the department and oversee its day-to-day implementation
      • Plan and organize marketing functions and operations (product development, branding, communications etc.), and ensure they project the company’s unique “voice”

Also, that qualifications should be very similar as well. Common requirements found in a CMO job description include,


      • 10 + years of experience as Chief Marketing Officer or Vice President of Marketing
      • Bachelor’s degree required, advanced degree in marketing or business (MBA) preferred
      • Thorough knowledge of marketing principles, brand, product, and service management
      • Deep understanding of changing market dynamics
      • Solid understanding of market research and data analysis methods
      • Working knowledge in a variety of disciplines such as production, information technology, legal and finance
Chief Marketing Officer CMO

Fractional CMO Services

Fractional CMO Services should focus on the same responsibilities as those of a corporate Chief Marketing Officer. A corporate CMO has two responsibilities; developing growth strategies, and driving revenue generation.

Achieving these two objectives will provide the greatest value and return on investment for clients. To achieve these objectives, we provide our clients with:

    • Comprehensive research for a deep understanding of markets, competitors, trends, and geo-political factors
    • Strategic plans that define the path to achieving your goals and objectives
    • Sales enablement and business development tools
    • Guidance, training, and development to improve marketing department performance
      • We will source or develop
        • Processes
        • People
        • Technology
        • Tools
    • Astute Analytics™ a clear and concise executive dashboard to monitor performance and drive decisions

How much does a Fractional CMO cost?

It is important to note that the hourly rate for a fractional CMO is less important than the revenue growth a Fractional CMO should produce. In other words, the cost of a Fractional CMO should only be a small portion of the revenue growth generated by Fractional CMO services.

The fractional services model incorporates an “only pay for what you use” approach which minimizes your investment and maximizes the return. So, rather than asking the hourly rate of a fractional CMO, a better question is; “How much does a Fractional CMO cost?“

Operations level work may be billed on an hourly basis. This is because it is suited for more simple services and unique projects.  As the complexity and depth of the services increase, the greater the need for greater knowledge and advanced skills. Qualities that cannot be measured by metrics that gauge the level of activity, but rather by Key Performance Indicators KPIs that are directly linked to the bottom line.  You will find that 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.

Likewise, hourly fees are often an indicator of a fractional CMO who is inexperienced. Proposing a quote based on hourly fees is a strong indicator that the service provider cannot accurately gauge their entire scope of work and charge accordingly.  In other words, they cannot determine what is needed to achieve the client’s goals, therefore they cannot calculate the cost of delivering actual Fractional CMO services.

What is a Fractional CMO “Impostor”?

A Fractional CMO impostor claims to offer Fractional CMO services without having real-world experience working as a Chief Marketing Officer or Marketing Vice President. Be wary of service providers that pronounce themselves as a CMO in their own firm, without having the experience or credentials to back up their claim. These impostors lack the experience, knowledge, and skills needed to develop high-caliber marketing strategies that drive optimal results. They tend to focus on operations level marketing services such as developing content or managing social media accounts.

The outsourcing trend created by the gig economy has made “Fractional CMO” a very popular marketing industry buzz term. One that has been adopted by advertising agencies, consultants, digital marketing firms, temporary employment agencies, and many other service providers. Many of whomhave never been responsible for managing every aspect of marketing in a profitable or growing enterprise.

These impostors ultimately create a losing scenario for clients by providing:


Underperforming Strategies

An experienced Chief Marketing Officer has the experience, education, and skills needed to develop innovative and highly-effective marketing strategies. If your Fractional CMO does not have those capabilities, you may be paying less for the CMO services and not realizing the higher cost that could be fatal, the cost of lost opportunities.  

Overpriced Services

If your Fractional CMO is providing operations level services such as creating content, managing social media accounts, developing email campaigns, etc. You are overpaying for marketing services available for rates much lower than those of a Fractional CMO.