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Hope Relly-CobbFeb 03, 20234 min read

What Is a Fractional or Outsourced CMO?

Having a CMO to provide marketing strategy and direction can have a huge impact on growing your business. But it's not always an option.

That's when a fractional or outsourced CMO can be a great alternative. Ever since the pandemic started, outsourcing roles has become increasingly popular among business owners. Hiring an outside marketing professional to lend their expertise — without having to add them to the payroll — is a tempting tactic. But is it right for you? 

It's no secret: we offer fractional CMO services to our clients. Because we're a full-service agency, we usually act as both an outsourced CMO and an outsourced marketing department — providing strategy and implementation in one neat package. This makes us more of a partner than a contractor. We work hand-in-hand with our clients to develop the best marketing strategy to grow their business, and then we implement that strategy. And then we review the results and adjust as needed. 

We know what fractional CMOs do because we live it every day. So let's take a few minutes to review what they do, why you might need one, and the potential benefits for your business. 


What is an outsourced CMO? 

If your company had a Chief Marketing Officer, they would serve on your executive team and lead all of your company's marketing efforts. They would be in charge of developing your marketing strategy, overseeing your marketing team, and monitoring performance. 

A fractional CMO, sometimes called an outsourced CMO, is a marketing expert hired by your company to provide strategy and direction for your marketing efforts. Simply put, they act as your Chief Marketing Officer. 

But that was obvious from the title. What's not always so obvious is why you might need one. 


Why would you need a fractional CMO? 

In companies without a CMO, overseeing marketing efforts often falls to the CEO or other members of the C-Suite. As we've seen with many clients in the past, marketing ends up taking a lot of the CEO's time and energy that they'd rather be devoting to their other duties. That's where the outsourced CMO comes in. 

The outsourced CMO will report to the CEO but will take the lead on all marketing efforts. Thanks to their experience, they can confidently provide recommendations and guidance on all marketing-related decisions. 


What does an outsourced CMO do for you? 

In the traditional sense, a fractional or outsourced CMO is a marketing consultant who provides informed advice on how to market your business but doesn't implement their recommendations. Your internal team is left to take the fractional CMO's strategy and put it into action.

But what if you don't have an internal team? There are firms devoted entirely to fractional CMO services that don't offer any implementation. You would have to hire a marketing specialist internally to complete the work, or outsource to a second agency and have them coordinate with each other. 

That's why it's helpful to have an agency that can act as both your CMO and your marketing team, to streamline the entire process, and save resources. (And that's why we offer both services.)


ship wheel symbolizing how a fractional cmo can help you navigate marketing

Benefits of hiring a fractional CMO

In our somewhat [read: very] biased opinion, there are a lot of benefits to hiring a fractional CMO. Here are the top 3 we see most often: 


#1 - It's cheaper than hiring a CMO

Although many companies would benefit from hiring a CMO, most don’t have the budget to hire a full-time executive with the amount of experience needed. And most companies don't need a full-time CMO, either. Contracting a CMO often makes more financial sense than providing someone with a six-figure salary and full benefits package. 

More importantly: CMOs are strategists. Yes, they probably (hopefully) have experience implementing marketing. But you'll need to provide them with their own team to implement the work. It's a slippery slope that can end in having to employ an entire marketing department. And although good marketing could be a game changer, the cost might be prohibitive. 


#2 - You get their expertise 

Business owners often try to do marketing themselves for as long as they can — even though they're also acutely aware they're not marketing experts. Hiring a fractional CMO can bring new direction and purpose to your marketing. And direction and purpose are what drive business growth. 

Without a strong strategic plan, marketing budgets are often wasted on tactics that just aren't bringing a return on your investment. But developing a plan requires two main things: time and expertise. And if your team has neither, an outsourced CMO can be the solution. 


#3 - Fractional CMOs have broad experience

If you hire a CMO, they'll likely have worked up the ranks through a few previous companies. If you hire a fractional CMO, they've worked with dozens of companies and have seen it all. Compared to a traditional CMO, their perspective and their experience will be broader. 

A fractional CMO will likely have worked with many companies inside and outside of your industry and can share with you their contacts, first-hand experience, and best practices. Marketing is both an art and science, and fractional CMOs' wide range of experience helps them navigate it better. 


Would an outsourced CMO help your business grow? 

At SIX, we act as an outsourced CMO to many of our clients because we know it will help them find greater success. Having someone in charge of strategy, implementation, and monitoring results can be the difference between just "doing marketing" and using marketing to grow your business. 

Would you benefit from outsourcing your CMO? Learn more about our fractional CMO services, read our blog on the benefits of hiring an agency vs. in-house staff, or reach out to one of our outsourced CMOs to schedule a short call


Hope Relly-Cobb

Director of Content & Senior Analyst | SIX Marketing