Being a fractional CMO comes with its perks, but that doesn’t mean everybody should choose this path.
There are parts of being a fractional CMO that are incredible to some people but extremely boring to others. You don’t want to quit your job, start working as a fractional CMO and then realize this. You want to be prepared and know what to expect from your new role as a fractional CMO.
Working as marketers and with marketers for years, we’ve learned there’s a huge difference between fractional CMOs and full-time CMOs. They both have the same marketing expertise, but they like different parts of the marketing process better.
For example, a fractional CMO loves to deep dive into a company’s past and current marketing strategies and spend time researching what went right and wrong in each campaign. A full-time CMO prefers doing this once and spending their time hitting publish and seeing conversions come in.
Which type of CMO do you want to be?
Answer these 5 survey questions to figure out if you’d like to be a fractional CMO or if you’d prefer full-time CMO work.
Survey Question #1: Do you want to freelance over working full-time?
For some marketers, this might be an obvious yes. But, freelancing comes with a lot of new responsibilities. As a full-time employee, your work schedule is set. You know how much money you’re making each year and the projects you’ll be working on.
As a fractional CMO, there’s a lot more unpredictability in your life. Freelancers get to make their own schedules, which can be a perk and a challenge. You’ll have to be in charge of filling your work schedule, which means learning how to market your services (we trust you have a pretty good idea of how to do this, though) and create a pipeline of leads for yourself.
Ask yourself these questions to figure out if this part of the fractional CMO business works best for you:
- Do you like marketing yourself and going on sales calls for your services?
- Are you comfortable with finding your own projects (and income)?
- How do you feel about the learning curve that comes with running a freelance business?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to any of these questions. Your answer depends on you and what works best for the career you’re looking for.
Survey Question #2: Do you feel comfortable jumping on to new teams and working with unfamiliar faces regularly?
Fractional CMOs don’t work long-term with their clients. They usually stay on part-time until the company is ready to hire a fulltime CMO. (The company can either hire their fractional CMO or look for someone else). This means that you’ll be jumping around from company to company as a fractional CMO. For some people this sounds great and for others it might sound overwhelming.
With each team comes new personalities, politics, and intricacies that can take time to learn. As a fractional CMO, a big part of your job will involve working with new teams efficiently as quickly as possible. The faster you can learn how a team works, the faster those marketing results will come in.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to figure out if you want to be fractional CMO:
- Do you mind having to learn new names, personalities, and intricacies regularly?
- Do you want to work with new team members throughout the year?
- Do you prefer working with people long-term and creating solid relationships with them?
Your answers will help you figure out if you want to be a fractional CMO, stay full-time, or if the grass seems greener on the other side (than it actually is).
Survey Question #3: Are you open to figuring out new client systems and working around them as much as possible to avoid disrupting the team’s workflow?
Get ready to jump into new software tools on the regular. As a freelancer, you’ll have to learn the systems your client’s are using to track their marketing strategies and data. Sometimes you’ll be familiar with the tools and other times you’ll have to set time aside to watch tutorials. This is a normal part of freelancing that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The last thing a team wants is for a fractional CMO to come in and start moving the team over to the systems that work best for the CMO. As a fractional CMO, it’s your job to figure out what the team is using right now and how you can improve it without disrupting their workflow (to the best of your ability). We’ll talk more about transitioning teams to new systems, but first we have to make sure you like the idea of learning new systems consistently:
- Does figuring out how a company is organizing their marketing strategies attract you or make you feel frustrated?
- Are you able to use systems you’re not used to because it’s better for the rest of the team’s productivity (for the time being)?
- Are you willing to watch tutorial videos on how to use new softwares?
Some CMOs are happy to jump into a new client’s systems and figure out what’s going on. Others are going to prefer to avoid the potential mess they’re going to find. Knowing if you’re willing to do regular deep dives at the beginning of each project is a key indicator as to if you’d like to be a fractional CMO.
Survey Question #4: Do you know how to transition teams into new systems without disrupting their current flow?
It’s time to transition your client’s team to the software that you know will help them succeed. The question is, are you ready for things to get messy? When it comes to transitioning from one software tool to another, executives, managers, and supervisors all know that it’s going to be a learning curve for their team.
It’ll come with a lot of questions, sometimes answered multiple times, and time before the system is up and running like it should be. During the transition time you can expect a few fires and team members who might not adopt the new software as quickly as you’d hoped.
This will require patience and persistence. As a fractional CMO, you can create a template for yourself as to how to go about this transition to bring into each project. This will help you prepare the team and yourself for the software move, while making sure that all the boxes get checked off and nothing gets behind.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you’re going to enjoy these transitions:
- Are you patient when it comes to teaching people how to use new software?
- Could you put together a template for how best to transition a team from one marketing system to another?
- Would you be willing to walk your team through tutorial videos and get into the nitty gritty, unsexy details of creating the best system for their strategies?
Full-time CMOs don’t have to worry about these transitions often. They might have to move their team to another system or choose to add a new technology to their stack—but they won’t ever transition teams more than a fractional CMO will.
This will be a big part of your job as you organize and improve a company’s marketing strategy. Making sure you have the patience for these minuscule details is something to be confident in before you become a fractional CMO.
Survey Question #5: Do you like diving deep into a company’s marketing strategies, past strategies, and future plans?
Here’s your bread and butter, the part of being a fractional CMO that makes it so attractive. Hopping around from company to company, you’ll be doing a lot of deep dives into what’s going on behind the scenes. These deep dives are fun for some people, but for others it’s not as exciting.
Fractional CMOs love looking at what a company is doing now, where they got started, and what their plans are for the future. They’ll probably spend their first week or so just learning about what the company’s been up to. Full-time CMOs only have to do this once. They spend their time implementing the strategies they’ve already pulled together.
To make sure you want to be a fractional CMO, here are some questions to ask:
- Are deep dives into a company’s past, current, and future marketing strategies fun for you?
- Do you find it easy to spot mistakes and successes in past marketing campaigns?
- Would you want to do a deep dive like this a few times a year?
Everytime you work with a new client, you’ll have a deep dive coming your way. For some marketers, these deep dives are incredibly interesting. But, they don’t require a lot of action. For marketers who like to spend their time hitting publish, these deep dives might not have the same sparkle.
The life of a fractional CMO isn’t for everyone, just like being a full-time CMO doesn’t make everybody happy.
With the same skill set, fractional CMOs and full-time CMOs can have very different work schedules and experiences. The key is understanding which experience will fulfill you and allow you to thrive during your working hours.
Use these questions to figure out which path works best for you and remember—this isn’t a permanent decision. You can always go back to working full-time as a CMO if you decide the fractional CMO gig isn’t for you.