What is a Fractional-CMO?

The Fractional-CMO Playbook: How to Launch an Outsourced CMO Consulting Practice

What is a Fractional-CMO?

Are you overwhelmed, overworked, and burned out, but your income still seems capped…because there’s only so much of your time you can trade for money?

Is your income feast or famine? Some months are great, but you just can’t seem to maintain it.

Are you struggling to balance the need to both serve the clients you have and find new ones? It’s even worse if you don’t know where the new clients come from.

Do you keep losing clients to competitors who are less qualified but better at selling? We hate cold calling, too, and with our Fractional CMO Playbook—you don’t have to.

You can build a thriving Fractional CMO practice that generates more clients who actually listen to your advice and pay you what you’re worth so you can get off the time for money hamster wheel. It’s just as great as it sounds, but let’s be clear.

Becoming a fractional CMO isn’t a:

  1. Get “rich quick” or “do nothing” to make money career (this stuff takes work!)
  2. Opportunity for you to turn into an ego-maniacal marketing guru (this is about getting results for clients, not getting famous)
  3. Easy way to create a successful business (90% of businesses fail)

It’s a way to create more income from fewer hours, so you can stop trading your time for money (while still using your marketing expertise).

What is a Fractional CMO?

What is a Fractional-CMO?

A fractional CMO is a marketing leader who is brought into a company part-time to help the CEO set a strategy and execute critical projects. Here’s the key to a fractional CMO’s role—they don’t have to actually do the marketing work. You’re just setting the strategy and ensuring it gets implemented. 

Fractional CMOs aren’t a new concept, but they’re emerging now more than ever. Here’s why…

Before 2020, 16% of retail sales occurred online, and in 2021 it grew to 30+%. Even though it feels like digital marketing is old news, we’re still on the cusp of digital transformation. There’s a lot of room for growth because every business knows they need to be digital.

But, while the need is great, so is the complexity. There’s a lot that goes into the marketing technology landscape. A business can’t do this all on its own, and CMOs make an average of $200,000 per year (the highest CMOs are the best digital performers!). Companies have a massive need and budget to spend, but they can’t find (or afford) full-time marketing executives who “get” digital.

That’s where you come in…

Now is the greatest time to be a digital marketer if you know how to position yourself.

The 4 Step Fractional CMO Playbook

Step 1: Engage with Value-First Content

Your competition isn’t big, successful agencies. Your competition is sleazy marketers who they hired before you. They promised your prospects that they could help them with SEO…and didn’t. Now, your prospects are on edge whenever they hear the word “marketer.”

That’s where your value-first content comes in. 

What is value in advance content?

  • Timely, relevant content that talks about what’s happening TODAY
  • Specific content that isn’t broad or too general
  • Actionable content that tells them what to do with this information

By leading with content, you can differentiate yourself from being another sleazy marketer. You can deliver value-in-advance content by public speaking, email newsletters, online videos, webinars, blog posts…you get the idea.

How you deliver this content doesn’t matter as much as making sure it’s timely, specific, and actionable. For example, here’s a bad topic to cover as a digital marketer:

“Digital engagement in the new economy”: This isn’t timely, specific, or actionable. Do you know a business owner who woke up this morning and thought, “I want to read about digital engagement and the economy…” No way!

Instead, here’s a great example of value-in-advance content:

“3 Copy and Paste Facebook Campaigns that Generate Leads from Scratch”: It’s timely, specific, and actionable!”

At the end of your value-in-advance content, you need a strategic call to action that turns readers into prospects that reach out to you asking for help. This is where the Content Pivot Script comes in…

Content Pivot Script

“What I just taught you is important, but it may not be the most important growth strategy for your business right now. We have identified 30+ additional growth strategies, so let’s schedule some time when we can figure out the ONE BIG THING you should do first…CTA.”

The Content Pivot Script gets your readers to convert to a free strategic consulting session, which brings you to Step 2 of the Fractional CMO Playbook.

Step 2: The Strategy Session

Fractional CMO Client Meeting Format

Your strategic consult meeting will have the following goals and objectives:

  • Determine if this is a client fit (think of it as a first date)
  • Engage them in the planning process (get buy-in on a wholistic solution, not just a tactical implementation to make sure they see you as a CMO, not a task-oriented consultant)
  • Deliver real value in advance and don’t make this a sales pitch in disguise
  • Close them on a 90-day project or implementation

Every strategic consult meeting needs 4 things:

#1: Checklist/Questionnaire

  • You need a questionnaire because it creates trust and liking. We are fascinated by the people who are most fascinated by us. 
  • It signals expansive knowledge and expertise.
  • Signals higher-status because doctors diagnose people and salespeople don’t 
  • Systemizes sales and onboarding, and eventually, you can have someone else do it

#2: Pre-Built Presentation 

You can’t just wing your strategy session. If you’re not strategic in this session, how can you expect your clients to think you’ll be strategic as a CMO? Your pre-built presentation can be used across all of your prospects with minor tweaks.

#3: Audit/Gamification

We highly encourage adding an audit to your strategy session to show your prospects what they’re missing (and how you can help them fill those gaps). Your audit can cover metrics like:

  • Awareness
  • Lead generation
  • Engagement
  • Conversion optimization
  • Their North Star metric
  • Ascension, expansion, and retention (ACV)
  • Reviews and testimonials
  • Generating referrals

#4: Planning Framework

Strategic planning is an important part of this strategy session. You want your prospect to see what working with you would look like if you got started. DigitalMarketer Certified Partners map out the Customer Value Journey to show prospects how they can get clients.

Here’s the thing: you don’t need to dive into the technical aspect of this (you already did with your value-in-advance content). At this point, it’s about strategic planning.

A strategic planning framework is:

  1. Valuable: It answers the question, “How do I get more leads and sales?”
  2. Great at creating buy-in: If they help create the plan, they’re more likely to invest in the plan!
  3. Turns on the ‘Crazy Filter’: If they don’t engage with you strategically, they don’t respect you as a professional

This is why we train and license all our Certified Partners to use the Customer Value Journey during the sales and onboarding process because your job is not to “Wow” your clients with how much you know. It’s your job to help them understand and then remove the burden of implementation. 

It’s officially time to go for the big close with one magic question…“Want some help with that?”

If you followed the Fractional CMO Playbook so far, you wouldn’t need to ask anything more because your prospect can already see what they need to do—and that you can help them with implementation. 

Do you believe if you can demonstrate real value in advance, qualified prospects will gladly pay you to help them implement what you show them? Certified Partner Griffin Brown followed this system to get his first client during his “practice” round of the Fractional CMO Playbook:

But what if you don’t know how to do what they need done?

As a fractional CMO, you don’t want to say, “I can do that for you,” you want to say, “I can get that done for you.” See the difference? This is the key to moving from stuck and frustrated to fewer hours and more income. Your clients don’t care if you’re the one that does it or if it’s somebody else. They just want it done.

Your clients just want a beautiful symphony of growth, sales, and clients. But that doesn’t mean you have to play all of the instruments. You just need to be the conductor.

As long as you can say, “I can get that done for you,” you have all the skills to move to the next step. 

Step 3: The 90-Day Engagement

How to land Fractional CMO long term engagements.

The biggest mistake consultants make is trying to sell retainers too early in the relationship. It’s really tempting at this step to ask for a retainer—but we suggest holding off for now. Instead of a retainer, offer a 90-Day Paid Implementation for $10,000 or 3 payments of $3,500. 

During your 90-Day Paid Implementation, you want to get them a quick win and make yourself “free” (what’s something silly they’re doing that you can fix and help them pay your invoice?), create a 90-Day Growth Plan with goals and initiatives, and establish benchmarks and metrics (this is great for retention!).

Every 90-Day Engagement needs:

#1: Pre-Built Presentation Productizing Your Services

We recommend one full day meeting every 30-days and weekly check-ins facilitated through these pre-built presentations.

#2: 90-Day Game Plan

Make sure to define what winning looks like ahead of time, so your clients know they’re getting an ROI. Just like you want to know your investments have an ROI, your clients want to see an ROI too. Show them with your 90-Day Game Plan (or you can call it something different if you’d like).

#3: Growth Planning Framework

Chances are this framework starts with the Customer Value Journey. Bring the CVJ into your framework where clients define the 3 key goals they want to help closing the gap on (or become a Certified Partner to get the Growth Planning Canvas). 

#4: Scorecard/Metrics Template

This is optional at the beginning, but it’s really great for retention. Your clients can see what’s going well, what’s not going well, and most importantly—why. If you don’t have a Scorecard/Metrics Template in your business, this is your sign to implement one.

Here’s what happens at the end of the 90-days…

Step 4: Offer Your Fractional CMO Services

How to Offer Fractional CMO Services

Around the 75 day mark, set up a call with your client to talk about how you’ll move forward. Give them three options:

  1. They can take everything you’ve built and do it on their own (if you haven’t enjoyed working with this client, this is the only option you need to give 😉)
  2. Offer Done-With-You services for $500-$1,500/month
  3. Offer to keep doing what you’ve been doing for the same rate of $3,500/month plus additional services as their fractional CMO.

This is the beauty of a 90-day implementation. You’re not asking them to sign up for anything you’re not already doing! It makes this an easy sell. And that’s why the Fractional CMO Playbook works so well. 

But, does $3,500/month seem like a lot? It is if you’re just a consultant. It’s a bargain if you’re a Fractional CMO because fractional CMOs make an average of $200,000 per year and the highest paid CMOs are the best digital performers (a.k.a you!).

$3,500/month is ⅓-⅕ of the salary of a marketing executive and half the salary of an entry-level marketer salary. Clients usually waste at least $3,500/month on things that aren’t working, and you’re just reallocating their existing budget.

A budget that needs to go towards digital marketing.

What Could Being a Fractional CMO Do For Your Business?

By productizing your sales and the onboarding process, it doesn’t have to be you doing everything. You don’t have to facilitate the workshops and brainstorming sessions. You can focus on the work you love most because systems equal freedom. 

If you bring this into your existing agency or consultancy, you can be your own boss and do your own thing (part-time or full-time). You can add a new income stream to your existing business. Or you can build it and sell it.

Is this a business model that could work for you? If the answer is yes, here are your 3 options:

#1: You can do nothing…

#2: You can do it yourself…

#3: You can do it with us…

You can become part of the DigitalMarketer family and get a turnkey strategy to build your fractional CMO practice. You’re invited to become a DigitalMarketer Certified Partner. As a DigitalMarketer Certified Partner, you’ll be licensed and trained to deploy our proven and proprietary models and frameworks as a fractional CMO on behalf of your clients. 

The process is simple. We teach you the frameworks, you facilitate the frameworks, and you keep all of the profits! 

Become a Certified Partner today and get access to our Partner Success Kit with everything you need to:

  • Attract clients with our Turnkey Content Presentations.
  • Convert clients with our Appointment Getting Email Campaigns, Client Intake Questionnaire Template, Audit and Assessment Tools, and our Discovery Session slide deck.
  • Serve clients with our Partner Directory Listing and 90-Day Growth Accelerator Slide Deck and Proprietary Tools & Frameworks.
  • Plus support and community you need to “get it done” with our Private Partner Community

Apply to be a Certified Partner today.



The lovely content team here at DigitalMarketer works hard to make sure you have the best blog posts to read. But some posts require a group effort, and we decided to stop the rock-paper-scissors tournaments that decided the byline so that we had more time to write. Besides, we all graduated from kindergarten: we can share.

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