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What is a Fractional CMO?

Have you ever fallen prey to this line of thinking?…

Your marketing efforts are the only way your business will find new customers.


But you don’t have 40 hours a week to dedicate to it… So you need another executive at your company who focuses entirely on your marketing.

Also true.

That executive must be a full-time staff member in order for your business to succeed.


Your marketing executive does NOT need to be a full-time staff member to get the benefits of having marketing be a leadership focus.

Sometimes, the right fit for your company isn’t a traditional CMO, but a fractional CMO.

Never heard of a fractional CMO? Don’t worry. We’re going to break down what a fractional CMO is and what you might want one for your business (or even why you might want to become one yourself).

What is a Fractional CMO?

While the name might sound super technical and complicated, the idea is actually really simple.

A fractional CMO is someone who acts as the Chief Marketing Officer for your company but is hired as a contractor or consultant. 

Generally, fractional CMO’s are working with several different companies at one time, much like freelancers or consultants do. They work for you a fraction of their time (hence fractional). But don’t let that spook you. A good fractional CMO is going to give your business as much attention as it needs. 

Why Outsource Marketing?

It might feel a little weird at first to outsource an executive-level position. And in fact, there are certain positions that you should be wary of handing off. For example, you want someone deeply familiar with all the ins and outs of your business to handle the financials, so a fractional CFO is probably not the best idea for most companies. 

But marketing is different.

Why? Because the basic principles of all marketing are the same, no matter what you are selling. This is why marketing agencies can work with all different types of clients. It’s why our customers here at DigitalMarketer run the gauntlet of industries. Marketing is just marketing.

So hiring a fractional CMO is not going to lower the quality of your marketing at all. In fact, sometimes getting an outside set of eyes on your strategies can be the secret to pushing through any problems. 

The right fractional CMO is going to have been there and done that already, so they have the tools to deal with any problem.

What Does a Fractional CMO Do?

A fractional CMO will do all the same things a traditional CMO will:

  • Get more leads
  • Manage digital ads
  • Create marketing strategy
  • Oversee marketing tech integrations
  • Grow email list and engagement
  • Build marketing reports
  • Work with freelancers or marketing agency
  • And more…

Primarily, a fractional CMO will help provide marketing leadership, a service that is far too often overlooked in businesses.

The reason why you need a marketing executive is to provide that leadership. You want someone who can ensure there is a singular overall direction for your company’s marketing. The fractional CMO will be that person. They will make sure there is a general marketing message and will work with the other executives in the company.

These needs will be very dependent on the size of your company, so make sure you know exactly what you need. If you are a tiny business with only a few employees, you won’t need as much help “interfacing with the other executives.” Your communication with the fractional CMO will serve just fine. But if you have a huge leadership team, this will be a really important part of their job.

Additionally, depending on how long you want to work with them, your fractional CMO can either set things up for you to run, or they can manage the processes long term.

The biggest advantage of a fractional CMO is that you don’t have to pay them for full-time CMO work, but this also means they won’t be doing full-time work, so make sure you consider whether this is the right fit for you. But this isn’t the only thing you need to consider when looking at a fractional CMO for your business.

What Does a Fractional CMO NOT Do?

But before you start going through portfolios looking for the right person, it’s important to understand what a fractional CMO does NOT do.

A fractional CMO has the same role as an executive. They should be managing your strategy as a whole and working on your marketing as a whole.

That means this person should NOT be used as a lever puller or grunt worker. If you need someone to just do all parts of your marketing, you’re better off hiring an agency

A fractional CMO probably won’t:

  • Write and send all emails to your list
  • Upload blog posts
  • Schedule social media posts
  • Redesign button colors on landing pages
  • Track detailed metrics for every marketing asset

A fractional CMO is there to care for the overall health of your business’s marketing, and their time is probably wasted by getting too deep into the weeds. Remember, you’re paying this person for the holistic expertise, not their skill at picking an Instagram caption.

Is a Fractional CMO Right for You?

The best way to know if a fractional CMO is right for you is to look at your marketing performance and to look at your team.

  • Do you have someone dedicated to your marketing as a whole?
  • Are you struggling to find a direction with your marketing?
  • Do you have a solid understanding of marketing yourself?
  • Do you have a marketing team, but no marketing leaders?
  • Are you struggling to coordinate with your marketing contractors or agency?

If you are facing any of the problems, a fractional CMO might just be the person you need to get your marketing back in line and grow your business.



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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