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The Rise of the Fractional CMO.

Updated: Jul 3, 2021

The trend for mid-market CEOs to outsource the role of the CMO is growing. A survey by consultants Booz, Allen, Hamilton found that fewer than 50 percent of Fortune 1000 firms employed full time CMOs. The fractional CMO is on the rise.

A full time CMO is an active, strategic voice within the executive leadership team. A fractional CMO is a hired gun brought in to work on a specific issue. In mid-market firms, the shift is now weighted to short-term tactical expertise rather than long-term strategic leadership.

The trend in mid market companies continues to favor the fractional CMO.

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer has always been the most difficult role within the C-Suite. The skills, talents, requirements and expectations to be a successful CMO have changed significantly in the last decade. What hasn’t changed is the short tenure of the CMO executive in most organizations. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average tenure of a CMO is now a bit south of 41months.

Their CEO bosses are data/finance driven. They are quantitative in nature. For a CEO leading a mid market company, it makes economic sense to out source a role they believe is intervention-based, rather than future-vision based. There are many reasons for this, none the least of which is the continued demand of CEOs to insist their marketing leaders achieve more with less in 90-day time frames.

And that has led to the rise of the fractional CMO.

I’ve never been a CMO, but I have collaborated with hundreds of them in diverse industries over my career. Without question, in the right circumstance, a fractional CMO can provide great value to their CEO clients across the full marketing ecosystem. For many organizations, a fractional CMO is an efficient and cost effective alternative.

However, in my experience, a full time CMO makes a more significant contribution to long-term strategy development than the fractional CMO in a short-term tactical consulting role.

The full time CMO brings a consistent understanding of markets and customers that can help the management team make better long-term decisions about which markets or segments to enter, which products to develop and which companies to approach as strategic partners. This insight is important for the leadership team making complex decisions about competitive markets where change occurs quickly.

The presence of a full time CMO on your top management team with full operational authority can build a better connection of the contribution of marketing activities to revenue and profit. When the CMO is accountable for this bottom line responsibility, other members of the top management team will recognize its importance, respect its value and allocate necessary resources to ensure marketing success over the long term.


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