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Drawbacks of a fractional CMO: 10 considerations to weigh up

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The drawbacks of a fractional CMO

This piece is not designed to put CEOs off the idea of a fractional CMO but rather to address the genuine concerns some feel.  Here are some potential drawbacks of a fractional CMO that are worth considering before going down this route.

10 potential drawbacks of a fractional CMO and how to counter them

1.Limited availability. Fractional CMOs typically work with a range of clients which means their time may be limited and they may be difficult to get hold of particularly during critical times.   Overcome this by agreeing regular days, and set out expectations up front.

Diarise regular slots on a six-monthly basis

2. Lack of in-depth understanding.  The part-time nature of the role may prevent the fractional CMO from fully absorbing the client’s culture, values, and operations.  This may have a negative impact on their strategic decision making.  A good fit is essential, hiring a fractional CMO on a rolling quarterly contract allows both parties to establish trust and end the relationship at any point it no longer feels right.

“Look for a fractional CMO with lots of relevant experience.

If you are a Microsoft Partner planning for an exit in three to five years, find a fractional CMO who has worked with technology SMBs who have had successful exits.

3. Integration challenges. Strong internal relationships are crucial for good strategic decision making.  The part time nature of a fractional CMO role can be a barrier to this.  If you are committed to the fractional CMO model, overcome this by including the CMO in offsites, all hands meetings and socials.

Encourage time onsite with the team where possible.

4. Risk of misalignment:  A hands off fractional CMO can become removed from the company’s goals and objectives particularly if there isn’t a strong relationship with the CEO.  To get the best results from a fractional CMO or indeed any senior marketer there must be a close relationship with the leadership team and complete agreement on the strategic goals for the organisation.

5. Short term focus.  Fractional CMOs are often hired to deliver a particular project or set of objectives so they may not prioritise the longer-term strategy of the company.    Ensure the fractional CMO is invited to board meetings and strategic planning sessions.

“A good fractional CMO will run a quarterly review of marketing strategy and make sure this aligns with the CEO vision.

6. Confidentiality concerns. The fractional CMO will need access to sensitive data.  Ensure your fractional CMO has signed a confidentiality agreement and only work with people you trust.  Give them access to data and information they need in the same way you would an employee.  Manage permissions and remove access to systems and data sources once the professional relationship is terminated.

“There is no reason to trust a fractional CMO any less than you would a full-time employee.

7. Dependency on external talent. Inevitably, reliance on an external person for critical business operations can pose a risk.  Reframe the issue and don’t think of the fractional CMO as ‘external’.

“A quarterly rolling contract gives as much business security as any director on a three-month notice period.

8. Communication challenges.  Effective communication is vital in any leadership role.  Delayed responses, poor communication and misinterpretation may be an issue. Find the right rhythm and channel for communications.  Agree up front the outputs and reports that are expected and who is on the circulation. Regular diarised one to ones, monthly team meetings and quarterly strategic reviews should all be built into the agreement.

9. Limited control. The employment status of a fractional CMO is different from that of a permanent employee.  This may lead to some businesses feeling like they have less control over schedules, priorities, and methodologies.  Businesses that need more oversight or involvement have the option to contract more time or consider bringing the role inhouse.

“Regular meetings, agreed structure to plans and reports give CEOs the visibility they need

10. Cost consideration. Whilst the fractional CMO model is nearly always more cost-effective that hiring a full-time director, there is still a chunky monthly cost consideration.  It’s essential to look carefully at the goals and deliverables and for the CEO and CMO to work together to ensure that these are being met.

“Regular reviews of objectives and key results should inform the next round of strategic planning

Scaling a technology business inevitably involves letting go of the reins. The standout consideration for a smaller business is good fit and trust. For most SMBs hiring a fractional CMO for a year or more is a valuable and cost-effective solution.  To find out more about the benefits, take a look at what to expect from a fractional CMO

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