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The CEO's Growth Guide to Fractional vs. Full-time CMOs

Which is Right For You?

As CEO’s and their investors look for more efficient and effective tools in their arsenal to grow, more and more companies are turning to Fractional CMO’s to deliver a solid growth program.

While we here at GROW are strong believers in the Fractional CMO model and its powerful impact within the B2B tech sphere, we still acknowledge that this model simply may not be a good fit for everyone.

So, while the Fractional CMO isn’t for everyone, we do think it has a place in companies who have certain criteria.

As a general rule of thumb, our take is that emerging B2B Tech companies who are under $50M in revenues (annually) should leverage the power of a Fractional CMO to support a company’s growth goals.

For example, allow us to pose a hypothetical:

Picture a company which is, on average, making less than $50M in revenue per year. The CEO of this company has been strongly recommended by the board of directors that they now need to hire a full-time CMO; perhaps someone who comes highly recommended, and will be able to engage with large, grandiose marketing ideas.

Unfortunately, this CMO’s ideas are not perfectly aligned with the company’s financial reality.

Quickly, the former budget for these fantastic plans is now being fed into sales enablement tools, SDR (Sales Development Representative) hires, tactical programs, and financial specialists. But, worry not! The CEO promises that these funds will be made available “soon.”

See the problem here? Expectations have been dashed, and no one walks away happy.

Understandably, many CEOs out there would like to avoid this fiasco, but are left unequipped with the criterion to navigate this dilemma of Fractional vs. Full-time. A Fractional CMO can solve many of these problems.

Breaking It Down

Most companies make the mistake of hiring a full-time CMO too early. Here’s our guidelines for making the decision to hire a full-time CMO.

More than $50M in revenue per year

If a company’s making more than $50M per year, then there are a lot of things in the sales process, operations and scalability that have been figured out. Much of the guesswork of the type of programs to run have been figured out. A full-time CMO can come in and truly work to scale the program. Did you know that CMO’s who understand scalability and operational excellence last twice as long as those who don’t?

Identifiable marketing programs

Full-time CMO’s are a great fit to take existing marketing programs and scale them up, make them more efficient and build a team around them. They know how to leverage key metrics and build/expand upon them.

Fine-tuned pipeline process

Bringing in an operations- and results-driven full-time CMO means that a company should no longer be at a stage wherein base-level sales pipelines are still being established; structures should already be in place to support this revenue growth, with allowed space for the CMO to fine tune and perfect the main sales channels.

The Fractional iCMO

Now that the full-time qualifications are established, it’s a bit easier to narrow down the best avenues for fractional work.

At base level, fractional work is optimal for any company making below $50M in sales, and under 20% year-over-year growth.

Alternatively, a Fractional CMO is a good model when the CEO is looking for a CMO, but isn’t quite sure that full-time work is needed.

GROWing Forward

At GROW Powerful, many of our Fractional iCMOs have operational experience as full-time CMOs, and are familiar with the exit process involved with leaving successful short-term engagements as Fractional CMOs.

Luckily, we feel proud to boast a large community of proven, battle-tested iCMOs here at GROW, so in the event that a clients’ needs change over the course of an engagement, we are still able to source throughout our network to meet the goals of our clientele.

So, we’ve covered what Fractional and full-time CEOs can do for your company, but what can you do to ensure that you as a CEO have the best experience possible in outsourcing your marketing operations?

Firstly, assess your company’s needs! Are you looking for operational fine-tuning or full brand revitalization? What are the areas in which you’re looking to improve your company's marketing? Asking these kinds of questions will ultimately help you in deciding whether you’re searching for another chief executive, or whether a short-term fractional leader would be a better fit.

Next, don’t lock yourself into long-term engagements — this kind of partnership verges more on consultancy than Fractional CMO work. Working with companies who can provide an array of iCMOs ensures that your strategic needs are always being met, no matter the individual.

Lastly—and, perhaps, most obviously—always do your research. We’ve all heard horror stories about fraudulent “CMO” agencies taking advantage of unknowing CEOs by providing unqualified Fractional CMOs, so don’t be afraid to utilize the people within your network to verify the validity of a company’s claims.

Managing an engagement with a Fractional CMO can be somewhat new territory for the CEO, but working with the right fractional executive who can work within the range of company resources to collaborate with leadership teams will ultimately be the one to usher your company to the next level.

Looking Forward

For updates on all GROW podcasts and operations, subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter, follow our YouTube channel, and search for the Grow Up with GROW series wherever you get your podcasts.

All the best,


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