The Four Archetypes of Fractional CMOs & How to Choose the Best for You


As fractional work gains popularity, various fractional CMO models are emerging. Some models focus exclusively on short-term strategic initiatives, like building a marketing plan or providing input on a strategic initiative, like a product launch or market expansion. In contrast, others focus on long-term engagements providing leadership and integration of every aspect of an organization’s marketing team and program.

The fractional model is especially advantageous for financially constrained companies or those undergoing transitions. Integrating a fractional CMO allows businesses to stay on course with strong marketing strategies while navigating the dynamic demands of the market. It’s a strategic choice--balancing fiscal responsibility with the necessity of specialized marketing leadership.

There can be frustration around the term "fractional" as it is often not clearly defined in the market and is also being misused by professionals. While the term fractional does mean part of the time, it does NOT mean all part-time gig workers or consultants are fractional. There is also a lot of frustration because the term "fractional CMO" is being used to charge you more money. True Fractional CMO services are highly effective for creating a quick impact with low risk for many businesses. However, not all companies have reached the point when it makes sense to hire a fractional CMO, in which case an Executive Marketing Advisor or someone who specializes in specific marketing tasks would be a better fit. The truth is, that not all fractional CMOs are created equal. Let’s look at the four predominant types and which may be a good fit for you.

The Army-of-One

The Army of One is exactly what it sounds like. A single professional manning the deck, running all the operations. This Rainmaker means business. They are the most entrepreneurial of the fractional CMOs. This is the type that makes up most of the current Fractional CMO climate and pertains to some of the work we do here at Omicle. We're passionate about our work as a fractional CMO; it has transformed both our business and our client relationships. If you’re considering this path, let's connect and discuss how we can work together.

This format often works best for B2B, SaaS, and nonprofits where the relationship with the team is just as important as the relationship with the client.

PROS: They usually have a lower cost because they don’t have significant operating costs as an agency would. They also usually have a different set of experiences which could make them more valuable to you.

CONS: It can be hard to know who is truly qualified. It is important to check references and look at case studies, what have they published, and who have they worked with.


The Aspiring CMO Group

Some groups or companies train marketing professionals such as SEO specialists, graphic designers, digital marketers, and writers to gain confidence in donning the ‘CMO’ title. These professionals don’t have the experience of a CMO and are taught a formulated way to approach it. Over time, they do get the experience, but until then, the group learns together.

This format is most suited for helping smaller “mom-and-pop” businesses. It is a newer format to the fractional and executive scene and is good for companies looking at marketing for the first time.

These companies are often leveraging the title of ‘CMO’ to get higher-paying consulting gigs and are not a good fit for scaling B2B businesses or nonprofits.

PROS: The fees should be cheaper than other options. If your fractional CMO does not know the answer, they will have a community to help and support them.

CONS: The consultants aren’t actual CMOs, so they don’t have the depth of experience that many scaling organizations need.

The Cohort

This model consists of independent fractional CMOs, like the Army of Ones, but they operate as a collective under a unified brand using a licensing or franchise model. That brand acts as a clearinghouse for a group of independent contractors. These fractional CMOs are vetted based on whatever the unified brand determines is their criteria.

Often they have experienced marketing executives that came from a similar set of professional experiences like larger, Fortune 500 corporations. They excel with larger and long-term engagements, are hard-working, and are dedicated. While they cater to their specific audiences, they are known for their occasionally rigid, or less adaptable, and pricier services.

It is also common for scaling companies to think that they need this level of expertise when in reality, they don’t, and the cohort may not have the scaling or going public experience that the business needs.

PROS: These fractional CMOs are vetted executives with executive-level resources like the Aspiring CMO Groups.

CONS: Their expertise might be impressive, but is it what you need? The model will have larger operating costs, which they will pass off to you.

The Agency

In most cases, these traditional marketing agencies are simply relabeling the role of the account director, manager, or strategist as a fractional CMO. This means that working with them will be the same as it is working with them for a campaign. PR agencies, Digital agencies, Copywriters, Designers, and others are hopping on the bandwagon and abusing the term, "Fractional CMO" to charge more money. You’ll have the client account manager and any number of junior reps working on what needs to be done in your company. Their focus will be on the project or ad campaign, not necessarily the culture of your organization or how departments are connected and can collaborate.

Some agencies are creating an option to embed the account manager in your company. This is similar to an Army of One or a Cohort fractional CMO, however, there is no guarantee that the account director has actual CMO-type experience.

PROS: One-stop-shop. It’s familiar to work with them because it is just a traditional marketing agency model using a new buzzword.

CONS: There is no guarantee that you would be getting true executive-level expertise simply because this is largely a repackaging of their existing services. They are also most familiar with the campaign or project concept so that is how they will guide you. The flexibility to adapt to your changing circumstances is limited. You also risk not owning your materials, data, or tools.

What Works Best for You?

Fractional CMOs offer a unique mix of flexibility, cost-efficiency, deep experience, and specialized expertise, adeptly filling the gaps left by the ever-changing landscape of traditional marketing roles. Our ability to quickly adapt to a company’s specific needs is key. In situations where marketing is overseen by operations or finance, a fractional CMO ensures that the vital psychological and creative elements of marketing are effectively addressed. We guide customer-centric strategies and brand development, providing our expertise without the need for a full-time executive’s long-term financial commitment.

Every model we've mentioned has its pros and cons, so how do you make a decision? Be clear on your goals and intentions. Look critically and honestly about where your company is, and how it fits into some of the examples given above. This will help you select the best option for your scaling business. If you’re ready to learn how Omicle would work with you, let’s set up your Discovery Call today.

Omicle delivers brand clarity, marketing strategy, and operational efficiency to prepare leaders to scale their businesses.

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