Is It Hard to Find a Great Fractional CMO?

There are lots of fractional CMOs. How tough is it to find a good one? How can you tell when you do?

3 min. read

Fractional CMOs are on the rise. 

The fractional model is gaining traction especially for startups and early growth stage companies. These companies are competing in the war for talent, yet still need every dollar to go as far as possible.

Hiring part-time senior executives can be more proportionate to a company’s growth than hiring expensive full-time executives.

The difficulty is, with the proliferation of fCMOs how do you pick?

How can you tell a great one from one that is… less than great?

And can you afford to make a mistake in this role?

More importantly, how do you find a fractional CMO that will solve the particular marketing problems your company is facing?

Who needs a fractional CMO?

Here’s a hot take.

NOBODY needs a fractional CMO. 

There, I said it. 

Here’s the deal. 

When you’re hiring a fractional CMO, what you really need is a CMO. But what you can afford is fractional.

You with me?

The company has needs that it cannot afford. Its needs are full-time but its budget is part-time. 

The first step in finding a great fractional CMO is that both the company and the fCMO need to see and acknowledge this tension.

Marketing is huge

This tension is only made worse with the number of activities and responsibilities that fall under the title of “marketing.”

For example, what’s the balance of strategy and execution? Managing this requires a certain skill set.

Will the fCMO be managing reporting relationships of the internal team? Managing this requires an entirely different skill set. 

What if the company needs experience in something that falls outside of the fCMOs experience?

People come to fractional work with wildly different backgrounds. This means that the fractional CMO title doesn’t guarantee anything about a candidate’s seniority or experience.

So how can you find someone with the ability to cover ALL of the potential marketing needs?

I’ll show you.

How to Hire a Fractional CMO

Full-stack marketing virtuoso

I am in awe of the creative abilities of marketers.

There are some truly amazing and talented human beings working in this field. 

Many people go into marketing because they thrive on the variety. They are native “jacks of all trades.” 

Broad knowledge of many marketing disciplines is almost a requirement in order to tie all these activities together in a cohesive marketing strategy.

Here’s the down side.

A virtuoso “full-stack” marketer developing a bespoke marketing program is slower (more expensive and less agile as a result) than one with a systematized process or playbook. 

That’s a tough fit for startups. 

Slow and expensive are the opposite of what growing companies need. 

In fact, the need for both speed and efficiency increase the risk of a mistake. These companies cannot afford the opportunity costs associated with a mishire.

Threading the needle

The following three criteria let you account for the difficulties above.

A truly great fractional CMO hire needs:

  • To be T-shaped
  • To bring the right playbooks
  • To be a FIT for the company

Here’s what I mean.

When it comes to experience, the right fCMO needs to understand marketing broadly enough to guide the strategy. They also need some areas of expertise, some zones of genius where they are particularly strong. 

That’s what is meant by T-shaped. Broad across the top, deep in a few ares.

This is the best answer to how one person can contain enough experience to address the overwhelming breadth of everything that can be called marketing.

They need to bring the right playbooks. 

You cannot count on their virtuosity to solve all your problems. You need the speed and efficiency of a marketer that brings a system to bear on the marketing challenges in your company.

Without the speed and efficiency that comes from systems, processes, frameworks, and playbooks, a fractional CMO will struggle to get enough done in part-time hours at a part-time fee to really propel the company forward the way it needs.

Efficiency of process will beat a virtuoso.

Experience knowing what to do will beat processes alone IF the process is the wrong solution for the problem.

You need to find someone with both experience and processes.

Finally, when it comes to hiring a great fCMO, “great” is more a matter of fit than objective quality.

If you find a T-shaped marketer with a solid system for how they determine what to do and how to do it, AND they are a fit for your industry, sales motion, and company culture, you’ll be hiring a truly great fractional CMO for your individual needs.


If you’re missing any of the three, you’re taking a big risk. 

By hiring a fractional CMO with experience and expertise, plus an established system of efficient processes and playbooks, you can increase your odds of hiring a great one. 

And a great fCMO can be the difference between your company reaching its potential at this stage or struggling to grow. If you have other tips for hiring a great fractional CMO, drop them in the comments.

 For more about how to nail the fractional CMO fit for your company, check out How to Hire a Fractional CMO, a Complete Guide.


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