A Guide to Hiring a Fractional CMO

A fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a part-time executive who performs similar tasks to a full-time CMO but on a flexible basis. They are responsible for developing and implementing marketing strategies, building roadmaps, and identifying the right team members to execute these plans — and they build trust with internal staff and provide clear direction for marketing teams.

The cost of hiring a fractional CMO varies depending on factors such as experience, scope of work, and engagement duration. On average, fractional CMOs charge between $200 and $300 per hour. This arrangement is significantly more cost-effective compared to the average annual salary of a full-time CMO, which ranges from $190,000 to $250,000, plus benefits and equity.

When to Consider Hiring a Fractional CMO

Organizations may encounter marketing challenges due to insufficient in-house expertise, ineffective strategies, or limited resources, which outsourced marketing like a fractional CMO can help address by providing leadership and direction. 

Fractional CMOs are particularly valuable for businesses experiencing critical growth stages, undergoing significant transitions, or launching new products or services, as they can provide expert guidance and support during these periods. Their expertise in various marketing channels and technologies can help develop and execute comprehensive plans, ensure smooth transitions, and maximize the impact of new initiatives.

Key Qualities to Look for in a Fractional CMO

Hiring a fractional CMO with the right blend of strategic vision, industry expertise, adaptability, and leadership skills helps companies looking to drive growth navigate their marketing challenges in a cost-effective manner. These are the skills and aptitudes that indicate a candidate has what it takes:

Proven success in similar industries or business sizes

Relevant experience ensures that they understand the unique challenges and opportunities in your market and can apply their expertise to develop effective strategies tailored to your specific needs. This is especially important when seeking to leverage fractional marketing for niche industries with highly specific requirements.

Strategic vision to craft and implement long-term marketing plans

Opt for candidates who demonstrate the ability to create comprehensive roadmaps that guide your marketing efforts. They should be able to articulate how their strategies will contribute to your organization’s growth and success.

Problem-solving skills

They should be able to analyze data, identify areas for improvement, and develop actionable plans to address any issues. Look for candidates who have a track record of overcoming obstacles and driving results in their previous roles.

Strong leadership and communication, even on a part-time basis

They should be able to inspire and motivate your marketing staff, fostering a culture of collaboration and accountability. Choose candidates who have excellent interpersonal skills and can clearly articulate their ideas and expectations to ensure everyone is working towards common goals.

Expertise in relevant marketing channels and technologies

Marketing is constantly evolving, with new channels and technologies emerging regularly. A fractional CMO should be able to identify which channels will be most effective in reaching your target audience.

Alignment with your company’s culture and values

Look for candidates who can represent your brand both internally and externally. This alignment will ensure a smooth integration into your team and help maintain consistency in your marketing messaging and approach.

Fractional CMOs are particularly valuable for businesses experiencing critical growth stages.

How to Find a Fractional CMO

Networking at industry events, leveraging online platforms, and seeking referrals from trusted contacts can help identify qualified candidates for the fractional CMO role. Working with professional services firms and marketing agencies can streamline the search process by providing access to a pre-screened pool of experienced fractional CMOs ready to take on new engagements.

Hiring a Fractional CMO — Step by Step

Carefully vet potential fractional CMOs, ensuring they have the right strategic vision and industry experience to drive targeted growth and maintain a competitive edge. 

1. Define your marketing goals and objectives

Identify what you want to achieve through your marketing efforts, such as increasing brand awareness, generating leads, or boosting sales.

2. Assess your current marketing needs and gaps

Determine which marketing functions require leadership and expertise that your current team may lack. 

3. Determine the preferred level of engagement

Part-time engagements generally involve a set number of hours per week or month, while project-based engagements have a defined scope and timeline. Consider your budget, the complexity of your marketing needs, and the duration of support required when making this decision.

4. Identify potential candidates

Create a list of qualified individuals who meet your criteria and align with your business needs.

5. Evaluate qualifications and fit

Judge candidates based on their ability to clearly articulate their process for developing and executing marketing strategies. They should have a systematic approach that demonstrates their understanding of the steps required to achieve your marketing goals.

6. Conduct interviews

Use this opportunity to discuss their experience, process, and approach to marketing strategy in more detail. Evaluate their communication skills, leadership style, and ability to align with your company’s culture and values.

7. Check references

Reach out to their previous clients or colleagues to gain insights into their work style, deliverables, and overall effectiveness in their role as a fractional CMO.

8. Establish a detailed scope of work

Define the deliverables, timelines, and expectations for the engagement. This document should serve as a roadmap for the fractional CMO’s work and ensure that both parties are aligned on the objectives and outcomes.

9. Negotiate terms and cost

Be clear about your budget and expectations to ensure a fair and mutually beneficial agreement.

Marketing agencies streamline the search process by providing access to a pre-screened pool of experienced fractional CMOs ready to take on new engagements.

Integrating a Fractional CMO into In-House Marketing Teams

Onboarding a fractional CMO involves providing access to necessary resources, introducing them to your in-house team, and facilitating knowledge transfer sessions to help them understand your business and align their strategies with your team’s existing knowledge. Fostering open communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing between the fractional CMO and your in-house team leverages the CMO’s expertise and incorporates it into your team’s processes.

A flexible and adaptable fractional CMO is able to slot in with an in-house marketing team rapidly to generate cohesive strategy alignment, optimize resource utilization, and enhance overall marketing effectiveness.


Hanlon’s fractional CMO services are designed to fill marketing gaps, integrate quickly with organizations from across a wide range of industries, and start generating a return on marketing investment fast. Contact us today to learn more.