Fractional CMO vs. Full-time CMO

fractional CMO

A fractional CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), also sometimes referred to as an outsourced CMO, is a marketing executive who works on a part-time or project basis, providing strategic and tactical marketing services to a business. They are often hired as consultants or contractors to provide short-term marketing expertise and guidance.

A fractional CMO works for a set number of hours each month or quarter, typically six months to a year. They are also typically hired on a project basis, which means they are only responsible for specific tasks, such as launching a new product or developing a marketing plan.

Fractional CMOs typically work remotely, which means they can work from anywhere in the world for more than one client. They are usually well-versed in various digital marketing strategies and can quickly get up to speed on a business’s goals.

In contrast to a fractional CMO, a full-time CMO is an executive who is employed by and works exclusively for one company. They are typically in charge of all aspects of the company’s marketing initiatives, including branding, advertising, public relations, digital marketing, product launch campaigns, and more.

Having a fractional CMO brings many benefits to businesses of all sizes. Here are some of the critical benefits of having a fractional CMO:

    • Access to marketing experience: A fractional CMO can bring a wealth of marketing experience to a business. This can be especially useful for small businesses or startups with small marketing teams that have little experience. Thanks to their years of experience, fractional CMOs can quickly understand a business and implement the strategies needed to achieve the company’s goals.
    • Cost savings: Hiring a fractional CMO is often much more cost-effective than hiring a full-time CMO. This is because they are typically paid on an hourly or project basis rather than having to pay for a full salary and benefits package.
    • Access to marketing knowledge: An experienced fractional CMO can bring a wealth of knowledge to a business’s marketing team. They understand the importance of data-driven decisions and the value of storytelling, which they leverage to build your company’s brand. They also have an eye for the big picture, helping develop long-term strategies to propel your business forward. On top of that, they are experts at creating campaigns that engage customers, drive sales, and increase brand loyalty. Finally, due to their experience working in different industries for different companies, they can quickly draw on their successful strategies and replicate them in your business.
  • Avoidance of randomness in marketing efforts: For inexperienced marketing departments, randomness in their marketing efforts can be a problem. A fractional CMO can help to create a consistent and ongoing marketing strategy that avoids randomness in the marketing efforts. This helps businesses stay on track with their strategic goals and maintain momentum over a longer period.
  • Enhanced communication: Finally, a fractional CMO can help ensure effective communication between the company and its customers, which helps build relationships and loyalty.

Having listed the benefits of fractional CMOs, we can dive deeper into full-time vs. fractional CMOs.

Full-time CMO vs. Fractional CMO Marketing

Fractional CMO marketing offers a cost-effective solution to companies looking to outsource their marketing needs. According to research by Upwork, the US freelance workforce is expected to surpass the traditional workforce by 2027, with the Wall Street Journal noting that there is a shift in top companies and marketers valuing fractional CMO jobs

With all these in mind, let’s look at a fractional CMO vs. a full-time CMO.

Hours worked

The hours worked by a fractional CMO and a full-time CMO differ in many ways. A fractional CMO is more like a consultant and is typically contracted to work part-time with a set number of hours, whereas a full-time CMO is hired to work full-time on a permanent basis. 

Thus, while a fractional CMO will work for approximately 20 hours per week, a full-time CMO will work 40 hours per week as standard. 

A fractional CMO will often work with a team of specialists to design and execute marketing plans as well as provide guidance and advice to the marketing team. However, they are not expected to be present for day-to-day operations and will typically only be involved in major marketing decisions and initiatives.

As for a full-time CMO, they are expected to attend meetings, provide strategic guidance and oversight to the marketing team, and work with other departments to ensure that marketing objectives are met.


Regarding the level of expertise and overall skill set, the difference between a fractional CMO and a full-time CMO depends on the domain of application. A full-time CMO typically has a more in-depth understanding of a company’s goals and products, enabling them to develop and execute comprehensive marketing strategies and campaigns. 

They also tend to have a deep understanding of a specific industry and can recognize emerging market trends, allowing them to stay ahead of the competition. 

On the other hand, a fractional CMO is often hired to implement specific projects or campaigns. While they may not have the comprehensive understanding of the company and its products that a full-time CMO has, they can still provide valuable insights and strategic marketing guidance

They may also have broad expertise, which can prove helpful in companies looking to grow and expand their marketing efforts or companies that are creating new products for a new target audience. 


Hiring a full-time CMO is a major decision for any business. While a full-time CMO offers the advantage of having someone dedicated to managing your company’s marketing efforts, a fractional CMO can be a more cost-effective option. 

With a fractional CMO, the service cost is often based on the time the CMO spends with your company. This means that you can scale up or down the amount of time you use a fractional CMO as your needs change. 

Compared to a full-time CMO, this can be much more cost-effective and allows you to access an experienced CMO without the long-term commitment and expense. Ultimately, the cost of a fractional CMO vs. a full-time CMO depends on the amount of time you need and the experience and resources of the CMO you choose.

Contact us here if you would like to find a highly recommended fractional CMO for your business.

How To Choose a Fractional CMO Agency 

A fractional CMO agency is a company that provides marketing support on a part-time or project basis. Rather than hiring a full-time CMO or building out an in-house marketing team, a business can turn to a fractional CMO agency for strategic guidance and execution of specific marketing initiatives. 

Fractional CMO companies often have teams of marketing professionals with diverse skills and experience, allowing them to bring a range of expertise to their clients. They can help with everything from developing marketing plans and campaigns to analyzing data and measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts. 

By partnering with a fractional CMO agency, businesses can access the marketing support they need on an as-needed basis, enabling them to be more agile and flexible in their marketing efforts.

Finding the right fractional CMO agency for your business can be daunting. There are many options out there, and it can be hard to know where to begin looking for a fractional CMO. However, there are some steps that you can take to choose the right fractional CMO agency for your business: 

  • Assess your goals:  This is an essential step in selecting a fractional CMO agency, as it helps you determine what you want to achieve through your marketing efforts and how you will measure success. By having clear goals in mind, you can better align your marketing strategy with your business objectives and ensure that you make the most of your marketing budget. For example, suppose your goal is to increase brand awareness. In that case, you will want to work with a fractional CMO agency with experience creating and executing campaigns that reach a large audience. On the other hand, if your goal is to drive sales, you will want to focus on tactics that directly lead to conversions, such as targeted email campaigns or retargeting ads.
  • Ask about their processes and marketing methodologies: Understanding how an agency approaches marketing and what you can expect from your partnership is key. A good fractional CMO agency should have clear and well-defined processes for planning and executing marketing campaigns and robust marketing methodologies that guide their work. By asking about these fractional CMO marketing processes and methodologies, you can get a sense of whether the fractional CMO agency has a structured and strategic approach to marketing or if they are more ad-hoc. This step is vital, as a structured and strategic approach is more likely to lead to long-term success, while an ad-hoc approach may be more unpredictable and less effective.
  • Compare pricing: Comparing pricing is an essential step in choosing a fractional CMO agency, as it allows you to understand the cost of their services and determine whether or not they are a good fit for your budget. When comparing pricing, always consider the level of support and expertise you will receive from the fractional CMO agency. While it may be tempting to choose the lowest-priced option with a low fractional CMO hourly rate, this may not always be the best choice if the agency does not have the skills or experience to deliver the results you want. On the other hand, a more expensive agency may offer a higher level of expertise and better results, making it a more cost-effective choice in the long run. Also, consider the specific services included in the pricing and if you would want a team from the agency to help with strategy execution. 
  • Talk to other key stakeholders in your company: When choosing a fractional CMO agency, you always want to ensure that you are making a decision that aligns with the needs and goals of the entire organization. Thus, talking to other key stakeholders in your company is a vital step not to be skipped. For example, if you are the CEO and are considering hiring a fractional CMO agency, it may be helpful to involve the heads of sales, finance, and customer service in the decision. These stakeholders may have valuable insights on the types of marketing initiatives that will be most effective in driving business results and may have specific needs that should be taken into account.

By involving other key stakeholders in the decision to hire a fractional CMO agency, comparing pricing, assessing your goals, and understanding an agency’s marketing methodologies, you can ensure that you are making a well-informed choice that considers the perspectives of different departments and functions within your company.

Why Your Business May Want To Hire a Fractional CMO

In conclusion, hiring a fractional CMO can be a cost-effective and flexible way for businesses to access high-level marketing expertise. A fractional CMO agency can provide strategic guidance and execution on specific marketing initiatives, helping companies to achieve their goals and drive growth.

Additionally, a fractional CMO can be a valuable resource for businesses looking to enhance their marketing efforts without the commitment of a full-time hire. By partnering with a fractional CMO agency, companies can access the expertise and support they need to succeed in today’s competitive market.

For more on recent trends in digital marketing, read our blog and talk to us if you are considering hiring a fractional CMO.