THE ANSWER? IT DEPENDS.
You’ve been asking great questions in our weekly Growth Street Office Hours, and we’re happy to give you the answers. One question we’ve been getting a lot — when is the right time to hire a full-time CMO, and when is the right time to bring in a fractional CMO? Both are great questions with the same answer: it depends. No, really!
Here’s some food for thought on how to think about the right role for your business.
WHEN TO HIRE A FULL-TIME CMO
Does your business check these boxes?
✓ Marketing has an executive seat at the table and is responsible for leading the growth of the business – across a variety of distribution channels, markets and audiences – beyond just marketing
✓ Brand, marketing and customer experience as they relate to the go-to-market strategy are the linchpin for your business’ overall growth and success
✓ You’re ready to take the leap from being a product-led business to becoming a brand-led business
✓ You’re ready to put the gas on the fire for your marketing strategy and accelerate growth
✓ You feel major, burning pain without the right leader in place and marketing is likely inconsistent or being run by the wrong people
✓ You have a team ready to execute (or a budget to build a team)
If you can check these boxes, it sounds like it’s time for a full-time CMO, which is often a journey. Many of our clients start by being a product-led company in the early stages and shift to being more brand-led as their business evolves. When that pivot happens, it’s the right time to get someone who can be there full-time, dig in, and lead that robust marketing and growth strategy for you.
WHEN TO HIRE A FRACTIONAL CMO
On the other hand, a fractional CMO can be the right fit if …
✓ Your go-to-market approach is evolving from being more organic and home-grown to more discipline and strategy
✓ You’re not sure your current approach and/or team are doing what needs to get done to be successful
✓ You’re not sure if you need a full-time executive, but know you need some level of marketing leadership
✓ You’re not sure how much gas you want to put on the fire
✓ And in about 50% of the clients we help: you either need to fill a gap for your full-time CMO (maternity leave, leave of absence, transition) or as the CMO you need strategic partnership to move the right activities across the finish line
If these sound like your business needs, then a fractional CMO might be a better approach. Dipping your toes in can be a great way for you to prove out what you need. The right fractional CMO can jump right in, roll up their sleeves, and bring the right resources to the table to help you move your marketing strategy forward. A fractional CMO can help you see what an executive leader can do to grow your strategy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the end, the decision to hire a fractional or full-time CMO really depends on your business goals – what are you trying to achieve? How do you see marketing really leading the strategy to get there? From there, it’s all about figuring out who is going to be the right resource. We always say “only hire when you feel the burning pain” — so if you’re not feeling the excruciating pain of marketing, a fractional CMO can be a great way for you to fill that gap until you figure out exactly what you need.