BEWARE of FAKE Fractional CMO’s
Two Sides of the Fake Coin: Wannabe’s & Retirees.
On the podcast this week, GROW Powerful’s Managing Partner, Brett Schklar brought attention to a particularly problematic and confounding issue which has been recently plaguing CEOs and business leaders who are embracing Fractional Leadership: Fake Fractional CMOs.
Amidst the flurry of false advertising and job title overinflation, two main camps can be identified, the first of which—the ‘Wannabes’—being far more nefarious than the latter—the Retirees.
As of late, a flux of graphic designers, SEO managers, PR agencies and other consultants have taken to advertising themselves as Fractional CMOs; worse yet, they are failing to step up to the plate and deliver on the promises which are inherent to the job of the Fractional CMO, and are thusly contributing to an undue bad reputation for fractional work.
Here’s an example: recently, GROW started an engagement with a client who’d had a very negative experience with fractional marketing services. Upon further research, we discovered that many of the so-called “Fractional CMOs” were actually people who had been agency creative directors, copywriters and SEO specialists. It was a sham, and the CEO was losing confidence in the model. Even worse:
The results? Zero campaigns, zero growth, zero strategy laid out.
Long story short: false advertising and endless empty messaging with no professional backing is a waste of time, money and resources.
In the less deceptive, and, perhaps, far more well-meaning camp, are the retirees, or those who have taken up fractional work after years’—or, perhaps, decades’—worth of experience within the marketing world, whether that be as a senior executive or corporate advisor. However, despite their many years dedicated to Fractional CMO work, these individuals tend to function as project-oriented consultants as opposed to the fractional vision of short-term, growth-oriented engagements that balance tactics with strategy in an operational manner.
While these contracts may work just fine with larger companies who are in traditional industries (retail, manufacturing) such a model is not suited to the emerging world of B2B technology, which is the domain in which companies like GROW Powerful tend to operate.
Strategy-based mentorship and consultancy works wonderfully for other corporate environments, but, ultimately, does little to serve the needs of startups, tech companies, and areas in which fractional work would generally be the optimal choice for growth-oriented marketing campaigns.
So, how can one go about realistically achieving this balance, and how can GROW be the vehicle to get you and your company where you need to be? To start, allow us to tell you what our iCMOs do offer, as opposed to other companies currently advertising on the market:
1. All GROW iCMOs (and really, any good Fractional CMO worth their stuff) will traditionally have full-time, operational CMO experience at an emerging tech or B2B company. If this does not appear anywhere on a potential candidate’s professional profile, or, alternatively, if you hold no familiarity with their advertised employer, it might be time to walk away.
2. A good Fractional CMO will have at least one successful exit in their professional arsenal. In the B2B world, this is an essential; helping to navigate the waters of a seamless corporate acquisition or exit is a marker of executive, high-level strategy formation — for a company, this is an invaluable asset.
3. Tangible, proven evidence of interwoven strategy and tactical work. Your CMO should be able to provide examples of a near play-by-play of their time at a company, how they executed the company’s goals, and what they can do for your brand. The ability to lay out an “elevator pitch” of their ideas and vision for your company can help set the stage for their future management of your time, money and resources. In short: what can they foresee that you might not be able to?
4. Here at GROW, we have a decent pool of available, experienced iCMOs, who we’re happy to connect with any number of clients. In other words, if the shoe doesn’t fit just right, it’s likely that we have a few more dozen pairs in the back for you to try on. Evolution is a natural part of the short-term engagement process, so if you or the needs of your company happen to shift, we have an iCMO to meet your needs. Adaptability is a key part of fractional work, so wherever you go to access interim CMO work—whether that be GROW or elsewhere—make sure that your fractional executive has the skills to adapt alongside your company.
Here's Where Your Story Begins.
So, we’ve explained a few of the ways that vetted iCMOs can add to your company’s marketing, but what are some simple steps that you yourself can take to prevent your company from being duped?
Firstly—and, perhaps, most simply—take a good look at your candidates! How is this person presenting themselves? What are they marketing themselves as? If you took a look at their professional profile, would they have the kind of skillset that your work requires?
Secondly, interview fractional workers like regular employees, and ensure that they are on board to evolve alongside your company to secure the best fit possible.
Lastly, ask around your professional network to ensure that whoever you’re looking to bring on is committed to maintaining the short-term model – realistic expectations means superseded results. Know your audience.
Your Questions, Answered.
We know that we may have provided a lot of information all at once here, so we’d like to break it down to the absolute essentials so that you’re free to use and administer this advice in more incremental amounts. So, let’s get down to it, shall we?
How much should an iCMO cost? Realistically, this answer depends. At GROW, our cost is relative to the amount of monthly engagements required in order for our clients to meet their growth needs. This can range from as low as $3,000 to as high as $25,000 per month — timing and workload are huge deciding factors throughout this process.
How do we source our iCMOs? At GROW, we feel fortunate to have a network of CMOs throughout LinkedIn and other social platforms which allow potential fractional executives to approach us rather than us having to go out and scout for ourselves.
When is the right time to hire a full-time CMO? Fortunately and unfortunately, figuring out your company's short-term goals and needs is a highly individual process, but once you've figured out your path toward growth-centered work, you'll know. It's an incredibly instinctual path for most companies and CEOs, but deep-diving into potential candidates' backgrounds should lead you to the realization that most companies seem to arrive to at one point or another: fractional is the way to go.
If we like one of your iCMOs, can we hire them? To preface this, every Fractional CMO is going to have a different answer to this question. For the most part, our iCMOs have left the world of traditional CMO work due to its lack of flexibility and freedom, so chances of a corporate return are fairly slim. However, we here at GROW are not in the business of standing in the way of a match made in heaven, so, bar a small contractual finder's fee, clients can absolutely hire one of our iCMOs.
[You can read more about that process here!]
Do we need to use GROW to find a Fractional CMO? While we're a bit biased about the quality of our services here at GROW, you do not by any means have to partner with GROW in order to source your iCMOs. With services like LinkedIn and SEO searches, the process to find decent Fractional CMOs has become a lot less tiresome. The trouble, however, is easing out of engagements with an individual on a solo basis as opposed to the facilitated process aided by companies like GROW Powerful. In short, the process to finding high-quality, battle-tested iCMOs can be lengthy and rife with trial-and-error, and we'd be honored to be the ones to ease that journey for you.
You mostly talk about B2B services – what about B2C or D2C? Quite honestly, the models are very similar. The lines between B2B and B/D2C are continuing to blur as SaaS services increase in demand — we are well-equipped to handle all facets of this fast-growing market.
Until Next Time.
Be sure to stay up-to-date with all GROW related news here, and don't forget to subscribe to our Grow Up with Grow podcast series, available wherever you get your podcasts, and to our weekly newsletter.
All the best,