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What is a Fractional CMO? FAQs

A fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a highly experienced marketing leader who partners with founders, CEOs, and executive teams to drive their organization's growth. This model is particularly appealing for start-ups and scale-ups that require the expertise of a senior marketing executive but are unable to justify the cost or need for a full-time commitment. For businesses who need to solve problems right away, a fractional CMO can jump right in, whereas hiring a full-time CMO requires time to find, interview, and onboard. 

Consider a fractional CMO if:

  • You are a founder or CEO who is doing your own marketing (and wearing many other hats)
  • You lack strategic marketing leadership or the time to train and guide your junior marketing resources?
  • You require an outsiders' perspective to inject new ideas and help you troubleshoot business challenges through the lens of your customer
  • Need an interim executive as a bridge while looking for a permanent CMO 

Differences between a strategic marketing consultant, an agency, and a fractional CMO

While all of these options can help you develop your marketing strategy, the approach and level of commitment vary. The key distinction is the level of accountability, involvement, continuity of service, and customization to your business. 

  • Operates as a member of your executive leadership team
  • Leads your entire marketing function with a hands-on approach
  • Attends team meetings, holds 1:1s, presents at board meetings
  • Collaborates with your cross-functional team to address your internal business challenges, not just your marketing
  • Functions as an employee, but on a part-time flexible basis
  • Commits to your business for a longer period
  • Invests in the success of your marketing programs, not just one aspect
  • Focuses on outcomes
  • Has extensive marketing expertise, allowing for a customized approach to your business
  • Possesses the ability to identify and engage the right types of marketing resources and tools
  • Handles urgent and time-sensitive issues as they arise
  • Focuses on a specific marketing expertise (e.g. advertising, digital transformation, lead generation)
  • Assists with strategic planning, but their approach will be tailored to their niche
  • Sounds attractive since they have a team versus just one person, but their business model concentrates on selling their brand of expertise as a generic solution for your business
  • Focuses on KPIs not business outcomes
  • An independent consultant can bring on additional resources like a fractional CMO, but their focus is typical advisory (more strategic, less execution/implementation).


When it comes to marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Regardless of the option you choose, selecting the right marketing resource is the first step towards achieving growth and success. 


What is the difference between a Fractional CMO & a Marketing Consultant?

A fractional CMo and a marketing consultant are both professionals who provide marketing expertise, but there are some key differences between the two roles.

A fractional CMO typically works with a company on a part-time or temporary basis, providing strategic leadership and direction for the company's marketing efforts. This may include developing marketing plans, overseeing the execution of marketing campaings, and managing the marketing team. A fractional CMO is essentially an outsourced executive who can provide high-level marketing guidance and support to a business without requiring a full-time committment.

On the other hand, a marketing consultant typically works with a company on a project-by-project basis, providing specialized expertise in a particular area of marketing. For example, a marketing consultant may be hired to conduct market research, develop a social media strategy, or improve the company's SEO. Unlike a fractional CMO, a marketing consultant does not typically provide ongoing strategic leaderhip or management of the marketing function. 

In summary, while both a fractional CMO and a marketing consultant can provide valuable marketing expertise to a businesses, the fractional CMO is more focused on providing strategic leadership and management, while the marketing consultant is more focused on providing specialized expertise for specific projects or initiatives.

How is a Fractional CMO compensated?

Fractional CMOs typically charge a retained fee. This covers the equivalent of one or two days per week dedicated to your company, compensated at a weekly or monthly rate. 

Please contact us to learn more about Rippler Group's models and investment options for Fractional CMO engagements. 

How long do Fractional CMO engagements typically last?

Fractional CMO engagements can vary in length depending on the needs of hte company. Some engagements may last only a few months, while others may extend for a year or more. 

How does a company find and select a Fractional CMO?

Companies can find fractional CMOs through professional networks, referrals, and online platforms. When selecting a fractional CMO, it's important to consider factors such as experience, expertise, and fit with the company's culture and values. 

Can a Fractional CMO work remotely?

Yes, in fact most do! This allows companies to access top marketing talent regardless of geographic location. 

How can a Fractional CMO help with a company's overall business strategy?

A fractional CMO can provide valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends, and competitive landscape, which can inform broader business strategy decisions.

Can a Fractional CMO work with an existing marketing team?

Yes, a fractional CMO can work with an existing marketing team to provide additional expertise, leadership, and guidance. They can also help identify skill gaps and provide training or coaching to improve the effectiveness of the marketing team. Or help design the organization and hire the right talent for your organization.

What are the risks of working with a Fractional CMO?

As with any professional engagement, there are some risks associated with working with a fractional CMO. These may include misaligned expectations, poor communication, or lack of expertise. However, these risks can be mitigated through careful selection and clear communication throughout the engagement.

Do Fractional CMOs drive growth?

Yes! Sustainable growth and predictable pipeline is the end-game.

Do Fractional CMOs only advise on what we should do, or do you also help us execute?

This depends on the individual Fractional CMO. At Rippler Group, we execute and we execute extremely well. We believe that plans are only as good as how they're implemented. We pride ourselves on our hands-on execution and the impact it creates. 

Do Fractional CMOs interface with the board?

Many fractional CMOs have extensive experience in creating board decks, presenting to the board, and collaborating with the board on strategic initiatives. 

How do I onboard a Fractional CMO?

Our clients onboard Rippler Group exactly as they would onboard a permanent employee (i.e. company calendar access, access to key systems in the sales and marketing tech stack, inclusion in company meetings and key management team meetings, etc.) 

Will a Fractional CMO help hire a permanent leader?

Yes, many Fractional CMOs are more than happy to help you hire permanent full-time talent as needed. They often have great networks of leaders and are happy to introduce clients to A-players. 

Will a Fractional CMO directly manage internal employees?

This is based on your preference. At Rippler Group, we sometimes act as the direct people manager for employees in the marketing organization. In other cases, we act as a close partner to an existing leader who retains direct management responsibility for the team. 

We're flexible and happy to discuss what works best for you. 

What company stage is best for a Fractional CMO?

We find that early-stage companies often derive the most benefit from a fractional CMO. However, there are several established brands that can use a fractional CMO to inject a fresh perspective or discipline. Or to help launch a new venture within the existing brand. 

My team is really small. Are we too early stage to work together?

Not at all. Building a strong foundation for your go-to-market effort from the beginning is a smart move - let's get to work!

Want to learn more about how a Fractional CMO can help your business? Get in touch to schedule a 15-minute introductory conversation. Let's see if there's an opportunity to drive growth together.