How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Fractional CMO?

In this article discover the typical cost for a business to hire a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), what they offer, how they operate, benefits and pitfalls.

Paul Mills
25 Aug
August 25, 2023
 min video
25 Aug


In the dynamic landscape of modern business, staying ahead of the competition requires strategic and impactful marketing. But what if you're a small to medium-sized business that doesn't have the budget or need for a full-time Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)? This is where the concept of a Fractional CMO comes into play.

In this article, we'll delve into the world of fractional marketing executives, explore what they do, why they're gaining popularity, how they operate, their pricing models, and much more. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of whether this innovative approach is the right fit for your business.

What Is a Fractional CMO? What Do They Do?

A Fractional CMO, is a highly experienced marketing professional who works with businesses on a part-time or project basis to develop and execute marketing strategies. They bring the expertise of a seasoned CMO to the table without the full-time commitment or cost.

These types of fractional executive can help with a wide range of marketing challenges businesses face. Their role is to align marketing efforts with overall business goals, driving growth and maximising the impact of your marketing budget. The typical roles that a Fractional CMO performs include, but is not limited to:

  1. Strategic Planning and Goal Setting: A Fractional CMO develops a comprehensive marketing strategy aligned with the company's overall objectives. They set clear goals, outline actionable steps, and create a roadmap to achieve long-term success.
  2. Market Research and Analysis: Fractional CMOs conduct thorough market research to understand the target audience, industry trends, and competitive landscape. This informs decision-making, ensuring that marketing efforts are tailored to meet customer needs and outshine competitors.
  3. Brand Development and Positioning: These experts are responsible for shaping and enhancing the brand's identity. They define the brand's unique value proposition, create consistent messaging, and establish a strong market presence that resonates with customers.
  4. Campaign Management and Execution: Fractional CMOs oversee the planning and execution of marketing campaigns across various channels, such as digital, social media, and traditional media. They ensure campaigns are well-coordinated, engaging, and generate desired results.
  5. Digital Marketing Strategy: With the growing significance of digital platforms, Fractional CMOs excel in crafting digital marketing strategies. They leverage social media, SEO, content marketing, and other digital tools to enhance the brand's online visibility and engagement.
  6. Performance Measurement and Analytics: Measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts is crucial. Fractional CMOs track key performance indicators (KPIs), analyse campaign results, and make data-driven adjustments to optimise outcomes and ROI.
  7. Team Leadership and Collaboration: Even on a part-time basis, Fractional CMOs provide leadership to the marketing team. They collaborate with internal and external stakeholders, guiding the team's efforts, and ensuring everyone is aligned with the overarching strategy.

These roles collectively showcase the diverse expertise that Fractional CMOs bring to the table, making them valuable assets for businesses seeking high-impact marketing solutions without the commitment of a full-time executive.

Why Are Fractional CMOs Becoming More Popular?

The rise of Fractional CMOs can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, many businesses, especially startups and SMEs, find it challenging to afford a full-time CMO's salary and benefits. Fractional CMOs offer a cost-effective alternative without compromising on expertise. Secondly, the rapidly evolving marketing landscape requires nimble and adaptable strategies. Fractional CMOs, being specialists, can bring in fresh perspectives and stay updated with the latest trends. Lastly, the flexibility of their engagement allows businesses to scale their marketing efforts according to changing needs, such as during product launches or seasonal promotions.

How Do Fractional CMOs Operate - In-Person or Virtually?

Fractional CMOs operate based on the needs of your unique business requirements. Some engagements might require them to be physically present, especially if hands-on collaboration is essential. However, since the pandemic and the normalisation of remote working arrangements, many Fractional CMOs offer their services remotely. And these executives generally refer to themselves as Virtual Chief Marketing Officers (VCMOs). With advanced communication technologies and collaborative tools, VCMOs can work effectively remotely, staying connected through video conferences, emails, and project management software such as Slack or MS Teams. This not only reduces overhead costs but also widens the pool of talent you can choose from, as location is no longer a limiting factor.

What Is the Hourly or Day Rate to Hire a Fractional CMO?

As a business owner, you may be considering hiring a Fractional CMO to help you with marketing tasks. However, before you do so, it's important to understand the cost of a Fractional CMO. One of the most appealing aspects of hiring a Fractional CMO is the flexibility offered in terms of cost. Unlike traditional full-time CMOs who come with fixed annual salaries, and other remuneration extras such as pensions and bonuses, Fractional CMOs provide a range of pricing models, including hourly or day rates. The specific rate can vary widely based on several factors, each contributing to the expertise and value that the Fractional CMO brings to your business.

Factors Influencing Hourly or Day Rates

  • Experience and Expertise: Fractional CMOs with extensive industry experience and a proven track record often command higher rates. Their deep knowledge and ability to drive impactful results can justify a premium fee.
  • Industry and Market Complexity: Rates might differ based on the complexity of your industry. Niche markets or highly competitive industries might lead to higher rates due to the specialised skills required.
  • Scope of Work: The breadth and depth of responsibilities can influence the rate. More comprehensive strategic planning and execution could warrant a higher fee.
  • Engagement Duration: The longer the engagement, the more likely you are to negotiate a favourable rate. Fractional CMOs may also offer discounted rates for longer-term commitments. It's always worth exploring.
  • Geographic Location: Rates can also be influenced by the cost of living and business environment in your location. Virtual engagements might be more cost-effective due to the elimination of geographical constraints.
  • Value Proposition: Fractional CMOs who have a strong reputation for delivering exceptional value might have higher rates, as businesses are willing to pay for the impact they bring.
"In an era that demands doing 'more with less,' why endure months of waiting for a traditional executive when a Fractional CMO can deliver instant impact? It's not just about filling a position; it's about forging a vital bridge toward deeper alignment that paves the way for resounding success."

Paul Mills
CEO & Founder, VCMO

What Hourly or Day Rate Am I Expected To Pay?

Hourly rates for Fractional CMOs typically range from £100 to £300 or more, depending on the factors mentioned above. Keep in mind that this is a general estimate, and rates can vary. Some Fractional CMOs might offer tiered pricing based on the level of involvement, while others might propose a flat day rate for a certain number of hours. Some Fractional CMOs might offer a fixed price based on an agreed project delivery that may last several weeks or months.

Other Fractional CMOs may offer tiered pricing based on the lifecycle stage of the business. As early stage businesses have less cash reserves, a lower day rate may be offered versus a higher day rate for mature larger scale enterprises. Typical day rates can vary between £700 to £1,500, or more.

As a guide, Growth Partners has a calculator that provides a benchmark day rate (in GBP) to a comparable full time permanent hire. Note, VCMO is not responsible for the accuracy of the calculator

Calculating the Value

While the hourly or day rate might initially seem higher than hiring a full-time employee, it's crucial to consider the value provided. Fractional CMOs bring a wealth of experience and strategic insights without the long-term commitment. This can lead to more efficient resource allocation, improved campaign outcomes, and better ROI on your marketing investments.

Negotiation and ROI

When discussing rates with a potential Fractional CMO, don't hesitate to ask for references or case studies that demonstrate their impact on previous engagements. Discuss the scope of work, expected outcomes, and how their involvement can drive tangible results for your business. Remember, the true measure of value lies not just in the rate but in the return on investment generated through their expertise.

While the cost is an important consideration when hiring a Fractional CMO, equally significant is the value they bring to your marketing efforts. By assessing your business's needs, understanding the level of expertise required, and negotiating based on the anticipated impact, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your budget and growth objectives.

Are There Different Pricing Models When Hiring a Fractional CMO?

As the prominence of Fractional CMOs continues to rise, it's giving rise to two distinct models of engagement that cater to the diverse needs of businesses:

Model 1: Part-Time, Flexible Engagement

This first model revolves around part-time and flexible involvement. In this approach, Fractional CMOs operate as part-time executives without predefined end dates. This model is especially well-suited for smaller to mid-sized organisations seeking cost-effective expertise. It offers an opportunity for both the business and the Fractional CMO to assess mutual compatibility and the alignment of goals. This approach empowers fractional executives to thoroughly evaluate the company's dynamics before considering a longer-term commitment or taking on multiple roles concurrently.

Model 2: Full-Time, Fixed Engagement

This model introduces a unique facet to the Fractional CMO landscape. Here, fractional executives transition to a full-time schedule for a fixed engagement period, typically spanning six to nine months. This model holds particular significance for companies facing time-sensitive challenges. Rather than waiting to onboard a permanent CMO, a full-time Fractional CMO can swiftly take charge and execute crucial tasks as the search for a permanent hire continues. This model is often preferred by larger organisations dealing with intricate marketing processes or major transformation.

When Should a New Business or Startup Bring in a Fractional CMO?

New businesses and startups can greatly benefit from the fractional executives. In the early stages, resources are often limited, and every marketing pound or dollar needs to be spent wisely. A Fractional CMO can help startups define their target market, create a compelling brand identity, and design effective marketing strategies to make a strong market entry. As the business grows, the Fractional CMO's role can evolve to support scaling efforts and guide the in-house marketing team.

What’s the Cost of Not Having an Experienced Marketing Leader in the Business?

Not having an experienced marketing leader in the business can lead to missed opportunities and inefficiencies. Marketing is a complex and strategic function that requires a deep understanding of the marketing mix, consumer behaviour, market trends, and competitive landscapes. Without proper strategic and operational guidance, your marketing efforts might lack direction, leading to wasted resources and subpar results. Moreover, a weak brand presence and ineffective campaigns can hinder your business's growth potential. The cost of lost revenue and market share could far outweigh the investment in a Fractional CMO.

How Does Hiring a Fractional CMO Compare to Other Marketing Options?

Compared to other marketing options like hiring full-time staff or outsourcing to agencies, hiring a Fractional CMO offers a unique blend of expertise and flexibility. Unlike hiring a full-time CMO, you're not locked into a long-term commitment, making it suitable for projects or specific periods of growth. Agencies, while offering a range of services, might not provide the same level of dedicated attention and strategic insight as a Fractional CMO. The Fractional CMO becomes an extension of your team, aligning their efforts with your business's goals.

How Do You Choose The Right Fractional CMO?

Choosing the right Fractional CMO is a critical decision that can significantly impact your business's commercial success. This expert serves as a strategic partner, guiding your marketing efforts and driving growth. Here's a more in-depth look at how to choose the right Fractional CMO:

  1. Assess Your Business Needs: Begin by identifying your business's specific needs and goals. Are you looking for a Fractional CMO to lead a product launch, revamp your brand, or scale your marketing efforts? Define the scope of work and desired outcomes to ensure you find a Fractional CMO who aligns with your requirements.
  2. Experience and Industry Expertise: Look for Fractional CMOs with experience in your industry or a closely related one. Their understanding of industry nuances and market dynamics can give your marketing strategies a competitive edge. Review their past projects, case studies, and testimonials to gauge their expertise and impact.
  3. References and Reputation: Ask for references from previous clients or employers. Speaking directly to those who have worked with the Fractional CMO can provide insights into their communication style, collaboration approach, and ability to deliver results. Additionally, research their online reputation and presence to understand how they are perceived in the industry.
  4. Chemistry and Communication: Effective collaboration is key to success. Schedule initial conversations or meetings to assess the chemistry between you and the Fractional CMO. Clear communication and a shared vision are essential for a productive working relationship. During these interactions, evaluate their ability to listen, understand, and offer insights.
  5. Alignment with Company Culture: While not physically present full-time, a Fractional CMO should still align with your company culture and values. Their understanding of your business's ethos can impact their decision-making and the strategies they propose. Discuss your company's culture and values to ensure a harmonious fit.
  6. Scope of Services: Different Fractional CMOs offer varying scopes of services. Some might focus more on strategic planning, while others might be hands-on in executing campaigns. Clarify the extent of their involvement and ensure it matches your needs. You might need a more strategic partner or someone who can roll up their sleeves and execute tactics.
  7. Availability and Accessibility: Understand the Fractional CMO's availability and how they prefer to work. Some might have other commitments, so ensure their availability aligns with your project timeline. Additionally, discuss communication channels and response times to ensure effective ongoing collaboration.
  8. Budget and ROI Consideration: While cost is a factor, consider it alongside the potential return on investment. A Fractional CMO's impact can justify a higher cost if they can drive significant growth and improved marketing outcomes. Prioritise value over the upfront expense.
  9. Trial Period or Project Basis: Consider starting with a trial period or a smaller project to assess the Fractional CMO's fit with your business. This minimises risks and allows you to gauge their capabilities before committing to a more extended engagement.
  10. Openness to Innovation and Adaptability: The marketing landscape is ever-evolving. Look for a Fractional CMO who demonstrates an openness to new ideas, innovation, and adapting strategies based on changing trends and customer behaviour.
  11. Long-term Collaboration Potential: While Fractional CMOs are often engaged for specific projects, consider whether their expertise aligns with your long-term business goals. A successful collaboration might lead to future engagements as your business continues to grow.

Choosing the right Fractional CMO is a pivotal decision that requires careful consideration. Assess their experience, reputation, alignment with your needs, and compatibility with your company culture. A well-chosen Fractional CMO can become an invaluable partner, driving your marketing efforts to new heights and contributing to your business's overall success.

What Are the Main Cost Benefits of Hiring a Fractional CMO?

The cost benefits of hiring a Fractional CMO are multi-fold. Firstly, you're accessing high-level expertise without the ongoing commitment of a full-time salary and other costly benefits. This is particularly advantageous for businesses that require periodic strategic input. Secondly, the Fractional CMO's external perspective can identify cost-saving opportunities within your current marketing strategies. Lastly, their focused and result-oriented approach can lead to better ROI on your marketing investments, effectively offsetting the cost of their engagement.

For a more detailed review on the benefits, read our blog Fractional CMO: The Best Marketing Partner for Your Business.

What Are the Common Disadvantages of Hiring a Fractional CMO?

While the benefits are substantial, there are a few potential disadvantages to consider. Fractional CMOs, by nature, might not have the same level of emotional investment as an internal team member. This could impact their understanding of your company culture and vision. Additionally, if not managed well, communication and collaboration challenges could arise in virtual engagements. It's crucial to establish clear communication channels and expectations from the outset to mitigate these concerns.


Hiring a Fractional CMO can be a wise strategic move for businesses aiming to maximise their marketing impact while optimising costs. By bringing in a seasoned marketing expert on a flexible basis, you're investing in the future growth of your business without the heavy financial commitment of a full-time CMO. Assess your business's needs, evaluate the available talent, and make an informed decision that propels your marketing efforts to new heights.

About VCMO

VCMO helps SMEs and investor-backed portfolio companies with a £2 million or higher turnover that operate without a full-time Chief Marketing Officer. Our Fractional CMOs and tailored services transform marketing potential into a competitive advantage that delivers scalable and predictable growth, increased profits, and enhanced enterprise value.

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Paul Mills
CEO & Founder

If this article resonates with your business situation, get in touch to discuss how we can help.

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