Why Your Business Needs A Fractional CMO


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What Even Is A Fractional CMO?

If you want to build-up your business, you need to put in place some marketing strategies. However, for some companies (and for many start-ups), employing a full-time CMO doesn't really make sense. Perhaps it's not within budget, or it isn't really needed. 

So, why not hire a Fractional CMO? An outside party who can join your team, temporarily, to act as marketing executive, and help you get the job done—someone like Amanda Rabideau. In this blog, Hollywood Branded share why your business may need a Fractional CMO, from the expertise of Amanda Rabideau, who is the CEO of Arch Collective.

EP273 Why Your Business Needs A Fractional CMO

A Little More About Amanda

Amanda is the Founder and CEO of Arch Collective, a company that takes on a unique approach to handling the marketing strategy and execution for B2BTech Start Ups. Through her business, she takes numerous company to the next level by acting as a fractional CMO, and hiring on her team of freelancers to help plan and execute a polished marketing strategy. With fifteen years of expertise, she has worked for large enterprises and start-ups such as Microsoft, CoreLogic, Cloudstaff, and New Relic.

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Interview Transcript Highlights

Question: So before we dive into, first of all, that word, fractional, people are like, what the hell is fractional? How can we get everyone to understand better, what got you to here today? You are a marketing expert. You have tremendous experience. You've worked at name brand companies along the way that even just further establish your expertise. But what's your story of getting to here today?

Answer: Sure. Well, I'll start at the end of my last full-time position for another employer. And I had been there for five years, was looking for my next opportunity, and being in San Francisco to look into the startup space is not uncommon. I actually started my career at a startup, an orthodontic startup, and loved that time and loved the impact that I made, so I was looking for CMO roles at other startups. And at one point I was interviewing with four different companies at the same time. They were all B2B tech. They were post series A funded.

And as I was meeting with them, each of them had, what basically seemed like, the same exact problems. Just nuances from their industry, or peculiarities of the business. And so I thought, it's too bad I can't help all of them at the same time. I'd be super efficient. It'd be a great paycheck. Right? And so then I thought, well, why not? And as I started to look into this type of business, I realized, wow, there's fractional CFOs, those were more commonly known in the venture space, but not as many CMOs. And so I went down this path and have been doing it ever since.

Question: And so when you say a CMO for an organization that brings up a lot of like, what is a CMO? What do they do? Oh, she's sitting there and creating social media posts, which is not exactly what a CMOs typically doing. Can you share what the roles are usually with a CMO at most larger businesses?

Answer: And it's a great question that doesn't, of course, have a very straightforward answer. Because depending on the business, the role that the CMO takes on could vary quite a bit. At some large organizations, the marketing organization actually has a P&L, or their own business line where they're responsible for driving revenue. Now that isn't necessarily the case at every single company, but you do see that at startups as well if you've got an offering where everything is done digitally, and there isn't a sales person involved, why shouldn't marketing own that revenue and the responsibility of driving that in? But to sum it up, what a CMO would do, it's really responsible for the outward facing experience that an organization puts out there. So the brand story, the visuals of it, the messaging for it, how the company is perceived and engages with media in the marketplace.

And there's so many different aspects of the business that touch on it in some part, the marketing responsibility. And as the CMO, the way I look at my role is to make sure that that is a connected story that's consistent across all the different channels, across every employee and across everything that people see. So that way, when they see or hear brand ABC, the way it looks, sounds and feels in one place is the same as another. So, it's consistent and they really can understand what that company does.

Question: And when you're approaching this as a fractional CMO, the first thing brands might be like, oh, I want to hire someone in there just about my brand. What is the benefit to a company in looking at working with someone where it's a part time? I mean, that's really what we're talking about with fractionals. It's carving out of that whole circle. You're getting a percentage of that individual's time to focus on your company. How do you combat that, or defend that, or support that in showing the true benefits that that enterprise can achieve?

Answer: Yep. And I would imagine that every organization, even those that hire me ideally, would be able to have someone giving all their time, energy, and attention. But right now in the marketplace there's two factors that make that a bit more challenging than it has been. And one is that simply hiring full-time people, it's a very competitive market. What the stats are day to day may change. But I think it's something like 40% of employees have turned over across the US. And so to be able to find the talent and retain that, is challenging in today's marketplace. And I know the startup space more specifically. In fact, there's a Wall Street Journal that came out about a month ago and it talked about how in the same time period from 2020 to 2021, basically there's $56 billion with investment from VCs in that same time period last year—112 billion, or around there, and 113 billion this year.

And so all of those startups that got that funding, who are they going to hire? And often they can't compete with salaries, right? Because they don't, they may have gotten funding, but they don't necessarily have a ton of money, or they want to use that money for other projects. So it's a really great solution, especially for startups. Or for companies that want that strategy and the direction, but might not be able to afford a full-time employee, or find a full-time employee.

Question:What are some of the misconceptions people might have along the way when they're hiring someone who is fractional, or as we said in the intro, freelance? What are some of the things that people just kind of off the bat, maybe don't set themselves up for the right success?

Answer: I think some of it is just that there isn't necessarily a learning curve or an onboarding process. A couple of companies that go, I worked at a marketing consulting firm, and so I, in that experience, had to very quickly learn lots of different businesses. And so I feel comfortable getting up that learning curve, but I think that's something that's often downplayed that, yes, even though I'm fractional and I do this, there still can be a bit of a learning curve to understand the nuances of the business, or the product or the marketplace. Myself, and I'm sure a lot of fractional CMOs, they do specialize in certain industries so that that learning curve can be minimized. But still, every, every company is a little bit different. The other thing I would say is that we're just doing it for the money and we don't necessarily care about it.

And in fact, a good friend of mine, Anita Tellsiani, she, when we were having a conversation, as both of us are product marketers by trade, and we talked about how you got to fall in love with the thing that you're marketing. And I think that's something that people don't think about is that I do end up falling in love with these products. And, I do get really attached to the teams. And I recently had a conversation with head of HR at one of my clients, because I'm rolling off of it, and we brought in a new CMO and it's sometimes harder than you expect. I've been working with this company for a year and a half. I've done a lot to grow the business, but it's time for me to move on. And I brought in a full-time CMO because that's where the company's at and so I know they're in good hands. But I think that'd be the other thing is just like how you can get attached to these companies too.

Question: And so what are other mistakes that typically you're seeing happen? Not for you, but that business owners are like, "Okay, here's my fractional CXO." What are they doing that's wrong that they could be approaching this a little better?

Answer: Yeah, well I'm lucky because I've had amazing clients, and I've had some clients that haven't worked out as well. So I'm going to draw on the experience from the ones that didn't work out so well. Which to that point, like there's so many lessons to be learned, right? One, which is that there's a reason I take on post series A clients and that's because there's a level of understanding of their business, and their target market, and where there's product market fit. And so, something that can happen is that a leader can bring in a CMO and expect them to be able to define what exactly the product is, what is the brand—all of these different things. And yes, that is a marketer's job to some extent. But if that leader doesn't know what they are either, what that company is or who they want to grow up to be, or whatever the case may be, then it makes it very hard, for a marketer, to help them tell that story in a compelling way.

And I'll give you a small example. In marketing, there's these product one-pagers, you probably have downloaded them from a website, or I don't know, seen them somewhere. And I was working on one of these for a client at the time. And we did, I think I had 17 or 16 different revisions for this one-pager, and they were getting frustrated and so were we, and I always joke I'm like, if we can do 16 versions of the same story, I don't know, that feels pretty solid, we're getting creative here.  And I was like, "Well, what is it that you want to say?" And the response was, "Well, that's your job in marketing?" And I think that that's a misunderstanding of marketing.

If you don't know the problem you solve, if you don't know what makes your product different, I can find ways to tell that in a compelling, exciting, and interesting convincing way, but if none of that exists, then it makes it really challenging. So expecting that you can just throw stuff at a marketer and they can make it shine like gold—some of us can on it, and sometimes there are those instances, but usually you need something solid there, or at least the person that the client needs to understand what's solid there so I can go out there and really make it compelling.

Check Out The Podcast!

Amanda has so much great information from her experience in marketing and acting as a Fractional CMO. Check out the podcast below to learn more about what she does!

Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

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