What’s The Difference Between A Fractional CMO & CMO As A Service?

When positioning your product or service in the marketplace, it’s important to use the right terminology to make it easier for end users to find you (when searching online) or understand what you’re offering.

In some cases, your product or service might be new to the industry, in which case you’ll need to educate your potential clients about the service that you are offering and why they would benefit from it.

In this case, we are often approached by companies looking for external marketing help, but are unsure if they need a Fractional CMO, a CMO As A Service, or something else, since all of these offerings are relatively new. In order to give the most accurate answer, we went to the internet to understand the difference ourselves.

As it turns out, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of talk about ‘CMO As A Service’. According to Google Trends, there’s been almost no interest over the past 5 years.

cmo as a service vs fractional cmo

Extensive searching on Google also resulted in a lack of responses about the distinction of the two offerings, so we did what anyone trying to write anything and needed some help would to: we asked ChatGPT. While we know it’s a bad idea to rely on ChatGPT for your blog, we at least wanted to see what they could come up with. Below is an edited version, since what the bot put out initially didn’t provide any real distinction between the two services:

A Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as a Service and a Fractional CMO are both models for accessing marketing expertise, but they differ in engagement and scope of work. Here’s an overview of each:

  1. CMO as a Service (CMOaaS): CMOaaS is a model where an external agency or consultancy provides the services of a CMO on a part-time or project basis. It allows organizations to access the strategic guidance and leadership of a seasoned marketing professional without hiring a full-time CMO. CMOaaS typically involves a contract or retainer agreement with the agency, which provides various marketing services and support.
  2. Fractional CMO: A Fractional CMO is also a part-time marketing executive, but they work directly with a specific company rather than through an agency. Fractional CMOs are independent professionals who offer their expertise and services to multiple clients simultaneously. They work on a fractional (part-time) basis, typically dedicating a certain number of hours per week or month to each client. Fractional CMOs often have deep marketing experience and provide strategic leadership, marketing planning, and execution tailored to the needs of the company they work with.

In summary, the key difference lies in the structure of engagement. CMOaaS involves accessing marketing services through an agency or consultancy, while a Fractional CMO works directly with a company on a part-time basis. Both models offer flexible and cost-effective options for businesses to access experienced marketing professionals based on their specific requirements and budget.

How do you know whether to choose a Fractional CMO or CMO As A Service?

To be clear, it doesn’t matter. Both offer outsourced marketing leadership, consulting, and advising. In general, a stand-alone executive or freelancer is probably going to be cheaper than turning to an agency, as they’ll have less overhead. However, some businesses might not mind paying more. Some Fractional CMOs, such as KSW Solutions, do offer to find and manage freelance marketing service providers such as graphic designers, video editors, PR, etc., so again the difference in services provided isn’t significant.

At the end of the day, once you know that you want a Fractional CMO the most important thing to look for in a service provider is making sure you are both on the same page about budget, scope, goals, and KPIs.

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