What is: Fractional CMO v Part-Time CMO v CMO-as-a-Service

What is: Fractional CMO v Part-Time CMO v CMO-as-a-Service

We’re marketers so we do love inventing new jargon. It may as well be one of the main reasons we work in this crazy industry in the first place (not really, but we’re trying to make a point here). So it should come as no surprise when we apply acronyms to our own business. Hopefully you know this because you're already on this page, but we’re iytro, The Part-Time CMO.

But we also know that many think that their marketing department and marketers in general are full of BS. Sometimes, they might actually be right. With or without years of experience, all marketing executives are guilty of polishing a turd or two in an effort to make the mundane aspects of our profession sound amazing to unsuspecting business owners. Even so, at iytro we recognise that there are som limitations to marketing. One of them is the inability of even the greatest words to make something basic into something truly extraordinary. This is especially the case when applied to startup marketing at the early-stage.

Therefore, although we know deep down in our heart of hearts that Part-Time Chief Marketing Officer (Part-Time CMO), Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (Fractional CMO) and Marketing-as-a-Service are all basically the same way to say that we're not a full-time chief marketing officer (full-time cmo)... we get it. What the hell do any of them mean anyway? And why do we feel the need to define each and explain why we prefer to use some over others?

Read on, dear business owners.


Let’s begin with the most obvious. Or should we say, the one we like the least. I mean, is it even possible to say you do 'Marketing-as-a-Service' with a straight face? Isn't all marketing a service? Even if you have a bunch of full-time team members in your fully stocked marketing department, don't they also offer a service? Agencies also offer a service, so do consultants. We offer a service (even though we don't like calling ourselves an agency or a consultancy, hence Part-Time CMO). We sometimes wish we didn't because, let's be real here for a minute people... scaling a service business is really, really hard and sometimes we get f#cking tired. If we could turn everything we do into an automated process and deliver the same outcomes we would… but in the end, we accept the fact that we ARE. A. SERVICE.

We get it. The term “CMO as-a-service” exists to try and describe all outsourced marketing initiatives: like it is a bolted on thing, with teams of people behind it and maybe they respond via a help desk or hotline. That’s cool if that's your way. We also have teams of specialists as well. But Marketing-as-a-Service is not a good way of describing what we do.

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The other issue with it is that it implies you have a good idea what is missing from your current marketing strategy: that you can choose a shopping list of things and simply add them on. Whether lead generation or social media management, you choose your provider and they provide a service. Sure, we can do that too. But it is our experience of the early-stage that most business owners and founders don't actually have much of an idea what they need to change. Offering a services for this problem, would not therefore be the right fit for this type of business. They need leadership, strategy and the benefit of years of experience in marketing.

If you’re a CMO-as-a-service person, that’s great. No offence intended and we wish you good luck with that. You're just not going to hear us ever say it.

The Fractional CMO.

This one makes more sense than Marketing-as-a-Service, but Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (or Fractional CMO) isn’t a term that is widely used in Europe, although it is changing The way we see it, it’s an Americanism that gathered some momentum in the United States, where companies use the term ‘Fractional’ as a title for any c-suite executives or senior role where the person doing the job isn't an employee. Data from Google Search Trends backs this up. As far as we can tell, Fractional CMO services trace their genesis to the period when 'Fractional CFO' began to be widely used around 2015. As usage grew, the term 'fractional' spread to other job areas from late 2018 onwards.

But we don’t like it. In fact, to us it doesn’t really make any sense. If you’re hiring someone as an external expert but you want them to function as a part of your team, then why make them sound like they're less than whole? It sounds like you only get a section of them: their time for sure but maybe also their brain, their attention or their concern about your business. Don't forget there are many ways that someone can take on a leadership role or join the leadership team in your organisation and not be present and available for the majority of the time. Think of board positions and the chairperson of public companies or even just an interim cmo (why not just call them that?!) So when we hear the word Fractional CMO or Fractional Chief Marketing Officer we think it doesn't accurately reflect the role we play as experienced marketers who provide marketing leadership. Instead it diminishes it to something that is an ‘almost, but not quite’ type of role. And for us, that is the polar opposite of what we propose to deliver for our clients.

The Part-Time CMO

If you haven’t guessed already, Spoiler Alert: Part-Time CMO is our preference. It's the one we use most often and in our opinion, easily the best way to describe what we do.

The reason is simple: our goal with every early-stage startup we work with is to operate as part of your team, even if we’re not actually an employee. While we do work on a part-time basis and are obviously not a full-time executive, we care about your business in the same way that your employees and the founders do. Think of it like a footballer moving clubs. Sure, over the years there have been a few that are mercenaries, but the good ones... are not.

So, why say Part-Time CMO? Well for a start it's because we’re not there all the time. We're not a full-time employee after all (that would make us an entirely different business. Or not even a business. Plus we wouldn't be writing this blog in that case). Simples. Of course, if you work with us, you or your marketing department can reach your Part-Time CMO or even one of the others on our team at almost any hour. You’re our client after all and for business owners and especially early-stage startup founders, this is crucial. When we sign a deal with you to act as your Part-Time CMO, we like to start with specific projects and agree on the set number of hours we need to reach our goals and we stick to that. It gives us both some level of flexibility and allows us to help you focus: what are the most important things we should work on to make effective changes in to help deliver business growth? What kind of marketing leadership is missing from your business and how can we help provide that to your full-time employees? We’ll be laser focused on these areas and if that’s all we can manage as a part-time cmo, you’ll know about it as soon as we do. If you're in a situation where have not even one full-time employee in marketing, we’ll make sure we're your point of contact and keep you aware of our progress. If you do have a marketing department, we’ll help make sure they are well organized, well managed and drive everyone in involved in marketing towards the same goal.

Just remember, we won’t be doing it on a full time basis. Or a Fractional basis. Or an 'as-a-service' basis.

But, even if we’re not there like a full-time employee and are not an employee, we will always think of ourselves as part of your leadership team. Otherwise, what’s the point?

We’re iytro: the Part-Time CMO. Flexible and organised around your business goals, your marketing needs and the financial constraints of your budgets.

What’s not to love about that?

Early-stage business needing marketing guidance? CLICK HERE and contact us for a FREE consultation!

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