What's the difference: Fractional CMO, Part-Time CMO or CMO-as-a-Service?

What's the difference: Fractional CMO, Part-Time CMO or CMO-as-a-Service?

We’re marketers so we love 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: we’re iytro, The Part-Time CMO.

But we’re also self-aware. We know that many think our profession is a lot of BS, and sometimes, they might be right. In marketing, we’re all guilty of polishing a turd or two in an effort to make the mundane sound amazing. Even so, we recognise the limitations of marketing and the inability of even the greatest words to make the basic into something truly extraordinary… especially when applied to early stage startups.

Therefore, although we know deep down in our heart of hearts that Part-Time CMO, Fractional CMO and Marketing-as-a-Service are all basically the same thing... its probably a good idea for us to define each and explain why we prefer to use some over others.


Let’s begin with the most obvious one. All marketing is a service. Even if you have marketers in house, they offer you a service. Agencies offer a service, so do consultants. We offer a service. We sometimes wish we didn't because scaling a service is really hard and sometimes we get tired. If we could turn everything we do into an automated process and deliver the same outcomes we would… but in the end, we are a service.

We get it. The term “CMO as-a-service” tries to suggest that marketing is bolted on, with teams of people behind it that respond via a help desk. That’s cool, and we do have teams of specialists as well but it’s not the best way of describing what we do.

If you’re a CMO-as-a-service person, that’s great. Good luck with that. You just won’t hear us say it.

The Fractional CMO.

This one makes more sense, but isn’t widely used in Europe. The way we see it, it’s an Americanism that has seen a groundswell in that part of the world, where companies use the term ‘Fractional’ as a title for senior roles where the person undertaking the function wasn’t an employee. Google search trends data backs us up. As far as we’re able to determine, the term began being widely used particularly for Fractional CFOs around 2015, with usage growing and spreading to other terms 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 want them to function as a part of your team, then why make them sound less than whole? There are many ways someone can take on a senior role in your organisation and not be present and available for a major chunk of time. Think of board positions and the chairperson of public companies. When we hear the word Fractional CMO we think it diminishes the role we can play as an experienced marketer to something that is ‘almost, but not quite’. Which is the opposite of what we propose to deliver.

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, the best way to describe what we do.

The reason is simple: our goal is to operate as part of your team, even if we’re not an employee. We care the same way your employees and founders do. Think of it like a footballer moving clubs. Sure, some act as mercenaries, but the good ones... do not.

So, why Part-Time CMO? Because we’re not there all the time. Simples. Of course, if you work with us you can reach one of us or even most of us at almost any hour. You’re our client after all. But when we sign a deal with you, we agree on how much time we need to reach our goals and we stick to that. It gives us both flexibility and allows us to help you focus: what are the most important things we should work on to make effective changes in your business to help growth? We’ll be laser focused on those and if that’s all we can do, you’ll know about it. If you have no team other than us, we’ll make sure you’re aware of our progress. If you do have people in-house, we’ll help them be organized, managed and drive them together towards the same goal.

We just won’t be doing it on a full time basis.

But, even if we’re not there all the time or not an employee, we think of ourselves as part of your team. Otherwise, what’s the point?

We’re Part-Time CMOs: flexible and organised around your goals, needs and budgets.

What’s not to love about that?

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