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Fractional Marketing Team: In-House Marketing Without the Overhead

9 min read2023-08-31Laura Norup-Boyer

What is Fractional Marketing?

Before we define fractional marketing, let’s set the scene. The B2B world is awash in bad marketing. From poorly designed print ads to set-and-forget ad campaigns, B2B companies around the world waste billions of dollars each year on ineffective marketing strategies. Why?

Most B2B businesses could benefit from marketing support, but they don’t necessarily need a full in-house team. Consider some of the primary marketing activities for B2B companies: trade shows and exhibitions, webinars, demos, whitepapers…

Marketing for B2B companies can be more sporadic than for consumer brands. It can be tough to justify full-time salaries and benefits for a team that might only be tasked to capacity for a few big events each year. What many businesses really need is an experienced part-time marketing department.

Here’s the challenge: experienced marketing teams usually want full-time work! It’s hard to hire quality help on a part-time or short-term basis. Businesses either over-hire, adding bloat to their marketing department or executive structure in order to cover their bases, or roll marketing responsibilities into an existing administrative role.

Enter fractional marketing. A fractional marketing agency is a well-rounded team of marketing professionals that provide services to multiple companies—hence “fractional”. Each company they work with receives a fraction of their total working hours each week for the course of their engagement. This provides companies with the option to maintain a long-term relationship with a marketing team while avoiding the payroll overhead of hiring in-house.

Hiring a fractional marketing agency can mean hiring a whole team, or hiring individual members of the team if you only require specific marketing services.

Is a Fractional Marketing Agency Right For You?

There are many factors that influence whether fractional marketing will work for your business. If you meet some or all of the following criteria, you may wish to consider fractional marketing services.

Small and mid-sized businesses trying to scale

SMBs can experience growing pains when trying to take the next step. As businesses grow, their overhead expands. Increased investment in marketing is crucial when looking to scale, but adding the long-term expense of a full-time marketing department can derail progress. Fractional marketing provides a great middle way between contracting and hiring in-house.

Temporary or cyclical demand for products and services

Many businesses in the industrial sector have high and low seasons for their marketing. Perhaps you do most of your selling during trade show season, or maybe your product is highly seasonal. In either case, it can be difficult to justify a marketing team year-round. A 3-6 month annual engagement with a fractional agency may be a great fit for seasonal businesses.

Structured for remote work

Over the past several years, many businesses adapted to partially or entirely remote work environments. These teams are primed to work with fractional marketers as they already have the skills, tools, and expectations needed. If your team hasn’t successfully navigated remote working in the past, fractional marketing may not be a good fit.

In need of consultation and outside voices

In some cases, a fractional marketing team can provide a second layer of consideration and oversight working alongside an in-house team. If you need a new perspective on your sales and marketing challenges, a short or medium-term engagement with a fractional marketing agency may be a good idea.

Benefits of Fractional Marketing

There are a number of benefits to fractional marketing, including:

Lower Risk

When you hire an employee, you’re taking on a big risk. Beyond their salary, employees are expensive! You need to account for benefits, payroll tax, equipment and software costs, and much more. Depending on labour laws in your area, it can be tricky to fire or lay off staff after their probation period.

Fractional marketing reduces risk. By negotiating a short-term “trial” contract, you can evaluate the performance of the fractional marketing team before committing to a long-term relationship. Since you’re hiring a contractor, you will not be subject to the same labour laws and added expenses of hiring an employee directly.

Faster onboarding

Hiring an employee means committing to an onboarding process as you get them up to speed. They will need to learn your rules and regulations, working and communication styles, and best practices. It will take time for them to integrate into your team and start performing their best.

While fractional marketing teams aren’t immune to onboarding, they are explicitly intended as a drop-in marketing solution for enterprise. Provided you remain focused on outcomes and results rather than micro-managing processes, fractional teams can get up to speed within days and provide immediate high quality support.

Flexible and scalable

Your relationship with a fractional marketing company can ramp up or down depending on your needs. For instance, you could start with just a couple hours per week of strategy and consulting, increasing to twenty hours per week of design and print management during peak trade show season.

If your needs outstrip a fractional company’s available supply, don’t fret. Many fractional agencies can scale their own capacity through trusted subcontractors, providing additional support during periods of very high utilization.

Focus on what you do best

When compared to sales and operations, marketing tends to be an afterthought. It’s still really important!

If a business hires a marketing person or team without marketing leadership in place, it can turn into a make-work problem for your executives. The marketing team will go to your company leadership for approval on initiatives, distracting them from focusing on their own expertise.

With a fractional marketing team, leadership comes baked in. After onboarding with your company, our fractional team will work with your leadership to confirm and verify goals and objectives. Then, they’ll get to work under the direction of our experienced CMO. You can keep doing what you do best, only involving yourself in marketing during scheduled check-in calls.

Drawbacks of Fractional Marketing

Of course, not every business is a good fit for fractional marketing. Here are a few reasons why fractional marketing may not be for you:

100% alignment isn’t possible

The nature of a fractional team straddles the line between a typical contract agency and an in-house team. However, it cannot offer the same level of alignment that an in-house team does. Fundamentally, it is a remote team with its own best practices, working in a siloed environment. If you prefer to have total control over processes, workplace composition, or other elements of your marketing team, a fractional relationship may not be a good fit. However, if you’re focused on outcomes and prefer to stay hands-off when it comes to process, fractional marketing is a great fit.

Shifting priorities/availability

For businesses seeking a years-long relationship with a marketing team, there is some risk that the business composition and priorities may change. A fractional agency has an impetus to satisfy the needs of their existing clientele before adding new clients/removing hours from their available labour pool. However, availability is tough to guarantee over the very long term. As your business (and the fractional agency) grow and change, you may fall out of alignment.

External dependencies can introduce risk

Some businesses may not appreciate the risk of operating their marketing through an external partner. Should the relationship sour or unexpectedly come to a close, companies can find themselves scrambling to replace their marketing team. It’s worth noting that the same issues may arise from internal teams: a disgruntled employee or unexpected retirement can derail operations for in-house teams just as easily. Nonetheless, it’s worth considering contingency plans when working with a fractional partner.

Fractional Marketing Roles

Fractional CMO

A fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) provides strategic oversight and industry expertise at a high level. This is a great fractional role to explore for businesses that have the capacity to produce marketing assets and run campaigns, but lack an experienced leader to oversee these activities.

Hiring a fractional CMO offers flexible support and big picture planning without the typical cost of an executive salary. It’s very popular for businesses conducting marketing audits or preparing for change in their marketing operations.

Fractional Marketing Director

Marketing directors operate below the executive level while still providing high level marketing leadership. A fractional marketing director “leads from the trenches”, directly involving themselves in campaign and asset development and taking an active role in planning, design, configuration, and reporting.

Fractional marketing directors are ideal for companies with strong executive leadership but limited hands-on marketing experience. They may provide mentorship, spearhead new initiatives, or improve existing processes from within your existing marketing team. Consider a fractional marketing director when you require hands-on leadership in a more direct way than what a CMO typically offers.

Fractional Design Team

Not all fractional roles are at the leadership level. A fractional design team can provide you with a consistent bucket of hours each week for developing high quality visual assets. Outsourcing design to a remote fractional team is particularly useful for businesses with a clear vision of their marketing. If your business has strong leadership but limited production support, a fractional design team may be the missing piece in your marketing.

Fractional Web Development

Work never stops on the world wide web. From evolving security and privacy standards to emergency support and routine updates, web development is an often-overlooked expense for modern businesses. Fractional web development services provide consistent and timely support from a dedicated account manager for all manner of web and IT services. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your website over time, build a custom feature for your clients or team members, or just want to rest easy knowing your website’s fast and secure, fractional web development might be a great option for your business.

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