Fractional Executives: A Perspective

Mauri SparksBy Mauri Sparks, Marketing Coordinator at TSD Logistics, a TMSA Corporate Member

Today, businesses are moving away from the traditional 9-5, Monday-Friday, in-house office setting to a less rigid but more productive landscape. This includes using consulting firms to supplement in-house staff, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. One fairly new trend is hiring a fractional executive who offers strategy and planning for a specific function of your company. This practice is becoming more common for startups and smaller businesses that either don’t need a full-time executive in the C-suite or require a more cost-effective solution.

What exactly is a fractional executive?

The role can be defined exactly as it sounds: an executive who devotes a fraction of his/her time to a company for any number of purposes. The “consultant” nature of their contract eliminates the lengthy interview process and long-term commitment that comes with filling a traditional executive role.

One of the main purposes of a fractional executive is to strategize for growth and manage the company’s efforts to reach those goals through the internal staff. According to Forbes, “Probably the most important trait of a successful fractional CMO is his/her ability to translate the CEO's vision into an insightful, measurable, and actionable marketing plan.”

Many companies lack the developmental capacity and discipline it takes to execute a strategic marketing plan. According to Marketri, many marketing departments at smaller companies are made up of marketers at the coordinator or manager levels who are expected to provide strategy but do not have the experience to do so. Marketri also says, “In this ultra-competitive digital landscape, mid-sized B2B businesses need smarter than ever marketing. Yet, without an overall strategy to ensure that resources are being maximized, marketing is little more than gambling.”

How does it work? 

Fractional executives work with businesses in a number of different ways. Typically, the executive has multiple clients, so he/she will likely commute from another location to the office for a couple of days at a time, be that once a week, biweekly or monthly. LinkedIn says, “A fractional executive might devote Monday and Tuesday to Client A, Wednesday to Client B and so on, so the employer has a clear understanding of when they are available.” In some cases, the executive will work at the client’s office full-time for a short period.

Some executives seek out business partnerships on their own, but it is becoming increasingly popular to work within organizations that take care of paperwork, find prospective clients, offer branding, accounting and legal support and oversee many other company overhead functions.

Our experience 

Around mid-2014, we found ourselves lacking the marketing leadership needed to develop and initiate strategies that could produce results. Our CEO contacted Chief Outsiders, a company that has many CMOs around the country. Their Growth Gears™ approach promised market insights, strategy and execution.

On Chief Outsiders’ website, we were able to view a profile for each of the executives in our region, and we began a relationship with a CMO who had previous experience in the supply chain and logistics industry and showed tremendous promise based on reviews from previous partnerships. Our CMO was introduced to our leadership team and quickly began to learn our business practices, initiatives and goals. He then met the marketing and sales team to learn what was and wasn’t working currently.

After the development of our overall marketing plan, our first collaborative undertaking was the total redesign of our company website. The project took several months to complete and is now mobile-friendly, houses stronger content and pays strategic attention to our main online audiences: drivers, carriers and prospective customers. Once we completed the redesign project, we began a digital marketing initiative that included investing in a marketing automation platform, increasing engagement on social channels, content marketing of our new blog and hiring a digital marketer to supplement the in-house team.

In the beginning, our CMO drove into town every other week for meetings and planning. He came in with an agenda and left with a task list to be completed before his next time on site. He also created binders for each of the executives with all presentations and monthly meeting notes. As our time together went on and our in-house team became more capable, our meetings moved to monthly and then every other month. His contract was for one year and was extended to a year and a half.

Outcomes and takeaways 

For our marketing employees who were early in their careers, our CMO fulfilled an important role: “coaching/mentoring lower-level marketing staffers,” according to Forbes. He was able to bring in the overall strategy and work with those at the coordinator level to implement each task. Lower-level staff learned how to create and implement strategic marketing plans that would produce results and reach company goals.

Obviously, having a full-time executive capable of devoting all of his/her time to your company would offer more seamless and quicker implementation of marketing initiatives. But for our company it wasn’t realistic or needed to have someone on-site every day.

Fractional executives can fill gaps in many C-suite roles – CMO, CFO, CTO, COO, etc. If your company is looking to establish or reestablish a department or function, see if a fractional executive can be the catalyst you need to help jump-start growth. This practice can offer major results and create strategy to be implemented by in-house staff for years to come.

Share this post:

Comments on "Fractional Executives: A Perspective"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment