What is Better a Fractional CMO, Digital Marketing Consultant, Full Service Agency?

cmo vs consultant vs agency

As a small or mid-sized business, you likely have very little in the way of resources to help you reach those big business goals. While you probably want to minimize your spending by completing as much business in-house as you can, sometimes that can do more harm than good, which is where staffing options such as hiring a fractional CMO could come in handy.

If you don’t already have a team staffed with knowledgeable individuals in both business and marketing, it can be pretty challenging to get everything done that needs to be accomplished and to the high standards that your clients expect. Unfortunately, to get that level of expertise, you may have to hire additional help. The good news is that outsourcing specific tasks can be worth it in the long run, and there are several options worth exploring, including:

Not quite sure what option would best suit your needs? Here is everything you need to know to help you make an informed decision.  

What is a Fractional CMO?

Fractional CMO is a term that has been trending quite a bit over the last year or so, and with such a massive shift to remote working and business limitations – it comes as no surprise. But what exactly is a fractional CMO?

A Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is an individual who can provide a small to mid-sized business with professional insight in several areas, including:

  • Customer acquisition
  • Sales/Funnels/Pipelines
  • Marketing execution and more

In a nutshell, these individuals have the necessary skills to oversee your organization’s marketing initiatives‘ planning, development, and execution to ensure that you meet your sales goals. They also have the leadership ability to give you the executive-level expertise you may lack in your current staff.

What makes a fractional CMO beneficial to many small to mid-sized businesses is the fact that they provide your brand with all this expertise without the additional costs of employing a CMO full-time. Depending on what you need help with, a fractional CMO can provide you with all the necessary insights at a fraction of the cost of hiring a CMO.

What Are the Benefits of a Fractional CMO?

Since a Fractional CMO is often hired on as a temporary leader for your marketing team, they generally provide services that cover:

  • Customer identification/acquisition – that means they help you identify who your target audience is and help you strategize the best ways to engage with them and encourage them down your sales cycle.
  • Sales cycle building/execution – once your ideal target audience is identified, a fractional CMO will take that information and help you build a sales pipeline/cycle that not only captures the attention of your audience but helps nurture relationships and encourage them through the sales cycle.
  • Marketing Strategy/execution – depending on your business goals, your fractional CMO will help you with marketing/content strategy ideation and execution. This can fall under either digital marketing and/or traditional or even a mix of the two.
  • Metric Measurement/Analysis – once your marketing strategy has been designed and put into action, the fractional CMO will help you measure the success of all campaigns. Not only will they help you monitor vital metrics, but they’ll help you break down all the information you collect to help your team better understand what the data means.

The primary goal for most brands who hire a fractional CMO is to learn from these individuals to start implementing these skills on their own. However, in many cases, brands choose to use a part-time fractional CMO until they have enough success to hire their own CMO. 

Acquiring a Fractional CMO: 4 Steps You’ll Need to Take

If you think a fractional CMO may be the perfect fit for you, then you’ll want to make sure you are taking the necessary steps to find the individual/agency that best suits your needs:

  • Define your budget and your needs – your budget is what will ultimately decide what you get as far as help goes from a fractional CMO. Once you know how much room you have in your budget for a part-time hire, then you need to take a moment to identify your needs. If your budget is on the right side, then you’ll need to narrow down your list of duties as much as you can to ensure you are getting help with whatever you deem is essential.
  • Research your options – not every fractional CMO for hire will meet your needs or fit within your budget. Depending on whether you choose to find an independent contractor or decide to work with an agency, you need to remember that you are getting what you pay for in most cases. So, take your time, do your research, and vet all options by checking reviews anywhere you can.
  • Define the duties of your fractional CMO – if you don’t take the time to define their duties ahead of time, you may find yourself overwhelmed by “everything” they have to offer you. When you take the time to define necessary duties ahead of time, you’re more likely to find that perfect match without the hassle of bartering with an agency or freelancer.
  • Interview options – this may seem obvious, but many small and mid-sized brands don’t take the time to interview their options in-depth. You need to make sure you find someone who agrees with your terms and conditions and shares your values and vision. If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of mixed messages and attracting the wrong audience.
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Take your time and don’t rush through the process of finding the right fractional CMO that not only fits your needs but your brand’s voice as well.

What is a Digital Marketing Consultant?

A digital marketing consultant is someone who specializes in all things online marketing. Their primary focus is to help you establish a marketing campaign to help with lead generation however, more and more digital marketing agencies are now expanding on all they offer to include sales strategy/sales cycle creation and execution as well as expanding your online presence via multiple channels.

How Can a Digital Marketing Consultant Help Your Brand?

When most people think of a digital marketing consultant, they think of those who write emails and/or play around on social media. Sure, digital marketing consultants are experts in both of these areas however, their services go well beyond making email templates and or setting up your brand’s Facebook profile.

Digital marketing consultants are often skilled and tasked with:

  • Customer identification/data collection
  • Channel identification – utilizes the data above to help you identify where your audience spends their time online/how they prefer to receive marketing materials.
  • Channel creation – this includes setting up and optimizing online profiles for search engines.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) of profiles, websites, and all content
  • Content ideation/creation
  • Conducting competitive research to see where you sit amongst competitors in your industry/niche.
  • Developing a growth strategy
  • Developing a strategic advertising strategy

And that’s just the beginning. Depending on the level of help you need, a digital marketing consultant can help set you up for great success – and what’s better is that once you’ve got an idea of what to do and how to do it, you can take this knowledge and begin implementing it in-house at little cost to you.

Choosing the Right Digital Marketing Consultant

Choosing the right digital marketing consultant is a lot like choosing a fractional CMO and involves many of the same steps, such as setting your budget and outlining your needs. However, there are a few additional things you’ll need to check off before making a final decision, such as:

  • Do you need help building/revamping your digital marketing strategy?
  • Does your strategy revolve around a single channel or are you looking to expand across channels?
  • Are you looking to create an omnichannel experience?
  • Do you need help with content ideation? If so, what kind?
  • Are you looking for help creating sharable content or promotional/advertising?

One of the most significant differences between a fractional CMO and a digital marketing consultant is that a fractional CMO is an addition to your in-house team where most digital marketing consultants/agencies focus more on the ideation/creations of your marketing content before passing it on to you to execute yourself – at least in most cases.

Some agencies will take on the execution if you are more willing to hand over access to your channels and available resources for them to do the heavy lifting. Just remember, the more you task these consultants/agencies with, the higher the price tag. So, make sure you are setting clear expectations before you agree to work with any digital marketing consultant/agency.

What is a Traditional Marketing Agency?

A traditional marketing agency is an agency that focuses on more traditional forms of marketing, such as direct mail, billboard placements, and television/radio. While some people believe that these traditional marketing methods are dead, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In fact, traditional marketing can be highly beneficial for those with small to mid-size businesses. If you’re still working on the basics, then traditional marketing can go a long way in helping you build your local brand awareness. If you compare that with a social media presence and a website, you’d be surprised at just how beneficial this method could be.

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Do You Really Need to Work with a Traditional Marketing Agency?

That’s a good question – and no, you don’t technically need to. However, if you are looking to build brand awareness, traditional marketing methods, including direct mail, phone calls, attending events, and print advertisements, could benefit you more than you realize. 

What Are the Benefits of a Traditional Marketing Agency?

While a vast majority of marketers will tell you that digital is where it’s at (and they aren’t necessarily wrong) when you have a limited budget to work with, and your primary focus is on building a local audience first – especially if you have a physical storefront – then traditional marketing may be your best friend.

In fact, recent studies have shown that millennials have been consuming more traditional marketing as a verse to digital. In one study from 2019, 62% of millennials reportedly read print ads, while 33% avoided online ads thanks to ad blockers. What is more interesting is that studies show that the U.S. will generate the largest print advertising revenue this year, spending approximately $13,469 million on print advertising in 2021. While video streaming may lead the way as far as video intake goes, traditional tv ad spending is still expected to hit $389.29 billion globally by 2021.

What about other forms of traditional advertising? The numbers don’t lie:

  • The outdoor advertising market (such as traditional and digital billboards) is expected to hit $3.84 billion by 2023.
  • When it comes to mail (traditional vs. email), consumers open 80-90% of their direct mail while only 20-30% of emails get opened.

If your goals are to reach a more local audience, then working with a traditional marketing agency could prove more beneficial during your businesses initial growth. From there, you can start to branch out to email marketing (which is often considered a “traditional” marketing method now) and content creation.

Fractional CMO vs. Digital Marketing Consultant vs. Traditional Agency: How Do I Know Which is Right for Me?

When trying to choose between a fractional CMO, a digital marketing consultant, and a traditional marketing agency, it’s vital that you take the time to sit down and outline your brand’s particular needs.

Not sure where to begin? Here’s a quick checklist of things you’ll want to ask yourself before deciding between a fractional CMO, digital marketing consultant, and/or a traditional marketing agency:

  • What is your available budget? This is important because some tasks can easily be managed in-house without unnecessary extra expenses.
  • Who is your desired target audience? Do you need help outlining who your market is?
  • Are you looking to boost awareness/traffic/sales locally or across a larger area?
  • What resources do you already have? What resources do you need guidance with?
  • Do you need help with boosting sales or do you need more help with lead generation first?
  • Does your brand have an online presence? Do you want to establish an online presence? Would it be beneficial?

Once you know exactly what you need help with, you’ll know which option is the best fit for you. You may also discover that you may need a combination of multiple options to truly see the necessary changes you want.

Trying to decide between services can be a daunting task, especially if you have specific needs that multiple agencies may cover. If you’re not quite sure which one is the right fit for you, here’s a quick look back on some of the important details about each service covered today:

Consultant/Agency TypeFractional CMODigital Marketing ConsultantTraditional Marketing Agency
Services ProvidedAn outsourced marketing executive specializing in customer acquisition, sales development, overall company growthAn outsourced marketing professional specializing in digital marketingAn outsourced marketing professional/team that specializes in traditional marketing methods, such as direct mail, billboards, print
Benefits of ServicesChief Marketing Officer-level participation in both business and marketing for a fraction of the costProfessional/team with the knowledge of necessary technology that can/should be used to reach your audience outside of your local limitations.It helps you reach your local audience more directly.
RestrictionsCan take time to find the right voice to add to the team. You get what you pay for – which is often a limited amount of time dedicated to your brand.Takes time to find the right consultant with knowledge in your industry/niche. Agencies often take on multiple clients – reducing the time dedicated to your brand. Marketing can often be handled in-house for cheaper.It doesn’t allow for much brand expansion outside the local community

CadenceSEO: Your Go-To Full-Service Digital Marketing Consultant

When it comes to choosing between a fractional CMO, a digital marketing consultant, and a traditional marketing agency, it will ultimately come down to your overall business goals. However, here at Cadence SEO, we are firm believers that digital is the way of the future, although we also understand just how vital a good strategy is.

That’s why we pride ourselves as the go-to digital marketing consulting agency. We don’t only focus on helping you create quality content to display on your website or share on your social media platforms. Instead, we start at the very beginning with effective research and evaluation of your strategy.

Don’t have a strategy? Not a problem! Our team of professionals will help you design one that not only enables you to reach your business goals, but that speaks to your mission and core values to help you attract the right audience at the right time and see real conversions.

If you’re ready to get started and take your small to mid-size business to the next level, then schedule your free consultation with our team today!

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