The job of marketing has become increasingly complex – and that was before organizations were tested by a global pandemic.
Businesses have become far more reliant on the marketing discipline as the shift from physical to digital business has evolved. Marketing has emerged as the face of a company’s digital brand – whether it be experiential design, content, lead generation, social marketing, paid advertising, event marketing, or search engine optimization – which has put marketing’s role at the epicenter of every successful business. According to McKinsey, more than 80 percent of global CEOs look to marketing to be a major driver of growth.
But that increased reliance on marketing has its downside for CMOs and other marketing leaders trying to assemble teams. Because the work has become so specialized – web designers do web design, content writers write content, SEO experts focus on SEO and so on – team sizes are growing, and the marketing technology stack is expanding along with it. This creates the need for either very large teams or a myriad of outside vendors that need to be integrated, coordinated, and managed. Concurrently, marketers have a lot of options and there is a war for the best talent.
Something has to give, and that’s why many marketing organizations are evaluating how fractional marketing – an outsourcing model that focuses on helping marketing departments fill the gaps in internal coverage by bringing in senior leadership and functional domain expertise as needed – can help them. It can overcome all of the challenges related to talent shortages, expertise, time to impact, and management. Fractional models can fill needed gaps with one-stop specialized teams from a chief marketing officer on down. Fractional teams must understand the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps of in-house teams to collaboratively build a successful marketing function together. Unlike the outsourced model, a fractional team is able to toggle marketing disciplines based on the needs that surface.
For marketing leaders evaluating the marketing structures that will best set them up for success, here are three ways to find success with fractional marketing.
Know Your Organization
The marketing organization has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Whereas previously, companies could often find marketing talent and train them to be generalists, the world has now become far too specialized for that approach. According to a LinkedIn study, it’s taking on average 40 days to fill marketing roles. As those roles become more specialized – think of those disciplines that focus on data science and/or advanced automation, or true high-level, experienced strategists – it can take significantly longer.
Hiring is tough – and fractional can help with that. Marketing leaders need to conduct an honest assessment of their bench talent. Once there is a firm understanding of the strengths and the gaps, marketing leaders can best determine where to plug in fractional teams. In some instances, that may mean leading a particular function; in others, it may be more of a support role.
Pick the Right Partner
The success – and failure – of fractional marketing is largely dependent on the business’ ability to collaborate effectively with its fractional team.
What does that mean for in-house marketing teams?
Fractional teams should be treated as an extension. Is the fractional team supporting lead generation? Ensure they have a seat at the table during every meeting and have input into decision making. Businesses that choose the fractional model do so for this very reason: they are part of the team.
Determine the Projects That Make the Quickest Impact
Fractional teams are brought in to supercharge marketing efforts. Most startups, SMBs, and early-stage growth firms don’t have the in-house talent on hand to do this.
A good fractional marketing team is equipped with senior marketers who know how to navigate a business to ramp up quickly as that’s part of every client engagement. The time to see impactful results is shortened and because of the experience level, reduces risk. They generally know what works and what doesn’t because of the breadth of businesses they’ve worked with.
By knowing their internal talent and picking the right partner, it falls on marketing leaders to know the right projects and programs for fractional teams to deliver the maximum – and quickest – business impact.
Marketing tactics, capabilities, and technologies are in a constant state of flux, which has created a conundrum for marketing leaders. Small internal teams are incapable of covering all the bases and large in-house teams, especially specialized ones, are expensive. Fractional marketing enables businesses to take a more customized approach – now it’s up to marketing leadership to put those external teams in a position to succeed.
The author, Natalie Nathanson, is the president of Magnetude Consulting.