Are Part-Time Chief Executives the Wave of the Future?

The average tenure for a chief marketing officer at top U.S. advertising spenders fell to 40 months last year, the lowest average since 2009. Meanwhile, marketing executives are under severe pressure from tightening budgets coupled with a need to improve return on investment. Maury Rogow, CEO of Hollywood’s Rip Media Group, says, “Given the situation, which is worsening, an increasing number of companies are seeking and finding alternative ways to focus resources and attention on marketing performance issues.”

One approach finding increasing favor, notes Rogow, is to employ the services of a fractional executive—an experienced professional with a proven track record who serves the company on a part-time or project basis. In addition to fractional CMOs, companies are availing themselves of the services of fractional COOs, CFOs, and other C-level or director-level staff—at, as the name implies, a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time executive.

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“One approach finding increasing favor is to employ the services of a fractional executive—an experienced professional with a proven track record who serves the company on a part-time or project basis.”

While firms of all sizes are pivoting to part-time C-suite officers, the arrangement is particularly attractive, Rogow says, to small and medium-sized businesses, especially startups. Benefits of the arrangement include:

—Executive experience. Fractional CxOs, most of them veterans of more than 20 years in various capacities, have faced situations that many founders may not have been exposed to.
—Cross-industry experience. Executives who have worked in a variety of environments can easily apply what they’ve learned from one business to another.
—Focus on results. Knowing they must deliver tangible and measurable results quickly, CxOs tend to focus on the company’s immediate priorities and implement practical steps that lead to success.

A close eye on results, notes Rogow, is particularly important in the case of marketing, which tends to be poorly defined in many companies, thus creating an overall lack of trust between marketing and the rest of the organization. This estrangement, says Rogow, is unnecessary; a fractional CMO can help with customer acquisition, sales development, and company growth, and in each of these areas should find a specific need and tailor a package of services to address it.

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“Short of acquisition,” says Rogow, “there are only three ways to grow a business: new customers, new sales to existing customers, and increased revenue from the overall customer base. Any effective fractional CMO should possess—or have ready access to—the digital tools that can create these results, along with a verifiable track record in using them.”

Rather than spending time and money finding or replacing a full-time chief marketing officer, Rogow urges business leaders to assess their company’s needs, develop an ambitious but achievable growth target, and hire an experienced fractional CMO to make it happen.

“Marketing isn’t vague,” he says, “and it isn’t magic, any more than dentistry is. It’s a discipline with a full set of tools and metrics. If you run a company, you owe it to yourself and the people who depend on you to seek out a professional who can demystify marketing and help make your business grow.”