When I started my career in marketing, the discipline was fighting for a seat at the table. If you weren't in Sales or Product, as a marketer you were most likely an order-taking resource for those two organizations.
Times have changed—considerably—over the past 10 years.
CEOs have recognized the strategic value and critical function that Marketing delivers for the company, and increased budgets reflect that faith: CMO budgets in 2022 increased to the equivalent of 9.5% of company revenues, up more than three percentage points from 6.4% in 2021, according to Gartner.
The flip side, however, is that increased budgets bring increased expectations. And the reality is there are far more job postings for marketing jobs than there are marketers to fill them.
Consider the example of a smaller cybersecurity company of 350 people. The company brought in a new CMO, who rebuilt the marketing organization—which isn't all that uncommon. The challenge, however, is that 50% of the marketing headcount is currently unfilled.
There are various reasons for such shortages in marketing.
COVID-19 was a wake-up call for many marketers. Some went out on their own, and some chose other career paths. We also know from the data that many were a part of the Great Resignation; they stepped aside from their corporate jobs. And some aged out and chose retirement.
Although the economic downturn has resulted in some layoffs and the looming possibility of worsening conditions threatens more, layoffs in 2022 remained consistent, at 1.3-1.4 million per month—which is actually lower than pre-pandemic numbers.
Moreover, companies are still hiring for marketing aggressively: Nearly half of companies plan to increase their hiring this year—particularly in highly competitive sectors.
Unfortunately, when the demand generation and content engines don't produce and aren't meeting lead quotas, the "hiring challenges" explanation doesn't placate the CEO, Board, or Sales leaders.
It's at that point—when companies recognize the strategic value of Marketing but don't have the bodies to make it work—that fractional marketing becomes the secret sauce for success.
As business demands grow, fractional marketing can help you stay on the right path to achieving business goals, staying within budget, and ramping up fast—often faster than a full-time hire.
Here are three ways that outsourcing marketing work to fractional teams can help your business thrive.
1. Businesses can scale up—or down—based on marketing needs
As the discipline of marketing has evolved into a critical function in the business, it has also increased in complexity. The chances of finding a hidden gem who's a jack of all trades in the pile of resumes are incredibly slim. Instead, you find specific skill sets around digital marketing, content writing, search engine optimization, PR, and channel or partner marketing.
Nearly 60% of the workforce needs new skills to get their respective jobs done, according to Gartner; as marketing work has become more specialized, Marketing too is struggling with that challenge.
Fractional teams bring together a team of experienced marketers who can scale based on a company's needs. Going heavy on a new product or service launch for a quarter? Ramp up the PPC expert. Closing the year with a big focus on thought leadership? Turn up the PR and social media functions and scale down in an area that's not a priority that quarter.
Fractional teams can fill the gaps that highly specialized internal talent cannot. Do you have a gifted content development team? Great. Use your fractional team's digital marketing expertise to complement the team by building out social and SEO programs that drive leads and help you meet those quotas from the business. Need some great strategic leadership for new initiatives or to manage in-house junior staff? Fractional marketing fits the need.
2. Experienced marketers are prepared to lead, strategically and tactically
Fractional teams are not made up of recent college graduates or marketers who are just starting their careers. That's no knock on professionals just starting out: We've all been there and paid our dues. Fractional teams are composed of mid-to-senior-level marketers who have done the tactical and strategic work and can help guide your organization based on what is needed for your unique situation and business.
The benefit to businesses is enormous: At a time when they are struggling to find the marketers who can best support their organization, businesses can bring in seasoned yet adaptable marketers. They move from account to account to work their magic—and they have the experience to help develop and implement a strategy for you.
The trends that have emerged from the pandemic will shape the future of business for a long time. Employees, in a rare turn, hold the upper hand over employers. They can hold out for the ideal salary, the right balance of remote and office work, or the best benefits. Moreover, they can leave when that opportunity arises or, as many have done, resign and consult instead, try a new career path, or just take a needed break from the grind.
Fractional teams give you the adaptability and experience to get your marketing programs humming, and they protect you from the pain of attrition.
3. Fractional marketing offers agility, coupled with a broad perspective of what's working—and what's not
Times are tough. Inflation is high, a recession is looming or already upon us, and hiring challenges have not subsided.
Fractional teams provide agility, helping companies survive tough times. They also deliver an additional, often overlooked benefit. In-house marketers, through no fault of their own, are so close to their businesses that they don't bring the same breadth of exposure or perspective to their work. They are running around ragged, jumping from meeting to meeting, participating in professional development, and doing the corporate tango we've all experienced at one time or another.
The truth is, marketing strategies and tactics continue to change dramatically. At the center of that evolution has been digital transformation.
For example, a marketing team may have been getting good results with Google Ads previously, but it is now competing against scores competitors; as a result, its results have likely dwindled. Unless the team has a great network it can turn to for ideas, it isn't seeing other ways of doing things. LinkedIn used to be a guarantee for driving results but, post-pandemic, new approaches are required.
Fractional teams can provide that outside perspective and up-to-date knowledge.
* * *
Fractional marketing is not for every organization, but it is emerging as a viable option for many.
Having worked with companies where it's worked (and hasn't), I encourage every business to keep an open mind regarding different models.
Sometimes, the status quo is no longer the best answer for your business. In fact, one of the trends in our business is clients' foregoing internal teams entirely and adopting fractional teams as their de facto marketing organization for years on end. That approach requires businesses to form a true partnership with their fractional firm.
Considering the current hiring challenges, coupled with the economic downturn, fractional marketing may just be the right answer for you.
More Resources on Fractional and Outsourced Marketing
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