From Condos and Airplanes to CMO’s, Fractional Lets You Have It All
By Kathy Leonard, President of Freeman+Leonard
I first heard the term fractional when I went to Mexico on vacation about 25 years ago. A free breakfast and mimosa’s in exchange for a presentation on fractional condominium ownership seemed like a fair exchange and so I enjoyed the bacon and scrambled eggs while learning that even I could afford to own a vacation home in Puerto Vallarta.
Over the years fractional has applied to any number of luxury opportunities for those of us not quite in the upper 1%. Think NetJets® and Flexjet. Fractional ownership has become a way to access and own things you could not afford without sharing the cost with others. But, not limited to the upper crust, fractional has become a concept embraced by businesses for much the same reason — the ability to have executive-level talent without incurring the all-in cost of a permanent position. More importantly than cost, a fractional executive gives a company on-demand access to deep experience and strategic leadership.
The fractional CFO has been popular for quite some time followed by fractional CIOs. More recently the concept has taken hold in the marketing function with fractional, interim or recurrent CMO’s becoming more in-demand by small to mid-size companies.
Why does a company need a CMO? After all, didn’t Coca-Cola just fire theirs? The answer to the second question is, in fact, yes. Coke has shifted its marketing emphasis to growth and has replaced the CMO with a Chief Growth Officer, hired to turn the company into a “growth-oriented and consumer-centered” organization. Exactly what marketing was always intended to do. So, whether your emphasis is on marketing communications that drive leads to sales, supporting the sales team with brand awareness and selling materials, or growing the company by highly targeted digital strategies, profit and growth are still the two key measures of success and your sales team and your web site cannot do it alone. A key component of any business success is getting the selling story into the right hands. And that’s what your marketing function must accomplish.
Now, given the need for marketing and growth leadership, the question becomes Why a Fractional CMO? Essentially the fractional executive is called in because of a leadership void or to deliver highly specialized strategic planning and solutions. One of the main purposes of a fractional CMO is to interpret the company’s vision and goals and then help the company reach that by directing the internal staff, often more junior and capably executional versus strategic thought leaders.
The value of a fractional CMO is they can provide a deep understanding of the category, the brand, the competitive challenges, the growth opportunities, etc., without being in a full-time, permanent position. And, it is leadership that can be made affordable for those companies who need big-time leadership at a smaller-time or shall we say, fraction of the cost.
I didn’t buy into fractional ownership of a condo in Mexico some 25 years ago. In retrospect, it was probably a decent investment, as a number of friends who did buy in have enjoyed low-cost vacationing at high-end destinations over the years. I do buy into the idea of the fractional executive and particularly the fractional CMO for small to mid-size companies looking to add some sophistication to their own growth strategies. These former corporate CMO’s who provide fractional services are available through a few specialized companies. Freeman+Leonard is specifically in the business of providing flexible marketing solutions like fractional CMOs to small and mid-size companies across the U.S.
Kathy Leonard is president of Freeman+Leonard, a Dallas-based marketing services company providing talent and project solutions to both corporate clients and agencies. www.freemanleonard.com