Unable to afford a full-time CMO? Then a fractional CMO might just be the answer, says Vikki Bentwood.

The time has passed when legal marketing teams were viewed only as a cost. Now they are correctly understood as revenue generators in their own right. The need to engage experienced staff in these important roles is increasingly evident.

But what happens when a firm cannot afford to employ a full-time chief marketing officer? A fractional chief marketing officer (FCMO) is one potential solution.

The FCMO concept originated in the US but is gaining popularity in the UK. An FCMO is a part-time chief marketing officer who works strategically with multiple firms simultaneously.

In the current uncertain economic environment, more and more firms are turning to FCMOs to access cost-effective, high-level marketing expertise without the long-term commitment.

Doing so allows firms to scale their marketing efforts up or down as needed, avoiding the risks of over-hiring or under-utilising talent.

Advantages of an FCMO

Fractional CMOs are seasoned professionals with real-world experience and can hit the ground running, making an impact fast.

Unlike freelancers or agencies, a fractional CMO is integrated into the internal team taking ownership of marketing efforts and becoming fully invested in the success of the firm.

They are also well-equipped to manage and train team members, spearhead hiring efforts for the marketing department and bring industry knowledge specific to the sector.

In a crowded market, with an overwhelming number of options for marketing services, their trusted ‘little black book’ of tried and tested providers can prove invaluable. Furthermore, they can use their comparative knowledge to negotiate supplier rates from a position of strength. This tactic has been known to reduce costs by up to 20% for advertising in the legal directories.

Their useful insights garnered from other clients can benefit everyone’s experience. For example, introducing a new marketing technology can benefit from the FCMO having seen it in play, and knowing the potential issues of its implementation.

Benefits for the FCMO

FCMOs have freedom of self-management while gaining the satisfaction of driving change from within as part of a larger team. Often external consultants have more gravitas, more respect and clearer routes to the management team than in-house peers, whilst working from their office and attending work socials makes it easier to build relationships and understand the internal landscape than external agencies.

Working with more than one firm at a time adds variety and helps build knowledge faster, knowledge which then benefits your clients. Over time, as an FCMO becomes an increasingly trusted team member, their remit may get broader and more interesting, finding themselves in other areas of the business such as the latest ESG initiatives or recruitment campaigns.

Making the relationship work

Successful integration of fractional CMOs involves clear communication of goals and expectations. Regular check-ins and collaborative planning sessions ensure alignment with the firm’s objectives. However, challenges such as team attachment and the need for a full-time replacement in the long term should not be overlooked.

About the author

Vikki Bentwood is an FCMO, marketing consultant and BD coach for the legal sector. She has had a long career working in-house as Head of Marketing and BD. In 2020, she established her legal marketing consultancy, The Legal Linchpin.

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