After we recently ran a poll on LinkedIn on the topic of Fractional CMO’s, it was clear people wanted to know more! The role of a Fractional CMO is gaining traction in New Zealand, with a lot of people claiming it’s the future.

We spoke to Gabrielle Pritchard, an experienced Fractional CMO here in New Zealand, to get all the goss on being a Fractional CMO. From what it takes to be successful, to the benefits it provides a business, and her top tips for anyone considering the move. 

About Gabrielle: 

Gabrielle is an award-winning Marketing and Customer Success/CX leader with a broad perspective and diverse experience. She has helped build brands and create exceptional customer experiences for companies ranging from start up to enterprise, local and global. From household names such as Xero, BNZ, Telstra, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, Lion, 20th Century Fox, and Vodafone, through to challengers like Bell Direct and Figured. Gabrielle now works as a Fractional CMO here in New Zealand and is passionate about raising awareness of this new relationship between business and marketing. 

We hope you enjoy! 

1.    Tell us a bit about you; your career, background, experience, and what you’re currently doing? 
I’m primarily a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer but I also do some work as more of a traditional consultant for specific marketing projects. I also have a celebrant side hustle and help give back to the marketing world where I can with things like judging the Marketing Awards and providing support and guidance to those earlier in their careers. 

I’ve always been a variety-seeker and I like work where I can make a difference quickly, so I’ve hit the jackpot with this model. 

I started my career in ad agencies, here, Australia and U.K. Then I switched ‘client side’. Over the last 20 plus years I’ve run the gamut from working on and for big brands like M&C Saatchi, Qantas, Telstra, CommBank, Vodafone, 20th Century Fox and Xero through to emerging tech and challenger brands. Now I get to bring all that experience together to help businesses that might not otherwise have the budget for that level of leadership and expertise full time. 

2.    Let’s start with what is a Fractional CMO, and do you see it gaining momentum here in New Zealand? Give us the goss! 
Fractional work is Domain Expertise (for every domain: Fractional Product, Sales, Finance etc) + Leadership Experience minus the full time FTE costs. Typically, it's 2 days a week for a set period. I help companies with things like product launches, international market expansion, setting marketing strategy, improving execution and closer alignment of marketing with other functions. I’ve had experience in Customer Success and Sales so it helps to have some understanding across different areas of business. 

It’s growing exponentially on the supply side but the demand side is a little slower. This is a function of a range of things: low awareness (but growing) amongst leaders and/or lack of understanding on the model and how to approach it. I would love to see more People and Culture folks cheerleading for this as it makes their lives easier too (you can also have Fractional HR!) . There’s also contraction in the market and market headwinds but in theory that should drive up demand as the fractional model is cost-effective and efficient vs FTEs. 

3.    What skills and type of personality do you think makes the most successful Fractional CMO?
This is where being a generalist with a lot of experience is helpful. Particularly CMO level experience. e.g. you’ve led teams, built brands, understand marketing operations and held the reins on budgets and have a strong hold on the figures. Experience in the leadership team, being part of business strategy development is a must. Just a note of caution: I have seen a few Fractional CMOs who don’t necessarily have the senior experience, the more accurate title might be Fractional Senior/Marketing Manager. There is a real role opportunity for a FMM (marketing manager level) too. Fractional support can be across domains and at different levels once a company starts to grow and pick up momentum, from strategy to execution.
On top of experience and expertise across the marketing disciplines, personal qualities that come in handy: grit, tenacity, the ability to absorb and analyse information at a rate of knots, comfort with ambiguity and change, pragmatism and the soft, or more accurately ‘human skills’, also come into play. It’s important to be able to really quickly build rapport with new people while getting across the market, the product and business and the customer experience (and any accompanying issues), fast! And you might be doing this across more than one business at a time and there’s less certainty beyond the next gig. It’s good to have a sales bent to match the marketing talent because you are selling yourself. It’s not for the faint hearted. 

4.    For someone wanting to give being a Fractional CMO a go, where should they start? 
I’d suggest talking to others already in the game and doing the kind of work you’d like to explore. This is a great resource the fractional directory. And of course connect with others on Linkedin. We’ve got a really welcoming and supportive community growing. We have a regular catch up amongst the Tāmaki makaurau crew. If you're thinking of bailing on your permanent employment I’d suggest having one client lined up for the transition, if possible. 

5.    In your opinion, what are some challenges and/or limitations of hiring a Fractional CMO? And on the other side of the coin, what are some disadvantages of being a Fractional CMO? 
The challenges for businesses include: finding the right fit, like any hire, whether perm or fractional, culture fit is still vital; getting very clear on goals and outputs and being realistic about what's possible in the time frame; not dragging the fCMO into too much day-to-day admin and execution as it’s not the best use of the time and investment. A good Fractional knows how to navigate these challenges and work with the CEO and Leadership Team to get the best out of the arrangement. 

The disadvantages on the fractional CMO side are the same for any non-permanent role in that there’s less certainty. You also need to invest in your own development, networking and community building. There’s a different kind of pressure. It’s quite intensive (more sprint than marathon) and it’s important to take some time for recharging the batteries, staying on top of your finance/admin and making time for business development, aka - having one eye on the next opportunity so you don’t find yourself in a big lull. 

6.    What do you say to people who claim it’s no different to being a consultant, and that a Fractional CMO wouldn’t truly understand the company’s brand? 
I haven’t heard this before as it’s not really an issue. Firstly, you’re literally in the business (just in a part time capacity for a set term), with access to the business data, the team and helping set the strategy so you’re invested in the brand in every meaningful sense and more wedded to the outcome than a consultant who typically sets strategy and then leaves. Secondly, the impartiality of being a set of fresh eyes is one of the most valuable aspects. You can shed light on some old or tricky problems. The more places you work, the more you see the problems are the same. If a company’s brand is hard to understand you’re not doing it right! 

7.    Have you got any examples of where you’ve achieved some great results for a brand while you were there as a Fractional CMO? 
I have recently helped a company rebrand and then kick off their marketing in the US and delivered a ROI 10:1 on the first campaign. We only wanted to test channel and messaging in the first instance, but happily over delivered. And we learned a lot about the drop off through the funnel, how to set benchmarks and targets more accurately and what to improve on for turning this campaign into ‘always on’.
As well as delivering revenue uplift and marketing strategy, I am also trying to bring in more customer-orientation across the business and ensure there’s better structure, processes, tools and systems so that when my term ends the company is in a better place to continue on. I’ve also run training sessions for one client’s marketing team on topics from customer value proposition to insight gathering and data driven marketing. 

8.    What other tips and advice would you give the industry as a whole on this topic? What are you seeing from your perspective? 
I’d suggest this is an interesting career path option to consider for those early or mid-career who like variety and have an entrepreneurial streak. But think about what you need to make a move to being your own boss. For example, breadth is helpful so make sure you’re getting experience and learning ALL the marketing disciplines. Not just one channel or specialising in one industry or only B2B or B2C. I think exposure to many brands and markets and ways of operating just brings so much value - you get good at problem solving at all scales in any environment. I have found my corporate experience helped me understand how to navigate complex people environments and the value of structure and process, and then working start up and challenger brands you get laser focussed on speed and delivery and working every dollar. As for hiring managers and leaders this shift shows how you can access the skills and experience you need but in a different way. There are many ways to solve a talent gap. 

9.    What’s next for you? 
Learning how to say no! But seriously I have to follow my own advice and carve out more time for some admin, inspiration and business development. I’m also looking at what events to attend like Electrify Aotearoa and South by Southwest in Sydney. After I've got past the next big product launch… I can take a little breather.

Interview conducted by the Marketing Association. 

Interviewee Gabrielle Pritchard.