SaaS Fractional CMO: When Is the Right Time to Get One
Marketing
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Words by
Jennifer Poblete
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Last updated
November 27, 2023
SaaS Fractional CMO: When Is the Right Time to Get One

Your sales can flatline if your SaaS marketing's barely audible. 

You know you need a marketing hero who knows the SaaS battleground inside out. But is having a limited budget your only problem?

That's where a SaaS fractional CMO comes in. A pro with years of marketing expertise without the C-suite price tag. 

A case study from Chief Outsiders shares how this outsourced profession increased a startup's quarterly bookings in its first year from $2K to $2M.

Do you need one, or unsure when is the right time to get one? Let's show when’s the right time to bring them in—and it might just be your best decision yet.

🔥In a hurry? We’ve consulted and helped 40+ SaaS teams on product messaging, onboarding conversion, and content marketing. 👉Book a discovery call and let’s help you spot some quick marketing wins.

Full-time CMO vs. Fractional CMO

First things first. You have to know the difference between these marketing leadership options. What type of chief marketing officer do you need? Let's look at them closer.

Full-Time CMO:

A full-time CMO is your in-house marketing executive. He/she is dedicated solely to your company's marketing activities. They are best for SaaS companies ready to invest heavily in marketing as a core function.

  • Commitment: A full-time CMO is 100% committed to your company. They're your day-to-day strategic partner, deeply involved in conceptualizing and executing marketing strategies. This includes building and mentoring your marketing team and aligning marketing efforts with overall business goals.

  • Cost: Hiring a full-time CMO is a significant investment. You're looking at a six-figure salary plus benefits, bonuses, and possibly equity.

  • Involvement: They're deeply tied into your company culture and are a part of strategic decision-making across the board.

Fractional CMO:

A fractional CMO is a part-time marketing executive who works similarly to a full-time CMO but has more flexibility on his/her schedule. They're perfect for those looking for strategic marketing leadership without a full-time commitment. 

  • Commitment: A fractional CMO provides expertise and guidance when you need it without the commitment of a full-time leader. As a part-time employee, a fractional CMO can work with multiple clients.

  • Cost: More affordable than a full-timer. You only pay for a pre-defined time. It's cost-effective, especially for startups and SMEs.

  • Involvement: They focus on specific strategic direction rather than day-to-day management—though they can manage lean micro marketing teams when necessary.

  • Expertise: Because they’ve work with different companies, they bring a diverse experience and a whole lot of “what works” from actual marketing experiments.

Need more signs? We’ve listed 9 signs that you need a fractional CMO for SaaS.

When to bring a SaaS fractional CMO into your journey

In a nutshell, your SaaS journey is dictated by your product lifecycle. Here’s a representation of a product lifecycle after its official launch:

CaaSocio-productlifecycle-saas-fractional-cmo

And since this article is about when to bring a fractional CMO, we did not include the decline stage or the point where the demand for your existing product decreases. 

Instead, we’re including the inception stage—prototyping to release the MVP (minimum viable product) happens.

Let's now walk through the stages where a SaaS fractional CMO is most useful.

Inception (Idea to MVP stage):

During the inception phase, a SaaS company develops a product from an idea. The common argument here is that technical development should take priority, with marketing taking a back seat until the product is more defined and ready for the market.

So, does that mean CMO may not be the best use at this stage?

But the thing is—laying down your marketing foundation early is key to thriving SaaS. A fractional CMO is your best option here. Even during these early days, the marketing leader can be the guide who ensures the narrative around the product is shaped correctly.


In short, a Fractional CMO at the inception stage isn't about full-blown marketing campaigns. It's the strategic groundwork that sets you up for the next phase.  You can imagine it as not just building your product but also priming the market for it.

Key actions of a fractional CMO in this stage (in our actual experience):

  • Solidified foundational marketing strategy based on the product’s marketing advantage
  • Polished product positioning and messaging that could be the basis of the entire marketing messaging 
  • Identify target customer personas and get early feedback through cold outreach
  • Closely worked with product to simplify the onboarding process (went from 20+ steps to 5 simpler steps)

🔥Need advice on things like this? ☝🏼 We’ve consulted and helped 40+ SaaS teams on product messaging, onboarding conversion, and content marketing. 👉Book a discovery call and figure out your next steps for marketing.

Growth (Early customers to scaling):

You've launched, you've got users, and your SaaS is picking up. 

Welcome to the growth stage, where marketing IS the plan. And this is the time when a fractional CMO is most important.

At this stage,  it's all about building on that momentum. A SaaS fractional CMO leads to convert interest into sales. He/she will dive into your marketing funnel, identify inefficiencies, and optimize the journey from potential to conversion. The goal is to make smart tweaks for smoother sales.

But be careful of the fractional CMO you hire. 

One that has a proven track record with big companies might not get the startup life. They may look great on paper, but if they can't maneuver the nimble (sometimes chaotic world of startups), they won't be the asset you need.

CaaSocio-saas-fractional-cmo-startuplife-vs-bigcompaniesexperience

Key actions of a fractional CMO in this stage (in our experience):

  • Update messaging to reflect your new positioning (we’ve helped an eCommerce pivot from B2C-focused to B2B-focused)
  • Optimize marketing funnels for better conversion rates, from your ad copy, blog CTAs, and the most critical one: your user onboarding journey
  • Set and measure growth by key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Guide the marketing team for focused and on-time execution

Scaling (Growth to Established Business):

After growth, you’re in the scaling stage. And it may mean you’re SaaS welcomes new users regularly. But with great scaling comes great responsibility. 😎

You need to scale your marketing operations, processes, and efforts to support and sustain this growth. So, your marketing team's ready to run, but where to? Content marketing, social media marketing, or PPC campaigns?

It's here that the Fractional CMO best steps in. 

They’re the map and the compass of the what and the how of your marketing efforts. They align your team's work with strategic goals so that every task—big or small—is a step towards growth.

Also, the SaaS fractional CMO can lead your marketing team, which needs to work in tandem with sales, product development, customer service, and other departments. 

Plus, if you're working with external agencies like marketing, advertising, or PR, a fractional CMO understands the nuances of outsourced services. They can manage these relationships and ensure they deliver optimal results.

Key actions of a fractional CMO in this stage:

  • Develop and implement scalable marketing processes
  • Lead cross-functional teams to align efforts
  • Manage relationships and coordinate efforts with marketing agencies
  • Lead affiliate or partnership programs if this is the focus of growth

Maturity (Established to Market Leader)

In this phase, your SaaS company has a stable market presence and a solid customer base. It's about maintaining your position, ensuring consistent growth, and refining your market strategy. 

One challenge mature companies often face is inconsistency in messaging and branding across various marketing channels. A fractional CMO can audit and streamline marketing strategies to ensure consistent brand messages across all platforms. They can integrate different marketing channels— digital, traditional, and social media—so that all efforts complement each other.

Additionally, mature SaaS companies can struggle when a full-time CMO is unavailable due to leave or after they have left the company. Sadly, recruiting a new full-time CMO can take several months. A fractional CMO can step in to fill this void.😉

During this period, a fractional CMO for SaaS can temporarily oversee all the marketing strategies so they’re executed effectively. They can maintain momentum and keep the team focused on set goals.

Key actions of a fractional CMO in this stage:

  • Step in as interim leadership during transitions or absences of a full-time CMO.
  • Audit and align marketing efforts across all channels for consistency.
  • Refine and adapt SaaS marketing strategies to maintain market leadership.

So, do you need a fractional CMO now?

From inception to maturity, every SaaS company faces unique marketing challenges. A Fractional CMO is the right choice when you need external expertise at any of these stages.

They bring diverse expertise, adaptability, and strategic vision that are especially critical during transitions, whether scaling operations, entering new markets, or filling the gap during executive search periods.

You have to also know what areas of focus you want your fractional CMOs to focus on. These experts have specializations, too, and it’s best to research these.

  • Do you need more leads? Then, one with growth or PPC experience will work best. 
  • Do you already have experts on the team and just need someone to lead them? Go for a strategic person whose strength is in people.
  • Getting more than enough traffic, and your conversions just suck? Get product marketers who can audit your funnel and optimize it. 

The latter is our expertise. Reach out and book a call with us. Our CaaSocio team is a diverse set of SaaS marketers: ex-fractional marketing managers, B2B outreach specialists, and copywriters. Most are ex in-house SaaS marketers, so we get you. ;)

CaaSocio-cta-saas-fractional-cmo

Hero image source.

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