Permanent CMO vs Fractional CMO – The Pros and Cons

Hiring for your c-suite is always one of the biggest and most important jobs for any Founder/CEO, none more so than those in startups and scaleups.


Ensuring you have the right SLT often means a future of success or failure for the business. You can only create the right leadership team when you bring a diverse mix of industry experience and personalities that gel well and bring something unique to the table.


Marketing is a critical area for every business but is often shaped differently from company to company. Understanding your current leadership team skill set alongside the business strategy will help you determine the level and requirements for your marketing leader which could range from a Head of Marketing reporting into a broader commercial leader to a CMO.


If you’ve decided it’s time to bring on a CMO, you may also need to consider whether that’s in the form of a full-time, permanent Chief Marketing Officer or if bringing in a Fractional CMO would make more sense.

Here are some of the pros and cons you’ll need to think about for each:



The Full-Time, Permanent CMO





  • This person will be a full-time, permanent team member deeply engaged with the brand, business and customers.
  • As they are with you for the longer term, they can create, manage and adapt the marketing strategy and brand message over an extended period.
  • As and when success allows, they can build and develop their team throughout the journey.
  • You’ll have this senior leader five days per week.





  • Permanent CMOs can be expensive, meaning startups/scaleups might not be able to afford the level of experience required.
  • Hiring a full-time CMO is a long-term commitment as it will take 3-6 months for them to be properly onboarded. Therefore, you need to be very clear about what you’re looking for from the start, which can be challenging for early-stage businesses as you may still need to learn this.
  • A CMO who has always worked for companies as a permanent employee may have limited experience to bring to your organisation. If this is someone who possesses deep sector experience, they may not have the broader awareness that is required to make your brand a success.





The Fractional CMO





  • Early-stage companies often need more time to afford a very experienced senior leader full-time, so hiring a Fractional CMO allows them to have the experience they ideally seek, but for fewer days. The expertise they bring also means they provide as much, if not more, value than a more junior full-time hire.
  • As a young business, you may still need to learn exactly what is required; therefore, this route gives you time to test it out, and a Fractional CMO can help you bring the right people in.
  • Aside from marketing, a Fractional CMO will have broader leadership team experience, which can help move the business as a whole forward and have teams working together closely.
  • The Fractional CMO can build out foundations and GTM plans which may result in you not needing such a senior full-time hire as the heavy lifting has been completed.
  • It allows you to ‘try before you buy’. Some Fractional CMOs have then transitioned to becoming the longer term, perm CMO.
  • Bringing in a Fractional CMO provides you with a trusted partner who is ‘on the inside’ that possesses the marketing and company nous to support you in the hiring process of the right full-time hire, which may or may not be at that level.





  • As your Fractional CMO will be with you part-time, you must ensure the broader leadership team can work around that.
  • You have them for a limited time per week, so you need to work very closely together on the main objectives and success metrics and provide the required resource, insight and background so they can really focus on them.
  • If they are a great fit, you need to understand that they may not be able to or want to extend the contract or go full-time.




There’s no one size fits all approach to hiring a senior marketing leader. You’ll need to carefully consider and plan before launching into search mode.


Acquire Digital Talent facilitates several forums, our flagship being the CMO & Marketing Director Forum.


We have developed deep and meaningful relationships with 100’s of senior marketing leaders and executives from high-growth and PE/VC-backed Technology companies and Consumer brands.


If you’d like the support of a specialist for an upcoming CMO or senior marketing leader hire, please get in touch with Alex Marriner, Director and Leadership Search Consultant, at




Alex Marriner is the Director & Leadership Search Consultant at Acquire Digital Talent. 


Acquire Digital Talent is a people-first Leadership Search Firm that exclusively partners with Technology companies and Consumer brands to build Digital & Growth Marketing Leadership teams. Our expertise and reputation ensure successful delivery across niche, critical and executive appointments from Seed to Series A and beyond.