Called it! The future is fractional

14th June, 2021

If you haven't already then you're likely to start hearing lots of talk about “fractional” this and “fractional” that in 2021 but what exactly does 'fractional' mean?

During episode 3 of the iMG. podcast, Shaun Walsh founder of the Business Growth Institute, mentioned it in the context of a fractional CMO, a phrase being coined in the US but that could equally apply to a CFO or a number of other board members. The phrase got us thinking more about what this approach to senior management could mean for UK businesses as we emerge from the pandemic.

In simple terms, it's a “part-time” role that appears to have had some marketing spin added to it presumably because a 'part-time' finance director or HR director has a certain negative connotation about it. i.e. a lack of commitment.

That’s bulls**t right? Not being available is different to not being committed.

 

But there is a subtle difference and the term is driven from the outside in rather than deriving from within a business, but crucially this type of role has been conceived with the needs of any business in mind. 

Man working on a laptop in the outside

Part-time is usually someone on payroll, where a person has a relationship with a single employer. Fractional on the other hand Is like the good old freelance or contract work but remarketed for today’s business world. It essentially allows a person to work for multiple businesses - essentially selling pieces of their time or their skills. This also allows them to work full-time hours if they choose but across many different projects. They're also off-payroll which has many additional financial and non-financial benefits to the employer.

 

Anyway, fractional or part time. Why? How? Benefits? 

 

Well there are loads actually.

 

Generally, you’ll see the word fractional attributed to senior roles like the CEO, FD, MD, MrkD, HRD etc but the reasons for these roles becoming fractional are equally as valid for any role within pretty much any central business function, including your marketing function.

 

Whilst we’ll concentrate on a Marketing Director as we can talk from personal experience here, remember the traits, themes and characteristics can just as easily apply to a Head of Marketing, Campaign Manager, SEO Manager and so on.

 

A fractional Marketing Director is usually brought in to establish, develop or lead your marketing function on a part-time or short-term consultative basis.

 

The fractional part means you get a senior leader who’s fully committed to your team, but you’re not fully committed to the costs and benefits that role would normally attract if they were on your payroll. You can also then hire that person for the time you need them. That could be quarterly check-ins or board meetings, monthly team meetings, a day a week to ensure the strategy set is on track, or to coach and develop your existing future Head of Marketing on an ad hoc basis.

 

The Marketing Director element means you get deep marketing knowledge, an executive-level partnership, and an experienced leader who knows how to get things done. A Marketing Director brings professional direction to your go-to-market strategy, implements best practices and establishes key performance indicators (KPIs) that drive business decisions for revenue and growth. 

 

They are also fully focused on the task in hand and less distracted by the day-to-day operational running of the business. Let’s be honest. We all get distracted by this request or that or getting that totally non-urgent "urgent" report done, wishing we just had more time to do the job at hand. 

 

That’s where fractional roles can excel. And you get all this for a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. 

 

This works for other roles too. Marketing plans and marketing spend ebbs and flow as your business needs dictate. You simply can’t set a marketing plan or strategy on the 1st April and stick to it rigidly for the whole 12 months. It changes. It should change. 

 

But, the skill set needed to execute the marketing plan is generally set and stays fixed unless you hire each and every time you require a new skill set to implement a particular part of the plan. Clearly that's not sustainable. And we've been there, writing pointless and unsuccessful business cases desperately clawing for more resource that is never going to come. 

 

And all of that is because your need for PR today might not be needed in 6 months’ time. That need might be technical SEO, Graphic Design or eDM execution. These are wildly different skillsets and command very different levels of investment.

 

Signs you might be ready for a fractional marketing role or team

 

 

  • You're a start-up or a smaller established business wanting the type of marketing leadership, but there’s not enough work or budget to fully justify a full-time appointment. A fractional head of Marketing can provide you with an affordable entry-point. It allows you to try before you buy basically.

  • Your business and/or team were built long before the days of complex marketing channels and automation. A fractional Marketing Director can help transform the marketing function by updating and enhancing strategies, tools and tactics for the modern era.

  • Your sales team are creating their own presentations, acquisition campaigns and PDFs? If so then it’s likely your marketing, brand and messaging is weak and/or disjointed. A fractional Campaign Manager can develop a consistent message along with collateral that creates a great customer experience and strengthens your brand. The sort of thing you know about and want to sort but just can’t make the business case stack up.

  • Kneejerk marketing activities. Build a new website. Launch some pay-per-click ads. Getting an exec or even a receptionist to manage your social media. Sponsor a local event and then buy some branded pens. Fall out of love with marketing because it’s eating your budget with no tangible results. A fractional Head of or Marketing Director will pull together a cohesive marketing strategy and plan, build the KPI’s and data you need to make informed business decisions that drive a return on investment.

  • Maybe you need a short-term hire to quickly step into a vacant role while you rehire because after all targets won’t get relaxed. Or, you need to fill a role during a prolonged leave of absence. 

  • You need a specific role or skill set, but just aren’t ready to fully commit to that role on a permanent basis, or the CEO needs convincing of that new role. Full-time employees, after all, are expensive. Hiring can be a gamble and time-consuming. When you get it wrong performance management is painful. A fractional role is a great opportunity to achieve this with no long-term commitment. Headcount budgets are generally more closely monitored than activity budgets so it’s easier to get what you need via that route.

 

The future of marketing

 

We called this out in our Origin Story when we launched this business back in November 2020 but you didn't need to have a PHD in Rocket Surgery to see this shift coming.

 

For us, we were living this pain while working client-side in terms of too much to do not enough people or the right skills and this was before the majority of the COVID lockdown and the subsequent impact on businesses of all shapes and sizes happened.

It's exactly why we created The Inspired Marketing Group because we needed a marketing function that could ebb and flow with the business. That could expand and contract as the business or plans evolved and changed but still have all of it executed under our control and delivered with minimal commitment in terms of contracts costs and longevity of service.

We wanted a subscription-based marketing function.

 

And this need for deep expertise and complete flexibility is going to be brought into even starker relief as there is still massive uncertainty in every business sector. Indeed as we write this, there are predictions that the long hoped for easing of all restrictions on 21st June is likely to be delayed, with obvious further impacts on the hospitality industry.

 

We also have the furlough scheme ending at the end of September which poses a potential risk for millions of employees. Businesses are likely to contract further but of course sales, profit and revenue targets won't disappear so the need for expertise and skills will still be there, just not on payroll. 

 

We expect a shift of talent from full-time employment towards self-employment both out of choice and necessity, and we're already seeing our community of multi-disciplinary marketing experts growing quickly as more people double down focusing on the work they love. It means we are able to give our clients exactly the skills they need when and where they want them, with no long-term commitment.

 

So 'Fractional' roles aren't just reserved for Marketing Directors or the c-suite. It’s a concept that will allow businesses to have the best people in their business in any role but only for the specific time they're needed. It means long-term value, extreme flexibility, cost-effectiveness and the people themselves enjoy doing the work they love, when and where they want to. Everyone's a winner.

 

Want to talk to us about the future of your marketing? Say hello here.