fractional CMO interview

15 Essential Questions to Ask During a Fractional CMO Interview

To help you navigate the hiring process for a fractional CMO interview, we’ve gathered fifteen insightful responses from presidents, Fractional CMOs, and other industry leaders. From asking for examples of past improvements to requesting examples of strategic leadership, these professionals share the key questions they ask during an interview.

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Ask for Examples of Past Improvements On a Fractional CMO Interview

If I were hiring on a fractional CMO interview for my business, or potentially being hired as a fractional CMO, my expected question would be, “Give me three examples of how you can improve my marketing challenges and provide those examples based on how you’ve helped other business leaders in the past.”

fractional CMO interview with Jason Coots

Jason Coots, President, Steal Marketing Consultant Group

Emphasize on Operating Experience and Size

“Do you have operating experience with a company of a similar size to ours?” There are two key words here: “operating” and “size.” 

On the first, many people with agency backgrounds or who have specific functional expertise (like SEO, paid ads, etc.) are hanging up a fractional CMO shingle. They may have a lot to contribute in certain areas. But if a company is looking for someone to set strategy and ensure execution of an integrated marketing plan—the traditional role of a fractional CMO—they need someone who has done that before, not just been a part of it. 

Regarding the second, running marketing at a large company vs. a small one is very different. I’d argue that company size is more important to match than product category in most cases. If someone’s entire career was spent with Fortune 500 companies, they are likely to have a tough time adjusting to the constraints of a start-up, especially on the implementation side.

Dana Doron, Fractional CMO

Inquire About Biggest Challenges

I would ask on a fractional CMO interview, “What is the biggest obstacle or challenge you typically face as a fractional CMO?” We can answer this in many ways. The answer can tell you a lot about the candidate and how they approach the role, including how familiar they are with it. If the candidate downplays the question, it could signal a reluctance to set realistic expectations, which is almost always problematic at some point in the relationship.

fractional CMO interview with Kevin Oswald

Kevin Oswald, Fractional CMO

Uncover Their Onboarding Process

Question: “Could you share your approach to starting with our company?”

Understanding how a fractional CMO adapts to a new client’s environment is vital. Beginning in a new business often means a learning curve to grasp the nuances of a client’s operations in order to create the best marketing strategy possible.

With a structured plan, the CMO can establish clear expectations, a roadmap, and achievable milestones. A proficient fractional CMO should have a well-defined, repeatable process. 

I’ve won clients over because of the thoroughness and organization of my approach. If in a fractional CMO interview can’t explain their onboarding process, that’s a noteworthy red flag.

fractional CMO interview with Scott Burgess

Scott Burgess, Fractional CMO, SaaSxSRB

Seek Evidence of Influencing Shifts

Across B2B software technology organizations, B2B marketing is broken. We’re in a transformation era as marketing becomes an essential stakeholder inside the newly emerging revenue team. This redefined role requires a changing mindset shift in both marketing goal alignment and defining success. 

Thus, my recommended question is, “Describe a specific instance where you successfully influenced a significant shift in a B2B SaaS/Tech company’s marketing goals and metrics (for example, transitioning them from a focus on fluffy ‘MQLs’ to a more revenue-centric ‘High Intent Pipeline’ approach).”

fractional CMO interview with Bennett Sung

Bennett Sung, Fractional CMO, MeBeBot

Discuss Measurement of Success

How will we measure success? It’s alarming how many clients don’t have an immediate answer to this question, and how many marketers don’t bother to ask it. What’s measured is managed, so whether it’s a new project, launch campaign, or year-long engagement, there must be a stated goal or goals to work towards and a quantifiable way to measure effectiveness. 

Ideally, the measurement is the number of leads or a revenue number, as too often marketers use page views, new followers, or social post interactions, which can be great indicators but are not a true measure of success.

fractional CMO interview with Chris Austin

Chris Austin, Fractional CMO, CAMO Marketing

Probe Their AI Utilization Plan

Leveraging new marketing AI tools can be a game-changer for businesses of all sizes. During a Fractional CMO interview, it’s crucial to ask the essential question that can truly set your organization apart: “How do you plan to harness the power of AI to drive results and growth while working within our limited budget and resource constraints?”

The answer to this question can reveal not only the CMO’s strategic prowess but also their ability to innovate and adapt. It underscores the importance of resourcefulness, creativity, and a deep understanding of how AI can be a force multiplier for your marketing efforts. A forward-thinking Fractional CMO will show you the path to maximize AI’s impact, even when resources are scarce, ultimately propelling your brand to new heights.

fractional CMO interview with Eric Dickmann

Eric Dickmann, Fractional CMO, The Five Echelon Group

Clarify Strategy Development vs. Execution

As someone who has served as a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for the past four years, I’ve observed a significant transformation in the way organizations are structured and personnel are recruited. 

The emergence of fractional executives is a clear indicator of this shift. Fractional executives, unlike traditional consultants, represent a new breed of executive management focused on knowledge-sharing and the implementation of innovative processes, rather than engaging in political maneuvering. 

When considering hiring a fractional executive, CEOs should first inquire about their level of involvement in strategy development versus execution. “What is your level of participation in strategy compared to implementation work?” This question pertains to the balance between strategic planning and hands-on implementation. It clarifies the executive’s hands-on role for the CEO and helps the fractional executive gauge required internal resources.

fractional CMO interview with Virginie Glaenzer

Virginie Glaenzer, Fractional CMO, AcornOak Agency Cooperative

Explore Their Conversion Philosophy

Explain your philosophy on conversions and using data to increase conversions. This is an important question to ask on a fractional CMO interview because it will tell you if they think big picture—and include operations and sales in their thinking. If the fractional CMO you’re considering does not consider automation, workflows, and the work of operations and sales in delivering and selling the product as part of the overall success or failure of a marketing campaign, you might need to find another provider. 

Looking at your business from this big picture point of view allows the fractional CMO to help the other departments and ensure that marketing campaigns are adjusted to reflect the needs of all departments when/where relevant to achieve the business goals of the organization as a whole.

fractional CMO interview with Vix Reitano

Vix Reitano, Founder, CEO and Award-Winning Fractional CMO,

Assess Their Strategic Analysis Methods

As a business owner or organization leader, the first question I would ask a prospective Fractional CMO interview candidate would be, “How do you analyze the strategic implications of marketing, and what methods do you employ to turn those insights into tangible results?” 

When engaging in discussions with a potential Fractional CMO, CEOs and members of the C-Suite should shift their focus away from simply assessing the candidate’s technical competencies and past experiences. Instead, the emphasis should be on gaining insights into how the marketer perceives their role and the marketing department’s role within the broader company ecosystem. 

With this question, the CEO seeks to gain a deeper understanding of the CMO’s thought process, rather than just the final results they’ve achieved. The latter part of the question sheds light on the CMO’s effectiveness and approach to measuring success. This inquiry can also help gauge whether the candidate aligns with the company culture.

fractional CMO interview with Maggie Breister

Maggie Breister, Fractional Marketing Leader, Brighter Marketing

Distinguish Between CMO and Consultant Roles

What do you do differently as a Fractional Chief Marketing Officer as opposed to a Marketing Executive Consultant?

The answer to this question is important to assess and establish the following:

1) To what degree is the individual responsible and accountable for not only marketing the company and brand, but also the overall success of the entity?

2) Can the individual align their marketing approach or methodology with the company’s KPIs?

3) Does the individual have the ability to a) define a marketing strategy, b) translate that strategy into action and results, c) manage, grow, and mentor the company’s marketing team, and d) drive sales growth?

fractional CMO interview with Steve Goldner

Steve Goldner, Fractional Chief Marketing Officer, Beard Bros Pharms

Define Success Together

From my perspective, it is essential to articulate and agree on what success looks like at the 60-, 90-, and 120-day marks to ensure a mutual understanding of expected outcomes. 

So, ask the question, “What would you consider as success?” Another important aspect when hiring a fractional CMO is to agree on what resources the fractional CMO will need and, if more resources are needed, to know how to get them and what the budget is.

fractional CMO interview with Yael Tarlo

Yael Tarlo, Founder and CEO, MarketingByMonday

Understand Their View of a Marketing Role

While it is important to ensure that your fractional CMO interview candidate has a deep digital marketing acumen, backed by a solid content and acquisition muscle, it is equally critical that you understand her view of marketing for your brand and for your business. 

The first question I would ask is, “How do you define the role of marketing in business?” Whether you are in a growth market or a mature, declining one, the most effective and efficient marketing leaders view marketing as a facilitator of business and brand. Without focus and solid operational and execution chops, strategic goals will not be met. 

Asking follow-up questions, including “What is on your CMO dashboard and why?”, “What strategies do you view as critical to achieving the business and brand metrics?”, and finally, “How do you work with your peers to ensure successful GTM outcomes?” Listen for strategies such as shared GTM growth metrics, as well as the specific role of digital ecosystem marketing and optimization.

fractional CMO interview with Dr. Patti Fletcher

Dr. Patti Fletcher, CMO, LeapGreat

Determine Their Go-to-market Experience

Though some employers emphasize specific industry experience too much, there are vast differences between a manufacturer of consumer products and an enterprise software company. At a high level, you probably want someone with highly relevant go-to-market experience, as this will highly influence their ability to hit the ground running.

It’s vital to understand if you’re looking for your fCMO to be only a strategist or an executioner as well. Start-ups, in particular, often say they want an fCMO, but in reality, they really want someone to not just handle the marketing strategy, but as much of the actual work as possible, including everything from copywriting to website updates. 

Personally, I prefer those types of roles, but that’s markedly different from someone who will be only devoted to strategy and team building.

fractional CMO interview with Marcus Grimm

Marcus Grimm, Founder, Grimm & Company

Request Examples of Strategic Leadership

As an executive recruiter, I’m interested in the rise of the fractional C-suite. One crucial question I ask on a fractional CMO interview is, “Can you share an example of a time when you acted as a strategic, whole-function executive leader and drove significant positive change for a client or organization, despite being in a fractional role?” 

This question helps assess not only their expertise but also their ability to truly act as a “chief,” even in a fractional capacity. It highlights their leadership, impact, and strategic mindset, which are essential qualities for any senior marketing executive, whether full-time or fractional.

fractional CMO interview with Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan, Managing Director, Medallion Partners

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