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Edgewise Media's Adam Walker on Supporting Companies as a Fractional CMO [Video]

January 10, 2024

adam walker industry insights

We all love our CMOs because we all need our CMOs. But what happens when that role gets a little twisted?

Imagine a marketing expert who can work for multiple companies, meeting goals and measuring wins on a temporary basis. They come in, shake up your strategies, and take  you to the path to your success. Adam Walker and a lot of pro marketers are taking on the roles of CMOs at different companies to do exactly that.

Adam is the Co-Founder and Head of Marketing and Operations at Edgewise Media and fractional CMO who primarily helps startups elevate how they approach marketing from the very beginning. 

As the latest in our Industry Insights series, I chatted with Adam to discuss his journey to co-founding his agency and becoming a marketing resource for other growing companies.

Questions we answer in this article:

  • What is a fractional CMO? How does that role compare to a full-time CMO?
  • Why do companies opt for a fractional CMO?
  • How is success determined on a fractional basis?
  • Do fractional CxO roles have a future?

Check out the full conversation below:

Fractional vs. full-time CMO

There are a lot of benefits to having a full-time internal CMO on your team. You might think that they have more commitment to a company if their assets are tied to it. Or perhaps you feel that simply having a CMO on hand at all times creates priceless flexibility. 

But what if you’re wrong?

According to Adam, many companies run into one of two problems when building out their marketing leadership. “They'll either hire a junior or mid-level marketing person full-time and think that's going to solve their marketing problems. It doesn't because that person doesn't have the background and knowledge to really know what to do.” 

Adam continues to describe that companies will usually decide to work with larger agencies who will supplement their work with an account manager. Eventually, that work will get bumped to a more junior account manager.  “And then again, the strategy falters because you don't have a high-level person overseeing everything.”

When everything is on the line, those two options aren’t going to cut it, and that’s when you need to adopt a new approach that brings in a seasoned professional and allows them to take control and essentially conduct a marketing makeover.

“The benefit of a fractional CMO is getting that very high-level strategy that's going to help actually grow marketing.”

Adam Walker
Co-Founder and Head of Marketing and Operations, Edgewise Media

“Let's assume we're talking about a company that doesn't have a marketing team. They can hire one or two full-time people for that price, and they are often going to be generalists,” Adam says. He warns us that the generalists lack the ability “to see the strategy as it should play out to grow the organization.”

How fractional CMOs strategize

But how can one person consistently create the right marketing strategy for companies with different needs on such an evolving basis?

Adam believes that balancing the temporary nature of a fractional CxO and the consistency of an internal full-time CxO role comes down to developing the correct technique to serve the client.

“I usually take the first two months to dive pretty deep into the company,” he says. That involves everything from looking at every marketing channel, reviewing a ton of social media posts, looking at the website.”

After those two months, Adam usually shifts the focus to small changes that make a big impact. “If the marketing is not quite hitting, I can usually find a quick win or two there to optimize what’s already happening and make it work better.”

As scary as the word “fractional” can be for many companies, temporary doesn’t have to be a negative when it comes to business.

Adam emphasizes that when a company hires him, he feels as if he’s fully a part of that business. “When I'm talking about company plans, I'm talking about our plans. I'm going to provide that high-level strategy that you need in order to grow.” 

After that, when the organization finds itself in need of different components to improve their marketing work, Adam brings in workers he trusts m.  “I'll pull in my contacts, I'll pull in my contractors, I'll pull in other agencies. And I'll manage those people for you,” says Adam.

Measuring success on a fractional basis

So the work is done, the client is happy, and the contract has ended. How does a fractional executive like Adam determine if there’s longevity in the efforts when there isn’t longevity in his presence with the company? 

For Adam, his approach includes a lot of communication and transparency.

“I try to set pretty clear metrics. What are the specific goals that we're trying to meet? Then, let's talk about how we get to that metric and how we measure success along the way.”

“I'll stick around as long as a client is happy to have me around, and I’ll keep helping them grow.”

Adam Walker
Co-Founder and Head of Marketing and Operations, Edgewise Media

Adam believes that keeping a fractional CMO around for a year could be the key to seeing an impact on success and payoff on investment. “Marketing is a machine that you build, and it gets going very slowly,” Adam said. “But it grows by momentum. And so, as you gain momentum, it goes faster and faster and gets better and better over time. It just takes a while to gain enough momentum to really see that growth.”

The future of fractional executives

So what’s in store for the role of a fractional leader? According to Adam, we may see executives like him more and more in every industry.

He explains that “if you can get high-quality thinking, high-quality strategy, and high-quality leadership and execution from somebody on a part-time basis, it's a win for you because you're saving money and it's a win for them because they're making money.”

“That's a pretty big win for both of you, and I don't see why you would not do it.”

Adam Walker
Co-Founder and Head of Marketing and Operations, Edgewise Media

If this is the first time you’re hearing of CxO roles, you may be falling behind. Nearly every executive position has a fractional counterpart floating around; Adam points out that fractional CFOs are relatively common. For example, Jenny Bloom, former CFO for MailChimp, has been diving into the world of fractional CFO work for the last two years. It’s nothing new!

Adam’s tip to you? “Why not try it and save some money and get better quality stuff?”

Full-time results on a part-time penny

Trying something new is always hard, but if you don’t, you’ll never know what greatness could come from it.

So, if hiring a fractional CxO role seems daunting, take a risk and bring one on. Look for people like Adam who have extensive expertise and provide a new, fresh perspective from someone who knows what you need before you do.

Watch the full chat on YouTube and subscribe to G2 Tea, our SaaS-y newsletter with tech insights and tidbits from industry professionals like Adam!

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Edgewise Media's Adam Walker on Supporting Companies as a Fractional CMO [Video] Why just learn from the best when you can work with the best? Find out about Adam Walker's experience as a fractional CMO and what the benefits really are.
Alexandra Vazquez Alexandra Vazquez is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at G2. She received her Business Administration degree from Florida International University and is a published playwright. Alexandra's expertise lies in writing for the Supply Chain and Commerce personas, with articles focusing on topics such as demand planning, inventory management, consumer behavior, and business forecasting. In her spare time, she enjoys collecting board games, playing karaoke, and watching trashy reality TV.

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