Lori Cohen, a veteran CMO and a veteran fractional CMO has worked with several different growth-stage B2B SaaS companies. In this episode, Lori and Erica talk about how to drive optimal value from a fractional CMO engagement.

       Highlights of the conversation include:

  • The differences among a full-time CMO, a fractional CMO, and a consultant

While alignment with the CEO and building trust with the team remain the same, the key differentiator is that fractional CMO roles have an exit plan baked in. This lets them avoid the political aspects and do the best job for the company knowing that there is an exit plan/date. This is also why they can challenge the CEO more than a full-time CMO – something especially critical for early stage companies.

  • How fractional CMOs succeed as uber-consultants, even as they manage multiple engagements with CEO clients who expect access at all times
  • The real reasons early stage companies should hire fractional CMOs

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Erica Seidel  0:02  Hello to all of our listeners. This is Erica Seidel, and I am joined on the podcast today by Lori Cohen, who is a veteran CMO as well as a veteran fractional CMO with a bunch of different growth stage B2B companies. And she's based in the Boston area. So Lori, welcome to the show.

Lori Cohen  0:34  Thank you, Erica. Happy to be here.

Erica Seidel  0:38  So you, you've made a bunch of these different fractional CMO arrangements. You could have gone back and forth to a certain extent between fractional CMO roles, and I don't want to say having a real job but full time engaged CMO  roles, some people See the fractional CMO arrangement as a kind of try before you buy on both sides? How does that match your experience? And does that try before you buy work to reduce the risk and get the fit? Right?

Lori Cohen  1:15  So I would say based on my experience, yes, frequently, the reason for a fractional role is that it might be an early-stage company. It's a series  Acompany, they know they need marketing, they're not ready to commit to a full-time marketing role. But they also know they can't be neglected entirely. So I think in that case, and in my experiences, it was a series A company. I joined it as a fractional CMO.  I was there for probably about 14 months before it made sense For them to make it a full-time role. And in that particular instance, I decided that I wasn't interested in flipping to full time, I was doing two partial CMO roles at that point. And so what I did is I went out, and I helped them recruit the right candidate for their for the job to take it on full time. And so for the company, it was great in the sense that they had somebody running marketing that put together the tech stack, pivoted the brand, built a website, started lead gen, even to the conference in the middle of August with like 125 people and built it to a point where it made sense to bring in a full-time hire.

Erica Seidel  2:47  Great, So if we take a step back because you've been on both sides of the table is full time and fractional. How are the experiences and approaches different across these two experiences?

Lori Cohen  3:06  In both scenarios like this, the skills that you need are the same as if you were taking on the full job time, right? What are some of the things that lead to your success? Well, you know, I think most CMOs will agree that it's critical to have an excellent relationship with the CEO, number one and that you need to share the same goals and vision for where you're driving the company, whether you're doing it,  as a full-time person or as a fractional person. And then the second thing is you have to build trust with the small team and the rest of the senior managers. So I don't think those things are different. What I think is a little bit different is, in my case, when I was doing two roles at the same time, I had an exit plan. So that I was able to try to do the best job for the company and speak my mind and not have to be super political because I thought my career was really to do the best job for the company. And if there were conflicts, or it didn't make sense moving forward, I could always, you know, shift from one part-time role to another, if that makes sense.

Erica Seidel  4:38  I think that's fascinating. So it's like you work with two companies at once. You have this diversified portfolio in a sense, and so you have a fallback,  you can take more risks, you can be more assertive with what you say and what you do. Thinking about it from a personal standpoint, but I like what you're saying, like but do what's best For the business as opposed to doing what's best for your career because of your career kind of managing it in that situation like outside of the company.

Lori Cohen  5:09   I think that is one sort of benefit. Because you're not? Well, because all your eggs aren't in one basket, so to speak, right. And you're able to, I know, in my case, I was able to kind of manage two very different companies, right. But if you asked either company, they, I think both sort of, in some ways, felt that I was working for them full time, which I believe is truly the trick, right? You need to be an Uber consultant, right? In the sense that you have to constantly be balancing the workload, right, because there are often when one shoots up significantly. Oh my God, we have to launch a new site. And we have to launch it in two months, right? Well, how does that impact your other gig, right? So you need to always be, you know, balancing your time so that both of your clients know, you're working for two companies, and that's what you're doing. But they can't, they can never feel neglected. So with a lot of time management and a lot of relationship management. In my cases, when I was doing both at the same time, one was local. One was in Cambridge, and the other one was a virtual company. So my boss was actually in California, and the team was all over the country. And we would meet like twice a month in Charleston, South Carolina. So when it was virtual like that, it was a little easier because you know, I could make my phone calls, send my emails, etc., etc. Anytime. Versus with one in Cambridge. I went on-site for two and a half days a week.

Erica Seidel  6:56  When you're a consultant, you can kind of tell the truth. A little bit more maybe with a little bit more abandons than you can sometimes when you're full time, can you talk about that and whether you agree whether you can challenge the CEO a little bit more from the outside than from the inside?

Lori Cohen  7:18  Yeah, I think that's an excellent question. So as a consultant, I do feel that you can be a little bit more challenging because that's what you've been paid for. Right? So you've been paid to do a deep dive into the business and come back with recommendations. And I feel that if data supports your recommendations, and a lot of conversations supports them, and a lot of quantitative and qualitative research, that's how you deliver the message. And I think that's what  The CEO is paying you to do right. And again, if it's backed up by data, it's hard. You know, it's hard to kind of challenge that.


Erica Seidel  8:12  It's less about the CMO, filling a box on an org chart. We need a CMO. Let's put this person in. And it's more about identifying what the business problem is that is being faced and having the CMO have that fractional person come in and solve that problem?

Lori Cohen  8:34   I think that that's true. And that's where, you know, the hope is that what's being called upon is your deep experience, right? I've seen this problem before. I've seen it at other companies. This is my approach to solving it.

Erica Seidel  8:50  Yeah. Yeah. Can you talk about how fractional CMOs and consulting CMOs should differentiate themselves because it does seem like there's a lot of people? I think with the economy, potentially quaking, now, there'll be more people that are kind of, you know, hanging their shingle to be marketing consultants? And so how can they differentiate themselves? One from the next.

Lori Cohen  9:23  Okay, so, so in thinking of my career, typically as a consultant, it was all project-based. So it was, you know, you write the proposal, this is the project, this is the timeframe, this is the fees, etc. And then, once you finish that project, you might go on and do a second project, right? Yeah, as a fractional  CMO, it's more like you're hired, essentially, as an employee, right? You might still be paid as a consultant. But you're, you're essentially an employee of that company. And in my instance, when I was doing it with two projects, that's how it worked. I was an employee of one of my clients. And then I was a fractional with a second where I was essential, you know, 1099. employee. Right. But it was long term, right? It wasn't; you're just here to do this project. It's here; you're here to run the department. You're here too, you know, to grow the brand, you're here to do lead generation, etc. So you're playing the role of the CMO, you're just not doing it full time. And you may not be doing it full time again, because it's an early-stage company. You may not be doing it full time because, in the other instance, they frankly couldn't afford me full time, my full loaded salary, but I could be efficient enough To get them what they needed with halftime, you know, we always talk about marketing, right? You know, when we're marketing for a company, how critical it is to segment your market, right? Figure out what the personas are, and specifically target them. I think as a fractional CMO, or as a consultant, you shouldn't be afraid to go narrow, right? Because you're not going to be the right, you're not going to be the right candidate for every single opportunity. So go narrow, go with what you're the best at. That doesn't mean you can't do the other things, right? Because if you are a CMO, at that point in your career, you pretty much know how to do everything. You may just gravitate and have deeper knowledge in certain, you know, buckets than other buckets. But I think you're much better off kind of going to the market. Narrow Yeah, narrowly than just broadly.

Erica Seidel  12:03  exactly when I started my recruiting practice. I had a coach who said to me, Erica, yes, go narrow, I like that language go narrow, but then let your clients broaden your bandwidth, you know, and broaden what you do like, so you don't say, Oh, I can recruit for a, b, and c, say I can recruit for a. And then once you're in there, you do a great job for a, and then they say, Oh, can you recruit for A and B or A and C? Or, you know, and then decide from there, and I think that that matches nicely what you're proposing here?

 Lori Cohen  12:36  Yes, I yes. And I take it at work for your business, right?

Erica Seidel  12:40  Yeah. And I'm still like, you know, like to your point and being narrow if it's just one person, or one person Plus, you know, a couple of other associates. Yeah, yeah. You don't need 100 projects in a year. Yeah. Right. Right. And, and so it's fine to be narrow. And I think it's just about finding that niche, that where there's a need, and also where you can describe the niche in a way that  resonates with the market. You know, maybe it's a kind of a fresh way of talking about your niche, but, making sure that it. It's neat, it's neat, and it's in when you talk about that people, people grok it and glom onto it.

Lori Cohen  13:26  Absolutely. And the other thing that I would say, and I think it would reinforce what you're saying as well, is when you think about, you know, fractional roles or consulting roles. Chances are you have deep networks of people that you can call in to do some of the work and the tasks that you need. Because you're in that environment already. Right. Yeah. So you know, the person who's awesome at Salesforce or plumbing, right, somebody who could Get Salesforce and HubSpot or Salesforce and Pardot working well together. Right? Yeah. And or you may, you may know how great you know the kind of freelance designer who can come in and create some great ads for you. But that's what I do find. They're not just hiring you; they're hiring the network that you could join with you. And often, when you're going from just a full-time role to a full-time role to a full-time role, you have very different networks, right. And so I think that's something to think about in terms of the value that fractional CMOS or consultants can bring to the party.

Erica Seidel  14:44  Right, right. That's Well said. Yeah. Very interesting. Well, thank you so much for joining the show. We are out of time, but I appreciate you contributing all of these great insights. So thank you, Loro.

Lori Cohen  14:56  Oh, thank you. It was fun.

The Podcast Team

Erica Seidel

Recruiter And Founder at The Connective Good As host of The Get, Erica talks to CEOs, VCs and Marketing Leaders about finding and keeping great marketing talent for B2B SaaS companies.

Team MarTech Advisor

Chief Editor Chitra Iyer, and the team at MarTech Advisor edit, produce and distribute The Get.


Episode Highlights

Guest Profile

Lori Cohen

Lori Cohen, a veteran CMO and a veteran fractional CMO has worked with several different growth-stage B2B SaaS companies.Her pitch-perfect delivery of savvy branding and lead-generation programs have proven successful time and again throughout her distinguished career. Among her many accomplishments, Lori won a national Emmy reporting on technology while at Boston’s WGBH-TV , Peobody Award and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.