Todd is a fractional CMO in the Bay Area and also the co-author of the book ‘Beyond Product’. He's on the board of directors of MOCCA (Marketing Operations Cross-company Alliance) and has previously served Verisign, Neustar, SAP and IBM in a variety of senior marketing roles.

Highlights from Todd and Erica’s conversation include:

  • Who needs a fractional CMO and when (hint: It’s not just for early-stage companies)
  • Advantages of fractional CMOs:
    • Upscale your marketing strategy without the expenses of a full-time CMO
    • Get rich perspectives and cross-pollinate ideas
  • When not to hire a fractional CMO (hint: when what you actually need is a lead gen project manager!)
  • Measures of success with fractional CMOs: Is it the number of hours served or the nature of the value and seasoned expertise that they bring?
  • The secret value of a Fractional CMO (It’s more than the marketing expertise but you won’t hear it in the pitch!)
  • How to pick the right fractional CMO: Advice for CEOs

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Erica Seidel  0:16  Today I am joined by Todd Wilms. He is a fractional CMO in the Bay Area and also the co-author of the very interesting book Beyond Product He's on the board of directors of MOCCA which is the marketing operations cross-company Alliance, an organization I have collaborated with a bunch. He has a kind of tour of high tech companies in his background. So most recently with VERISIGN, Neustar  SAP and IBM in a variety of senior marketing roles. Most recently, the focus on kind of corporate marketing, but now he does broader CMO fractional kinds of roles. So Todd, welcome to the show

Todd Wilms  1:01  Thanks for having me on, Eric. I appreciate it. This will be fun.

Erica Seidel  1:05  All right, well, let's just get into it. So Todd, can you tell us how to think of a fractional CMO? Like, What is it? What's the value prop in a nutshell?

Todd Wilms  1:15  Yeah, and I think what this does is for a lot of organizations that are earlier in the scale; they're just starting, they've got a little bit of funding. They know they need to go to market strategy, or they need somebody to come in and help them articulate the vision of their company into the marketplace. They need some really strong talent to help them do that. But honestly, they're not at a stage where they need somebody for 100%. And so what a fractional CMO will allow them to do is to find ways to bring somebody in on a part-time basis. So both part-time in terms of hours and part-time in terms of duration, maybe for three months or for six months, they get this great counsel and advice. They also get somebody who can roll up their sleeves and get the stuff done, and it works out well for everyone, and it's a great option for companies that are thinking, Okay, I need something. But wow! A full-time CMO is just outside of my price range.

Erica Seidel  2:09 so it is more about saving money versus saving time.

Todd Wilms  2:14  Yeah, and I think, too, it's, it's bringing a quality of talent that they couldn't normally afford. And, and it allows someone who's a fractional CMO to work across a couple of different companies at the same time, or at least, in theory, to be able to do that. And there's some ups and downs with that model. Well, but Yeah, it does. It tends to work out well for everybody. It gives a lot of variety for the fractional CMO. And it also allows that individual that company to have somebody that can be, you know, an amazing talent to help them upscale their marketing and go to market strategy.

Erica Seidel  2:50  Upscale, I like that word. And, and it seems like there's also the ability to kind of bring in best practices from other companies. If  You are a fractional CMO working across two or three companies at a time,  you can pollinate practices from one company to the next, and most companies are thirsty for knowing how other companies run marketing, whether it's super strategic or super tactical.

I have also seen fractional CMOS and bigger companies. One comes to mind that was actually in a location where there wasn't a ton of b2b SaaS marketing talent. So they had somebody in a fractional role, much bigger kind of $300 million company they had somebody fractionally in there, and it can be a part-time job like you're talking about, or it can be a full-time thing for a year and then the person moves on.

Todd Wilms  3:57  Yeah, if a company is doing like a large product Launch, or they're starting an incubator, they're trying to do something new, and they're not sure how well that's going to work out, or they need somebody just to go like all in for a short period. The fractional model works just as well; I would think of that as more of like a, you know, long term contract, because you get somebody to go all-in on, on the Product or the incubator. But that model does work. It doesn't have to be just smaller companies; it comes into Do you need somebody 100% of the time? And do you need them full time? Do you need them for a longer distance? And if the answer is no, then going the fractional route makes a lot of sense for companies.

Erica Seidel  4:43  Okay, so often, in my experience, what a b2b SaaS company really, in growth mode is leading, Leads Leads, you know, so I'm wondering, is a fractional  CMO  a misnomer is what that company needs. What they need a director of demand Gen. Can you discuss?

Todd Wilms  5:05  What's interesting is for those companies that are coming in, and they have that leads, Leads Leads mentality. And there's nothing fundamentally wrong with that. But it changes the model of who they need and why they need Him. A fractional CMO is going to look at how do I pull in an overarching strategy? What does that look like? How do we go to the market? And then how do I as an individual and the team that I have in place, plus my network? How can I go and get that accomplished? Where can I add value and bring people in to do that? That's great if you don't know what you need, but if you're at a stage where you're like, Look, we've developed the Product. We know what we want to say in the marketplace.

We've done all that work. And now what I need is somebody just starts turning the crank and making this thing happen, then absolutely, you don't need a fractional CMO. You're better off hiring somebody who's, even if it's a short term engagement, you're better off hiring somebody who's director of demand Gen. Somebody knowledgeable in the weeds tactical know-how all the technology works and works together can make recommendations on that and can listen directly from what the sales organization or the product teams are saying. And then put that into a language that allows you to start generating and cranking leads into the organization. I think a fractional CMO is going to be frustrating for everybody involved at that stage. Because they're not going to be able to add the value they want. The companies are not going to get the speed that they'd be looking for. And they're not going to have somehow, how seasoned that person is, they're not going to have somebody who's really in the weeds and just focused on I know how to make leads come into the organization. And they need somebody at that stage. And so it's a mismatch in terms of skill sets and scope. It just leaves a sour taste in literally everybody's mouth.

Erica Seidel  7:05  Hmm. It makes me think of the story of the Otis Elevator repair person, right where that person is called, you know, your elevator brace, you call the Otis repair person, and it's a guy usually right? And the guy comes in, and he says, okay, click, click, Alright, here's the problem and fixes it and charges a lot of money. And people say like, Oh, it was just five minutes, but the thing was,  you're not paying for the five minutes you're paying for the person's expertise and knowing where to focus. So it seems like that's what you can bring to a company .you talked about this kind of general contractor analogy of being able to kind of Marshal the right resources and, and engage them to help a company.

Todd Wilms  7:51  Yeah, and you know the analogy is, it plays through a lot of the problems that happened with CMOS, CEOs, and then the company's expectations. Because there can be at times like, Well, yeah, but you're only working 15 hours this week. You know, we could get so much more, you could. And if you want to pay for that, you can. But you know, what you're looking for is somebody who comes in and has been working with a variety of clients, right? So you talked about the expertise of working with three companies sort of simultaneously. Having years of experience behind them, you're getting the years of quality, the seasoned expertise of somebody when you bring a fractional CMO in, and then you're also getting that person's network, right? You're getting that ability for them to come in and say, Okay, I've got somebody who's a web developer, I've got somebody good at writing copy, I've got somebody who can be like an operations person and run the back office, and you're bringing all of that into play. And I think that's one of the things that is hard for companies to sort of understand and grapple with is: You know what that CMO does, how they do it, what value they add because often it's not necessarily seen. And so that can cause some conflict that a little bit of again, the Otis repairman, I love that analogy, a little bit of like, well, they were just here for a short period. And, you know, what did we get out of them, you got a lot.

Erica Seidel  9:21  You talk about people bringing in their networks, in your experience talking to other fractional CMOs and looking at your processes. Do you think all fractional CMOS build their network explicitly, to be able to have these resources to Marshal

Todd Wilms  9:38  people that I click with, that Put me in uncomfortable situations and help me think or change my perspective. And then people that I've worked with or have worked for me in the past, that I've liked what they've been able to do and I just sort of keep a mental Rolodex of those people and I actively reach out and make those connections. And this brings up something really interesting, which is, it's a little bit on the mushy side, which is hard for a lot of executives to get their heads around, but there's a real value here for them that they might not see. And that's the people that have a good EQ that is curious about people that connect with people that the people around them drive that. The added benefit that they have is they come in, and they're also like a counselor, a resource, you know, it's putting the CEO on the couch and listening to what their fears and frustrations are. One of the things that have been great about being a fractional person or even coming in and then turning into an advisor and the company is yes, I come in and give them my, my expertise, my marketing expertise that goes to market strategy. But often I become, I quickly become this sort of confidant of that person. And it's  Because I don't work for them directly in a traditional sense, I'm an objective third party person. And they're looking for somebody to come in and get advice and counsel.

I mean, you've got to think of it from the shoes of any CEO. Odds are, they're probably in over their skis. Like they've got a great idea for a product. This is what the Product the book was about. Got a great idea for a product, they're taking this leap, and they are bold and fearless. And they're gonna go in and make it happen. But then running a company is very different from building a product. And now they have to make all sorts of decisions that they weren't prepared for. And, and so having somebody that they can rely on or even somebody that they can say, Hey, you know what, this is uncomfortable for me, that is worth its weight in gold because it is very lonely. I mean, very lonely. Anybody that's thinking about being an entrepreneur and going off on this, it's very lonely being a CEO. And so having that right hand, so to Speak has tremendous value for them beyond the tactical expertise beyond what marketing can provide.

Erica Seidel  12:07  So if I can sum it up, it seems like the fractional CMO has a combination of three things. One is being a Doer, a second is being a marshal, or will say, like, you know, pulling your good and cost-effective resources. And then lastly, being a bit of a marketing therapist, and maybe that last piece where there's the most value, except that value is, you know, maybe less obvious, and maybe not the value that is sold initially, you know, like, I would imagine if you're talking to a CEO and saying, Oh, I could be the best fractional CMO for you. I'm going to be a great marketing therapist, and you're going to trust me, you know, that. That's something you've kind of earned over time. Like you didn't pitch that in meeting number one. Same with my business, you know, in executive search, it's a lot of therapy, but that's certainly not sold initially. So, my question for you is, what's your advice on how a CEO should pick a fractional CMO from all the ones out there?  What should they avoid? And what should they kind of lean into when that CEO is picking a CMO for fractional purposes?

Todd Wilms  13:19  Well, most CEOs don't have a marketing background. Most of them are Product or engineering or finance, they've got vision and direction, and they know how to run a smooth, smooth organization. I have only met a few real marketer CEOs. And so they don't understand what the marketer is saying they don't understand the value. And if they're trying to pick out of the cacophony of people that are out there on LinkedIn, or sending them cold call emails, nothing's going to stand out. Maybe you're lucky, the one person at the exact moment where they're so frustrated, but odds are, they're not going to be able to tell you from the host of other people. So this comes down To the network. Either you've worked with somebody they know, you've worked at a company that's in their space, or you've got something like a person saying, hey, they've been great. Or one of their investors is saying; I use this person. You know, somebody at the country club, whatever it is, there's, there's a personal connection that needs to happen. If any CEO is listening to this conversation, it's trusting your network, trust the people around you. And then make sure that you've got a good connection with that person. Not a touchy-feely one, but just make sure you've got a good connection with that person that you know that or at least believe that they can come in and add some extra value beyond just the marketing expertise, then you've got a great fractional CMO. You can go through and do all sorts of I'm a blank fractional CMO, I'm a leads fraction, I am growth, fractional. And those things might help you sort of get out of the rut of everybody else. But I think it's also just letting your personality out. And I know the conversation we've had today is very mushy, emotional, touchy-feely, and we're on the softer side of stuff. But those are the things that get you noticed by a CEO or business leader, or has somebody come in and say, Hey, you know what, I'm gonna put my reputation on the line and tell you, you need to go hire Todd, and, and make that connection. They're doing that because they trust you and you've built a good relationship with them.

Erica Seidel  15:32  Right, super. Well, thank you so much for sharing your insights on the podcast. What is the place where people can go? Do they want to hear more about you?

Todd Wilms  15:43  Oh, well, thank you. So the easiest place to find me is just to go to And you can find everything you need from copies of the book Beyond Product. There are 57 interviews, podcasts available from CEOs, investors, advisors, mentors, and good marketers out there. And it's a great place to figure out where I am, what I'm doing and what's new with me.

Erica Seidel  16:12  Awesome. Great. Thank you, Todd. Great to have you on the show.

Todd Wilms  16:16  Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Erica.

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

Todd Wilms

Todd Wilms is a marketing consultant, visiting CMO, author, and keynote speaker.He has been featured in Inc., Entrepreneur, Forbes, and the WSJ, as well as over 100 contributions on the Forbes platform.