What is Fractional Marketing (and Why is it Especially Effective for Complex B2B Companies)?

Kit Fox

You’d be surprised at the number of global B2B organizations–with many, many zeroes in their gross revenue column–who meet with us and have a bare-bones marketing department. There’s never one common reason. Global economic trends may have forced them to cut costs. Their industry may still rely heavily on personal relationships and ABM-based tactics driven exclusively by the sales team. They might make incredibly complex and niche products that–quite frankly–don’t attract top-tier marketing talent. They’re most often in an industry that requires enormous R&D capital (like biotech, pharma, or advanced manufacturing), leading to sacrifices in other parts of the organization.

Leaders in every one of these corporations know they can’t simply say, “Let’s just not do any marketing.” But building a full-time team from scratch takes time, money, and a level of complexity that diverts attention and resources away from their core mission.

That’s why a growing number of B2B organizations, particularly those working in highly technical sectors, harness fractional marketing. The solution gives them flexibility and agility while tapping experts who don’t need a desk and full-time contract. Here’s everything you need to know about fractional marketing and why (especially if you’re a B2B organization) it could be the right fit for you.

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Why Does Fractional Marketing Work?

What is Fractional Marketing?

Rather than hiring a full-time team, a company will partner with an external agency or individual for a “fraction” of their time. The relationship is much deeper than a typical project-based or consulting agreement. The fractional marketer should feel and act like an internal component of the organization in every way except your payroll.

Unlike an agency that’s hired to only design a logo or build a website, a fractional marketer will work a set number of hours with the ability to adjust their strategy and tactics based on the timely needs of the client. They’ll often need access to internal systems (like the CRM or email marketing engine) just like a full-time employee. And critically, they are trusted to drive strategy and execution with similar leeway to regular staff.

Think of the fractional marketer like a pinch hitter in baseball. They might not be part of the usual lineup, but they’re called into action at specific times when they’re most needed. And because of that unique level of trust and cooperation, they’re expected to generate consistent results.

Why Fractional Marketing Works (Especially in B2B)

The “fun” brands that trade on vibes and virality as much as product quality (think Red Bull or Liquid Death) benefit from a massive internal marketing engine. It makes sense to invest enormous amounts of internal collateral on creative marketing when you’re trying to sell more sugar water (or, literally, just water) than your competitors.

But, when you’re working in highly regulated, enormously complex industries that only survive through innovation and product competency, your priorities divest from marketing toward development and sales. No amount of marketing will compensate for an obsolete or shoddy product. It’s why you’ve never seen a CDMO produce a Super Bowl commercial. Their money is better spent on the incredibly expensive endeavor of developing new treatments and drugs.

But they still need marketing. Which is why a fractional relationship offers 4 benefits that a full-time, internal department can’t:

Fast Onboarding

It takes an average of 80 days for an organization to hire a marketing executive. Then, of course, you need to onboard them and allow them to build a fully-operational team–a task that could take anywhere from 4-6 months.

An integrated agency, on the other hand, will spend roughly 1-3 months in the discovery phase. And they are usually able to execute specific tactics even faster. If you expect tangible results within the next quarter to 12 months, an agency that serves as your fractional marketing department will know how to spin up tactics multitudes faster than trying to hire a team from scratch.

Unique Access to Specialized Talent

It’s very common for B2B organizations to fill their small marketing teams with generalists, people who are pretty good at many things.

Agencies, in contrast, hire specialists who are world-class within a finite skillset. That’s because the agency model doesn’t require expansive ground cover. Our copywriters don’t need to also know how to build Zapier automation.

Scale allows us to specialize. That means we attract and develop talent far more effectively than an internal organization. Your partnership allows you to tap that talent rather than hoping a single employee can accomplish dozens of diverse skills.

Lower Cost

Marketing agencies are masters at efficiency. They have to be, otherwise they’d never turn a profit. At Altitude, that means our average client relationship costs roughly the same as two full-time employees. But we return the capabilities of a world-class 7-9 member team.

There is nothing “fractional” about your investment. A good agency presents clients with an incredibly compelling math equation. We make 1+ 1 really equal 7.

An Easy Out

Relationships don’t always work. Priorities shift, budgets change, and mergers happen. Fractional marketing allows for the flexibility to expand, contract, or even terminate dedicated hours on a monthly or quarterly basis. That’s a far more fluid model than a full-time marketing department affords.

How to Choose the Right Fractional Marketing Agency?

Fractional marketing provides plenty of upside, but you still incur some risk. The biggest? Choosing the wrong partner.

Because fractional relationships require complete integration, you need to be absolutely sure the working relationship will hum before handing over the keys. There’s no perfect process for finding the right partner, but here are the most important factors:

Integration Guidelines and Boundaries

Just like any internal employee needs access to your systems and technology, a fractional marketing department should be able to integrate with your existing operations as closely as possible. That likely will mean access to your CRM, marketing automation engine, website back-end, and other areas of your tech stack.

You’ll want to ensure your agency is familiar with and able to work within your existing systems. While Altitude is technology agnostic (we will work with nearly any platform), some agencies prefer or require specific services.

The relationship also introduces data and security considerations since the agency is technically a separate entity. Ensure they know how to comply with privacy laws (like GDPR and CCPA), have filled out the necessary NDAs, and know the unique regulations within your industry.

Industry Expertise

Red Bull’s marketing team could write you a funny commercial. But do they know the difference between a Phase 1 and Phase 3 clinical trial? You need an agency that speaks your jargon–one that won’t execute good marketing for marketing’s sake but knows what motivates your customers to take action.

You can find every size, shape, texture, and color of a marketing agency if you dig deep enough. So ensure the one you pick has worked with similar clients and can execute with authenticity and accuracy.

Tactical Bandwidth

Ensure your agency has the skillset and manpower to produce. When you’re a global corporation that needs to send highly segmented email nurtures to thousands of clients, you probably don’t want to partner with a two-person shop. As you conduct your search, you’ll want to make sure your final candidates have the expertise and manpower to scale with your goals.

Communication Style

A fractional relationship requires far more, and deeper, communication than a typical external agency partnership. You’ll want to treat your marketing partner as part of your internal team, which means a quarterly check-in isn’t going to fly. Work quality–while the most important factor–isn’t the only one to consider. Does your communication style and corporate mission align with your partner? Do you get along with their account team? Are they transparent and quick to respond?

The softer side of the working relationship usually determines the length and quality of the engagement. That’s why ensuring the fit feels right before signing the contract is crucial for long-term success.

Conclusion: Fractional Marketing Does Not Mean Fractional Results

It’s the opposite, in fact. If done right, an agency that serves as your outsourced marketing department should act as a results multiplier. The investment you put in will be far less than their overall output. That’s why this style of marketing relationship can be so effective for B2B brands who can’t build an internal team. It’s also why agencies who execute fractional marketing well have far longer client relationships than average. For Altitude, that length is 3.6 years–more than twice as long as the norm.

When you want proof that fractional marketing works, that number should be all you need.

Kit Fox

Kit Fox is Altitude’s lead internal brand storyteller and content creator. Before joining Altitude in 2024, Kit spent a decade in the publishing industry, where he served as an editor for, Runner’s World. Men's health, and Men’s Journal, special projects director for Hearst Magazines, and director of membership for Lehigh Valley Public Media. He is the co-author of “Mighty Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Running Revolutionary.”