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Exploring Different Approaches to Building a Marketing Function for a Startup

When starting a new business, one of the most important tasks is establishing an effective marketing function. It’s a critical element that can make or break your venture. In this blog post, we’ll explore three different approaches to building a marketing function for a startup: having an in-house CMO as a co-founder, getting Fractional CMO services, and hiring a full-scale marketing agency. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each approach to help you decide which option is best for your business.

In-House CMO as a Co-Founder

One option is to have an in-house Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) as a co-founder who will handle the whole process from go-to-market strategy to hiring and training the team. This approach ensures that marketing is an integral part of your business from the start.


  • Strategic Focus: Having a CMO as a co-founder ensures that marketing is given the strategic focus it requires. They can align marketing efforts with the overall business strategy and goals.
  • Long-Term Commitment: As a co-founder, the CMO is likely to be highly committed to the success of the business. They have a vested interest in the company’s performance.
  • Flexibility: An in-house CMO can quickly adapt to changes in the business environment and modify marketing strategies accordingly.


  • Cost: Hiring a CMO can be expensive, especially for a startup with limited resources. It may not be feasible to afford a high salary for a CMO.
  • Limited Skill Set: A single CMO may not possess all the skills required for a comprehensive marketing strategy. You may still need to hire additional specialists.

Fractional CMO Services

Another approach is to get Fractional CMO services for a professional remote contractor to oversee the strategy and delegate small tasks to freelancers. This option allows you to access experienced marketing leadership without the expense of a full-time hire.


  • Cost-Effective: Fractional CMO services are typically more affordable than hiring a full-time CMO. You only pay for the time and services you need.
  • Access to Expertise: You get access to an experienced marketing professional who can bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to your startup.
  • Scalability: As your business grows, you can scale up or down the level of support you receive from your Fractional CMO.


  • Limited Availability: Since the Fractional CMO is not a full-time employee, they may have other clients and commitments. This can limit their availability for your business.
  • Lack of Integration: The Fractional CMO may not be as integrated into your business as a full-time CMO. This can create challenges in aligning marketing efforts with the overall business strategy.

Hire a Full-Scale Marketing Agency

The third option is to hire a full-scale marketing agency that will handle all marketing activities and may even have a dedicated team for your business. This approach provides a comprehensive solution for your marketing needs.


  • Comprehensive Services: Marketing agencies offer a wide range of services, from market research and branding to digital marketing and social media management. This can save you the time and effort of coordinating multiple freelancers.
  • Expertise: Agencies typically have a team of experts in various marketing disciplines, ensuring that you have access to the right skills and knowledge.
  • Scalability: Marketing agencies can scale their services to meet the changing needs of your business.


  • Cost: Hiring a full-scale marketing agency can be expensive, especially for a startup with limited resources.
  • Lack of Integration: Similar to the Fractional CMO, an agency may not be as integrated into your business as an in-house CMO. This can create challenges in aligning marketing efforts with the overall business strategy.
  • Less Control: When you work with an agency, you may have less control over the day-to-day marketing activities. This can be a concern if you want to maintain a hands-on approach to your marketing function.


Building a marketing function for a startup requires careful consideration of your business goals, resources, and the level of expertise you need. Each of the approaches discussed above has its pros and cons. An in-house CMO as a co-founder can provide strategic focus and long-term commitment, but it may be expensive and limited in skill set. Fractional CMO services can be cost-effective and scalable but may have limited availability and integration. A full-scale marketing agency can offer comprehensive services and expertise but may be expensive and provide less control.

Ultimately, the best approach will depend on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider your budget, the level of expertise required, and how integrated you want your marketing function to be with your business. Whichever approach you choose, ensure it aligns with your overall business strategy and helps you achieve your marketing goals.

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