Companies that start with a great idea but end up failing is often because they lack a go-to-market strategy. Or they don't have a marketing leader who can execute.
Today, hiring marketing leaders to drive this has become increasingly difficult. Growing businesses need experienced marketing direction. Established companies need to keep up with the latest changes and trends without putting their brand at risk.
As digital continues to evolve at break-neck speed and reshape the pathway to consumers, marketing leaders have it tough.
In fact, according to VentureBeat, no other C-suite member gets fired faster than the chief marketing officer.
Why hiring a marketing leader is difficult
Digital is taking over and changing how people live, work, and consume.
In parallel, the marketing world doesn't come with set guidelines or formal resources on how to hire a marketer. Or how to evaluate candidates during the hiring process.
For any business, it's hard to know where to begin.
As Viviana Faga, operating partner at Emergence Capital, writes in her Inc. article, "I advise executives to identify their company's big goals, prioritize them, and then map out the marketing expertise they most need to support them."
It's an essential step because marketing is a broad discipline — it's not a one-size-fits-all field. In most cases, a marketing professional's expertise usually focuses on one of four areas: performance and revenue, corporate, product, and brand/creative marketing.
Let's first look at what defines a marketing leader, the roles and responsibilities, and if you're considering a marketing leader for your business, three strategies to help you evaluate candidates in the hiring process.
What is a marketing leader
Marketers–they come a dime a dozen, and in all shapes and forms.
At the core, a marketing leader is different than a marketing doer. Doing marketing is different than leading marketing.
Doing marketing is all about enacting the "four P's": price, product, promotion, and place. This marketer will get their hands dirty and use critical tools to master a plan and execute a go-to-market strategy.
A marketing leader will know how to synthesize this data while dedicating the time to learn their customers' needs. Marketing leaders engage with their customers to promote and sell products and services by providing the right features and data.
A marketing leader needs to build the strategy and messaging behind why they are the best, and above all competitors.
Since customers' needs change all the time, marketing leaders need to be on top of the fluctuations at all times.
Marketing leaders have a deep understanding of their business's needs, and creating exceptional customer experiences is on the top of their minds, day in and out.
They know their customers, and they know the other leaders (e.g., CEO, VP of Sales) in their business and know how to arm their teams with the right information to mobilize them in the market.
A marketing leader can also mean very different things across different-sized businesses.
A marketing leader at an early-stage startup compared to one at well-established companies has different roles and goals, and this means there isn't a one-size-fits-all hiring approach.
Regardless of size, if you're looking to hire a marketing leader, the first step is knowing what will significantly move the needle for your business and drive results. Then find a marketing leader who can build a strategy and process that aligns with this information.
Common types of marketing leaders
Marketing leaders look different at various stages of a business.
Keep in mind, someone can be a fantastic marketer but won't drive the right impact or strategy for your business if it's the wrong type of hire for the stage of your business. Here are two distinct ones we'll use to compare and contrast the differences:
Founder-led marketing leaders
At the beginning of a venture, it's often up to the founder or founding team to pile on the hats and become the sales/dev/ops/comms/person for their product or service.
At some point, customer acquisition becomes a key initiative for the business and can leave founders desperate and reactive in looking for someone to take this over.
"Perhaps the biggest difference between most first-time founders and most second-time founders is how long they try to do it all themselves."
–Jason Lemkin, When to Stop Doing it All Yourself
There will always come the point in your business where you can't do it all anymore, and you need to bring someone who can step in, specifically for the customer acquisition need.
Mid to senior-level marketing leaders
Hiring a mid-level or senior-level marketer is a great option, but they need to have the skills and tools to drive revenue and keep the company alive.
An interesting point, millennials makeup over half of today's workforce and have different values than of the generations before. In marketing, they want to move forward in their careers. They want constructive and direct feedback and to develop their strengths.
It isn't enough to sit in on marketing meetings–they want the chair at the head of the table.
In business, this is excellent news because this generation of marketing leaders is hungry to learn and succeed.
When to hire a marketing leader and what to look for in candidates
There are three key questions to consider when hiring a marketing leader. It's essential to ask:
- What does the business need at this stage?
- What are the projections and business goals in the next 6, 12, 24 months?
- Who are our buyer personas?
Once you've figured that out, there are a few critical characteristics to consider in your marketing leader candidates and improve your recruiting results.
Here are the advanced leadership skills to asses at-a-glance:
- Data-driven & results-oriented
- Superpower strength
How do they show initiative?
You want to be able to give your marketing leader the room to spread their wings. It's fine to work together and figure out what needs to happen. What's even better is if the person can anticipate this and do it on their own.
You can assess how they show initiative by looking if they share their ideas freely. Whether it's in interviews or as you get to know them, find out how they've contributed their thoughts in their previous roles at other companies.
Is it clear that they share their ideas and have looked for ways to contribute while in their previous roles? What were those ideas, and how did they help the business? Dig in.
What is their level of creativity?
Not every marketing leader needs to be fully proficient in design tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign. They do need to know how to build a company's brand as well as address challenges coming from competitors or customers in new and different ways–and it requires creative strategy.
Are they more of a grab a napkin and draw stick figures to get their point across, or can they story-tell on stage and command an audience? Creativity comes in all forms. Importantly, can they inspire others to pull creativity out of their team?
Do they get data?
Google Analytics, PPC campaigns, email metrics, Salesforce, and HubSpot–the list doesn't stop there. Today's standard marketing tools require the person using it to be able to identify, manipulate, and understand data. There is no way around it.
Find out how they take data in, interpret it, and use it to make informed decisions about marketing campaigns. What successes have they had, and how did they use data to influence any decisions coming out of it? Conversely, how have they used data to course-correct when needed?
Are they real strategists?
And, do they have the grit to be tactical–and do both? As an example, for young or high-growth companies, the ideal marketing leader is someone who can:
- Develop a high-level strategy while also execute
- Build rapport with department leaders and tactically prove the value of marketing
- Experiment and iterate quickly
- Delegate work, hire and manage people, and effectively scale marketing for the company's growth.
Are they team-oriented?
If you're looking at hiring a team leader, be transparent upfront on when you might start to build out their team and what milestones the company would need to hit to expand the team.
Ask them what roles they think their first two hires would be—marketing designer, marketing ops analyst, content writer, etc.—and why. You want to get an idea for where they see their expertise, where they would want to double-down, and where they would like or need to augment their capabilities.
Finally, what is their "superpower"?
As Tim Kopp puts it in The 7 Personas of the Modern CMO:
"Unlike other company functions, marketing has grown to encompass multiple specialties, touching everything internal and external, from prospects and customers to employees and investors.
While this diversity of responsibility gives marketing a seat at several different tables around the company, it also makes it extremely difficult to find leaders who can "do it all."
Today's CMOs must be both a brand pioneer, analytics warrior, and an operator. They must be both right-brained and left-brained. Plus, because they are usually the face of the brand, they must also have strong presentation skills and be exceptional at building teams.
It's overwhelming clear the CMO [or marketing leader] is no longer a one-size-fits-all hire. It's critical for CEOs to determine the real imperatives of the role as well as the areas they're willing to sacrifice. It's also essential to match the needs of the business to the skillset of the CMO."
It's very rare for one person to "have it all," and for your business, it's vital to uncover their superpower upfront and early in the hiring process to make sure it aligns with what your business needs.
How to hire your next marketing leader and three strategies to use:
Now that you've decided it's time to hire a marketing leader and you know what to look for, here are three timeless strategies to help ensure that you attract the right level candidate, get them interested, and close them.
Deliver an exceptional candidate experience
It comes down to treating others as you want to be treated.
When you put in the effort to make sure all candidates are valued and rewarded, it is empowering, whether someone is hired on or not. It leaves a lasting impression on anyone who interviews and speaks volumes about your brand to people outside the company.
When you bring the person in for an interview, have the person meet several people from your company, not just an immediate supervisor or team members. Ensure that they know they have full support in their role, and they know what success is.
Show them you care more about their needs
The number one reason people change jobs is an opportunity, and the factors that influence this are compensation, work-life balance, and professional development.
Spend your first interactions with a candidate by getting to know them. Ask them questions to understand what they want, what they need, and where they are in their job search.
In these early conversations, clearly communicate why it would be beneficial for them to join your business and how your organization can help their long-term professional goals.
Knowing this right from the start can help them realize all the things they are probably missing. Seeing an upward path and career development, and having the information upfront, can also speed up their decision to accept a role once offered.
Always provide value
Talent makes their decisions based on information, interest, and excitement. As a business owner or founder, your job is to give the candidates as much information as humanly possible.
When you approach any conversation, take a 360-degree view of the role, so when the time is right, you can communicate everything as possible about the position. Have a great read on what this person will be doing day-to-day and what it will take to be successful.
Then take what you know and match the needs of the role to the candidate's skill set and interests. Getting this right will ensure the person feels understood and will be more receptive to talking with you to learn more a role.
Reach the best marketing leaders today.