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Executive Search

How to Hire a VP of Marketing to Drive Growth

Kristin Bachman
5 min read

Modern marketing plays a huge role in driving growth, especially in startups and tech companies. Learn how a VP of marketing can impact a company's bottom line, and how to refine your executive search to land the right talent for your business.

VP of Marketing, Executive Search, Startups

Marketing is taking on a bigger role than ever in top-performing companies — more than eight out of 10 global CEOs consider it a key driver of most or all corporate growth. According to McKinsey, forward-thinking businesses that modernize how they approach marketing can see potential additional growth gains of up to 15 percent.

In this highly competitive environment, you need the right leaders to direct your marketing efforts, and a capable vice president (VP) of marketing is crucial. This position oversees the creation and implementation of a company's marketing campaigns and is especially integral in startups that need a solid brand, voice, and messaging foundation to scale growth.

Learn the impact the right VP of marketing can make, and how to shape the position to fit the needs of your startup or tech company. You can then target your executive search to find the right talent to drive your vision forward.

What's a VP of Marketing?

A VP of marketing leads a company's marketing efforts, creating brand awareness and driving customers to convert or purchase. This role is accountable for creating and executing marketing campaigns, managing the company's brand, tracking performance, adjusting strategies to generate results, and budgeting resources.

This executive level role also recruits and manages a team of professionals and consultants. A marketing team can include, but is not limited to a creative head, brand manager, director of growth, marketing and promotions manager, graphic designer, content specialist, SEO specialist, marketing coordinator, and marketing analyst.

Depending on the structure of the company, the VP of marketing may be the highest marketing position or report to a chief marketing officer.

Responsibilities of a VP of Marketing

The basic marketing playbook looks similar across businesses and industries: position the company in the market, identify the audience, build the brand, connect with customers, and convert sales.

We'll look a closer at the needs of startups and tech companies a little later, but a VP of marketing has similar day-to-day responsibilities in start-ups and more established, corporate companies:

  • Creating a brand identity
  • Positioning the product
  • Developing buyer personas
  • Choosing marketing channels
  • Crafting messaging that resonates with customers and is customized for the channel
  • Implementing Account Based Marketing tactics 
  • Managing digital presence (website, social media)
  • Overseeing SEO and online visibility
  • Working with writers, designers, and developers to create and optimize campaigns
  • Handling event launches and trade shows
  • Tracking campaign success using metrics and data analytics
  • Managing marketing budgets
  • Focusing on customer experience to engage users and build loyalty

Marketers have multiple channels to reach customers, and one of the role's biggest responsibilities is determining which ones to leverage to reach and grow the customer base. The VP of marketing then builds impactful campaigns to drive the company towards its revenue goals, overseeing the marketing team to implement the tactics, and ensuring the overall strategy comes together cohesively.

The Role of a VP of Marketing in a Startup

The VP of marketing plays a critical role in startups to build credibility in the eyes of customers and investors. This marketing leader should be in place as early as possible to build a team, define key performance indicators (KPIs), solidify the brand, and plan for ways to target the key audience. This position is likely starting from scratch in terms of marketing for an early-stage organization, so it's critical to entrust the job to someone capable of carving out a niche and expanding the customer base as the company scales.  

Early on, the VP of marketing will likely be both strategic and hands-on.  As a company grows, the day-to-day will expand to include recruitment and management of talent.  It’s also important for them to establish a working relationship with the company’s sales team to ensure alignment on the go-to-market strategy.

The Role of a VP of Marketing in a Technology Company

While all businesses need an agile VP of marketing who understands the power of digital transformation, it's particularly important for tech companies. When you're selling to a digitally savvy audience, you need sophisticated marketing tactics that incorporate technology and create a seamless customer experience.

While tech companies are focused on innovation in every product they release, they need to be careful to not focus too heavily on the features of a software or service alone. The VP of marketing works closely with engineering and product teams, leveraging market research and bringing sales considerations into the development process early to ensure product market fit. The marketing team can then drive demand for products that offer real solutions to consumers.

What a Modern-Day VP of Marketing Looks Like

The marketing function often plays three different roles in an organization, according to McKinsey:

  • Driving growth through partnerships with other functions (product, sales, technology)
  • Taking limited responsibility for customer experience and growth
  • Working independently and focusing primarily on marketing communications

More than 70% of high-growth companies take the first route, weaving marketing into the structural foundation of an organization. About half of top-performing marketers work in networked organizations where barriers are removed between business units. This requires the VP of marketing to meet more frequently with other leaders to build partnerships, collaborate and coordinate strategies, and work to improve customer experience.

Today’s marketing is all about responsiveness and being customer-centric in order to retain high value clients. The VP of marketing relies on data analytics to understand customer behavior, and machine learning and AI to personalize customer experiences and improve performance.

Whether your organization has more traditional marketing needs or an aggressive, growth-oriented approach, it's important to refine your executive search to reflect this role.

What Skills Does a VP of Marketing Need?

What should you look for during your executive search?

While every company has unique needs based on their stage, a typical VP of marketing should have in-depth marketing expertise. A VP of Marketing for a startup must have experience building from the ground up, while someone who joins a larger, more established company, will have access to more resources. Consider the candidate's knowledge of vendor management, brand management and positioning, digital marketing, SEO and omni-channel marketing, for example. The right person should also have demonstrated experience in developing and implementing marketing campaigns with proven results.  

This experience should be complemented by market research and data analytic skills to track performance, exploit market opportunities and scale growth. A VP of marketing also needs strong leadership abilities to manage and inspire a team, and exceptional interpersonal skills to collaborate across functions.

What's the Difference Between a CMO and VP of Marketing?

Some companies have both a chief marketing officer (CMO) and VP of marketing. Not all companies have two separate positions — it depends on the size and needs of the organization.

  • The CMO is a C-suite executive who reports to the CEO and ensures the marketing department reflects the company's overall goals and vision. This role is largely strategic and handles positioning, branding, market research and public relations.
  • The VP of marketing reports to the CMO and is responsible for implementation of the strategy. This position recommends marketing channels and tactics, recruits and hires staff and consultants, delegates tasks, and works closely with the team to ensure tactics are carried out. The role may also involve managing projects and budgets, and tracking performance.

The CMO and VP of marketing work in tandem to set goals for the department, analyze the market and competition, and fine-tune marketing efforts.

Build A Top-Tier Marketing Leadership Team

Marketing today is challenging no matter what business you're in. Multiple channels and messages are competing for consumer attention, creating a fragmented, oversaturated market, and competitors are aggressively leveraging technology to capture engagement. Every advancement in technology changes customer behaviors and expectations.

An agile and skilled VP of marketing can steer your company through this dynamic landscape, creating sharp and focused strategies to enhance your brand, solidify your customer base, and drive growth.

But finding the right fit for your company goes beyond ticking off boxes on a list. According to Harvard Business Review, knowledge and expertise alone isn't enough for a successful startup team — in fact, 60% of new ventures fail because a team doesn't work well together. In addition to experience, a team needs proactive, experimental individuals, with strong soft skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, who can develop and execute on a vision.

Whether you're managing a fast-growing company or looking to scale growth, Hunt Club can help you find a VP of marketing that has the right skills and vision to align with your business goals. Find out how our technology-powered recruiting network can help source and build your leadership team.

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