Happy fall. Here’s your latest dispatch from the land of executive search for CMOs and VPs of Marketing in B2B SaaS companies.
How’s the market? Is recruiting different these days?
Executive search is obviously not quite as gangbusters as it was the last few years, when companies were regularly offering to pay 2x in recruiting fees. However, there is still plenty of hiring.
Here’s a breakdown of what I’m observing.
On the client side…
Selective Decision-Making: Clients are being discerning, and are taking their time to make hires that minimize risk. They’re involving colleagues outside marketing in hiring decisions to ensure they find just the right fit. Of course, this caution is not new: In executive search, it is always a game of finding someone with ’11 out of 10 requirements.’
Alignment on expectations: Clients are not just talking with candidates about WHAT needs to happen in marketing. They are doing better at also mapping out with candidates HOW LONG it will take to see results from new marketing initiatives. I’m happy about this, since mis-alignment in expectations is a big factor in CMO turnover.
On the candidate side…
Candidate landscape: You would think recruiting would be easier these days, what with all the strong people on the market. But many candidates who are gainfully employed are tough to dislodge. They fear going to a new place and being ‘last in, first out.’ As ever, the best candidates are supremely choose-y, with specific criteria they are holding out for.
Benefits of being in career transition: For candidates who are in between roles, there is nowhere near as much stigma these days to being in transition. (Unless the candidate has a slew of short tenures — in which case clients can doubt the candidate’s decision-making abilities.)
Also, candidates who are in between roles often have an edge in searches, since they can put in the time to prepare well for interviews and presentations.
Unprecedented preparedness: Speaking of which, I’ve never in my 12 years of executive search seen candidates so prepared! Even on the first call with me, which is more of a ‘get to know you’ than a formal interview, many candidates show up having researched the company in depth, complete with Glassdoor reviews, product reviews on G2 and other sites, and technical reviews of the website. Impressive.
Trends I’m seeing…
CMOs working for CMOs: I’ve recently done several searches where my client is the CMO of a company of some decent scale (like $200MM or $500MM in ARR) and I am helping them find VP level talent. Often their wish list includes ‘someone who has led all of marketing before’ – primarily since that is a great way to link impact in one area of marketing to other areas.
Many of these VP roles at bigger companies are, of course, just as meaty as CMO roles in smaller companies. The value prop for these candidates? Join a company with more stability, learn from a proven CMO, avoid the feared 18 month shelf life of the CMO spot, and have a satisfying ratio of DOING to EDUCATING.
When presented with these roles, candidates who were previously pointed at top marketing spot have a big moment of reflection. As a candidate said to me recently, “I’m SUPPOSED to want to be a CMO, but I am not sure I actually want that path.”
Non-Marketers in Marketing: Some CMOs are bringing non-marketers into their teams, including strategy and ops professionals. These versatile individuals contribute to areas like insights, analytics, budgeting, strategic planning, and more. They can be an image enhancer in places where marketing has had a reputation for performing poorly.
Fueling GTM strategy, not just executing it: I’ve been saying for years that the best candidates think ‘business first, marketing second.’ But that is not going far enough today. Today’s best candidates think of overall business goals first, then marketing strategy and execution, and then feed the insights from that execution back into overall GTM strategy. They think in a sequence of: Why–> what –> so what –> now what
Surprisingly, that thinking can be rare.
Evolution of Demand Gen: Demand generation roles are expanding into broader positions with titles like “Growth Marketing” or “Revenue Marketing.” This shift reflects the growing emphasis on not just creating demand, but capturing it and expanding it, whether in a sales-led or product-led growth motion.
And a pupdate…
The pups are super! Well, the neighbors may not have thought so at 3 am last night when they both started singing and woofing. If you have advice on how to walk two very excitable dogs at the same time, I am, like my doggies, all ears.