This time of year, I have a lot of conversations about what’s up with executive search in marketing. What’s the market like? How are CEO perceptions of their marketing leaders shifting? How gettable are top candidates? What new roles are emerging?
Here’s a collection of what I think we’ll be seeing a lot of over the next several months. Some of these themes come from me, and some from my trusted pals in marketing leadership.
1. The companies that are hiring now – and there are many! – skew high on quality. They are the ones focused on major moonshots and long-term innovations – not on temporary uncertainty.
2. Many candidates are cautious about making a move, citing Covid stress on the professional and personal front. The flip side: the candidates that ARE exploring a new role tend to skew towards the innovative, bold, long-term thinking variety.
3. Recruiting regardless of location sounds easier, but is often harder in practice. More geographic optionality can beget optimization behavior – looking for JUST the right person — rather than ‘satisficing’ behavior.
4. There is a greater demand for industry-specific experience in CMOs, as marketing continues its evolution from sales supporter to strategy setter.
5. Roles that “put the market back into marketing” are ascendant. Often, a company expands into new markets faster than its marketing org chart can keep up. For instance, I recently worked on a VP of Solutions Marketing search, a role with explicit commercial responsibility for market expansion and success. Surprisingly, while many B2B companies need this role, few have it.
6. We will see two competing archetypes duking it out at the finish line of marketing leadership searches: GM-types versus marketing expert types. There’s increasing interest in marketing leaders who think like GMs, and are comfortable owning a number. Some of the most compelling candidates for marketing leadership jobs have experience outside of marketing – as product owners, category managers, or entrepreneurs. I anticipate that we’ll see ‘wild card’ candidates for senior marketing roles — whose most compelling experience is paradoxically OUTSIDE of marketing – competing against career marketers who have carefully developed a depth and breadth of experience within marketing.
7. … And there are many planful ‘CMOs in waiting.’ I used to see a lot of people barreling into the CMO role even before they were ready – it can be a badge of honor to operate ahead of one’s skis. But now I am also seeing more and more candidates who are taking a planful and deliberate ascent, steadily building skills across the marketing spectrum, with an eye to eventually becoming a CMO.
8. Diversity initiatives are going from sporadic to systematic. With that, there is more insistence in having diversity in the slate of candidates. I also think we’ll see the top companies shaping roles to the top candidates, as opposed to endlessly seeking the candidate that lines up perfectly to the role as it is originally defined.
9. The fight to end finger-pointing between marketing and sales continues, as a combined ‘revenue’ front takes shape. Some companies are measuring ‘revenue ROI’ rather than marketing ROI. And I recently heard from one company where product marketing reports into revenue enablement. Go figure. And of course, we have all been seeing ‘revenue operations’ roles supplant sales ops or marketing ops.