How to Attract and Retain Great Marketing Leadership for Your Technology Business
By Tom Pearce, Director of Marketing, based in Zeren‘s London Office.
It has been reported that Marketing teams typically have the highest turnover in comparison to any other team within an organisation. In fact, it’s well documented that CMOs have the shortest tenure in the entire C-suite. In 2020, the average tenure of a CMO in the Technology industry was 3 years when, in comparison, CEOs stayed for twice that length. It’s an eye-opening statistic and, with these changes happening right at the top of the ladder, there’s no surprise that subsequent reporting lines also move on quickly.
There are a few factors that impact the tenure and success of a Marketing team, unlike other core business functions:
1. Lack of Understanding and Misalignment With Expectations.
There can sometimes be serious misalignment with what the Founder/CEO and the Marketing Lead feel are realistic time-frames for delivering marketing results; how much it costs and what the view of success is. This breaks down communication, trust, accountability and can lead to the limiting of resources, willingness and belief in the business, resulting in failure and exit.
A lot of what Marketing is responsible for and is tasked with, is building a brand’s reputation or affiliation with its product or service. Sometimes, Marketing must focus on the feelings and perception of a business and, naturally, this can divide opinions as it can be subjective as to where the results originated from. To add to this, unlike Product, Finance or Tech teams, Marketing will usually sit within the Commercial/Sales team. Sometimes, even having direct revenue targets, alongside Sales, it can at times be hard to track and attribute as to what the effective cause of its outcomes are; for example, for things like increasing sales and inbound leads or a loyal customer base. This is especially the case for non-digital activity.
It’s critically important that you and whoever you are looking to hire to lead your Marketing efforts are both on the same page. Set the expectations from both parties early on, ensuring that you are both firmly aligned on the vision, and go into detail about what the plan is, the time-frame for delivering certain projects, potential costings and what can be done within your budget. It’s important to cover all the worst-case scenarios and ‘what ifs’ for if things don’t go to plan.
2. “I Need Someone Across It All. Someone That Does Everything.”
As Recruiters, we are often asked to search for a CMO/VP Marketing who can do it all. Someone who is an expert visionary, a strategic creative thinker, a digital marketer, has a growth mindset, is data-driven, is hands-on with campaigns and technology, is a people leader with deep product knowledge, and has the ability to sell. The list goes on.
How can anyone seriously be an expert across all these things, and be successful? It’s simply not realistic. Just as when you hire for your C-Suite, you bring in expertise to focus on the areas that may be your weak points, or that you simply don’t have the capacity to cover. Focus on your current challenges and find someone who can best lead this area. A good leader will be able to direct you and help prioritise these things, but you can’t expect them to have full hands-on responsibilities across all areas. Marketing is an incredibly broad discipline, and it will likely take a whole functioning team or external agency to deploy all strategies across the entire funnel. Allow them to guide you and support you on the things you need. After all, you are hiring the expert, so take their advice.
3. Trust In the Expert You are Hiring.
Nowadays, everyone can claim they are some sort of a Marketer with a differing opinion on what works and what doesn’t. However, Marketing is broad and complex, and it’s simply not just social media, buying leads or ad space. A good leader should not only have a broadened skill-set and creativity, but also the mindset and personality to challenge and drive change; having a new perspective and approach to things within Marketing – alongside also other departments – and having an influence on the brand/product.
Marketing practices are forever evolving, and the daily responsibilities of a Marketing Leader have changed and will continue to change with more complexities around data, technology and automation. When hiring, you need to demonstrate an appreciation for Marketing and the role that Marketing plays within your organisation, and that having the responsibility of a function that is constantly changing may have some bumps along the way. They may need to try and test new things – and potentially fail a few times – until things go the way you, or they, are wanting. You will also need to demonstrate that your workforce is fully receptive to Marketing and the changes they are trying to make. Ensure your Sales, Customer Service, Product and Finance teams are all aligned with their goals and vision, and see the value-add.
Set your leader up for success and ensure consistency in the messaging across the business. If there are concerns around investment or a general lack of appreciation for Marketing, your team won’t stick around for obvious reasons, and, when trying to acquire the best talent, they will see it from a mile away.
If you are struggling to fully understand what Marketing can bring to your business through lack of knowledge or understanding, learn from the talent you are meeting. Candidates we work with are more than willing to display their experiences and knowledge of transforming Marketing teams, and demonstrate what they could bring to yours. Trust in the experts. If the feedback you are receiving is that you are looking for something that simply doesn’t exist in one person, be willing to carve-out expertise across a team, or empower them to do that for you, or use external resources.
4. Concerns of Tenure and ‘Jumpiness’ on CVs.
Referring back to the starting point of this article, CMOs and VPs may sometimes not stick around for long. You need to be mindful that this isn’t necessarily just them wanting a change or fancying a move, but that it can be resultant from a multitude of factors outside of their control. Being open-minded is the recommendation here. Don’t dismiss seeing someone purely based on their CV. If their experience aligns, and they can allow you to fully understand the whole picture of what happened and why it didn’t work, see this as an opportunity to learn and make your environment attractive to any Marketer considering joining. Look for trends and try to spot where potential downfalls of other businesses have been, in their experience, and try to resolve this by building a plan to make the individual interviewing feel fully appreciated.
As is noted in various blogs and interviews across the internet, it’s a common feeling that Marketing teams can sometimes feel that their roles are misunderstood, and that the organisation doesn’t fully appreciate the efforts of Marketing. It’s likely that this plays a significant reason as to why, ultimately, the tenure rates of Marketeers are lower than any department in the Tech space.
5. B2B and B2C.
B2B and B2C Marketing have different processes and outcomes. However, sometimes, we can be tasked with finding someone from a B2C background to join a B2B business, and vice-versa. This is usually where the business has a B2B2C model. There are a few important factors to consider when doing this. Usually, B2B Marketers will have smaller annual budgets in comparison to B2C and, when launching a new product, a lot of the Marketing efforts will be across content, and working closely with sales to drive MQLs. In comparison, B2C Marketers will have very large annual budgets where they will typically invest multi-millions of pounds in paid ads, scaling the brand across performance channels such as search, social and other display channels.
When hiring a B2C Marketer to do B2B Marketing, you’ll need to be mindful that they will likely need to up-skill on differing sales cycles (which are likely longer), and how to work with internal functions across BDRs and Sales teams. In comparison, a B2B Marketer going to a B2C company will likely need to handle much larger budgets for paid ads, and ensure supply and distribution is aligned to their campaigns. There are different challenges for each market around how to engage, acquire and retain customers.
These are simple but, I believe, effective ways of knowing how to attract Marketing talent and retain your teams:
- Ensure you set off on the right-foot with expectations, and go into the details of the plan, both good and bad, understanding what could go wrong and, if it does, then what happens?
- Enable creative thinking and allow your Marketing Leader to try and test new things without fear of failure.
- Ensure all teams are aligned and are given the opportunity to understand the value-add of Marketing.
- Be realistic with the role and what you need.
- Trust. This works both ways.
- Give whoever you are thinking about hiring the opportunity to sell their experiences and value proposition; don’t consider them purely based on tenure.
Please reach out if you’d like to discuss any of the topics covered in this article – I’d love to chat: email@example.com.
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