August 08, 2005
How To

Behind-the-Scenes With a Top Marketing Headhunter: What CEOs Are Looking For

SUMMARY: Top marketers stay in their jobs 18-24 months on average (depending on the industry). Some get fired, others are headhunted away. Whether you've got a top marketing slot to fill or you're looking to move, check out our exclusive insider interview with marketing headhunter Harry Joiner. Includes a list of the top five marketing skills in demand now, tips on pleasing ROI-driven CEOs, how to spot duds in the resume pile and why your blog may be dangerous for your career.
"Soft skills are out. Hard, analytical skills are in," says Harry Joiner, author of the popular blog. "This is a turbulent time for marketing VPs. There's a growing mentality among CEOs that 'there's nothing as devastating to an opinion as a number.'"

In his role as executive recruiter, Joiner talks with CEOs, CMOs and marketing VPs across America to discover who they want to hire, who's about to be fired and who's yearning to switch jobs. We interviewed him to get the inside scoop.

Marketing skills in red-hot demand now

The hard, functional skills that are increasingly important are also often hard to find, Joiner says. Some examples of hot skills:

o Niche market development

This includes knowing how to research and identify them. Reliable niche market research breeds an understanding between the marketer and different customer subcultures. When marketers don't have these skills, they can't discover how customers make purchase decisions.

o Analytical bias

Marketing managers who don't have an analytical bias and a multichannel orientation are at a disadvantage, Joiner says. The ability to accurately analyze campaigns can make or break a marketer.

o Classic direct marketing skills

As marketing skews toward new media, long praised for its "accountability," marketers with traditional direct marketing experience are in strong demand because they have been trained in catalog merchandising, list selection, copywriting, campaign analytics -- all skills necessary for success in new media. "Even in B-to-B," says Joiner.

o Search marketing

Seems like everyone on both agency-side and client-side is searching for "experts" in search optimization and PPC ads. Problem is, this estimated $4.5 billion marketplace barely existed a few years ago, so there aren't that many experienced marketers out there yet. Most of the old-time experts are running their own shops helping clients who can't find anyone to handle this in-house. You may need to lower your expectations about experience requirements, and instead hire an intelligent marketer who loves numbers and copy, and who's a proven fast-learner.

o Humility

Yes, it's a "soft" skill, but in a changing marketplace, Joiner says the most successful marketers are "channel agnostic," which, he says, requires humility.

Finding good marketers (and keeping them happy)

If you've got a great marketer on your team, especially one with those in-demand skills, you don't want them to jump ship. We asked Joiner how you can pick the best marketers and keep them so happy they don't jump to return headhunters' phone calls. Joiner's advice:

o Use the EAR technique

To avoid hiring a marketer who sounds great but turns out to have been "carried" by his previous team, choose an item on the resume and ask for examples, action, and results.

If the resume says the candidate increased white paper downloads by 1700 percent in a 12-month period, ask for concrete examples of how that happened. "The devil is in the details. If the candidate stumbles or sounds like they're inventing the answer as they say it, then in all likelihood they are trying to take 100 percent of the credit for something they only had 20 percent of the responsibility for."

o Offer more than money

"Working strictly for money is like being married for money," says Joiner. "Not a good idea. A-players want to hear a compelling story about a career opportunity that addresses the three F's: fun, future and finance," Joiner says.

And when Joiner uses the word "story," he means it. Tell a story about the future, in which the candidate is the hero. "The story needs to be fact-based and address how the candidate can contribute something lasting and meaningful to the client's business, now and in the future."

o Marketers enjoy growth

Truly authentic marketers find growth life-affirming. If your company's management team and corporate culture celebrate successes related to improving plant efficiencies or negotiating a cheaper line of credit more than they would celebrate an increase in market share in an important category, "Your marketing department might get picked off by someone like me."

Joiner mentions a client who told him that he wanted to leave his company of six years because he wasn't sure if he had gotten six years' experience once, or three years' experience twice.

Pleasing your CEO in the age of accountability

We also asked Joiner for his insights into the other side. How can you make your CEO so happy that he or she doesn't call in the headhunters to replace you?

His advice: CEOs require more accountability from their CMOs lately, which can be a challenge for marketers when analytics budgets are in short supply. But don't feel threatened by the need to prove effectiveness. The simple solution is communication.

Yes, a CMO is and should be accountable, but success should be accurately defined based on "customer-centric forethought," Joiner says, not on ROI from a single campaign.

A CMO and CEO should begin by looking at the company's plans for expansion, perhaps based on the four traditional areas of growth. Selling: old products to old customers; new products to old customers; old products to new customers; new products to new customers.

The CMO's performance should be measured in the area in which the company expects to focus on. CEOs should look at marketing hires in terms of 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 180-day, and 360-day benchmarks. They should define success metrics that are relevant, objective, measurable and controllable for each of those time periods.

Leading and lagging indicators of success should be developed to measure performance. For example, a software company's leading indicator might be "Number of white papers downloaded" or "Number of demos given." A lagging indicator might be "Growth in operating revenue."

"Naturally, lagging indicators are less controllable by the marketer than leading indicators, but it still pays to track them wherever possible."

Building a better resume (and landing a better job)

Ok, you're a fabulous marketer and there's just no room for growth in your current position. How can you market yourself for the next step?

Joiner notes your resume is a direct marketing piece, and as with any such piece, the tighter the message-to-market match, the better response rate you'll get. Try these three steps:

o Step #1. Define your specialty

"It's always better to have a small circle of competence that's sharply defined than one that's big and fuzzy," Joiner says. For example: "If your specialty is selling new products to new customers, then your resume should quantify your accomplishments in product development, niche market penetration, business development and so on."

o Step #2. Build an information-rich target company list

Then, edit your resume so it resonates to the needs, fears, frustrations and values of the company. Quantify your historical accomplishments that matter most to that particular reader.

o Step #3. Know your reader

Target the hiring manager, not HR, says Joiner. "HR people care only about submitting high quality resumes to hiring managers. Therefore, HR people care about keyword density for the targeted skills, upward trajectory in a career path, titles, company names and so forth." On the other hand, hiring managers care what you can do to help them deal with their weaknesses and cope with the threats facing the business.

Three more tips:

o Tip #1. Blogs can hurt

Blogs are useful in establishing credibility, but don't launch one unless you intend to do it right. That means having an editorial platform: know how your target readers think, what they fear and where their frustrations lie. Have a plan on how each blog post will help them in their daily struggles.

Every post should offer a concrete take-away.

"Understand that getting Googled is a normal part of the client's due diligence process these days," Joiner says. "A blog post today about last night's drunken bender might well get thrown in your lap in a job interview two years from now."

o Tip #2. Two layers of references

Clients are checking references thoroughly these days, says Joiner, even asking for secondary references. "This means that, at random, they ask the first layer of references, 'Who do you know who also worked with this candidate? We'd like to speak with them, too.'" Thus, there's no way to control "spin" about your work. "The truth comes out for sure."

o Tip #3. MBAs matter ... sometimes

An MBA remains a union card in some industries like banking and consulting, Joiner says. "Beyond that, clients like the credential, but the key differentiator is accomplishment on the job."

Useful links related to this article

Joiner's Blog

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