April 24, 2018

5 Ways to Attract and Retain Top Marketing Talent

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In the 2017 confidence index, Vistage members cited Talent Management as the greatest challenge for UK SMEs. Finding and retaining the best is no longer as simple as ‘pay well’. Talent wants meaningful work, they want support and perks, flexibility and autonomy. As the survey showed, business leaders are struggling to keep up with this new-look employee and their requirements.

While this is true of all staff, it’s perhaps more apparent at the senior level; how do you attract the C-level and Directors that will power significant change within a business?

While we can’t speak for everyone at the top table, The Marketing Centre does have a team of 80 proven part-time Marketing Directors with huge experience. So we put the question to them: What is the right message to attract top marketing talent to a business, and what are the red flags that would turn them off entirely

This is what they said.

1. Offer meaningful work, over money

The best marketing talent will be spoilt for choice when it comes to compensation, but an employer with clear values and a meaningful purpose is not so common. It’s a huge motivational draw for marketing talent, according to our directors, to find a business and business leader with a mission over and above simply - make a load of money.

The other side of this argument is that often marketing directors will want to help define and express this ambition to the wider world, and internally.

So while expert marketing directors are looking for something meaningful from businesses they work for, they also revel in the opportunity to help construct exactly what that message is. In short, you don’t need to have all the answers, you simply need to demonstrate a loftier goal than increased revenue.

Essentially, does the business want to make a difference, and does the business leader believe that marketing is an integral piece to reaching these goals? If so, you’re off to a good start.

2. Review your management style

Dictatorial management was a repeated red flag in our research. Top Marketing Directors want strong leadership from the business owner, but also autonomy to do their jobs.

Offering freedom in this way can be difficult for business owners that have built their business from the ground-up and have a preferred way of working. It can also be difficult for business leaders who see themselves as the ‘hero’ of the business - micromanaging every aspect of the company, without the expertise. Drafting in a Marketing Director will require collaboration and being open to new ideas.

Our own Marketing Directors indicated that a potentially impatient and uncompromising owner would prevent them doing their best work. Instead, they favour objective, reasonable management styles. If a business owner is a good listener, wants to change their business for the better, and understands the value of effective marketing, so much the better. It’s a question of trust, and the more trust you can put into your senior level marketing director, the better their work will be.

3. Be honest about your challenges

An ambitious Marketing Director won’t run away from a challenge. In fact, our survey showed the opposite - the excitement of a challenge is a draw for our team.

A business lacking systems, processes or an adequate marketing team offers a juicy opportunity for a senior marketer to make their mark.

An unfamiliarity with the marketing function isn’t necessarily bad, either. Don’t let the fear of ‘not knowing enough’ stop you from being honest with a potential marketing recruit. Don’t try to conceal your lack of understanding through a faux self confidence.

Being candid is always the best option. You don’t even need to explicitly define or understand the problem, either. A Marketing Director will be able to come into your business and identify what’s missing - after all, that’s the job you’re hiring them to do.

4. Embrace the long term

There are no magic wands, and there is not a single communications tools that will change your business entirely. Somewhere along the line, however, marketing communications became the be all and end all in the mind of business leaders. They see viral tweets and videos and decide ‘we want some of that’. Be absolutely clear, great marketing is the result of solid foundations, the 4 P’s of marketing, not a flash in the pan, short-term campaign. You need to decide if you want real marketing or just pretty pictures.

Few things are less attractive to marketing talent than a business leader who wants marketing to provide instant, viral success. Preconceived notions of ‘quick wins’ and silver bullets do not help a marketing operation will thrive.

Unreasonable expectations are another major red flag. Letting these go and arriving at more appropriate targets starts with dialogue. Speak to the Marketing Director about what’s realistic and then find out what resource is needed to achieve it.

You want results, of course - but they will take time to be achieved. If you are not prepared to take a long term view you won't get the marketing talent you need.

5. Be willing to invest (time and money)

To be clear, ‘what’s my budget?’ should never be the first question a marketing director asks in an interview situation. If it is, show them the door quickly. However, marketing is not a siloed activity, it operates as an integral part of the business and it will require investment.

No Marketing Director, no matter how talented, will be able to achieve their objectives without proper support. And investment isn’t just monetary; your Marketing Director also needs investment in the form of your time and trust in their ability.

Getting director-level talent means being committed to growth, and how you will help them achieve those goals.

Top marketing talent won’t expect - or necessarily want - you to have a fully functioning marketing strategy in place already. However, they will require you to provide the necessary resources to help build the strategy, and then execute it.

You don’t need good marketing to attract marketing talent. In fact, the challenge of revolutionising a company’s marketing is a juicy prospect. You do need to be open to new ideas. When you draft in big talent, it means surrendering some control, and understanding the limits of your own expertise.

Ultimately, if your Marketing Director thrives, your business will too!

If you haven’t started planning your marketing budget for next year, the time is now. Here are seven things you need to consider.


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