Three Keys to Hiring Your Next VP of Marketing

The VP of Marketing is a notoriously difficult hire for organizations to make, but remains a critically important one.

A Functionally-New Discipline

B2B Marketing has become much more consumer-oriented, content-focused, data-driven, and growth-led over the past decade, so there is a limited talent pool that has significant experience in this functionally-new discipline. Marketing teams also tend to be smaller and highly-specialized, further limiting the number of people who have broad experience across marketing domains. There are more organizations looking for a VP of Marketing than there are qualified candidates.

Here are the top three things to consider when hiring your next VP of Marketing:

1. Determine the Domains of the Role

Marketing is a very broad field which includes the domains of brand marketing, product marketing, and demand generation. No candidate will be exceptional in all of these domains. Your organization has specific marketing needs that have to be fulfilled by the new VP of Marketing. The success of your new VP of Marketing will be measured by their capability to meet these specific organizational needs. When searching for your next VP of Marketing, determine the specific priorities of the role and then align stakeholders on these priorities. You will need to determine if you are hiring a brand marketer, a product marketer, a demand generation marketer or someone that will balance all of these. 



2. Balance the Domains of the Role

Many VP of Marketing roles require some balance of brand, product and demand generation responsibilities. If this is the case for you then you will have to choose the relative priority of these three domains and determine how a successful candidate will balance the needs of the role. People strong in brand marketing are strong at creating emotional purpose along with effective and consistent communications that connect with and engage target audiences. They are usually the feeling people. People who are strong in product marketing are also strong at communications, but are focused on how a product specifically solves a prospect’s pain points. They are feeling + fact people. People who are strong at demand generation take the output from product marketing and deliver efforts that convert into leads or sales. They are facts + operational people. If you need to create a strong position in your target category, then you likely need a VP of Marketing that brings strong brand marketing expertise. If your organization needs help learning how to sell, determining product and market fit, and creating consumer case studies, then your organization likely needs a VP of Marketing who brings product marketing expertise. If your organization is competent at brand marketing and product marketing, then your organization may need a VP of Marketing who brings elite expertise in demand generation. People who are strong in demand generation are exceptional at lead qualification and can develop effective flows for lead nurturing. 



3. Executive Team Fit

All the skills in the world won’t overcome poor organizational fit. Where unproductive friction is most dangerous is at the leadership level. Typically, the two relationships that go wrong for the VP of Marketing is the relationship with the CEO and the relationship with the sales leader. Depending on the organization a CEO may or may not be very involved in marketing. The CEO may want one of three types of personalities in the role. The CEO may want a driver – a person that makes decisions mostly autonomously and is completely accountable for those decisions. The CEO may want a navigator. A navigator is a trusted advisor but makes considerably less autonomous decisions  than a driver. The CEO may want a passenger. A passenger makes few truly autonomous decisions and is less focused on strategy and more focused on execution. Understanding if you are hiring a driver, navigator or passenger is massively important in getting the hire right. 

 The relationship between the VP of Marketing and the VP of Sales is also very important. Strained relationships between these two leaders are very common. Hiring a VP of Marketing with a history of healthy relationships with sales is critical. Of course, this is a two way street. Your sales leader must do their part as well. 

Final Thoughts

Your next VP of Marketing is an enormously important hire for your organization, and it’s critically important to place the right person in that role. When hiring your next VP of Marketing, be sure to align stakeholders on the domains of the role, balance the balance the domains of the role in accordance with organizational needs, and determine how the right person will fit with the executive team.

Written by Mark Whitman

Mark Whitman is the founder of TeamBuilder Search. Mark’s mission is to help clients recruit the top five percent of digital marketing executives, taking great satisfaction in helping clients out-recruit their competition. In the process of fulfilling his mission, he takes great care to help digital marketing leaders elevate their careers. People say Mark owns a recruiting and staffing company. He says he owns a life improvement company. To learn more about Mark visit our Leadership page.
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