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Hiring a Marketing Leader: Targeting and Search Strategy

10 March 2020

For specialized marketing roles, defining “must-have” skills is always tougher than hiring managers expect. We recommend search strategies around relevant company “market maps” and being strategic about which levers you can pull to expand your candidate pool.

Once you’ve aligned on the profile and most crucial skills for a new marketing hire, it’s time to shift gears to targeting high quality, relevant candidates. (For more on defining your role, take a look at our first article in this series, Hiring a Marketing Leader: How to Scope the Role.)

For specialized marketing roles, this is always tougher than people expect.  Personal networks and inbound applicants to a job posting are natural starting points. But it’s easy to overestimate the size and relevance of personal networks and, in both cases, you risk not attracting the skills you need. LinkedIn is the typical next stop. But even with its massive reach, trying ad hoc searches on titles and keywords won’t pick up nuances around channels, business models, and company size and stage. These strategies have their place, but they’re typically not enough with highly competitive and specialized marketing roles that will require both nuanced targeting AND a large pipeline to get to your hire.

Marketing channels have continued to increase in complexity, causing marketers to specialize to remain current. This dynamic contributes to a more competitive talent pool with fewer resumes that match a company’s specific requirements. Here, conventional search methods just don’t cut it. Our experience navigating the recruiting needs of our clients has proven the value of casting a wider net, and doing so strategically. We offer the following suggestions to support a more robust and dynamic search strategy.

Orient Your Search Around Relevant Companies

At RevelOne, once we’ve defined a role profile, we ground our search around target companies. Anchoring on companies has a number of benefits:

This kind of comprehensive, company-based sourcing requires “market mapping” research, which typically leverages database like Crunchbase, Pitchbook, Datafox, or Mattermark. At RevelOne, we use both our own database of 55,000 marketers and proprietary company market maps we’ve built around key verticals (e-commerce, B2B Enterprise, SaaS) to support this process.

Identify your “bulls-eye” Segments

In thinking about your target company segments, start with a set of “bulls-eye” companies, where the marketing program is both relevant and known to be high quality. Your first targets are likely to be direct peer companies that do what you do, have the same general Go-to-Market strategy, and are of similar size and maturity. Ideally, the person running marketing is solving similar problems, and the teams they manage include individuals with the skills you seek. 

Think About What Levers to Adjust

You’ll need a strategy for venturing beyond your first bulls-eye segments. Within that already narrow target pool, you’re then choosing from the further subset of people who are interested in your company or vertical AND willing to make a move. If you’re talking about 100 candidates, with 20 are open to any move, and half of those interested in your company, you’re down to 10 possible candidates before you’ve spoken to anyone. 

You don’t want to lower the quality bar on non-negotiables like strategic or analytical thinking, overall marketing acumen, and culture fit, but you will need to be ready to adjust criteria around the specific company and channel experience.  To expand your candidate pool, you’ll need to prioritize which candidate characteristics you’re willing to shift next, including those describing both the company (e.g., industry, company size, stage, and culture) and the individual candidate (e.g., functional skills, level, and education). 

For example, if you’re an early-stage company hiring a product marketer for a highly specialized vertical, you might be willing to take a big company person from that same vertical rather than someone with hands-on startup experience. On the other hand, you might need an Acquisition specialist with deep Paid Social knowledge and finding expertise in that channel might matter more than matching your vertical. 

Managing a Finite Universe

This company-based methodology is also valuable in that it gives you a more concrete sense of the size of your talent market. Hiring managers are sometimes surprised to learn that once they’ve defined a highly specialized set of skills and a narrow group of relevant company experiences where they want to look, there may only be 125-200 people total in the market. Understanding those realities is critical to assessing when to make a decision and select from your candidate pool or adjust levers to expand the universe. Unfortunately, the alternative can be a long search that burns a lot of cycles and sets you back against your business goals.

Diversity & Inclusion

Another benefit of prioritizing levers in this way is that it can also support diversity and inclusion. The small pool of people who’ve done the exact same role in similar companies may reflect a traditional demographic profile as well. Thinking strategically about expanding levers to a broader set of experiences will expand your candidate pool, providing more opportunities to find great candidates from a more diverse range of gender, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. 

Our experience has demonstrated the value of casting a wider net. We hope that the suggestions outlined above enable you to amplify your search and identify the right potential candidates for your organization.

Good luck with your search, and let us know if RevelOne can help.

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