If your business is growing, you’ll likely reach the point where you realize you need dedicated marketing leadership. You are undoubtedly familiar with terms like Marketing Director or CMO, but may have little idea what these people actually do: what are their specific responsibilities and deliverables? And you may have no idea how to go about hiring someone for your company, including how to create the job description, what expectations to set, what questions to ask in the interview, and what qualities to look for.
Marketing leadership can be critical to the success of your business, but in order to find the right person — and not make a costly mistake — you need to understand the role. In this guide I’ll set you up for success: You will find answers to the questions you have now, as well as answers to questions you didn’t know you needed to ask. You’ll gain a clear understanding of the marketing leadership role in your organization, the attributes to look for in a candidate, and tips for how to hire the right person. But first, let’s run through exactly what this person will bring to your organization.
What Is a Marketing Director?
First, let’s define our terms. For any kind of head of marketing, you’ve probably come across a variety of terms: Director of Marketing, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Head of Marketing and Partnerships, etc. Regardless of the title, we are referring to the person leading an organization’s marketing strategy and marketing team.
If an organization has a complete C-suite (CEO, CFO, etc), then it makes sense that their marketing leader will be called the CMO. At the enterprise level, this CMO may have one or more Marketing Directors working under them. In this arrangement, the CMO’s role will be largely strategic, and the Marketing Directors will oversee the execution of that strategy by various marketing teams. These could include teams dedicated to inbound and outbound marketing, social media, SEO, etc.
However, many small and mid-sized companies don’t have a C-suite or use that terminology, so the person leading the marketing is often given the title of Marketing Director, Director of Marketing, or Head of Marketing. They will lead the organization’s marketing and cover the same strategic responsibilities as the CMO at a larger firm.
For the rest of this guide, I’ll use the term Marketing Director to represent this role — the highest-level marketing position in an organization. Regardless of the title used, it’s these leadership and strategy responsibilities that are critically important to the success of any business.
Signs You Need a Marketing Director
If you’re looking to replace an existing marketing leadership position at your company, you already know the importance of the role. But if this is your first time hiring a marketing leader, you may be questioning if it’s really necessary. After all, you’ll be adding a new and relatively expensive headcount to your business.
But be aware that if you haven’t had a strong, dedicated marketing leader, you likely haven’t been getting the maximum return on any marketing investments you have made. Lack of marketing leadership is one of the most common mistakes that small and medium-sized businesses make. Conversely, strong marketing leadership will pay for itself many times over in increased growth.
Here are three scenarios which should indicate that now is the time for your company to create a marketing leadership role and hire your first Marketing Director:
The headless team
The evolution of digital marketing has brought fresh and exciting opportunities for growth, but with it come new challenges and demands. Marketing has become highly collaborative between specialists such as creative and technical producers, media-channel managers, and SEO experts. What these experts typically cannot do from their silos is assume a leadership role when none is provided. Guiding these people and teams and keeping everyone coordinated are critical to efficiency and effectiveness. Your Marketing Director will provide this leadership, which is essential for success.
Lack of strategy and the risk of reactionary marketing
Companies without strong marketing leadership tend to chase trends and play catch up to better prepared competitors — one of the most common paths to failure. They often pour money into campaigns that do not accurately represent their unique selling propositions (USPs) or target the appropriate customers. A Marketing Director will create strategy for your business growth based on market research and predictive/proactive initiatives. This means you will be able to anticipate customer needs as they evolve, and have campaigns ready to offer the products or services they are looking for.
Overreliance on outsiders
Many marketing tasks can be outsourced to agencies and freelancers, including web design and development, copywriting, and SEO analytics. Agencies deliver value because they provide on-demand access to specialists that it would be impractical for smaller firms to hire internally. Indeed, even companies with an in-house Marketing Director use contractors occasionally or regularly.
However, this approach is only effective if you know exactly what you need from a strategic point of view. This of course relates to the risks of the headless team and lack of strategy described above, but there is more to it.
Specifically, the issue is the nature of today’s customers. Customers today are skeptical, do a lot of research, have a lot of options, and often require a lot of attention before making their purchasing decisions. This means that your marketing content needs to be highly targeted and convey your specific attributes to your specific target audience.
This sort of customized messaging is very difficult for the neutral outsiders at agencies, who are balancing tasks for multiple clients, to create. Instead, it needs to come from people inside your company, with intimate knowledge of your USPs, strengths and weaknesses, and competitive environment. Unfortunately, most agencies provide standardized services that fit a broad range of business messaging. A Marketing Director will research and define these attributes of your company and provide guidance to the outsourced producers. This will ensure you receive ROI on any money spent on contractors.
Responsibilities of a Marketing Director
What does a Marketing Director do? A Marketing Director’s responsibilities include the following:
- Leads the marketing strategy and takes ownership/accountability of the results
- Manages the brand identity
- Manages the marketing team
- Establishes and nurtures partnerships
- Allocates the marketing budget
In business, the only constant is change. Trends appear, new technologies disrupt the status quo, and new competitors enter the market; any of these can reduce a successful business’s market share, revenues, and growth.
The primary role then of a Marketing Director is to create strategies for mitigating these risks and growing your business through short and long term marketing initiatives. To prepare for this, they will clarify the fundamentals, such as defining your target market and customer personas, their pain points, desires, and how best to appeal to them. They will analyze various channels to identify which will deliver the best lead acquisition, conversion, and ROI for your business. Finally, they’ll oversee messaging to customers to ensure campaigns are targeted and gain results.
On the admin side, your Marketing Director will handle budget- and goal-setting, prioritization, and performance monitoring. They will manage your marketing team (or first help you create one), and they will be in constant communication with all areas of company leadership to ensure everyone is working toward a common goal.
What Makes a Good Marketing Director
To succeed in this role, it’s absolutely critical to have experience. A good Marketing Director or CMO will have at least 10 years of experience, a demonstrable history of successful outcomes, and strong leadership abilities. Competence is essential, because they will be in close contact with the other competent people in your leadership team. Furthermore, they will have ownership and accountability over your company’s growth. This includes control of your marketing budget and the authority to make decisions like vendor selection and the hiring and firing of marketing team members.
Here are six more specific traits that define a quality Marketing Director:
The role of Marketing Director should be transformational, not operational. Of course, their vision needs to align with that of your business and with the principles and goals of the other team members. But your marketing leader also has to be visionary —- they must be able to form their own vision when it comes to marketing, and bring these new ideas and approaches to your firm. The Marketing Director must be able to fill their own visionary space within your organization, rather than following leadership. They should act as an agent of change.
You can’t be a leader if no one follows, and a Marketing Director is only as good as the team they lead. This person must be able to find and hire highly competent individuals who have skills that go beyond their own. They must have the ability to evaluate the team, give constructive feedback, and empower them beyond what they think they are capable of. This requires decisiveness and a delicate balance of providing guidance without clipping anyone’s wings.
For anyone in marketing, good communication is essential to make the value propositions clear to the target audience. But communication skill is also critical internally, as the Marketing Director must motivate and get buy-in from their team and other employees in the company. When it comes time to interview candidates for your marketing leadership position, pay extra attention to their ability to convey complex information clearly and concisely, and craft interview questions specifically designed to test their communication skills.
Analytical and creative
Much like a business owner or entrepreneur, a Marketing Director must have a breadth of knowledge and ability, and be able to shift between sometimes opposing mindsets and approaches. While it’s quite rare for individuals to be both analytical and creative, Marketing Directors have to crunch data but also frequently develop and evaluate creative ideas. They need to have a high-level, big-picture perspective but also be detail oriented. And they need to know enough to be able to ask the right questions and hire highly talented people with specialized skills.
Your Marketing Director has to be flexible and able to change direction if the situation demands. Modern marketing is a science of constant evaluation and reassessment, looking at what works and how to make it even better, and what doesn’t work and how to replace it. It’s constant incremental improvement. They must be able to not only survive, but thrive in an ever-changing and competitive environment.
That ever-changing competitive environment means marketing mediums change, customers change, and society changes. The Marketing Director can’t be locked into a mindset, relying on existing approaches and strategies. They must stay attuned to these changes so they can learn and adapt, while also avoiding short-lived trends that won’t help your business grow. They need the humility to know they can’t know everything and that there’s always something new to learn.
Marketing Director Salaries
Effective marketing is critical for the success of any business. It’s how you attract customers to your products, services, and brand. You could have the most amazing operational team, but without marketing, they won’t have customers to serve because no one will be able to find them amongst all the marketplace noise.
As we’ve seen, marketing leadership is essential. Without the right leader with the right skill set, it’s easy to miss out on the benefits of marketing. Marketing leaders do not come cheap, so it’s important to know the realistic compensation ranges required to attract the right person to your business.
Here are some typical salary ranges including bonuses in the US, Australia, and the UK. I’ve included both Marketing Director and CMO, since larger organizations usually classify the marketing leader role as a CMO and SMBs usually classify them as a Marketing Director. Larger companies with a CMO often hire less expensive Marketing Directors under the CMO, so this can skew the numbers lower. Therefore, it’s good to use both salary ranges as references; you might find that a realistic salary is somewhere in between.
US (USD) 1
Australia (AUD) 2
UK (GBP) 3
$88k – $197k (median $148k)
$115k – $250k (median $143k)
£77k – £139k (median £107k)
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
$103k – $279k (median $178k)
$146k – $283k (median $195k)
£103k – £164k (median £136k)
1 – 2022 data from glassdoor.com
2 – 2022 data from au.talent.com
These salary ranges will of course vary depending on region and industry, but they should give you a starting point. If the above amounts seem out of reach, you could consider hiring someone on a part-time basis to fill the role. This type of role is frequently called a Virtual Marketing Director or Fractional CMO.
Marketing Director Job Description
Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to create an accurate and appealing Marketing Director JD.
What to include
If you’ve made the wise decision to invest in expert marketing leadership for your business, it’s time to start recruiting. You will need to create a job description that accurately conveys what you are offering and what you require. Make sure your job description explains the present position of your company (size, age), what you’re aiming to achieve, and what you expect from the new person in the role.
Include lists of both must-haves and nice-to-haves. For instance, if there are nonnegotiables like mandatory qualifications or minimum years of experience, make them very clear. Include information such as if you have an existing marketing team that your new Marketing Director will be taking over, or if they’ll be responsible for building the team from scratch.
What to avoid
Flawed job descriptions are common on recruiting sites, and they can repel desirable candidates and attract the wrong people. Resist the urge to demand too much, searching for an all-in-one marketing unicorn. Remember, this will be the leader of your marketing team. They’ll manage a team of specialists, either outsourced or in house. They’ll also guide your company’s growth strategies. If your job description includes responsibilities that are typically outside the role of a marketing leadership role, you may scare away good candidates.
Examples of these responsibilities include tasks usually handled by execution specialists, like operations, project management, campaign management, and copywriting/editing. It’s easy to list all the things you want in a job description, trying to make the role fill all the gaps in your organization. The problem is, the only people who will apply for (or accept) an all-in-one job like this will be overly optimistic or desperate. They’ll often be unqualified or inexperienced candidates who don’t know any better.
Where to Find Marketing Director Candidates
For this type of position, you’ll have no shortage of applicants, so the challenge is reaching the most appropriate candidates.
Once you have a clear and compelling job description, publish it on the most popular job boards in your region. Internationally, the biggest sites are Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn. In the US, you can add Monster; in the UK, include Totaljobs and Reed; and in Australia, include Adzuna and Seek. There are job posting tools like Smart Recruiters that make it easy to publish on multiple platforms at once.
Publish your open position on job boards, but also have members of your leadership team share the listing to their networks, either personally or through social media. This more direct route to finding suitable candidates can save you a lot of time reviewing applications from completely unknown people.
Headhunting and recruiting firms
While it’s worth trying to attract candidates through job boards and your peers, for a high level position like Marketing Director, the best people usually don’t have to go looking — they get hunted. You can reach out to the big, trusted recruitment firms like Adecco and Recruit. Smaller, local firms are also an option, but be sure to vet them properly, because they may send you a lot of candidates that aren’t properly vetted by them.
Expect to pay a hefty fee if a candidate is placed via a recruiting firm, but just remember that even with a high upfront charge, a talented Marketing Director can have a dramatic impact on your company’s success. They’ll pay for themselves many times over, so don’t skimp.
How to Screen Marketing Director Applicants
Your initial screening of resumes should prioritize your nonnegotiables. You will get a lot of applicants, and plenty of them will be enthusiastic but underqualified. By focusing on your list of nonnegotiables at the outset, you should be able to quickly reduce the number of people to interview. (But be careful not to overscreen: Resumes show only part of the picture, so don’t disqualify someone just because they aren’t as impressive as the best resume you identify.)
Not having a clear system for screening candidates can cause a host of problems. If you don’t have a good method to filter out under qualified candidates, you’ll interview too many, which will waste the time of the interviewers, some of the most expensive employees in your organization. Worst of all, you may grow impatient and hire someone just because you don’t want to review another pile of resumes. It’s critical that you have a systematic approach to avoid these issues.
On the other hand, if you’re too selective, you may never find someone to fill the role!
I’ve had great success with video screening. After going through the resumes, give the applicants who’ve made the first cut a short assignment. The goal should be something that will take only a short amount of time for a quality candidate to complete while also providing you with useful insight. One great way to do this is to request a short video recording. This will allow you to quickly assess their experience, confidence, and communication ability. Remember, though, that quality candidates usually have multiple options, so don’t overburden them.
How to Interview Marketing Director Applicants
Interviewing candidates for this role is not without its challenges. These are people who make their living by persuading others, so it’s critical to know what questions to ask them and what attributes or experiences to look for.
If you’re empathetic or highly trusting, it may be easy for these candidates to provide vague answers without being questioned further for specifics. If you’ve never interviewed candidates for a marketing leadership position, you likely won’t know which questions to ask. Or, you may ask the right questions but not know how to identify good answers.
Here are a list of tips to keep in mind when preparing for the Marketing Director interview phase:
- This is a C-suite leadership position, so include other leaders of your company in the interview process.
- If your new Marketing Director will be leading an existing marketing team, involve the team members in the interview process.
- Ask the applicants situational questions (Give us an example of a time when you…) so they have a chance to demonstrate their real-world results. Always be aware of vague answers and be ready to ask follow-ups for clarification.
- Check references. An interview may go well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve found the right fit. Great communicators can embellish their experiences without raising doubts. It’s important to check their references and even call prior employers who weren’t included as references. While taking these extra steps might seem time consuming or unnecessary, it can save you from the costly mistake of a bad-fit hire.
Setting Your Marketing Director Up for Success
What to do
It goes without saying that your new Marketing Director will be a valuable member of your team, so they should feel welcome and well supported. This requires some preparation and planning.
First, make sure a welcome letter goes out to introduce them to everyone in the organization and explain the importance of their position and initiatives. This letter should come from top leadership and show personal enthusiasm and support for the new hire.
Next, organize 1:1s with the other leaders in the organization. These should be informal, get-to-know-you meetings designed to start the rapport-building process. After the new Marketing Director has had time to acclimatize to their new position, you can have more formal meetings to establish priorities and goals.
What to avoid
It’s not uncommon for businesses to set their new Marketing Director up for failure. Owners who don’t have a background in sales or marketing and are more sympathetic to the operational or technical aspects of their business may not fully respect the effectiveness of marketing. This lack of belief may permeate through the company, meaning others won’t see the importance of the initiatives that the Marketing Director leads, or they won’t follow through on the projects that require team collaboration. Your Marketing Director must have trust, authority, and full support in order to succeed. This means establishing their ownership over the setting of KPIs, budgets, hiring, and general growth strategies.
If you’ve recognized a need for dedicated marketing leadership at your company, you should now have a clear understanding of the role and how to fill it. A talented Marketing Director can bring strategic, long-term growth to a business while also providing leadership that raises the bar for everyone in the organization. Selecting the right person is crucial, but by following the guidance provided here, you will be able to recruit, interview, and onboard a marketing leader who will transform your business.