No doubt about it- 2017 has been a banner year for Vice President Digital Marketing candidates. The number of searches I conducted was up considerably over 2016 with the majority of them newly created roles rather than just replacements, which of course speaks to the growing importance of digital commerce in overall business strategy. Salaries for Vice President Digital Marketing continue to rise (many receiving equity packages where there were none before), budgets are growing, and more of these VP’s are stepping up into C-level roles including CDO, CMO and even President. As the commercial internet enters its third decade, we’re seeing something of a shift in the candidate supply/demand curve: The supply of the most experienced digital marketing and ecommerce talent is rising, while at the same time demand for this level of talent is strengthening. This points to a continued bright outlook for both Directors and VP’s who are thinking about career options for 2018.

For those who are looking ahead, it’s informative to look back at the placements I completed this past year and explore what my conversations with hiring managers revealed about why one Vice President Digital Marketing candidate was tapped for the job and others were passed over. At this level it all pretty much comes down to cultural fit, personal chemistry, management style and other intangibles, and several elements definitely stood out:

– They had strong leadership skills. Because digital marketing is so transitional in nature, a newly hired Vice President Digital Marketing is coming into roles to manage existing staffs that need direction, motivation, and development. Fully half my searches this past year were confidential replacement situations, posing even greater challenges for incoming Veeps to step in and gain the respect of their department. The ones who we’re hired tended to have what I call an “inspirational” element, the ability to inspire cooperation, trust and change.

-They’re still willing to be hands-on. Digital marketing and ecommerce, by definition, are about as “roll up your sleeves” as you can get, and while Vice President Digital Marketing roles are highly strategic it’s not unusual for clients to ask for candidates at this level who can still push the buttons and pull the levers. In early stage start-ups and in environments where there is organizational ambiguity and lack of formal structure, flying low to the ground is essential. Even in the biggest organizations, a willingness to “dirty your fingernails” often comes with the job .

-They’re able to forge strong cross-functional relationships. In digital marketing and ecommerce, this is truly mission critical. Vice President Digital Marketing candidates work closely with people in other departments who sometimes know as much about digital marketing and ecommerce as they do about 13th century monarchs of Crimea. The more you can understand what’s important to sales or finance or customer service, the better the relationships you’ll forge within the organization. You could be a world authority in digital marketing and ecommerce but without good internal relationships, especiallywithin organizations that are multichannel, you will face stiff headwinds.

-Good at budgeting (This one falls outside the “cultural fit” category, but definitely worth mentioning). Vice President Digital Marketing candidates are being asked to do significantly more with only incremental increases in budget, particularly in organizations where online sales already account for the lion’s share of the business. The ability to optimize costs while still delivering on business goals has been a proven candidate differentiator.

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With more than 90 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.

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