A lot has been written recently- white papers, research reports, cover stories, you name it- about the skills and abilities required for success as a modern marketer and the competencies that will be needed in the future. As a Vice President Marketing recruiter who has placed nearly three dozen Vice Presidents of Marketing in the past several years- my largest search category by far- I’d like to weigh in.

I’ve been a Vice President Marketing recruiter for more than 25 years. The gap between the job description of a marketing Veep when I started and what they need to know today is like comparing an open pit mine to the Grand Canyon. I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as “prime time” anymore for a marketer. Prime time is now every minute of the day, 24/7. The entrance of a retail brick and mortar store is the perfect metaphor to describe a time gone by: There IS no longer any front door in the world of modern customer engagement. Customers come in and out at different stages like a store that’s open round the clock, every day of the year, with no walls.  Who knows what all of this is going to look like ten years from now- I’ll leave that to the visionaries. My job is to find the very best marketing talent that’s out there, the ones who can truly make a difference in my client’s businesses.  I’ve made it my mission to thoroughly debrief my clients after each and every hire, to learn exactly what it was that led to my candidate’s success. No question- today’s marketer, at all levels, is being challenged like never before. So, what did these senior-most marketing leaders bring to the table that prepared them to meet and overcome some of the enormous challenges they faced?

The board members, CEO’s, Presidents and business owners who hired them through me were very clear:

Technologically savvy. In the tug of war between art and science, science prevails. I hear it everywhere, and that’s easy to see when you look at the parabolic increase in technology investment businesses have made over the past 20 years. I watched how advances in marketing automation propelled traditional direct marketing during the 1990’s and 2000’s, and of course today, we’re seeing how digital technology is radically transforming the customer experience. In short, today’s marketer needs to be a master of their customer’s tools.

Data Maven. This was another category mentioned as often as technology, and one that many of you reading this post live and breath every day.  The Marketing Veeps are proven experts are using data and analytics to target precisely and measure relentlessly.

Authentic Storyteller. It’s no longer just about better-faster-cheaper, or feeds and speeds. These VP’s have successfully demonstrated their ability to tell stories that engage prospects and customers seamlessly between channels. In other words, they serve the needs of their audiences first. The brand comes second.

Change Agent. I recently wrote an entire post on this particular topic (“The Transformational Influence of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing”), and it was prompted by a discussion I had with a CEO who acknowledged that change was needed, but that not all of the organization’s key decision makers were on board. I can’t tell you how many times clients have told that me that without a change in the direction of their marketing the business would suffer, many even going so far as to say that the very future of their business depended on it. In many of these placements, the ability of these VP’s to wield influence through inspirational leadership and to promote collaboration across departments was the difference between their success or failure.

Hiring the right people. Many VPs I place are entering organizations where the marketing org chart still looks the same as it did when flip phones were all the rage.  There will always be that new disruption, that new technology, that new channel. Change is always, adaptability is key. As a Vice President Marketing recruiter, that means putting the right people in the right positions at the right time, and then motivating them to achieve the things they never knew they could.

This list could go and on. Every VP of Marketing I place definitely has their job cut out for them!

A candidate I once placed as a VP of Omnichannel Marketing joked that a more appropriate title would have been VP of “Omniscient” Marketing.  Maybe no joke. Today’s marketing leader truly must be the master of many, and my hat goes off to them. If you’re a VP in digital marketing or ecommerce, or hope to become one, please feel free to share your comments.  What was the most important attribute that led to YOUR success? Your comments will be gathered and could be part of a book that this Vice President Marketing recruiter hopes to write on this topic sometime soon.

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.
– Peter Drucker

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 80 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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