What kind of skills should I look for in a Head of Marketing?


IT used to be said that half of the money you spent on advertising was wasted - but you couldn't tell which half (bonus points to anyone who know who originated that). Online marketing is different, because you can tell exactly which expenditure generates a return. So with that in mind should, when looking for a candidates to head up an online marketing team (that is a grand term for one guy/gal and their PC) should I be looking for analytical skills over traditional marketing skills. What would you say are the most important attributes to look for?

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asked Jan 22 '10 at 08:00
81 points

6 Answers


Should you look for analytical skills above all others? No. That's a great way to get a trial-and-error approach that comes up with a lot of errors before anything actually worth trying.

Good marketing exists at the intersection of awareness, analysis, and creativity.

  1. Awareness: Of the market, of how it will perceive different messages, of what others are doing to reach your market, of how your market communicates with each other, and of trends within related markets that may be applicable to yours.
  2. Analysis: The ability to take information and create meaning. Being able to answer more than one "why?" about a change's occurrence. Being able to predict more than one scenario, and explain the factors that make each more / less likely.
  3. Creativity: The ability to create new methods, rather than just improvements to existing ones.

P.S. John Wanamaker.

Edit: I've since written a more in-depth piece on how to find a good marketer for a startup: http://socialstrategist.com/2010/02/04/how-to-hire-a-good-marketer-for-startups/ - sections on what skills they need, how to find them, and how to determine if they havethose skills.

answered Jan 22 '10 at 08:31
Jay Neely
6,050 points
  • +1, and confirming Wanamaker is the original source. – Jason 14 years ago


I believe you are approaching this wrong. Just like customer service, I don't think this should just be something you view as a black box. "Like, oh I know very little about online marketing I better hire someone else to do that." Screw hiring some new team. Do it yourself(ves). At least until you understand what works and what you like doing. Then maybe get some help to do more of it.

Seth Godin has a great post.

A couple gems

Offer a small bonus to anyone in the
company who starts and runs a blog on
any topic. Have them link to your
company site, with an explanation that
while they work there, they don't
speak for you.

Have the president post her (real)
email address in every invoice and
other communication the company sends
out, asking people to write to her
with comments or questions.

Start forming an audience around the people running the company online. Learn how to do it yourself.
answered Jan 22 '10 at 08:47
Nathan Kontny
1,865 points


Do you have enough cash flow to hire a person(s) just for marketing?
Would you have enough time to do this yourself? Marketing is not as simple as most people think, but it's certainly not rocket science. It's definitely something you can learn, although it will take time and some effort.

If you think you might want to try adwords, an inexpensive and very good book to get you going is Adwords for Dummies. With this book and a little effort, you'll be competing with others in your field within months.

You'll need to learn how to leverage the power of social media, and other forms of marketing on the web. A very good book for this is The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers And, of course, don't get discouraged! This will all take time, but it will fall into place with perseverance. Good luck!

answered Jan 22 '10 at 23:41
216 points


Marketing is both about creativity and structure. And you know what? Very creative people often find structure frustrating and demotivating - they value freedom. And very structured people rarely score high on creativity - it's just not in the mindset.

I'm exaggerating, of course. But in my experience (and I speak as a coder turned marketer!), it's unrealistic to find someone who has both excels in both creativity and clinical execution.

So make a choice.

  1. Go for a good all-rounder. This is pretty common in small businesses, because it's realistic to achieve and sustain over the long term. This is a good option if your startup is in an established category and is looking for managed growth and risk.
  2. Hire a high-flying creative, and get help getting the core processes nailed. For some start-ups, marketing consists of a small set of core processes that need to be maintained rather than innovated. So buy in the process expertise to get started, and get outside help if things start to break. This option is particularly good if you're looking for strong differentiation in a reasonably established category.
  3. Hire an analytical marketer, and buy in creativity when you need it. I'll confess I have a prejudice towards this option. If your view of marketing has measurable objectives and accountability for results at its centre, the Head of Marketing should have that orientation.
answered Mar 2 '12 at 23:28
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points


Today's online marketing professionals should have skills in both analytics and traditional marketing.

Creativity, tenacity, and basic intelligence can't be taught, though, and those are the key attributes you want in your marketing person. Find a smart, creative marketing person who either is somewhat familiar with analytics tools or has demonstrated ability to learn new skills, and you'll be set up nicely.

answered Mar 1 '12 at 02:56
1 point


I would be looking for a track record that you can check:
What has the person sold? what was his impact? Revenues, profits, specific strategies implemented and results? What tools, services did the person use?
And the referrals the person can provide (previous employer, partner?).

Or why not use an online marketing coach who you can test for a month? and continue if results are making sense.

answered Mar 3 '12 at 02:02
714 points

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