Many questions abound when running a business, but one of the most challenging and mystifying might be when to invest in a marketing leadership hire. It’s a many-sided issue with no single determining factor. Thankfully, a simple assessment of where you stand in the marketplace can lead you to the right answer. Are your competitors taking more market share than you’d like? Are you struggling to meet your growth goals? Those are two easy-to-spot signs that it might be time to take some pressure off your sales team by enlisting the right marketing talent.

If your president or CEO is wearing the strategic growth and marketing hat too often, things may get more complicated. In our experience at JM Search, we’ve seen presidents’ involvement in the details become so granular that they eventually begin negotiating booth space at tradeshows—or even wiping down glass tables after attendees have coffee. As you can imagine, stretching yourself this thin as a president or CEO is not sustainable and rarely results in strategic growth.

If you can relate to any of the above scenarios, it might be time to partner with an executive search firm to find your next (or first) marketing leader. But before you begin, consider these key concepts, all of which should drive you in your search.

Get on the Same Page

Marketing can seem like a dark art to the uninitiated, often getting lumped in with sales and product innovation in conversation. Make sure your senior leadership team is completely aligned on what marketing is and the role it plays. It’s critical to establish a clear definition and alignment before your search even begins. To make the waters even murkier, consider that there are many types of marketers, and identifying the right one based on needs and goals can present a bit of a moving target.

Find a Balance

Do you have the right balance between your sales and marketing teams? Sometimes it’s beneficial to reconsider your organizational structure prior to kicking off a search. After all, if you’re sales team is pulling double duty, you may create a conflict of interest and miss sales opportunities in the process. And if the sales team is merely working with new product sales sheets and making occasional updates to the website, they’re not really handling marketing in the first place.

Instead, make sure your team is equipped with dedicated marketing expertise. As businesses grow, they tend to get more complex and riskier. As the competitive landscape expands and your competitors multiply, even the sharpest business minds have a difficult time finding ways to differentiate—unless, of course, they’re steeped in marketing. The last thing any business wants is to achieve growth just to get swallowed up by the competition, so give yourself the best shot with a dedicated marketing leader. And once you’ve established a clear delineation between sales and marketing, examine your org structure and consider working with an executive search firm to find wholly dedicated leaders for this critical marketing function.

Set the Table for Growth

Once you have dedicated sales and marketing teams established, you should look at your goals for growth. Do you have a significant growth goal set for the near future? If you answered yes, is your current team capable of helping your business reach the finish line? The right marketing leader will be able to assess your current go-to-market strategy and market positioning to put you on the fast track to achieving your goals. Specialization is key at this phase—you don’t want a jack-of-all-trades who will merely tread water and strive for mediocrity. Better to find the exact type of marketing skillset that your business needs (e.g., database marketing vs. brand marketing vs. product marketing) to do the right research, identify unmet needs, and conceive new market opportunities. Be sure to select a reputable executive search firm with significant experience in the field of marketing. They should be able to help you define your needs and determine the exact type of marketing leader to recruit for.

Don’t Ignore the Competition

As previously mentioned, when your company grows past a certain point, the competitive landscape around you expands at a commensurate rate. Are you keeping tabs on the new competition? If you’re enjoying even modest success in your business, it may be time to complete a competitive analysis to determine who your competitors are and how and where they are marketing themselves. It’s easy to take a myopic view and desire to focus on only your product or service but arming yourself with competitive intelligence is a great way to differentiate your company. The right marketing leader will grab the reins and steer your company toward a complete understanding of your competition.

Take an Inventory

Let’s say you already have a marketing team or at least a marketing function within your leadership team. Have you assessed the current skill gaps among your leaders? If this will be a newly created function for the business, have you thought about what skills will help to round out your existing leadership team?

While you’re assessing your team’s skill level and leadership gaps, you should also take time to think about how you will fund this new marketing leadership role and any future marketing initiatives. Not just in terms of annual compensation—providing this leader with a reasonable marketing budget will be essential.

The Last Word on Starting Your Search

The five concepts outlined above should act as your roadmap toward finding the right marketing leader, but always remember that you’re not in this search alone. An executive search firm with deep marketing expertise can guide you along the way and help you determine the best option. It can be hard to sell the C-suite on making the right marketing moves, especially at companies where legacy owners insist on staying in place and overseeing every function. But by asking the right questions and capturing compelling answers, as established in the concepts we discussed, you’ll find the alignment and definitions you need to be more successful once you launch your talent search.

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