What Qualities Should You Look for in a Marketing Automation Manager?

Whether you’re a small to medium-sized business or a larger enterprise organization, marketing automation is your company’s best bet for staying competitive in this digital age.

  • 53% of the B2B organizations and 43% of B2C and combination B2B/B2C organizations have adopted marketing automation systems.–ResearchCorp’s Demand Generation Adoption Survey
  • 91% of successful users agree that marketing automation is “very important” to the success of their overall marketing.–Marketo and Ascend2’s Marketing Automation Strategy Survey

But being successful and getting ahead of your competition isn’t just about using marketing automation anymore; it’s about optimizing your platform and resources to grasp its full potential. That means you need the right team to manage your marketing automation platform.

At the core of an effective team is a strong leader who understands your buyers’ needs across the entire lifecycle–from awareness to purchase, onboarding to retention, and growth to advocacy–and thinks about the entire customer experience across touchpoints. This leader will be responsible for your demand generation strategy for different segments and its orchestration across channels. He/she will work with key stakeholders, such as product marketing and sales, and may manage a team of vast talents–marketers, content creators, and designers. It’s a tall order, and you want the very best.

If you’ve never had a point person for marketing automation before, you might be wondering what qualities a marketing automation manager would need, and how to hire the very best. In this blog, I’ll cover all the information you need for a successful marketing automation manager hire:

Find a Modern Day Da Vinci

Marketing organizations in this digital age need a new blend of talent. The ideal marketers for cross-channel, customer-centric marketing combine the creativity of an artist with analytical and data modeling skills. As “thinkers” and “doers,” they can propel the organization to success on both fronts and earn credibility for the marketing team.

They need to be “feelers” who understand behaviors, expectations, and interactions and have a pulse on the buyer at any given point of the customer lifecycle. They also need to be great collaborators and have a solid understanding of the principles and strategies of data-driven marketing and modern demand generation, plus hands-on experience with a marketing automation or email marketing platform. They need to be able to demonstrate the ability to plan and oversee the execution of successful campaigns across multiple channels and measure the results that they drove on each one.

Below are some reasonable minimum requirements of a Da Vinci-esque marketing automation manager, based on our own experience. Of course, depending on the goals, size, and structure of your organization, you may have different people responsible for different aspects. However, the smaller your company, the more “hats” your marketing automation manager will have to wear in the beginning. As you start realizing the productivity benefits of your platform, you can scale your business and grow your team.

The ideal marketing automation manager should have these qualities:

  • At least 3 to 5 years of marketing experience. Technology by itself will not solve business challenges. Your marketing automation manager will need to understand how to use a marketing automation platform to drive the execution of your entire marketing strategy–from demand generation to multi-channel engagement, to customer cross-sell and advocacy. You need someone who has been in the industry and has weathered some changes already.
  • Strategic thinker and hands-on executor. While it’s easier to teach someone how to use a new technology, developing strategic skills takes time. As both a “thinker” and “doer,” your marketing automation manager will be able to propel the marketing department to success on both fronts.
  • Solid writing skills and experience creating marketing content. Content fuels your marketing programs across various channels in order to engage buyers, so your marketing automation manager needs to know how to plan for, develop content, and execute programs with content across multiple channels and measure its effectiveness in driving the results that matter. Your marketing automation manager may spend a lot of time writing and reviewing promotional copy and catchy headlines for different channels, so writing must come naturally to her. And because she will be heavily involved in content development, the more types she’s familiar with, the better—blogs, emails, web page content, and other key assets for your organization.
  • Experience managing campaign execution across multiple channels. If your marketing automation manager already has experience with email marketing–that’s a great start. He will also need to plan and execute personalized experiences for buyers across your company website, third party websites, social media channels, mobile, and more. You need someone who is great at the big picture, but also knows how to get into the weeds of execution, involving other channel owners as needed.
  • Driven by metrics: Building measurable programs and understanding what to measure and when are critical skills for a marketing automation manager. Industry benchmarks have too many variables to consider such as company size, industry, funding, size of teams, to name a few, so it’s better to benchmark against your company’s historical performance and the ideal candidate will know how to establish your baseline. And while your measurement timeline may differ depending on your buyer cycle, he should know how to measure across early-, mid-, and late-stages:

Measurement Timeframe

  • Your marketing automation manager should also know how to keep the audience in mind when it comes to metrics. Although your marketing team cares about clicks and conversions, your executives and sales leaders want to hear about the bottom line–opportunities, pipeline, and return on investment (ROI).
  • Have a hacker’s mindset. Being comfortable with new technologies and having a passion for learning and the ability to figure out how different systems integrate and work together to drive the results you want are essential skills for modern marketing automation managers. They will need to understand the ins and outs of your system rules, filters, segmentation, scoring model, revenue stages and flows, CRM platform capabilities (if you have one), and more. It’s useful to have familiarity with HTML, CSS, email deliverability and CAN-SPAM/CASL compliance requirements as well.

People Skills That Set a Marketing Automation Manager Apart

A marketing automation manager must be able to collaborate cross-functionally as well as produce. Not only will she be leading a team, but this managerial position will touch other functions in the company, such as sales, customer success, services, and support. That means the ideal candidate must also have the skills to work well within the team, both on the marketing side and with the other invested departments.

  • Team player: This is so critical that it must be number one on your list. This multi-tasking position will be working with a number of internal teams—from sales to operations, to IT and legal—each with its own viewpoint, beliefs, and goals. Each team needs to believe that their goals and needs are being taken into account, and the new manager has to accomplish that with diplomacy and good will, always looking for a win-win solution.
  • Project manager: Your marketing automation manager must have the ability to drive projects to the finish line based on set goals, towards agreed on deadlines, and within budget. She must quickly assemble a team of functional experts; ramp up their understanding of the goals, situation, problem, players, and options; and develop a project plan, assign tasks, and drive execution while managing the expectations of key stakeholders through regular status meetings and updates.
  • Takes the initiative and has a proactive mindset: A marketing automation leader says “we will” instead of “we should” and always takes the initiative, raising his hand and making things happen. He should also be prepared for all potential outcomes, good and bad, and preps his team accordingly.

How to Find a Modern Day Da Vinci

Start by looking internally within your company for candidates who may be a good fit. Because they’re already familiar with your organization’s culture, processes, and business model, they’ll be easier to get up to speed.

Take a look across your company’s departments, including:

  • Marketing, and marketing or sales operations
  • Product or segment marketing
  • Sales
  • Business operations/analyst relations
  • Services or other customer-facing functions

Then, look at sourcing externally through these channels:

  • Tap into your social networks via LinkedIn
  • Conferences/meet-ups
  • Consultants/freelancers
  • Marketing automation customer communities, such as Marketo Community
  • Competing companies
  • Other high-growth companies
  • Industry analysts

Whether you’re looking for an internal or external candidate, here are some key phrases that will make their credentials stand out:

  • Marketing automation
  • Demand generation/lead generation
  • Email marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Field marketing
  • Results-driven/metrics/analytics
  • Marketing content
  • Collaboration/cross-functional team management

Who to Include in the Interview Process

Since your marketing automation manager will be working with many different groups and people in marketing and other departments, it’s important to include key stakeholders in the interview process.

Consider involving the following people:

  • Hiring manager
  • Your immediate demand generation team (at least 1-2 peers)
  • Head of demand generation and possibly a CMO (if different from hiring manager)
  • Sales stakeholders (if you have a sales team) and customer success manager (if the role involves programs that touch customers)
  • Product or segment marketing manager
  • Marketing operations lead
  • Other marketing functions depending on the role scope

Depending on the size of your company and your hiring process, it may take from a few weeks to a few months to get someone hired. We recommend no more than three rounds of interviews (e.g. one phone screen with HR and the hiring manager and two on-site inerviews with key stakeholders).

Questions to Ask During the Interview Process

Once you’ve identified a slate of candidates, you need to make the most of your interview time. Here are a few interview questions you’ll want to ask, based on the skills and experience you’re looking for, and what to watch for in the answers.

  1. Tell me about the most successful marketing automation campaign you have run (and why you consider it successful). Try asking the first part of this question alone to start. You’re looking for an articulate, concise, and logical answer that follows the PAR model (problem-solution-result). You can then ask follow-up questions to understand candidate’s role in the project and all the steps in the process. You’re also waiting to see (1) if he shares credit with his team, and (2) if he focuses on the metrics that matter. If metrics don’t come up, try asking the second part—why the candidate considers it successful—and see if he provides soft answers or solid, data-driven metrics.
  2. Tell me about the least successful campaign you have run (and what you have learned from it). With this question, you’re looking for how the candidate thinks she might have changed it. Does she blame others? What were the lessons she learned?
  3. How would your manager (and your co-workers) describe you? Here, you’re looking for the candidate’s accurate assessment of his strengths and weaknesses. You would also want to validate his responses with answers from their former manager and co-workers during the reference check process to see if they match.
  4. How do you learn best? The way the candidate learns is less important than the fact that she wants to and recognizes the need to. Continuous learning is a key factor to success in marketing automation.
  5. Describe the most challenging team dynamic situation you’ve faced and how you approached it. Look for how the manager helped smooth issues over. Was he integral to the situation? What collaborative skills did he display?
  6. To understand the candidate’s current demand generation efforts, volume of programs, and understanding of the revenue model, ask them about the following:
    1. Demand generated, such as number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
    2. Conversion rates: For a B2B organization, this might include conversions from MQLs to opportunities to closed-won deals.
    3. Velocity: How many days does it take for a potential customer to turn into a customer?
  7. How do you decide what programs to invest in? This will identify how he gauges success and whether he’s using metrics to inform his budget allocation decisions.
  8. What are your best channels for your target audience? Which generate the most ROI? This question reveals 1) if she understands who her target audience is 2) if she measure across both programs and channels.
  9. Useful exercises to have your candidate complete as part of the interview process:
    • Build a short .ppt deck (no more than five slides) to deliver to your sales and marketing leaders describing the early-mid-late stage marketing programs that you drove and results you achieved. Look for proficiency with developing an effective presentation and delivery in front of the key stakeholders. This can be done on the spot or as a homework exercise with on-site delivery of the presentation.
    • Write a sample email with a call-to-action based on the description of a content asset. Here you’re assessing her writing skills and ability to produce compelling promotional copy that would entice someone to take the desired action.

The Ideal Marketing Automation Manager is Waiting

As you begin your search for the best marketing automation manager, you’re bound to learn a lot along the way. One candidate may impress you with his technical know-how, and another may demonstrate the collaboration and people skills you need. Ultimately, it will be your judgment call based on the pool of candidates you have, their cultural fit with your current team and organization, genuine excitement about joining your company;,their personality and willingness to learn skills they lack, and how their strengths will dovetail with those of your existing team.

What else do you look for in a marketing automation manager? Share your insights in the comments below!