You want to grow your business and drive ROI, and the most optimal way to do so is by finding worthwhile marketing executives to lead topline growth. So, how do you successfully go about attracting and retaining A-level employees in your next marketing executive search?

Digital Marketing Executive Search – How Do You Know You Found the Right Leader?

As the leading search firm for marketing executives, we are starting to see organizations change how they view compensation for their senior-level marketers. We are referring to top marketing executives, including the CMO and his/her direct reports.

Historically, organizations set paygrades based on internal budgets, external salary surveys and having internal equity with peers and across the organization. This has long been different in sales which is measurable and it is now changing in marketing based on ability to measure ROI of all spend and competition for top talent.

The change may seem small but it is having a big impact. We estimate only about ten percent of organizations have gone in this direction. Most organizations today are still following the old model. What is the benefit of change and how can your organization move in that direction?

The benefit is your ability to attract and retain top talent. The how is not as difficult as it might seem. Overall, we are seeing organizations adjust salaries incrementally but not fundamentally changing how they view the base salary component of compensation. It is on the bonus and LTI (long-term incentive) components where we are seeing big changes for top marketing talent. The key is aligning the incentive compensation with organizational results and ability to measure marketing’s impact on revenue.

With the heavy demands of today’s digital space and the resources that are readily available, your organization should be capable of measuring marketing-related ROI from every angle. From your campaigns to the bottom-line value every employee contributes, you should be able to measure and gauge the ROI on every marketing-related effort. If you’re not capable of doing so, it’s a good idea to partner with a marketing executive search firm to find the necessary marketing executive talent to gain those insights.

If you’re still assigning compensation based on salary bands, and not based on the ROI that an A-level marketing leader can drive, you might have to settle for less than top talent. Alternatively, you can use the wealth of data and analytics you have to support your case in hiring top-level talent. If you’re limited to a salary band, use data and insights to prove that a larger investment is worth it in hiring an exceptional marketing leader. Don’t let stringent pay bands limit you from getting the marketing executive talent you need for growth.

Great Talent Costs More in the Digital Age

Demand for advanced skillsets in modern marketing – particularly in areas such as e-commerce, digital, innovation, customer experience and social media – is at an all-time high. However, the supply of qualified talent hasn’t kept up. The war for talent leaves no room for organizations that aren’t willing to invest in an executive who’s cutting-edge and one that performs above the ordinary.

The rapid progression of digital has led to a steady increase in compensation for top marketing talent. Average compensation attracts average talent, not the high-performing A-players you need to stay ahead. This is, of course, acceptable if you’re willing to settle in hiring someone who performs at the standard market rate. However, if you’re able to hire an A+ player whose salary is 15% above the market rate but performs at 50% above the average, it’s certainly worth it.

If you aren’t willing to make necessary adjustments to your pay band, you may need to lower your requirements and expectations in your next marketing executive to fit your budget. This, however, will result in stagnant results and prevent your marketing from reaching its full potential.

ROI Expands Beyond Your Campaigns

marketing executive search headhunters for marketing executives

As marketers ourselves, we know firsthand that there is constant pressure for marketing teams to drive ROI on campaigns and demonstrate revenue. Organizations too often place their customers and bottom-line profit before their employees and don’t care to invest in their internal team as much as they should.

You want to drive maximum ROI from your marketing campaigns, but need innovative digital talent to do so. To make the best business decision, you must first accurately evaluate the value of the skill sets you need to be added to your marketing leadership to determine if expanding your salary budget is worth it.

Leverage Your Internal Resources to Evaluate True ROI

Are you setting a compensation structure solely based on the market? While it’s important to take factors like the current market rate and what other organizations in your industry are paying for similar roles into consideration, it’s important to measure the ROI of each role and individual performer to truly evaluate your investment.

What kind of incremental value will a transformative marketing executive add to your organization? In order to understand the value a role offers and to find someone who can exceed those expectations and perform at an optimal level, you must leverage the data you have in-house. Based on these insights and from evaluating the results a prospective employee has driven in the past for organizations in similar roles, you will be more suited to make a major business decision.

Consider evaluating the position without the employee in it. What is the worth of the position to your marketing team and entire company? This allows you to truly gauge the ROI of the position rather than just what that person should be paid – something that’s an important factor in the final stages.


You cannot expect your company to truly grow without engaged, motivated, and talented marketing executives that contribute to your bottom-line. Your employees are your greatest asset, not an expense.

The ROI of adding exceptional marketing leaders to your organization will successfully drive organizational-wide transformation – something that’s becoming increasingly challenging in the era of digital.