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When evaluating your marketing team and leaders, you look toward hard data and evidence of their contribution to the bottom line to determine their success. Shouldn’t the people responsible for finding and recruiting your marketing talent be held to the same standard of performance?

Better access to data and the evolution of new analytics systems has brought a new level of insight and accountability to the world of marketing. Today’s marketers–the good ones, at least–rely on visibility into the effects and results of their efforts. When they’re hitting their goals and driving growth, they can claim credit for it. And when they’re falling short, you can hold them accountable.

However, most recruitment services agreements fail to align around performance. Traditional recruitment and executive search models simply don’t create a relationship where a successful outcome for the client is prioritized. That’s why, when choosing your marketing executive search firm, it’s important to ensure that they operate on a performance-based model where they don’t win unless you do.

The Flaws of Traditional Placement Services

In order to understand the value of a performance based marketing executive search system, it’s important to know why the traditional models fall short. If you’ve ever been frustrated by an executive search partner, felt that they weren’t responsive enough to your needs, or were disappointed by the quality of talent, your experience was probably influenced by the payment model and the terms of your relationship.

There are two primary models used by third-party recruitment and executive search firms, each with their flaws:

Contingent Marketing Executive Searches:

Contingency-based recruitment arrangements are for very junior and non-mission critical roles. Under this model, the recruitment firm’s payment is contingent on placing someone–anyone–in the empty position you need filling. The client makes no commitment to the search firm and in return gets very little dedicated time and resources.

Your typical contingency recruiter manages over twenty searches at a time. That means they can only afford to focus on the talent already looking for a job, which as we all know tends to exclude top candidates. If the role you’re trying to fill is an important one for your business, this model is a very weak solution for bringing you top talent.

Because of the lack of client commitment, contingent recruiters cannot spend too much time with any one search. Their “shotgun” approach means they can’t take the time to find a really great marketer or take the necessary steps to vet candidates for culture fit. They are in a race against the clock, and against other recruitment firms, to cross the finish line first. Quality of talent is much less of a priority.

Adding more contingency search firms only adds multiple broken processes. Because there’s no exclusivity to the search firm or commitment from the client to the process on the placement, you often get into situations where you have multiple recruiters calling the same candidates, which not only reflects poorly on your business but also turns off top talent.

Overall, this model often fails because it creates incentives for the recruiter (fill the role, while spending as little time as possible working the search) that are far different from the client’s goals (get great marketing talent, the first time).

The retained model of talent recruitment is much more reliable than its contingent counterpart, but it mainly falls down in speed to hire

In this system, the client establishes an exclusive relationship with a recruitment agency for a particular search. The client invests a third of their placement fee upfront as a retainer, and agrees to pay another third after a set period of time or on candidate presentation. This allows the retained marketing executive search firm to confidently commit recruitment resources toward strong candidates–including the hard-to-reach passive talent pool.

The firm doesn’t have to worry about a competing recruiter out-rushing them, so they can afford to take the time needed to find top talent and a strong culture fit. It also eliminates the risk of multiple parties all reaching out to the same candidate and the client looking disorganized.

Retained search has its advantages, but the problem is that the incentives still aren’t properly aligned. You need a great marketer, and you want them as fast as possible. But once a retained partnership has been established, the recruiter loses their motivation to move quickly or ensure a top candidate. After all; they’ve already been guaranteed 2/3 of their fee with or without results. So the main priority becomes to sell more searches and if what we are working on takes some time as a result it is OK with their model.

A Marketing Executive Search Model Based on Performance

Few things are more important for to the growth and development of your organization than stocking your marketing department with top talent. So if the major marketing executive search models fail to position you to make good hires, what can you do?

The solution is to partner with a marketing executive recruiter who operates on a performance-based model, where all parties are aligned with the same goals.

A smart performance-based model will have a retained component, so the search firm knows you are committed to the search and therefore they can dedicate resources to finding you great talent.

Then the rest of the fee is tied to making a successful hire, meaning that the marketing executive search agency is still motivated to deliver a great result as fast as possible.

To adopt a model where the majority of the fee is due upon hire, the marketing executive search firm has to be extremely confident in their ability to deliver top talent. So if you want to ensure a successful marketing executive search, you’ll need to verify that your search partners include performance goals as a key part of their services.