Eric Jacobson

How To Hire A Marketing Leader

In Effective Communications, General Leadership Skills, Hiring, Hiring Great People, Leadership, Leadership Education, Leadership Skills, Management, Marketing on January 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Welcome Debbie Laskey to my blog! 

With 15 years of marketing experience and an MBA Degree, Debbie developed her marketing expertise while working in the high-tech industry, the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, the non-profit arena, and the insurance industry. 

Currently, Debbie is a brand marketing and social media consultant to small businesses and nonprofits in California. 

I met Debbie a few years ago while we worked together on a training committee for MicroMentor, a nonprofit that connects small business owners with business mentors. 

  • Debbie and I recently discussed what business owners should look for when hiring marketing leaders, and highlights are provided below. 

Eric:  What personality traits are ideal for a marketing leader?

Debbie Laskey: First, marketing is not sales. I say this because, while the two areas must work in tandem if both departments exist in a company, sales people have very different personalities than those in marketing.

People who sell cars or real estate focus completely on the sale. Most people who work in marketing focus on the entire customer lifecycle from prospecting to building relationships to creating a sale to building repeat business. Therefore, marketing professionals need to be patient, flexible, high-energy, and dedicated. 

From a business perspective, the best marketing professionals are innovative, open-minded, adaptable, and enjoy working with all types of people. From a management perspective, the best marketing leaders are those who have managed both small and large teams, possess excellent communication skills, served as leaders in the past, and worked in a variety of industries.

Eric:  What’s the best professional background for a marketing leader?

Debbie Laskey: Talented marketing leaders can go from one industry to another with fast ramp-up time. Since experience and education are critical, a person who has worked as a marketing leader in one industry can apply what he/she has learned – both initiatives that worked and those that didn’t – and can easily market anything ranging from widgets to professional services. Naturally, there will be differences in the B2C, B2B, and nonprofit arenas, but marketing leaders can quickly study the competitive landscape, target market, value proposition, and then recommend viable marketing campaigns.

Eric:  What should be discussed during the interview process when searching for a marketing leader?

Debbie Laskey: Since a marketing leader should be an important member of a company’s leadership team, the hiring process should allow sufficient time for both parties to get to know each other. 

Several members of the company should interview the top candidates, and questions should focus on realistic situations to determine how the candidates will approach the development of marketing campaigns and how to increase business opportunities for the company. 

It is an insult to ask questions such as, “If you were a bug, which one would you be?” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” These questions range from the ridiculous to those that demand canned responses. The reality is that no one will hire a candidate who can list three weaknesses. Besides, if someone is a good interviewer, he/she can easily determine strengths and weaknesses without having to ask. 

Since the best interviews are conversations, rather than interrogations, focus on realistic marketing scenarios such as, “If we were going to implement a social media campaign, which social media channels would you emphasize and why?” or “If we were going to implement a mobile marketing initiative for the spring quarter, how would you create your plan?” 

Also, ask for details about previous marketing successes – and watch how the candidate explains the successes. Is he/she enthusiastic or bored? Does he/she take ownership of the campaign? Also, ask about marketing campaigns that might not have yielded the expected results. Ask the candidate to explain why and watch body language. Does he/she take ownership for the lack of results? 

If the candidate said he/she managed others, one way to confirm the accuracy of that fact is by asking how he/she rewarded or thanked a subordinate for performing excellent work. Again, watch how the candidate answers and be on the look-out for enthusiasm or discomfort.

Eric:  How should you measure the performance of a newly-hired marketing leader after 30 days, 90 days, and one year?

Debbie Laskey: When a new person joins the team as the marketing leader, there is often a lot to learn about the company, its competitive advantage, its target market, and its competitors. Therefore, a good marketing professional will spend time creating a marketing audit, which reflects on the external marketing environment (customers and competition), the internal marketing environment (company resources including staff, budgets, product portfolio, new products, pricing, distribution, and market share), and evaluates all previous marketing initiatives. 

It is critical to understand previous marketing activities, what worked, and what did not work in order to create a new marketing plan that will yield more successful results. 

If a company does not want the new marketing leader to analyze previous initiatives, that is a clue that the company does not want to undertake any serious marketing initiatives. Walk to the door and leave – no, run – the job is not a fit and will just cause frustration. But if the company’s leaders genuinely want to improve their business and implement new marketing initiatives, they will welcome a detailed marketing audit. 

Based on timing and priorities, an audit may take one-to-three months. 

In addition, a new marketing leader should speak with all department leaders to gain detailed understandings of their departments and how they will work in tandem with the marketing department

There may also be a need to hire additional marketing staff – that may take place during a marketing leader’s first six-to-twelve months. 

But the bottom line is that the new marketing leader and the business owner must agree on the marketing leader’s overall objectives for all timeframes – they must be on the same page for success to result.

Eric:  Where can a business owner learn more about marketing?

Debbie Laskey: Here are some excellent online marketing resources:

You may follow Debbie on Twitter (, Google+ (, or on her Blog (

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