Hiring for marketing operations, marketing support roles set to explode
As budgets climb and competition intensifies, experts say you want to make sure candidates have the right skills for the job.
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Marketing departments forced to do more with less during the 2020 slowdown are about to start hiring like it’s 2019.
“What we saw during the pandemic was that, obviously, a lot of jobs got cut, and people were afraid,” said Tim Parkin, President of marketing consulting firm Parkin Consulting. But with major brands about to give their budgets a boost — like Coca-Cola, which plans to bring its spend back up to 2019 levels — agencies need to think about how they can manage this new work. In fact, some agencies have been turning away new business because they don’t have the staff to handle it, he said.
“It’s going to be Black Friday levels [of spending] for about five months at the end of the year,” Parkin said. “Consumers have been bottled up forever and companies have been struggling. Companies that invest will be successful, and companies that can’t will fail.”
To scale all the marketing programs fueled by this boom in spend, more organizations will be looking to technology solutions as well. But they require professionals who can operate them.
“In marketing, there’s been this scare that AI will replace our jobs, which is not the case yet,” Parkin said. “Now is the time for innovation. And with this hiring spurt, companies should hire people who can learn.”
Starting with marketing operations
With marketers working remotely during the pandemic, companies have expanded their talent search beyond local geographies. The result is an open market for talent, according to Justin Sharaf, Vice President Marketing for digital experience platform Jahia Solutions. That competition means companies must be strategic about their hires.
When filling marketing operations roles, managers should be hiring for the future of the role, Sharaf said. “Do you hire for role fit or for growth potential? If you want to hire for role fit and hit the ground running, you can do that, but [the hire] will be more niche and more expensive. And that person might not be a long-term fit. I like to hire people, and encourage others to think about hiring, [in terms of] long-term value.”
Marketing ops roles, especially, require an accurate assessment of skills and capabilities needed for the job. It’s a mistake to force a marketer into a marketing operation role if they don’t have the specific skills needed.
“I’ve seen a talent gap where most companies need marketing ops,” Sharaf said. “They thrust people into marketing ops, those who don’t have the experience. There’s a lot of headaches and lessons learned. Marketing ops has also become so broad. I’ve been in an organization where marketing automation falls within marketing ops, and the same for traditional product [teams] and channel marketing.”
Marketing operations specialists are also pulled into different areas of marketing within an organization because they often have experience with critical business functions, Sharaf said.
“If you’re in marketing ops and managing a budget, you just need to understand how a budget is managed and what’s important in forecasting and managing invoices,” he said. “It’s about the process and the experience and skills, and not necessarily about experience in a specific tool.”
Hiring managers facing pressure to fill marketing ops positions shouldn’t get bogged down in a candidate’s experience in those tools, and should instead focus on soft skills.
“A lot of the technically specific skills are transferable. If you know Marketo, you’ll be able to pick up HubSpot pretty quickly,” said Sharaf.
However, just because somebody is Marketo-certified, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re excellent at marketing ops, he added.
Leveraging technology in hiring
California-based performance marketing agency KlientBoost has also seen marketing budgets on the rise. The agency has doubled in size during the pandemic, and they use an AI-powered hiring solution, Vervoe, to add efficiency and value to the hiring process.
“Yes, marketing budgets continue to grow, and that means more opportunity for everyone in this space,” said KlientBoost founder and CEO Johnathan Dane.
So far in 2021, Vervoe has seen a 30% increase in companies using their platform to hire for jobs requiring marketing skills, up from the end of 2020.
“We are seeing candidates being assessed for a mix of soft skills and job-specific skills,” said Vervoe’s Growth Marketing Manager Regan McGregor. “For job-specific skills, our employers are largely looking for candidates with social media, content marketing, and SEO skills. On the soft skills side, our employers are testing for attention to detail, communication, and client/stakeholder management skills.”
In Australia, which was ahead of the curve last year in reducing COVID-19 transmission, agencies like WPP AUNZ are hiring with the same value in mind as American agencies preparing for this year’s marketing boom.
Julian Yong, Group Talent Lead at WPP AUNZ (which offers communications, advertising, PR, technology and commerce services), is specifically looking for “creative, innovation-led thinking” when filling marketing and marketing ops positions. Also, “customer obsession and strong adaptability to change” and skill sets that bundle technical and sales skills with soft skills is important.
“We don’t hire people for the elusive ‘culture fit,’” added McGregor. “Instead, we hire people who will contribute to our culture and improve it. We focus on their core values and soft skills rather than culture similarity. Every person who joins Vervoe impacts us in some way and challenges us to think differently.”
The scramble for marketing hires also opens the door to more non-traditional hiring methods. Founded by executives from digital agency Razorfish, the platform Wripple allows agencies to hire freelancers and assemble teams of talent remotely.
“Over the past six to eight weeks we have definitely noted a pretty sharp increase in demand for freelance and full-time talent,” said Wripple Co-Founder Ray Samuels. “We haven’t seen a complete lack of availability in any roles, but competition for talent has been especially acute with developers and data scientists.”
He’s seen a significant increase in agencies willing to work with any talent regardless of where they are located.
“In the freelance market, clients are more and more looking for full teams to take on projects versus hiring individual experts,” Samuels said. “Hiring full freelance teams to tackle projects provides clients with a complete solution at a price point that is typically more competitive than working with a traditional professional services firm.”
In a pinch, hiring a freelance team of marketers might get an agency or brand over the hump during this oncoming marketing frenzy. But if a business holds onto more long-term goals and vision, it might look for candidates that have a chance to grow with the company. Doing this might even help the company hold onto its top talent for the future.
Focusing on diversity
One significant trend McGregor sees in hiring is “a demand from candidates for potential employers to step up to the plate when it comes to their commitment to removing biases from the hiring process and having a diverse and inclusive workplace.”
With such high demand to fill marketing ops positions, potentially companies could be shooting themselves in the foot if they’re failing to hire the right candidate due to hiring bias.
Another way to support a diverse workforce is to provide access to training for underrepresented groups. Sharaf also serves as advisor to Highway Education, an online marketing tech curriculum dedicated to expanding opportunity and inclusion. Part of the program includes placing students into marketing jobs.
“There are so many opportunities for companies to get more out of their marketing ops, but there is also a limitation of (high demand for) talent in the marketplace,” said Sharaf.
Highway Education combines instruction for business skills with marketing skills and marketing ops roles.
“It helps employers find those who wouldn’t otherwise have qualified,” Sharaf said. By focusing on students from diverse backgrounds, the Highway program surfaces potential new hires who aren’t on a company’s radar.