While many agencies consider every employee an expert in marketing, there comes a time when you need a single point of accountability for your agency’s marketing. You know this from working with your clients. Campaigns are executed more smoothly when someone with experience is at the helm.
Having a marketing director leading your agency’s efforts can accelerate agency growth, create a consistent brand message, and lead to increases in revenue. But some agencies are hesitant to hire a full time marketing director -- they can't imagine actually spending money marketing their own agency. This is the wrong way to think about the investment. Take the advice you give your clients, and put someone in charge of your agency's future.
Consider Your Own Team -- But Don't Stop There
Your first inclination might be to simply promote someone internally to the position of marketing director. They’ve done a great job on the account side helping clients market themselves, so why not just promote your best account person?
This approach has its merits. You will possibly find someone that understands your agency’s internal workings and clients, but you might be casting your net in rather shallow waters if you only look within your own agency for the marketing talent you need to lead your agency. Hire based on skills you need, not what is the easiest way to fill the position.
If you are starting your seach, consider these five skills:
1) Understands More Than Marketing
Regardless of the type of agency you run (digital, SEO, traditional, etc.), hire a marketing director who knows about more than just marketing. While a broad understanding is necessary, the person should also be well-versed in topics related to finance and management. If he is handling marketing for a small- to mid-size agency, he is budgeting for projects, working to prove ROI, and communicating with upper-level management on the effectiveness of campaigns. This person may also need management skills as the position requires the person to work across departments and lead a team.
2) Brings a Strong Digital Background
A solid understanding of digital marketing is crucial for any new hire. The ability to understand how traditional campaigns can be integrated with digital aspects for added effectiveness, how to use complex analytics to measure campaigns, and a mastery of new marketing techniques, such as retargeting, are essential for every modern agency team member.
3) Has Previous Agency Experience
It might be intuitive that having agency experience is a sought-after quality for the marketing director of an agency, but let me explain in more detail. As the head marketer for an agency, this person needs to understand the internal workings of the agency environment and be tuned into the way agencies are run and approach new business. Someone that has only worked on the corporate side or as a freelancer might have some great experience, but he will have difficulty understanding the agency way of doing things.
4) Works for Sales and Marketing Alignment
The alignment of sales and marketing teams is a hot topic for many businesses, and it needs to be in the agency industry, as well. While many agencies are not set up with a clear structure that includes a sales force, there are a ton of people selling -- including the owner, principles, partners, and new business development professionals.
Having a deep understanding of how sales and marketing work together is important as the sales teams are not as well-defined, and translating marketing campaigns to sales results can be difficult to report and measure.
5) Takes Risks That Are Worth It
Some agencies might not want someone in charge of their marketing who thrives on taking risks. I think it’s important that the person ultimately responsible for marketing results has the ability to lead with his vision and try new things. You need someone who is willing to push the envelope -- if you want to see results.
Taking the step of hiring a marketing director for your agency can be a scary one in terms of financial commitment and resources. However, if you can find someone who thrives in an agency environment and isn't afraid to take risks, then you can't wait around. Your agency's revenue, credibility, and visibility depend on finding a great marketing director.
Originally published Dec 8, 2014 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017