As a veteran marketing recruiter, I talk frequently with Directors of Marketing who think they’re ready to move up to VP of Marketing. They feel they are ready to do their bosses job, and many are. But many aren’t. I know, because when I look at their resumes they don’t speak to me like a Vice President.
What do VP’s do?
Modern VP’s face enormous demands and pressures from every direction. The broader the marketing role, the more that’s expected.
When I’m looking for VP- level marketing candidates, what am I looking for? I thought the best way to share this is to list the key skills and attributes that I typically see on a VP of Marketing resume. Granted, many of these things are also performed by Directors, particularly in larger corporations where Directors, and even Managers, can support entire product divisions. As we all know, of course, titles and scope of responsibility do not always line up. So what I am presenting here is a sort of “text book” profile of what makes a Vice President of Marketing a Vice President, regardless of the size of organization.
First and foremost, Marketing VP’s operate at a highly strategic level. They develop comprehensive and innovative marketing programs and promotions to maximize revenue and net income, both B2B as well as B2B. They establish new brands and build brand awareness. They think cross functionally and accelerate business strategy across the organization. They help introduce new and sometimes disruptive, industry-changing products. The lead brand evolution, empower brand strategy, product innovation. They also integrate brands to expand market share, increase sales and improve profitability. They lead the conception, marketing and launch of sometimes disruptive, category-creating products. Their footprint can be very wide, leading marketing, advertising, merchandising, creative, customer service, sales and functional specialists and the managers who manage them. They manage down but they also tie everything they do towards achieving overall corporate business goals at the top level. Many are experts at transformation. Transforming marketing departments can take many forms: Re-staffing, re-structuring, re-allocating resources, sometimes having to tear the whole thing down and start all over. Hardly a marketing resume crosses my desk that does not feature some aspect of transformation or change.
VP’s create and transform channel strategies that lead to increased sales. They oversee all marketing efforts to attract, convert and retain customers. They grow existing customer databases and launch loyalty and other retention programs to help keep customers coming back. Often they are called upon to solidify high level partnerships and other relationships with vendors, suppliers, agencies, wholesalers, distributors, resellers, retailers and other key distribution channels.
A VP of Marketing looks at business situations objectively and dispassionately. They cannot let their own biases determine who gets attention. When you’re a VP everyone wants your time, so you must prioritize ruthlessly. They are key members of the organization’s executive leadership team, sitting on steering committees, executive leadership teams and other high level panels that determine the future direction of the business.
The Softer Skills of a VP of Marketing
VP’s are cultural leaders. You must have rock solid moral fortitude. And of course, you have to be a strong departmental leader. You provide guidance and inspiration, you create clarity out of ambiguity, you display empathy and transparency. Directors can certainly be strong leaders, but at the VP level, the difference between being a mediocre leader and an exceptional leader is magnified, and can have a much greater overall impact on the organization. And it’s not enough to be an expert on just the company you work for, but you also represent your business in the industry you’re in, so you need to stay on top of industry trends and what the competition is doing. Some are nationally known authorities in their industry. They lead multiple teams that are not aligned, and get them marching to the same drum. Marketers are experts at planning, forecasting, budgeting and maximizing return on investment.
No doubt it- it takes a tremendous amount of talent and skill to be a modern executive-level marketer, and they serve as a tremendous inspiration for marketers who want to continue growing in their careers and let’s face it, when it comes to marketing, the sky truly is the limit!