digital marketing manager recruitment

People often ask me as a leading digital marketing manager recruitment specialist: What type of ecommerce and digital marketing talent are employers looking for the most these days? The short answer is that they’re looking for everything, from SEO Managers and email specialists, to thought leaders who can help transform more traditional companies into digital businesses. But if you measure it by the type employer inquiries I’m getting here at Bernhart Associates, one job category clearly leads the pack: Digital Marketing Manager. Roughly categorized as those with between 5 and 12 years of digital marketing experience, I’m getting three times the number of requests for the Digital Marketing Manager than any other level. It’s no wonder: currently lists thousands of posted jobs with “digital marketing” contained somewhere in the job description. These candidates can pull out a map, throw a dart, and get a job there. Many who launch active job searches end up with multiple offers.

Break the Compensation Rules

If you’re thinking about hiring a Digital Marketing Manager- roughly 7-10 years experience- you should start thinking about it now. CareerCast has released its list of jobs that it predicts employers will have the most difficulty filling in 2021, and it comes as no surprise that Marketing Manager is among the top 10, and that’s for all categories of marketing, not just digital.  Add strong digital skills and abilities to the need, and the message is clear: If you thought it was challenging to hire these individuals in 2020, just wait for what’s ahead. As an experienced digital marketing manager recruitment expert I should know! I just recently completed a search for a Digital Marketing Manager with 8 years of relevant experience. Three of my final candidates received multiple offers. ALL three. This despite a down economy in the middle of a pandemic. Counter-offers are also making a roaring comeback, and in fact for this particular category of candidate, it’s almost becoming the norm. I’m also seeing upward pressure on salaries. When all was said and done, my client offered a pay package that included a handsome 16% increase in salary.  Granted, 16% pay increases are not the norm these days. But when you’re talking about the most highly skilled and accomplished manager-level digital marketing talent- and you know the ones I mean, the ones who can truly make a big difference in your business- sticking with old compensation rules, even in this environment, is a losing strategy.

The battle for digital marketers, particularly the Digital Marketing Manager, is full on, and you need to be prepared to take bold actions to attract the best and the brightest. As the above example points out, sometimes that means having to re-think your compensation rules.  I still encounter employers who stubbornly hold to out-dated views that digital marketers need companies, that technology and capital are what give online businesses their competitive advantage, and that exceptional candidates will accept the standard package they’re offered. Nothing is standard these days about a top performing Digital Marketing Manager.  The new reality is irrefutable: Companies need these candidates, talented people are the differentiator, and the talented ones are scarce.  They are demanding more, and getting it. Understandably, many business leaders and owners are less aggressive when it comes to compensation because salaries and bonuses immediately hit the bottom line. But the new reality requires a new way of thinking.  Don’t be constrained by internal equity.  When it comes to these candidates, that’s old school.  Pay what the market will pay. Drawing on my experience as a long-time digital marketing manager recruitment specialist if you don’t one of your competitors will be delighted to take that candidate off your hands, and make the investment without blinking.

The Evolution of the Digital Marketing Manager

I affectionately call this group the “tweeners.” The Digital Marketing Manager has grown beyond individual contributor, task-oriented, highly campaign-specific jobs, but are below the senior-most leaders who have larger P and L responsibility, manage big digital commerce teams and participate in higher level conversations that drive the overall business. Of course, those lines are often blurred, particularly in smaller companies where a Manager can have as much impact on the business as a Director or a Veep at a bigger organization. Many Managers I know also have side-hustles where they’re running their own at-home web businesses, some of them pretty sizable (one Digital Marketing Manager I know is running an ecommerce business from his home that he started some ten years ago that is actually larger than his employer!) But I generally describe Managers and Sr. Managers as my “mid-level” talent pool, those who’ve acquired enough experience to the point where strategy, management and leadership, budgeting and forecasting become a much bigger part of the job. Among those who come from agencies or technology providers, many are now selecting and managing those vendor partners as a Manager on the client side. One of the great satisfactions I have as a digital marketing manager recruitment specialist is placing these candidates and watching them grow and eventually take on bigger Director and VP-level jobs. One Digital Marketing Manager who I placed about 8 years ago is now leading a global team and running a P and L in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Digital Marketing Recruiter

Rolling Up Your Sleeves

The Digital Marketing Manager faces a very bright future. Although the US Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t break it down by channel, the BLS does project that the number of marketing jobs in the US will grow another 7% by the year 2024. While some of those jobs will focus on more traditional advertising, it doesn’t take a BLS report to know that many others, if not the majority, will have a very strong online component. I often hear employers describe their need for a Digital Marketing Manager who is “in the trenches” or someone who can “roll up their sleeves and do the work.” However you want to describe it, the DMM is still very much involved in the day-to-day blocking and tackling that goes on with executing digital strategy. In short, their job is to use the online channel to promote the brand and drive website traffic. Being in the trenches is good- in fact, it’s a “must have” for roles at this level. But many of the job descriptions that cross my desk have kitchen-sink-like expectations. HR reps who are not particularly familiar with these roles sometimes have a tendency to think of the job of the Digital Marketing Manager as more IT-ish, associating these positions  mostly with web development rather than marketing, and so they load up the JD with specific software tools and platforms. To be sure, any top ten list of essential skills that are required in digital marketing will certainly include technical knowledge, and we all know how beneficial it can be for anyone in digital marketing to develop solid relationships with the IT department. But as I like to describe it in my presentations, digital marketers are marketers who by definition are comfortable with technology, not the other way around.

Keep Learning

My best advice for a Digital Marketing Manager: Keep learning as much as you can and take on all the responsibility you can because, perhaps more than any other level in digital marketing and ecommerce, you are on a springboard that could truly catapult your career.

Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and omnichannel marketing. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 33 years. With more than 200 published articles on his blog and LinkedIn profile, and widely quoted by leading business publishers including Bloomberg, AdAge, AdWeek,  DigitalCommerce 360 and Target Marketing, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences and webinars. He is also a vetted member of the faculty of experts, specializing in the fields of digital commerce. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.