what skills and abilities are required to be head of industries marketing? how do candidates set themselves apart during an interview?
At Salesforce I’ve worked for 7 different executives in just over 6 years. Each of these leaders had a different mixture of leadership characteristics, and what I try to always look for is their ‘killer app’ - the leadership behaviors, and skills that they brought with them that were differentiated. New tools I could add to my personal leadership “tool box”.
Here are a few that I strive to master:
- A leader who builds a coalition of influential stakeholders around their vision, who proactively seeks high-impact projects or opportunities for growth for their team
- A leader that can embrace change and adapts to a dynamic, ambiguous environment
- A leader who can communicate empathetically and vulnerably when things are not going well, but also strives to bring back positivity to challenging situations.
- A leader who is a master at identifying high potential individuals, directly recruits them, and inspires them to grow and deliver their best work.
- A leader that is able to build trust through a mix of humility and courageous communication so that team health, boundaries, and accountability to the business find a stable balancing point.
- A servent leader who shows gratitude, who takes time to celebrate, and who shines the spotlight on teams and collaboration (vs. individuals) when celebrating an accomplishment.
It depends on what the charter of the industry marketing team is at your company, but in my case I came up as a product marketer and went on to build and lead product marketing teams, which is a pretty good proxy for industry marketing. The traits are all fundamentally the same, starting with the ability to quickly and repeatedly synthesize lots of complex information into a simple, compelling message that people understand and remember. Being able to not only formulate that message and indentify who needs to hear it, but then also build a marketing machine that knows how effectively use all the GTM tools in their toolbox - from web copy to highly targeted account-level interaction - to reach those people with that message.
As for interviewing candidates, it sounds simple but in my case I look for interesting, coherent stories that are told well. Stories about someone's career, their current or past company's journey in a given market or about the best/worst things they've done in their career. It's the foundation of product, industry or really any marketing role - strong communication skills that make an idea stand out in a crowded field. Of course vertical/domain experience is important as is functional marketing experience, but being an deep expert in a given industry is great and an important input, but the important output is delivering a message that reaches people.
A firm grasp on the market, understanding sales, empathy, great copywriting, amazing storytelling, understanding of campaign operations, an entreprenurial spirit, and leading with solution marketing is key to being a succesful industry marketer.
In my opinion, a great marketer is an ex-salesman. Marketers should always be trying to sell and close, this allows them to create the best possible collateral and pitches for sales teams.
You must be keen on directing and developing target markets, segmenting & positionining, and eliciting customer feedback at all times. Leading product marketers through campaign strategies, creating demand for the product, and increasing sales and market traction are foundational skills.
Work closely with internal stakeholders, gather a good amount of experience in product marketing, and try to be an SME in a particular market. You should also truly hone in on communication, written, analytical, and research skills to be effective.
During interviews a candidate can set themselves apart by doing the following:
- Demonstate your understanding of solution marketing
- Understanding sales ie sales cycles, pitching, closing
- Walk the interviewee through a detailed GTM plan (massive points for unorthodox and out of the box strategies)
- Show how you have worked with demand generation and campaign teams
- Cross collaboration across departments ie how have you worked with sales and customer succes?
- Understand a marketing funnel inside and out, and how certain stages map effectively to a buyers journey
A "head of role" is a very different focus. Before we can talk about standing out in the interview, I think it's important to define what a leader in marketing can and should be.
At this point in your career, you already know how to do the job. The pivot now is to build a team that can do the job better than you and at larger scale. And then you have to leverage your expertise to help guide the overall company to a better, more predictable, more exciting outcome.
Rule #2.#2. You have to understand other teams' functions almost as well as your own. You have to speak sales, demand gen, finance, talent, product, and CS. And you show that knowledge through the questions you ask.
What does this look like?
- You are continually recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and leveling up your team. Find their strengths, build their skillsets. You can measure your success when your peers (and your leadership) start talking about your team members more than you
- You are leading projects that have little to do with vertical marketing. You're leading a pricing strike team, or building the company's first Sustainability program. You're spending 30% of your timing improving the candidate experience during the hiring process.
- You're finding problems and evangelizing their priority to solve, even if they're outside your scope.
So, for a standout "Head of" candidate? I'm looking for someone who:
- Can clearly define what success / meaningful outcomes might look like given minimal inputs
- Brings a clear point of view on how to build, coach, and develop teams (and has the receipts)
- Can go deep on a functional topic outside of their core area (like sales process, MOPS, etc.)
- Continually returns to the priority of building the team
- Has a clear, pragmatic POV of what's working and what's not in their current company