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What is a Head of Marketing?

If you want to see your business grow, you need to invest in your marketing team. And for smaller startups just finding their feet, this could mean hiring a head of marketing.

There are more than 66,000 heads of marketing currently employed in the United States. They were once considered a ‘luxury role,’ but have since become a core hire for both startups and enterprise brands.

A head of marketing is even more integral in the finance and tech industries. If you’re scaling a SaaS or a fintech platform, hiring a head of marketing could be a no-brainer.

A graph illustrating head of marketing jobs by industry

Hiring a head of marketing also demonstrates your understanding of direction and leadership. Not only is your head of marketing a driving force for ROI, but they can also maintain the cohesiveness of your communications.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Do You Need a Head of Marketing?

There are many moving parts in a growth marketing team, which means there are many opportunities for something to break down. If your business manages technical writers, product marketing specialists, and social media experts, you’ll need a driving force to keep everyone on the same page.

This is where your head of marketing comes into play.

By balancing timelines, deadlines, and creative briefs, your head of marketing can keep everything running smoothly. They can also drive campaigns with a growth mentality, facilitating purpose-driven content for leads.

The key responsibilities of a head of marketing include:

  • Creating a buyer’s journey or sales funnel on your site
  • Driving conversions by tracking the ROI of initiatives
  • Managing in-house and freelance workers
  • Writing content briefs or outlines
  • Brainstorming new initiatives

But how do you find a head of marketing, and when should you start looking for the right person?

It mostly depends on what your company needs.

First, let’s define what a head of marketing actually does.

What is a Head of Marketing?

A head of marketing is a senior staff member charged with managing a business’s marketing activities. They may report directly to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), or in some cases actually be the CMO. 

Since the head of marketing is an eclectic role, the work they do can take a variety of forms. 

This may include:

  • Creating or overseeing the creation of customer personas
  • Monitoring company messaging
  • Evaluating market positioning
  • Understanding threats and opportunities
  • Managing the rest of your marketing team

The overall goal is to help your business succeed by focusing on lead generation and building your marketing funnel.

But most heads of marketing don’t do this alone. In fact, they typically rely on a growth marketing team to maximize their results and proof test new ideas.

What is a Growth Marketing Team?

Grow marketing teams are a subset of marketers focused on growing your marketing funnel. Their overall goal is to test new ideas and identify hiccups in your lead generation strategies.

Heads of marketing typically lead growth marketers, which is one of the reasons they’re sometimes called ‘chief growth officers.’ Growth marketers report directly to the CGO, who then reports their findings to senior management.

You should know you’re not required to separate your growth marketing team from the rest of your staff. Most startups ask existing marketers to experiment with growth strategies alongside other their duties.

And keep in mind growth managers are not the same as heads of marketing. We wrote a comprehensive guide to help you tell the difference.

💡 Related: What is a Head of Growth?

Your Head of Marketing and KPIs

A picture illustrating marketing KPIs

While your head of marketing may work on some creative output, their primary task will be to establish KPIs. This requires a firm understanding of your business objectives, as well as strong familiarity with common BI platforms.

First, your head of marketing collects information about campaign spend, ROI, and KPIs. Then, they report their findings to senior management so they can develop an action plan. 

This process looks different in every business depending on its hierarchy or management structure.

There are three different approaches your company might take:

  • The head of marketing establishes KPIs for the marketing team, which are then communicated to executives.
  • Senior management establishes an overall business strategy, which helps the marketing lead create a digital marketing strategy to achieve goals.
  • Both sides work together to establish metrics, budgets, and expectations.

You should choose the reporting or accountability framework that makes the most sense for your business.

💡 Related: Developer Content Strategies That Work (and Scale)

When Should You Hire a Head of Marketing?

Timing is critical for hiring a head of marketing. 

If your business hasn’t yet turned a profit, you may want to rely on an internal role. 

If your company has already found its footing, it may be time to hire a full-time marketing head.

But before you start writing a job description, you should answer these questions with members of your C-suite:

1. Should My Marketing Head Be Hired Before Other Members of the Team?

If your business has a small or concise marketing team, you can hire a head of marketing at any time. This employee may act more as a CMO and work alongside senior management to keep the department’s work in line with goals.

If your marketing team is already well established, adding a new senior leader may not be a bad idea. If your marketing team doesn’t exist at all, it would be good to hire a head of marketing as the first member of the team.

2. Should My Marketing Team Be Built Before the Sales Team?

The best way to answer this is by looking at data — namely, understanding which departments drive the most conversions. Do your cold calls have a greater impact than your organic inbound traffic? Your answer will sculpt your growth marketing plan going forward

If you don’t already have a marketing or sales team, it might be beneficial to hold off hiring any full-time personnel. Instead, you should rely on freelance work or hire an agency until your company is ready to expand.

Here’s a list of other marketing roles and titles you might want to consider before making a decision.

3. Does My Company Need A Head of Marketing?

The right time to hire a head of marketing is before your company needs one. It’s best to set yourself up for success and avoid putting new employees in difficult starting positions.

You may be ready to hire a head of marketing if:

  • Your business revenue could accommodate a full-time employee (as well as their benefits, training, etc.).
  • Your company is a SaaS or hardware-focused industry that relies on product launches.
  • Your internal departments are unable to execute marketing strategies on their own.
  • You’re looking to establish or build a marketing department.

If you don’t meet any of the above criteria, your company may not be ready to hire a full-time head of marketing.

You should avoid hiring a head of marketing if:

  • Your sales team is getting the most conversions and therefore requires the most attention.
  • You’re too small to accommodate a full-time employee.
  • You’re unable to scale quickly. A full-time head of marketing could inundate you with leads you’re simply not ready to handle.
  • You can’t afford to pay their salary. The average head of marketing in the US gets paid $153,894 per year.

Does this latter category describe your business? You may want to consider some alternatives to a head of growth.

Agencies like Draft.dev vet applicants to find the most qualified freelance writers. By focusing on quality rather than quantity, we help technical businesses craft holistic approaches to scaling developer content.

Finding the Right Candidate

A picture illustrating a job interview

If you’re going to spend money on a marketing head, you’ll want to make sure they’re a good fit for your team. Since this is the leader in charge of your KPIs, they should be skilled in their field and familiar with your industry.

Where To Find A Head Of Marketing

Start by asking friends, coworkers, and networks about qualified marketers who may be interested in your role. 

Note that referred hires can be five times more effective than non-organic hires. They also cost less to hire, stay longer at their companies, and are more satisfied in their roles.

You could also post job applications through LinkedIn, Monster, or Indeed. Just keep in mind this could be extremely time-consuming. Every publicly posted job averages more than 250 applications, taking hours to screen, interview, and reject.

You could instead rely on DevRel Careers, a dedicated platform for developer marketing jobs. You can post jobs for free to a select group of talent who have years of experience in technical niches.

A screenshot of DevRel Careers job board homepage

How To Interview Candidates

It’s best to schedule face-to-face interviews whether you’re planning to host in-person or online. This makes it easy to ask hard-hitting questions and engage with the candidate on a personal level. 

In a similar vein, look for candidates with hands-on experience working in your industry. This doesn’t have to be a perfect match, but five years or more is typically the starting line.

If candidates have adjunct industry experience, don’t cross them off the list just yet. Unique industry knowledge could provide a unique perspective, encouraging your company to try things your competitors can’t, don’t, or won’t.

Regardless of your candidate’s background or experience, they should feel confident about seamlessly transitioning into your role. As you interview, be open and transparent about your expectations. What will the role entail? What sort of expectations should they have? What are your expectations for their success?

Being open and up-front will help you identify a well-suited candidate.

Making the Right Choice for Your Business

Strong marketing teams require strong leaders. For thousands of technical brands, this includes a head of marketing.

But with so much at stake for making the wrong hire, finding the right professional matters more than ever.

If you think hiring a head of growth is the next step for you, you should start planning for change right away. Make sure the timing is right, and always choose the right candidate, even if it means prolonging the hiring process. 

Not looking to hire a full-time head of marketing? We’d love to talk with you. Learn more about Draft.dev and our growth marketing process by booking a discovery call.