4 things you need to go from marketing director to marketing executive

If you’re a Director of Marketing (or in a similar mid-level marketing role) the chances are that you’re looking for a way to take the next step in your career and move up to a marketing leadership position–such as Vice President of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer.

While hard work and experience will go a long way toward helping you advance in your career, and are necessary ingredients, you’ll likely have to build upon your current skill set and expand your professional network before you’ll be considered a marketing executive position.

I recently spoke with two of my venture capitalist connections that are well-versed in building marketing teams, and are often asked to help hire the right marketing executive to lead their portfolio companies. I’d like to highlight four key traits that any marketing executive needs. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of what you need, these are amongst the most important attributes.

1. Hone Your Quantitative Skills

Today, every marketing executive needs to be comfortable dealing with marketing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). In a conversation with Greg Goldfarb, Managing Director at Summit Partners, Goldfarb told me that he always scans a resume to look at the ratio of numbers to text to get an initial sense of how comfortable a candidate is reporting on marketing metrics. A few metrics he looks for are things like the campaign conversion rates, conversion to lead rate, growth in number of marketing qualified leads, etc. Since, as Amanda Augustine pointed out in her recent post, the average recruiter only spends six seconds reviewing your resume, it’s important to convey this right up front.

Phil Dur, Managing Director at Investor Growth Capital says he wants to see executive-level marketing candidates be able to say, “I grew marketing-qualified leads from 2,000 per year to 7,000 per year and reduced the cost per lead from $60 to $35.” So in order to be considered for the position, you need to be in tune with these KPIs and have the acumen to report them in a meaningful way.

2. Expand Industry Connections

Of course, another critical attribute of a quality marketing executive is that they’re well-connected in their industry. This goes beyond simply being well-connected with individuals in your industry. To be truly valuable as a marketing executive, you need analyst and press connections as well. This means that while you’re still at the Director of Marketing level you should be actively seeking to make connections with industry influencers and analyst firms.

In my industry, enterprise software, this would mean developing relationships with analysts at firms like Gartner and Forrester and tech publications such as TechCrunch. Look at your industry and decide which are the most important analyst and press publications to seek out. As you’re expanding your network, however, it’s important to be intentional about who you’re connecting with. You should act in your self-interest when networking and ask yourself how building a relationship with that person will further your marketing career. If you can’t quickly come up with an answer to that, they might not be the best connection.

3. Learn Modern Marketing Technologies

In addition to expanding your network, it’s important to grow your familiarity with the technologies that run modern marketing campaigns and departments. At the director level, you’re likely well-acquainted with customer relationship management (CRM) software and some marketing analytics programs such as Google Analytics, Google AdWords as well as email marketing programs.

At the executive level, it’s important to understand these technologies and then some. At the moment, one particularly important technology to familiarize yourself with is marketing automation. Why? As Phil Dur says, experience with marketing automation systems signals that a marketer is used to “tying marketing investment to a discrete return,” which is important for any marketing executive. If you’re not familiar with marketing automation, a great place to take courses and become certified in the needed skills is the Marketing Automation Institute–which holds marketing events and offers tutorials.

4. Obtain C-Suite Reference

To round out your skills and expanded network, it’s important to have C-level approval of your work. As a marketing executive, you’ll like report directly to the CEO so it’s necessary to have CEOs from your prior companies vouch for your work and your ability to deliver results. Goldfarb says that he wants “to hear from CEOs and VPs of Marketing that the candidate has a track record of driving top-line growth or adding business value.” These references are important because these individuals are the best able to judge the candidates contribute to incremental revenue and overall health of the business.

Have you made the jump from mid-level marketing employee to marketing executive? Share your tips for success in the comments section below.