Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Marketing Executive?

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Do you have the necessary skills, experience, and education to be a marketing executive?

Projected job growth from 2014 to 2024 is 6 percent for all executives, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is lower than the average 7 percent projected job growth across all occupations.

Slower job growth means more competition for marketers looking to pursue executive-level positions. There are also naturally fewer opportunities the higher you go up the executive ladder. But having the right educational background, experience, and skills helps you land the marketing executive position you want successfully and securely.

First, let’s take a look at the scope of two top executive marketing positions — Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Vice Presidents (VPs) of Marketing — pulling salary data from PayScale.

Marketing executive profile: Chief marketing officer

Base annual salary: $80,253-$253,036
National average annual salary: $187,000

The chief marketing officer (CMO) is responsible for creating and managing the execution of a company’s marketing vision.

The CMO concretely lays out goals and provides direction for their sales and marketing employees. They must also be able to communicate the excitement and vision of the company to the media and clients through many marketing channels.

Marketing executive profile: Vice president of marketing

Base annual salary: $81,835-$194,584
National average annual salary: $155,000

Vice presidents of marketing are highly placed executives or board-level directors responsible for outlining and managing a company’s marketing strategies around its products and services. They have responsibilities that range from branding to advertising and even pricing and discount structures.

The VP of marketing will typically have a research team that evaluates the effectiveness of current marketing programs, and generates ideas for future product development. They are usually responsible for presenting and proving the ROI of marketing strategies to other executives and the board.

For both CMOs and VPs of Marketing, extensive travel can be required and long hours are often expected.

Also consider that, according to Payscale, 79 percent of marketing coordinators are women, while only 47 percent of VPs of Marketing and 38 percent of CMOs are women.

This gender gap may be a result of generational differences. Still, it reflects a reality faced by women who want to pursue leadership positions in their marketing careers.

Educational requirements

Most employers require an advanced degree in marketing, business administration, or a related field for executive marketing positions.

U.S. News & World Report is a key source for information and stats on the best MBA programs for marketers. You can access basic data on top tier schools for free, or you can sign up to get information on the full list.

Learn more about the pros and cons of getting an MBA in marketing in our post, Do You Need an MBA in Marketing to Get Ahead?

Experience

If you are looking to lead a company, consider that 20 percent of current Fortune 500 chief executive officers start out in sales and marketing, according to Forbes.

Most marketing executives have at least a decade of experience under their belts. Here’s the breakdown, using data from PayScale:

CMO

  • Less than 1 year (1 percent)
  • 1-4 years (5 percent)
  • 5-9 years (8 percent)
  • 10-19 years (39 percent)
  • 20+ years (47 percent)

VP of Marketing

  • Less than 1 year (0 percent)
  • 1-4 years (3 percent)
  • 5-9 years (12 percent)
  • 10-19 years (49 percent)
  • 20+ years (36 percent)

Top marketing executives don’t strictly come from a traditional marketing-only background. In fact, according Kathryn Ullrich, while about one-third of CMOs and VPs of marketing come from a marketing background, the other two-thirds have more diverse experiences.

Source: FastCompany
Almost a quarter (24 percent) of CMOs and VPs of marketing are domain, or industry, experts who have an in-depth knowledge of target customers.

Professional with a strategic or analytics background, such as former strategy consultants and investment bankers, account for 15 percent of marketing executives.

Executives pulled from cross-functional (14 percent) and sales (13 percent) backgrounds can cover the multifaceted demands of senior-level marketing positions, improving marketing’s impact across the organization.

Executive skills

When it comes to building your marketing skills to fit the current demands of a marketing executive, you’ll want to keep an eye on skills that are popular, as well as skills that are correlated with higher paying salaries.

Popular skills
According to PayScale, popular skills among CMOs and VPs of Marketing include:

CMO

  • Strategic marketing
  • Marketing management
  • Branding
  • Marketing communications
  • Business development

VP of Marketing

  • Strategic marketing
  • Marketing management
  • Marketing communications
  • Product marketing
  • Advertising

In-demand skills
On the other hand, the skills that are correlated with salaries higher than that of the national average include:

CMO

  • Online marketing (10 percent higher salary)
  • Product marketing (10 percent higher salary)
  • Strategic marketing (6 percent higher salary)
  • Media/public relations (4 percent higher salary)
  • Branding (3 percent higher salary)
  • Marketing management (2 percent higher salary)
  • Sales management (2 percent higher salary)

VP of Marketing

  • Product development (17 percent higher salary)
  • Product marketing (15 percent higher salary)
  • Market research (7 percent higher salary)
  • Online marketing (4 percent higher salary)
  • Strategic marketing (3 percent higher salary)
  • Marketing management (3 percent higher salary)
  • Strategic planning (3 percent higher salary)
  • Branding (2 percent higher salary)
  • Lead generation (2 percent higher salary)
  • Business strategy (2 percent higher salary)

Skills that are correlated with salaries lower than the national average are not necessarily skills you should avoid picking up in order to pursue senior-level marketing positions. However, they could be deprioritized in favor of more in-demand skills that might be rewarded with higher pay.

These skills include:

CMO

  • Marketing communications (1 percent lower salary)
  • Business development (3 percent lower salary)
  • Social media marketing (20 percent lower salary)

VP of Marketing

  • Advertising (1 percent lower salary)
  • Marketing communications (2 percent lower salary)
  • People management (7 percent lower salary)
  • Social media marketing (12 percent lower salary)
  • Media/Public relations (17 percent lower salary)
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