What Does it Take to be the Head of Marketing?

What Does it Take to be the Head of Marketing?

What Does it Take to be the Head of Marketing?

Imagine this… you wake up one morning and are told that you’re running a marathon that day. You have not prepared for the marathon, but you need to head to the starting line within an hour.

Running this marathon was not your idea. You have considered running one in the past, but have never thought beyond the “conceptual” stage of the process. Before now you had no plan other than “I want to complete a marathon at some point in my life,” but now it has to happen today. 

The only thing you know, and are being told by everyone important to you, is that you must compete right now, and you need to do your best to win.

Is your heart racing yet? Can you feel the anxiety and anticipation prickling the back of your neck? How could you possibly succeed at a task that typically requires foresight, months or even years of planning and preparation, and would be a difficult, grueling affair even the BEST circumstances?

Congratulations! You’re a Head of Marketing. You are in charge of taking someone else’s idea and getting it across a finish line that is far off in the distance. You have been given a product to sell and an objective to meet, and the rest is up to you.

Once you are promoted to this position, whether it’s as a business owner, VP, marketing manager, or even a lowly intern whose new boss is blissfully unaware of the complexities of digital marketing (You can do facebook, right?), the task is similar to being told that you need to run a marathon right now.

The good news is that if you’ve been doing any form of marketing for any amount of time, you’re more prepared for this position than you think (if you have absolutely no experience, get certified now).

In our marathon example, imagine that while you haven’t been planning on running a marathon today, you’ve at least been training consistently; what you need is a strategy, advice from people who ARE prepared, and a mindset to get the job done.

The Head of Marketing position may be both challenging and demanding, but it is equally vital, rewarding, and doable with the right plan. You have been granted the opportunity to steer the direction of an entire brand, and in many circumstances, entire companies. The future is in your hands, and this article will give you the basic information you need to excel.

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What Does a Head of Marketing Do?

When people imagine executives, owners, and “bosses,” most don’t think about anyone actually doing anything. They picture strategy planning, meetings, and delegation to hordes of capable professionals who will do the grunt work.

That is NOT the Head of Marketing.

The Head of Marketing is a DOER. It all comes down to four core elements: Strategy, Execution, Measurement, and Optimization.

  • Define and articulate an effective strategy
  • Execute that strategy across departments
  • Accurately measure the effectiveness of that plan, and…
  • Optimize the strategy to achieve the defined goals 

A Head of Marketing could be a VP of Marketing, a Director of Marketing, or even a Marketing Manager in some companies. But unlike a Chief Marketing Officer (who focuses more on brand, communications, and budget allocations) Heads of Marketing focus on execution and results.

In other words, Heads of Marketing actually DO marketing, which is why Heads of Marketing are in such high demand.

What are the Roles & Responsibilities of the Head of Marketing?

What are the Roles & Responsibilities of the Head of Marketing?

The roles and responsibilities of the Head of Marketing relate to creating a marketing strategy, executing that strategy, measuring how effective it was, and optimizing it to achieve your goals.

While the scope of the work may sound daunting, chances are you’ve been managing each of these aspects already, just in a narrower capacity.

If you’re a media buyer, you’ve probably created and executed a paid ad campaign, measured the results through a series of A/B testing, and adjusted your strategy to achieve your desired ROI. You’ll be using a similar process as the Head of Marketing, you’ll just be expanding it to include the other methods of marketing.

What are the methods of marketing you’ll be employing? While it will really depend on your industry, business, and objectives, it will include a mix of the following:

  • Paid Traffic Management
  • Analytics & Data Management
  • Optimization & Testing Management
  • E-Commerce Management (if applicable)
  • Email Marketing Management
  • Conversion Funnel Management
  • Search (SEO) Marketing Management
  • Community Management
  • Social Media Management
  • Content Marketing Management

In some cases, as the Head of Marketing you may be responsible for strategizing, executing, measuring, and optimizing all of the above yourself. Sounds unrealistic but we’ve trained people to do so before. More likely you’ll have a team of people to help, although managing people can be just as difficult, it’s the only way you’ll be able to scale in most situations.

Either way, you need an overarching strategy to coordinate and execute everything, and unlike your subordinates, you’ll need to communicate your strategy and results to the owners of the company and your fellow executives.

How Much Do Heads of Marketing Make?

You probably want me to say something like “$250k plus bonuses… MINIMUM,” but this role doesn’t work like that.

Technically, the average Head of Marketing annual salary in the US is $114,150 and there are 4,625 positions currently available with that title.

The problem is that the role “Head of Marketing” is not necessarily a position. Like I said before, a Head of Marketing could be a VP of Marketing, a Director of Marketing, or even a Marketing Manager. The important differentiator is that the Head of Marketing is responsible for both execution and results.

“Heads of Marketing should get paid six figures because they generate seven figures. Hiring a Head of Marketing is not a cost, it’s an investment that you can absolutely ROI.”

Ryan Deiss, President of DigitalMarketer

What Kind of Experience Should a Head of Marketing Have?

What experience Heads of Marketing SHOULD have, and what they HAVE, are two wildly different things. Like I said, many small businesses will inadvertently assign this position to lowly receptionists when they put them in charge of their websites and social media presence.

Should you have as much experience as possible as a marketing professional? Yup. Should you build a company based on your ability to market goods and services? Sure. Should you work your way up through the ranks of marketers within a large corporation? That’d be great.

Is all of this experience completely necessary? Not if you you have a solid strategy, the will to execute, and ideally, some experienced Heads of Marketing to guide you.

The good news is that most of the methods you’ll use (see the Roles & Responsibilities answer above) have established best practices that can be followed. You just need an overarching strategy and management techniques to control the process.

Do You Need a Marketing Degree to Be a Head of Marketing?

Nope! Like most degrees, a marketing degree is only worth as much as you’re willing to get out of it. Can it give you some guidance in regards to basic strategy and the history of marketing in general? Yes! Is it going to show you exactly what is necessary to succeed as the Head of Marketing? Probably not.

Marketing changes every day, week, month, and year. New platforms and methods constantly shift the marketing landscape, and when combined with economic, political, and societal changes, the chances that you’ll learn something today that will apply 10 years from now is slim.

That said, the one thing that doesn’t change is the journey you need to take your potential customers on… from being totally unaware of your brand to becoming a customer to becoming a raving, long time follower and advocate. We call that journey the Customer Value Journey.

Combine that with mentorship from experienced and successful heads of marketing, and you have an advantage over almost everyone on the market.

What Was My Journey as a Head of Marketing?

I’ve been working as the Head of Marketing in some capacity for the last two decades. My experience ranges from business owner to marketing executive to content manager then back to business owner and finally back to executive. I’ve managed teams, outsourced components overseas, and built entire campaigns from scratch including brand, website, photography, videography, graphic design, and execution.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the benefit of the courses, certifications, bootcamps, and communities that DigitalMarketer facilitates. Most of the time I was so “in the weeds” that I couldn’t stop to think about the overarching strategy I was executing at any given moment.

I was simply surviving, and each success lived independently of every other success, meaning that I wasn’t building on anything.

You don’t need to work hard for 20 years to be a successful Head of Marketing. You just need some guidance… and that’s exactly what DigitalMarketer is here for.



The lovely content team here at DigitalMarketer works hard to make sure you have the best blog posts to read. But some posts require a group effort, and we decided to stop the rock-paper-scissors tournaments that decided the byline so that we had more time to write. Besides, we all graduated from kindergarten: we can share.

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