Should your agency hire a Marketing Strategist or Coordinator or Director?

Should your agency hire a Marketing Strategist… or Coordinator?

Hiring a marketer at your agency can be a confusing, frustrating time. How experienced do they need to be? And how expensive will they be?

If they’re a subject matter expert (SME), you expect them to be a strong biller. If you hire someone to market the agency itself, you expect them to generate leads and fill your sales pipeline. Yet there’s a huge range in skillsets and salary expectations—I’ve seen from $25,000 to $150,000+.

How do you know what level of marketer to hire? Before you start hiring every “full-stack marketer” you can find, consider what your agency really needs.

In this article, I share four levels of agency marketing professionals—Marketing Coordinator, Marketing Specialist, Marketing Strategist, and Marketing Director. I’ll focus on differences between each role, and will cover specifics on hiring them in a future article.

Your decision will be based on your agency’s business needs and budget; those should drive your hiring process. Let’s dig in!

Quick tips: Do you need a marketing coordinator, specialist, strategist, or director?

Here are a few quick tips to help you determine which marketing role to invest in.

  • Do you need more organization for your clients’ projects? Hire a Marketing Coordinator. A New Rope marketing coordinator is highly organized and reliable, and will ensure the right projects get done in the right order, at the right time.
  • Is your pipeline running dry? Hire a Marketing Director. Client concentration problems or not enough prospects in your pipeline is a sign that you’re neglecting your internal marketing. Hire a marketing director to focus on marketing your agency.
  • Are you looking to add expertise to your team? Hire a Marketing Specialist. Marketing specialists have focused on one aspect of marketing. If you need to improve a particular skill within your team’s skill set, go with a specialist.
  • Do you want to focus on more deliberate marketing? Hire a Marketing Strategist, based on their strengths in planning and long-term vision. They will take care of the long-term success of both the agency and your clients.

Now let’s dive into the specifics of each role to help you determine which marketing role you need at your agency.

Note that the titles and roles may fluctuate between agencies. For example, strategy might be led by a marketing strategist at a large agency, versus a marketing director a small agency. And salary expectations vary by market—marketing candidates in large metro areas command premium salaries.

What is a Marketing Coordinator?

A marketing coordinator interfaces between teams, supports the marketing department’s initiatives and ensures projects like campaigns, product launches, events, and more are executed well.

Marketing coordinators usually have a hand in all active marketing campaigns, and provide multi-faceted support whenever needed. They are in charge of ensuring all communications are in line with the brand, and provide support when necessary.

There’s often skillset overlap between a marketing coordinator and a project coordinator. A key difference is that marketing coordinators typically want to stay in marketing, while a project coordinator typically aspires to become a PM.

Marketing Coordinator Salary Range & Experience

Marketing coordinators need a healthy background in writing, since most marketing coordinators handle subject matter expert (SME) work like copywriting, running PPC campaigns, managing social media accounts, and creating client reports.

They need to be organized and detailed-oriented—good project managers who can see what skills and staffing are needed, and where. These soft skills come with experience, with many marketing coordinators having at 1-3 years of experience under their belt.

According to Salary.com, the average salary for a marketing coordinator ranges from $46,000 to $60,000 in the U.S. I’ve seen some agencies hire entry-level marketing coordinators for $25,000 to $35,000 (but keep in mind entry-level hires need more training and oversight).

Pros and Cons of a Marketing Coordinator

A marketing coordinator keeps things organized and moving forward. They are closer to entry-level than the other marketing roles on this list, which means their salary requirements are fairly affordable.

A marketing coordinator may need more coaching and mentoring than other, more senior marketing roles. Look for someone who is eager to learn, and willing to do some grunt work to get experience.

Marketing Coordinator Career Advancement

Typically, marketing coordinators want to get promoted to become a marketing specialist, or stay somewhat generalized as a marketing strategist. Others may jump to project management.

Ultimately, marketing coordinator tends to be a stepping-stone role toward a high position. Expect someone to stay in the role for between six months and two years before they expect a promotion.

What is a Marketing Specialist?

Marketing specialists are sometimes known as research analysts—or potentially a PPC analyst, SEO analyst, or social media analyst. As the alternative titles suggest, they use data and a critical-thinking approach to see trends and other key information that the numbers reveal.

Marketing specialists can figure out what will sell, gaps in the market, and even when to sell. They use data and research on purchasing habits, competitors, pricing, customer behavior, and historical trends to assess marketing strategies and best practices for a particular brand.

A marketing specialist also tends to have an expertise in a particular area, such as inbound marketing or advertising and PPC. If you are looking to add specific expertise to your agency, look for a marketing specialist in that area.

Marketing Specialist Salary Range & Experience

Marketing specialists typically have mid-level marketing experience, since they must be trained to spot trends and opportunities within their specialization. They need to look at multiple streams of data to make important marketing decisions, so look for individuals who are good with numbers and making sense of them.

Marketing specialists must also have good communication skills in order to process information well and convey what is most important.

According to Indeed, marketing specialists make an average salary of $53,000. However, someone in an in-demand role (like PPC analyst or SEO analyst) could easily demand $80,000 or more—or closer to $100,000 in a senior role in a large metro area.

Pros and Cons of a Marketing Specialist

A marketing specialist is data-focused, which means the pros and cons depend on what you need for your agency. Data is king, so having a data-focused analyst on the team will give you a valuable edge over competition that doesn’t pay close attention to metrics.

However, marketing specialists tend to drill down into specific areas. For example, they may focus on events, content development, or advertising. If you need a team that can handle multiple different marketing activities, you may need to hire more than one marketing specialist, plus a marketing coordinator to harmonize their efforts.

Marketing Specialist Career Advancement

Some specialists are happy to stay where they are, but they typically want promotion to become a senior specialist. In this role, they want higher pay and—frequently—a semi-supervisory role. Perhaps they’ll be your “Senior SEO Analyst” or “Lead PPC Specialist.”

If they prefer to generalize, they may pursue becoming a marketing strategist instead—but this works best when they have experience in several specialties, rather than just one.

What is a Marketing Strategist?

A marketing strategist is an experienced, results-based marketer who usually leads a team to reach the business’ objectives. A marketing strategist is responsible for developing, overseeing, and measuring the overall marketing strategy of a business.

Marketing strategists are usually T-shaped marketers, with general knowledge of multiple marketing aspects, and a deep knowledge of one or two areas, such as inbound marketing. They have proven success stories that demonstrate expertise, and knowledge of online and physical marketing, CRM software, SEO, analytics tools, content management systems, and web design.

Marketing Strategist Salary Range & Experience

A marketing strategist typically has 5 or more years of experience under their belt, enough time to know the industry they are specialized in, and have seen how different strategies and tactics play out.

Since marketing strategists typically lead teams—formally or informally—they must also have leadership and communication skills.

According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a marketing strategist is $65,000 per year. A small agency might hire a strategist for $50,000, while senior strategists would expect $100,000+, especially in a large metro area.

Pros and Cons of a Marketing Strategist

A marketing strategist is a great investment for agencies that are far enough along in their development. They have the expertise needed to set and deliver specific marketing goals, align strategies with business targets, identify new opportunities, and develop innovative ways to establish long-term success.

If you are just starting out, they may be on the expensive side. In addition, if you don’t have a team ready for them to utilize, you may be paying a marketing strategist salary when you need someone to do marketing coordinator tasks.

If you specialize by client industry vertical—as you ideally do—your marketing strategists can become an expert in your clients’ industry. This helps you position the agency as each client’s trusted advisor, which helps on client retention and upsells.

Marketing Strategist Career Advancement

I meet a lot of new graduates who say their dream job is to become a marketing strategist. I recommend they get experience doing tactical work first in a range of areas, since that will help them create better strategies in the future. (Also, few companies would hire a fresh graduate to do hardcore marketing strategy work.)

Marketing strategists may aspire to become a senior strategist or a marketing director—typically depending on how much they want to manage others.

What is a Marketing Director?

Marketing plays an integral role in an agency’s success, particularly marketing agencies, which tend to neglect their own in-house marketing needs. A marketing director often focuses on self-marketing (within an agency), versus client marketing.

Marketing directors develop marketing strategy based on their experience with what has worked and what is valuable to explore. They study economic trends and competitors’ behavior, ensure a clear definition of success (and target audience), and have a long-term perspective of the agency’s success.

In addition to marketing efforts, marketing directors also typically have a hand in other business operations, such as budgets and financial planning.

They frequently supervise one or more team members—often a Marketing Coordinator who executes on the director’s strategy—but also may pull-in other employees as project-based helpers. Their permanent team size depends on the agency’s headcount and lead-gen needs.

Marketing Director Salary Range & Experience

Marketing directors are advanced in their careers, usually with decades of experience and successes under their belt. They have a good understanding of both short-term and long-term strategies, and have seen first-hand what works (and how).

Look for individuals who can foster client relationships, coach and mentor their subordinates, are innovative and continuously learning, and have a good understanding of statistical analysis and marketing research.

According to Salary.com, the average Marketing Director annual salary ranges from $116,000 to $158,000. I’ve seen small agencies give someone a “director” title for less than $75,000 (as “title in lieu of salary”) but they typically don’t have a director-level skillset. Someone with a strong personal brand will demand more—and will probably demand a CMO title.

Pros and Cons of a Marketing Director

A marketing director has usually grown through the other marketing roles on this list, making them the most experienced and well-rounded marketers you can hire. They not only have a good mind for marketing, but also for overall business success—including succession planning. They can develop customer relations programs, speak at events, and give presentations or webinars.

However, a marketing director demands a high salary and focuses mainly on big-picture goals. If you need a SME or an “implementer,” don’t hire a Marketing Director—they’ll likely resent doing the low-level work.

Marketing Director Career Advancement

For smaller agencies, employees may max-out at Director of Marketing. To get a significant salary bump, they’d need to switch companies—or hang in there as the agency grows rapidly.

Got a long-time Director of Marketing already? Think about ways to keep them engaged. You don’t necessarily need to give them a VP or CMO title, but know they may be getting itchy.

Who will your agency’s next marketing hire be?

As you can see, you have a range of options—and a range of salary expectations—when it comes to hiring your agency’s next marketing role.

Question: Based on what I’ve explained above, which role does your agency need to hire for next?

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