#MarketersBreakfast - Cultivating Quality Marketing Talent

It’s a tight talent market. Cultivating talent is a struggle all too familiar to marketers in every industry. More than ever, hiring managers are facing tight hiring timelines, loss of quality candidates to competitive salaries/benefits packages, and candidates “ghosting” companies during the interview process. Needless to say, finding that perfect fit is not an easy task.

The list includes some of the marketing brand leaders who attended the breakfast and contributed to the conversation.

The list includes some of the marketing brand leaders who attended the breakfast and contributed to the conversation.

To address this concern, AgencySparks hosted our quarterly #MarketersBreakfast at the Miami Ad School @ Portfolio Center to discuss solutions and recommendations to marketing leaders.

Some of the representatives in attendance included clients from Coca-Cola, Aaron’s, Kids II, Heineken USA, FOCUS Brands, and numerous others. We also welcomed some first-time attendees to the mix from brands like VITEC, Stearns Lending, and Hands on Atlanta.

Following the networking portion of the #MarketersBreakfast, attendees took their seats alongside peers to begin discussing this important challenge.

Annelle Barnett, CEO and Founder, of AgencySparks’ recruiting partner, Marketing Mob, teed up the conversation by presenting common pitfalls and offered advice for when recruiting marketing roles.

Here are some highlights from the conversation...

How do marketers find talent to fill their team?

Marketers expressed using LinkedIn and Facebook, hiring recruiters, creating a pipeline of talent through university relationships, and having employee referral programs.

Benefits of Using a Recruiter

The benefit of hiring a recruiter is that their number one priority is finding talent. Moira Vetter, CEO of Modo Modo Agency, pointed out that she is too busy running her business to devote adequate attention to hiring - and recruiters help her solve that problem. She needs someone who can find the best talent quickly.

Allie Clark, SVP Director of Client Services from Blue Sky, added that recruiters are an objective voice in the room.

Annelle Barnett chimed in here, adding that candidates are typically more transparent with recruiters about their needs and skill sets.

To learn more about AgencySparks’ recruiting offering, click here.

University Relationships

Having relationships with colleges and universities is a great way to build a pipeline of talent for any organization. AgencySparks CEO, Joe Koufman, pointed out that the AgencySparks team primarily came from the Digital Marketing program at the University of Georgia. However, it’s important to note that this pipeline of talent has its own limitations and the hiring manager should broaden their horizons and other recruitment routes as well.

Recruiting from universities is important. It gives you a pipeline of talent.

- Jeanette McWilliams, Director of Public Relations SCAD

Employee Referral Programs

Most attendees present had referral programs. Some even stated that they’ve seen the most success using these programs because it makes for a seamless fit. Companies are increasingly facing a problem where the candidate ghosts or quits early on in the process. MP Loyd, SVP, Group Account Director from DEFINITION 6, noted that their best talent has come from referrals and that people are less likely to flake when they are an employee’s reference.

How to attract a candidate?

Assess the Company’s Needs.

Where are there gaps in the company? If there are gaps in the culture or a department, look for someone who can fill them. This does not necessarily mean someone who meets all of the requirements, but instead someone who is malleable, and can grow into their role.

It’s good to hire a candidate who doesn’t have 100% of the skills required for the job because it gives them room to grow. People want that.

- Annelle Barnett, CEO and Founder Marketing Mob

Raghu Kakarala, Managing Partner at FortyFour, emphasized that people should hire for next year’s managers. The challenge is finding someone smart who will take a good role and make it great.

Rashidi Barnett, Director of Emerging Opportunities at Nebo, cited his own personal experience with his agency. When he first worked there, he tried to give interns more work than they were comfortable with on purpose. He wanted them to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Now that he has returned nearly 10 years later, many of those interns are in leadership positions at Nebo.

Michael Pietryka, who is now Director of Marketing and Communications at Paradies Lagardère, while at the Baltimore CVB, he positioned opportunities as a launch pad, “We’ll get you ready for your next job.” This leads people to feel valued and become real advocates for the company. It’s about the long game.

Be Transparent and Communicative.

Set expectations of the role clearly up front. “It’s less about speed and more about communication,” stated Kristie Benson from the High Museum of Art. While speed is important to lock down the best talent before competitors, adequate communication at every step of the hiring process can also help create stickiness with potential candidates. Olivia Giamanco, Senior Innovation Manager from FOCUS Brands, said that it is hard to get candidates to be real with her about what they want/what they really value in a job. Make it easier for the candidate by encouraging them to clearly state what he/she expects from the job so that everyone is on the same page.

Seek Out Diversity.

A common theme throughout the discussion was hiring people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, talents, and skill sets.

Mike Popowski, CEO of Dagger, said “Agencies are the biggest offender in this regard. They always hire for agency experience. But if you only hire people who look and act like you, it leads to a homogeneous organization. Diversity is the lifeblood of any organization.”

Raghu pointed out that seeking talent from different university pools is a good way to cultivate a powerful team. On the premise of “culture” interviews, he shared, “You don’t want to hire someone just because they’re going to fit in. Those are the people who don’t speak up/will be concerned about staying in their lane. It stifles diversity.”

How to retain an employee?

Invest in their Development.

Multiple attendees, including Co-Founder of Launch, Javier Santana, noted the importance of providing opportunities for professional development and nurturing the team through conferences, educational classes, or certifications.

However, generic professional development only goes so far - it’s about professional development in a specific skill set. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and there’s something to be said for capitalizing on the natural strengths of employees. It’s the best way to bring the most value to companies and individual employees.

Jason Hospodka, Regional Marketing Director at Heineken USA, echoed Santana, offering his personal three tips for talent retention:

  1. Give them a purpose and make them know their intrinsic value.

  2. Balance strengths and weaknesses - emphasize the strengths. What do they already do well? How can you nurture that as a leader? How can you improve on weaknesses?

  3. A personal development program that is broken up in multiple facets: 70% of development derived from on the job experience, 10% taught in a “classroom style,” and 20% learned from workshops.

Make Work a Team Effort.

Since employees spend more time at work than they do their families, give the work meaning. Participate in projects that employees want to work on or invest in activities that unite the team.

Tom Ellis, the CEO of Swarm, loves when his whole team gets excited about work that supports a given cause. “It’s a great recruiting tool...people care less about money and more about the experience.” He cited Swarm’s annual field day as a great culture builder/employee retention driver because the team gets really invested in it.



We interviewed a few of the attendees of the #MarketersBreakfast to understand how they cultivate marketing talent:


AgencySparks hosts quarterly breakfasts with marketing professionals throughout the year. Each time AgencySparks hosts an event at the inspiring, creative Miami Ad School @ Portfolio Center space, we make a donation to help fund minority scholarships. If you would like to see recaps of past events, click here.

If you are a marketing agency interested in joining the matchmaking business with AgencySparks, please contact us.

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