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Marketing job market 'sizzling'

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Executive recruiters and owners of online job boards agree: The market for marketing jobs is hot, hot, hot.

"So far it's booming," said Jerry Bernhart, president of Bernhart Associates Executive Search in Owatonna, Minn. "There's a steady stream across all sectors, all industries, all levels."

In our own exclusive "Marketing Priorities and Plans" survey, which compiled the online responses of 569 marketing executives during the last two weeks of November, 36% of respondents said they planned to increase staffing in 2007. Only 2% said they planned to decrease staffing. This finding showed a continuing trend from the year-earlier survey, when 35.1% of respondents said they planned to increase staffing, while 4.2% planned to decrease it.

Meanwhile, marketing professionals at the top of the ticket continue to face enormous challenges—compounded by a shrinking time frame in which to prove their worth before being replaced.

According to research by executive search firm Spencer Stuart in August, the tenure for CMOs at the 100 top consumer branded companies continued to decline in 2006 to an average of a little more than 23 months. The average for 2006 was 23.2 months, compared with 23.5 months in 2005 and 23.6 in 2004.

"We are seeing that holding on to your current employees is going to be critical, because it is getting much more difficult to find good folks," said John Hollon, editor of Workforce Management (published by Crain Communications Inc., which also publishes BtoB ). "And, it's even more cirtical to hold on to the critical talent, those key contributors who represent just 15% of a company's work force." According to Towers Perrin, an HR consulting firm, the unemployment rate for those employees stands at a scant 1.7%.

Coming as no surprise, the skill sets required of marketers are evolving, too. "Year after year we've seen a 50% increase in marketing positions that require quantitative and research expertise," said Rob Gallagher, managing director of Fiderion, an Atlanta-based retained executive search firm, which held a CMO roundtable on the future of marketing late last year. "The most highly sought-after marketing professional today started in one of the heavy mathematical disciplines, like engineering or finance, and moved into marketing later in their career," he said.

Mapping to the steadily increasing importance of the Internet as a marketing channel, the market for employees with digital and online experience is "just sizzling," said Laurel Touby, CEO of mediabistro.com, an online job site that specializes in the content/creative industry.

Touby noted that when many companies are vying for the same type of employee, there is an inevitable increase in salaries, a fact that not all marketers with positions to fill have yet appreciated. "It feels like 1999 again—in a good way," she said.

Capitalizing on the rousing job market, Bernhart this month launched Job Search Coaching for Direct Marketers. "I launched the unit in direct response to people calling who are not working with us as a recruiter" but who want to brush up on their interviewing skills in this very good job market, he said.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.

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