The Sunday Business Post

Sunday, July 14th

Marketeers are reporting steady growth, especially in the digital area, writes Gareth Naughton

Recruiters are reporting that hiring in the sales and marketing sector has stabilised in the first half of the year bringing slow but steady growth. Good salespeople survived the downturn because their impact on the bottom line is near immediate, but marketing is now recovering – giving a strong indication that companies are growing in confidence and thinking long-term again.

The growth is not isolated to one particular industry, according to Colm Buckley, managing director of The People Group, who said that there has been a noticeable shift in focus at board level.

“From talking to senior people, you get the sense that the commercial, sales and marketing directors are getting more voice at the boardroom table. It is more about growth and creating future markets, rather than cost-cutting. No disrepect to the finance people, but I think that all of the cost-cutting has been done and it is about moving it on now,” said Buckley.

“For a lot of companies, their reaction in the past number of years has been to hire in sales people, and we have seen many marketing positions and teams decline. Now we are starting to see companies reinvesting in marketing and hiring in. These are new positions, not distress positions where someone is off on maternity leave or someone has retired,” he said.

This is a good sign, said Buckley, because it takes time for marketeers to produce a return on investment. “If you hire in a good sales person, you will see a return on your investment within one or two months but, with a marketeer, it is six to 12 months which is a much more medium to long-term play. I think that is a really positive message that companies are genuinely looking at growth again. Marketeers do not come cheap and the results take a while, so there definitely seems to be a confidence in the business community in that respect.” he said.

A lot of growth in the recent year or so has been driven by greater emphasis on digital marketing. Buckley said that we are heading toward a point where digital marketing becomes another channel to the market, rather than a “panacea for all your ills”.

“Companies more and more are coming to us saying that they are looking for a strong, experienced marketing manager, and if they have some digital marketing skills at a strategic level, if they understand the language and the integrated marketing relaionship between digital and traditional, that would be fantastic,” he said.

That said. there has been a clear change in the characteristics and competencies being included in job descriptions for sales and marketing roles. according to Karen O’Flaherty, chief operating officer of Morgan Mckinley.

“It is a hybrid of the traditional role with digital…You have to have a vocation for marketing and you can adapt or upskill depending on the market but you are never going to have an accountant who wants to be a marketeer. You need to have the mindset and competencies of someone who is particularly interested in that area, and what we are saying is that from there things have changed.

“Digital marketeers are in some ways old news – it has almost moved to data managers. Somebody from a marketing perspective who can manage that data as they see it,” said O’Flaherty.

New areas of interest include marketing analytics – mining data to direct marketing strategy – with a number of companies setting up in Ireland. “You are still a marketeer but the difference is now that you are analysing in a different way how the customer behaves or the information from site, etc,” she said.

Although marketing took a hit across the sectors in the boom, it does not necessarily follow that Ireland has an abundance of suitable candidates. Recruiters are increasingly accessing the passive market – candidates who are already employed – to source talent.

“We would consider this one of the areas where there is a skills shortage at the moment. There are the skill shortages because the people are not in the country and there is the skills availability, where the population of talent is here but they are gainfully employed, well looked after and not active,” she said.

Sales roles are also picking up, which O’Flaherty also sees a good sign because those roles are the first to go when the market slackens. “Field sales roles have increased and we wouldn’t have seen that for the past two years.

Employers can now afford to put people into cars and afford them the opportunity to go out and start selling their products and services. There are challenging areas to fill because employers’ expectations on return of investment of somebody in that role need to be aligned with what people are willing to buy at this stage,” she said.

With competition for experienced talent and increased activity in contract, temporary and permanent positions, there has been an impact on remuneration, according to John Mansell, manager of Abrivia’s specialist sales and marketing team.

“Base salaries have slightly improved for sales and markeing professionals but a more noticeable increase and package improvements have not gone unnoticed in certain specialist and hard-to-fill roles. The technology market has continued to show an increase throughout the year as the market becomes more and more competitive. Sectors such as FMCG, medical and financial services have stabilised with high demand on product focus and/or qualifications necessary for many roles,” he said.

This is likely to remain the case for the rest of the year with the shortage of skilled and suitable professionals willing to continuing.

“Due to lower turnover in staff and the focus on employee retention, employers will continue to reward good performance and over-achievement, and I anticipate that this will remain the case in 2013 and beyond as the market continues to improve in a slow but upward curve.

“The expectations for the remainder for 2013 will follow a similar pattern to the first six months – with the digital/online and social media sector seeing the strongest growth,” said Mansell.

He said he also envisaged key growth areas to include the FMCG, telecoms and medical sectors, with steady growth of activity expected in the ICT sector

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