Last month, Pizza Hut named Bob Kraut, General Motors Corp.'s director of brand marketing and advertising in North America, as its vice president of advertising and brand image. In late November, Qwest Communications International, a provider of voice and data solutions, named Thomas J. McLoughlin vice president of consumer marketing. McLoughlin most recently was brand director at Miller Brewing Company.
"People who can transition (from one industry to another) or who have successfully done so are very much in demand," says Caren Fleit, senior client partner in the consumer and retail practice in the New York office of Korn/Ferry International, the executive search firm.
"Maturing markets, increased levels of competition, pricing pressures, the need for value-added products, and service differentiation have contributed to a war for sophisticated marketing talent, and companies are increasingly willing to go outside for it," wrote Chris Nadherny, senior executive search consultant in Chicago for Spencer Stuart, in a recent "blue paper" addressing the phenomenon of industry-switching for marketers.
Since 1999, more than 60% of Spencer Stuart's marketing candidates have been placed into a different industry. This compares to only 38% changing industries between 1994 and 1998.
Overall, the job scene for marketing execs is hopping. "There's a lot of activity in the marketing area," Fleit says. But it's not a cakewalk: "The pressure is harder and (marketing execs) aren't lasting as long. They're on the hot seat as far as delivering results."
Marketing execs are expected to possess traditional competencies as well as newfangled ones. "It's important for marketers to have skills in CRM; there's a lot of targeting going on," Fleit adds.
And don't forget the Internet: "Every marketing executive in every industry should be asking how to use YouTube as a medium," says David Mansbach, managing director at HVS Executive Search, Mineola, N.Y.
With increased pressure comes increased compensation, especially at high levels. In the food service arena alone, for instance, compensation for the highest-paid group of marketers increased 75% from 2004 to 2006, according to an HVS salary survey. Pay for those executives hovered around $640,000. Those at the bottom of the pay rung saw a 15% jump in pay, to around $75,000 in 2006, while pay for middle-tier execs stayed flat, at about $169,000.
And increasingly, companies are tying compensation to results. "There's definitely more detailed pay-for-performance," Mansbach says.
Marketers with so-called "learn, adapt and influence" experiences are most likely to do well changing industries, says Nadherny. Those are the kinds of skills picked up through overseas assignments or at working for companies where assignments enabled cross-functional training. (See full list below.)
When making any job switch, but particularly one involving an industry change, it's also critical to know the culture you're walking into. Ideally, that's done before you make a move. (Just ask ex-Wal-mart marketing executive Julie Roehm or recently deposed JC Penney COO Catherine West. )
Good questions to ask, Nadherny says, include: Who did you bring in that did not succeed? How are decisions made? Is it by walking into someone's office or is everything done with a Power Point deck? What are the backgrounds of people who have successfully transitioned to this company?
"There are certain companies candidates can walk into where there's a deep reluctance to change," Nadherny says. "You need to go in and respect the culture and be in there a sufficient amount of time to take the pulse."
Once on board, it's advisable to give a year to make it work, he says. Start out by setting up meetings with as many people as you can at the organization, because people like to work with other people they know and trust.
When Jan Murley, a former Procter & Gamble brand marketer, moved from Hallmark Cards to Boyds Collections, she used fact-based decision-making to bring about change. "It's your job to present the burden of proof for any type of change," she says, "and this needs to be done using a strategic perspective and analytical skills."
Alan Brown, CMO of Nuveen Investments, who has worked in the transportation, technology and financial services industries over the past decade, says people skills such as willingness to listen, patience and persuasion are critical to transitioning successfully.
"Credible functional expertise is what you have coming out of the gate, but interpersonal skills and building bridges will help you move the business forward," he says. "You're most likely going to enter an industry where you have no network."
Examples of "learn, adapt and influence" experiences common to successful industry-switchers*:
If you're the jobseeker looking to switch industries, expect to encounter these challenges*:
Source: Spencer Stuart's "Understanding the 'Best Athlete' Marketer"