The Marketer’s Guide to Negotiating Salary, Signing Bonus, and More

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One of the conversations that come up most frequently with the marketing talent we recruit, especially among those in a marketing executive search, is the subject of a marketing executive salary negotiation.

We’ve found time and again that the best talent isn’t motivated primarily by money, but rather new challenges and interesting opportunities. Still, compensation rightfully remains a huge consideration for any potential new role.

Whether you’re engaged in a CMO recruitment or making your first move into mid-level digital marketing staffing, if you’re an outstanding marketer (and you can prove it), you deserve to be compensated accordingly when it’s time to make a career move. Watch this video to see what we recommend to top talent to negotiate a fair deal while remaining on good terms with your future employer:

Video Highlights:

Avoid Being the First to Give a Number

When it’s time to discuss what you want to make in your new marketing role, try to avoid being the first to suggest a hard number. Frame your conversation in a way that your future employer is the one opening with an offer.

The Importance of Honesty

When discussing remuneration, you’ll inevitably be asked what you’ve made at former and current roles. Don’t hesitate to give a full and honest answer.

We live in a society where it’s often deemed impolite to talk about how much money you make, and many people are understandably hesitant to discuss something very personal. Additionally, some marketing professionals deceitfully inflate their current and former salaries, thinking that this will give them better standing to make more money in the future.

Don’t do that. Your future employer isn’t a car dealer; don’t treat them like an adversary. If you don’t feel like you can trust them, you probably shouldn’t be going to work there. Be as honest and upfront with them as you expect them to be with you.

Must Read for Marketing Candidates: How to Prepare for a Marketing Job Interview

Understand What You’re Getting Into When You Ask for More

Most experienced employers have some amount of flexibility in what they can offer a really strong candidate, and you should feel comfortable working within that “wiggle room” without much pause. In terms of just salary, that wiggle room is usually around 10% of an initial offer.

In some cases, you’ll be able to push for even more, depending on just how good of an impression you make and how badly the company needs your talent. That’s okay–but proceed with utmost caution at this point. Understand that if you’re fighting over every dime and pushing for additional concessions that the expectations of your performance will rise exponentially to what you’re getting. You’ll be expected to start delivering meaningful results almost immediately and will have less room for error. Your hiring manager and supervisors will be watching you like a hawk, especially early on, to ensure their additional investment was justified.

Salary Guide Skepticism

It doesn’t hurt to look at industry publications, government reports, or other market research to get an idea of what others in similar jobs are making. These can provide some valuable context–but they shouldn’t be the foundation of your target compensation. There are many variables that can affect your potential salary, from geographic location to industry to personal qualification and more. In marketing, in particular, marketing executive salary reports and guidelines are fairly unreliable, so take them with a huge grain of salt.

Avoid Counteroffers

When your current employer learns you’re leaving for a new opportunity, they may attempt to lure you back with a counteroffer. Accepting counter offers is never a wise decision (after all, you made the choice to look for work elsewhere for a reason) and should be avoided.

How To Walk Away

One of the strongest advantages of being a successful marketer is that if things simply don’t work out, you have the option to step away from the job offer. It is especially valid if you are strategic regarding your career and not waiting until you’re desperate to find a new position.

There are several explanations for contemplating walking away. Most companies are a few years behind when it comes to fair marketing executive salary requirements, and would clearly not be willing to give you a compelling bid. Oftentimes, it doesn’t match well with your job ambitions and professional development.

Whatever the situation, always be professional as you reject an offer. There’s no reason to destroy bridges, particularly in the socially linked world of today. You never know who you will be interacting with in the future and what other career opportunities the same marketing recruiters could bring to your attention as your career progresses.

Just starting your marketing career? You may find this more useful:

CMO Recruitment Video Transcript

The question we get from candidates quite a bit is what’s the best way for me to negotiate a marketing executive salary and some very basic negotiation techniques apply whether you’re negotiating your salary or anything else. The challenge is when I’m negotiating my salary it’s very personal to me and therefore it’s much harder and much more likely to make a mistake than if I’m negotiating for a car or a refrigerator which is much less personal, right? When I get into my salary, my self worth and all those things are tied up in that but the answer is very simple actually, in any negotiation the person that first puts forth the number usually loses. So you don’t want to be the first person to put forth the number. Now if the employer or potential employer asks you what you were making, what you are making, or what did you make at any point in time in your history, share it with them. Be accurate, do not exaggerate it by 10% hoping that you can get a bump from there it is far too easy in this day and age to check and verify exactly what you are making. And most employers do now ask for compensation verification so what you want to do when they ask us what is it you’re looking for for this opportunity, what are your marketing executive salary expectations for your next step, what does a good offer look like for you any of those questions. The answer’s really simple, “I’m only looking for what’s fair based on my experience and background and the challenges of the role”. And then don’t say a word.

Should I Ask for More Money?

When you’re looking to take your next step, right, and I don’t care if you’re at a manager level looking to go to Director or at a VP level looking to go to CMO. The reality is you’re going to get up every day and go work in this environment and the most important thing is that you’re excited about doing that. Now, most people don’t want to go do that for free so there is an expectation of compensation but even the most well-paid job if you don’t really love what your doing is going to get old really quickly. So now as we say make sure that whoever is offered the opportunity expresses that offer first as far as what the next step is, then you have the opportunity to go back and if it’s not something that meets your expectation and asks for more, right? So typically what we find is that if you are a local candidate, a candidate that is not going to require relocation the bump you’re going to receive from company A to company B is typically around 10%. It might be a little more if you can get a 15% you’re doing great. If they are asking for you to relocate that’s an additional complication for you, an additional complication for your family, you have to go through a lot of pain to do that and in that case, we are seeing more of a 15% increase from where you were to where you’re going to be.

Should I Trust The Marketing Executive Salary Guides?

So there is a lot of information out on the internet about what salaries should be, right, and what salary guides are or what salary is for this industry or for this organization. And the reality is we have found them to be unreliable and the other reality is it doesn’t matter all that much because the only thing that matters is your career and how to move forward as much as possible and you want to take a step forward both from an experience perspective and a step forward from a compensation perspective every time you make a move. What you don’t want to do is worry about how that compares to who else is in this role or how that compares to anything else because you’re coming at it from your unique perspective and as long as you’re growing that’s the most important part.

What Else Should I Negotiate?

Outside of the main factors of compensation, the main factors of compensation, what’s my base salary, what’s my bonus, and what’s my stock or long term incentive if there is any offered with this position. Then you get into the smaller kind of pieces of the puzzle-like paid time off, signing bonus…things that are important but probably not make or break to you taking a job or not taking a job, right? And certain things you can’t negotiate, you can’t negotiate healthcare, you’re not going to get a better package then the person coming in next to you. You really can’t negotiate for the match on the 401K, that’s set across the organization, it is what it is. The Things you can negotiate that are smaller items are paid time off; typically there is some flexibility and some wiggle room on that. If they’re offering you two weeks, you’re not going to get five but you might get three. And most organizations have some flexibility for a sign-on bonus, and really the amount of that sign-on bonus varies a lot based on your level in the organization but it’s always okay to ask.

Should I Take a Counteroffer?

The other thing you run across from time to time is we have a candidate get a counteroffer and this is very simple, don’t take it. There was a reason why you were looking to leave in the first place. There was a reason why you chose to go specifically to the employer you accepted an opportunity with and you need to go ahead and follow through on that commitment that you made. Counteroffers are made as a reaction to you leaving and a fear about what’s not getting done because you’re not there. It’s not a proactive step to help you grow your career. It’s not something that they thought was the right thing to do for you until you said you were going to leave. And if you accept the counteroffer there will always be that question of “is this individual looking, are they someone who can stay with this organization?” and it really negatively impacts your ability to get promoted going forward. The other thing we find and there’s plenty of research out there on this is that well over ninety percent of candidates who accept a counteroffer, well over ninety percent of people who accept a counteroffer are not with the firm they took the counteroffer from within twelve to eighteen months and that’s because your loyalty is in question and you never looked at the same way again. You’re actually better off leaving the organization and coming back years later, in which case no one will ever question anything then you are staying there through a counteroffer.

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