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Building a Marketing Talent Graph

Identifying the Best Talent Sources

Most recruiters will tell you that to find the best talent in the market typically isn’t out searching for a new job.  If you want to find the high performers you will need to go to them.  You cannot just rely on the inbound flow of candidates coming to your website.  You need an outbound strategy to identify and target the most qualified candidates.

Account-Based Recruiting

Success requires answering two questions:  First, which organizations are the best ones to recruit from?  Second, how do you find the specific individuals within those organizations to target?  A systematic approach to answering these two questions and optimizing your recruiting program is to build a talent graph.  The graph is a visual representation of all the organizations that are potential sources for your recruiting efforts.  A high-level talent graph will list the companies that are likely to be the best sources for candidates.  A more detailed graph with also include the names/titles of specific individuals you want to recruit.

abstract illustration of man writing math equations on whiteboard with blue background

You might think of the talent graph as an account-based marketing strategy, but for recruiting talent.  Instead of just waiting for inbound resumes (leads) to come in on the career site, you work with recruiters to actively target candidates at the companies (target accounts) with the best firmographic, technographic, and product category matches to your own organization.

To build the talent graph for your marketing organization you’ll need to follow a three step process:

  • Step 1 – Candidate Profile – Define the ideal candidate profiles for each role – What is most important?  Technical or marketing skills?  Product or industry knowledge?  Firmographic experience?  Geographic location?
  • Step 2 – Geographic Perimeter – Define the geographic perimeter for your hiring efforts.  Where can the role be located?  The decision is likely driven by your organization’s philosophy on remote vs in-office work.

Step 3 – Organizations to Target

Identify the organizations to target.  Build out a list of the companies that match your ideal candidate profile and geographic perimeter that also have.

  • Technographic Matches – For the Martech stack you run.  Identify other companies that run the same web CMS, marketing automation platform, CRM, and ABM.
  • Marketing Skill Matches – For the functional disciplines you want to hire for.  Identify marketing agencies that focus on clients like your company by analyzing their scope of services and industry focus.
  • Education Degree Matches – For entry-level hires you want to source from.  Identify the local colleges and universities that offer degree programs in majors such as graphic design, or data science.
  • Firmographic Matches – For marketing leadership roles you need to fill.  Identify the organizations in a similar revenue range, funding stage, or ownership model (private-equity backed or pre-IPO).
  • Geographic Matches – For roles that are full time on-site or hybrid.  Identify the local companies with headquarters or satellite offices.  Also consider poaching from organizations that have been recently acquired.
  • Product Knowledge Matches – For roles requiring domain expertise.  Identify other tech companies that sell a similar product or to a similar buyer.  These might include SaaS and cloud vendors or consultants and outsourcers.
  • Industry Knowledge Matches – For roles requiring real-world industry experience.  Consider not only the leading companies in the space, but also organizations that have analysts or consultants working in the industry.

Step One

Define the Ideal Candidate Profiles for Roles Your Marketing Organization

First, assess what is most important for new talent – technical or job skills, product or industry knowledge, or experience at a certain size company

The first step in building a talent graph is to develop an understanding of your ideal candidate profile.  For each key role you are trying to fill you will need to answer questions such as:

  • Technical Skills – Is proficiency in specific marketing technologies important? If so, for which applications? Marketing Automation? Website Development? Analytics/Data Science?
  • Marketing Skills – Is proficiency in specific marketing disciplines important? If so, for which functions? Branding? Creative? Digital?
  • Product Knowledge – Is product or technical knowledge of your solution important? If so, for which categories? ERP? Artificial Intelligence? Cybersecurity?
  • Industry Knowledge – Is domain or business process knowledge of your customers important? If so, for which industries? Financial Services? Healthcare? Retail?
  • Firmographic Experience – Is prior experience at a specific size company or phase of the lifecycle important? Do you need to hire from big, decentralized and global or small, venture-backed, and high-growth?
  • Geographic Experience – Is prior experience marketing to a specific region important? Are you planning to expand into EMEA and APAC or will you focus on the US only?

The answers will vary based upon the position.  For marketing leadership roles, prior experience at companies in a comparable revenue range or with similar growth characteristics may be important.  For operations and demand generation roles, proficiency with the same marketing automation and customer relationship management software may be desired.  For product and industry marketing roles, working knowledge of the business problems and buyer personas you are selling to may be most important.

Step Two

Define the Geographic Perimeter for Your Hiring Efforts

Second, understand the geographic regions you want to hire from

The second step in building a talent graph is to understand the geographic regions from which you want to source talent.  If you are a small company with a single office, then your recruiting efforts may be limited to just a 50-mile radius around your headquarters location.  If you are at a larger organization with a nationwide footprint of offices, then you have many more options.  If you have switched to a remote, work-from-anywhere model, then you have almost unlimited possibilities.

At most companies, the answers will vary based upon the role.  Some positions can be performed remotely from anywhere.  Others require the employee to be in the physical office regularly.  Some positions are best performed with a mix of on-site and remote work.

Step Three

Identify Organizations to Target

With an understanding of your ideal candidate profile and the geographic footprint, you are ready to move to the next step in the process – identifying the list of target organizations from which you want to recruit talent.

Technographic Matches

For technical roles, use BuiltWith or SimilarWeb to identify companies running the same stack

For Marketing Operations and Demand Generation Teams, most CMOs prefer to hire technical staff that have prior experience using the same applications your organization is using today.  Ideally, you want individuals that can quickly learn your tech stack and assume responsibility for the day-to-day administration of key systems.  You will need to think through not just your current MarTech stack, but also how it might change over time.  Which platforms do you use today and which are you considering for the future?  Examples might include:

  • Web Content Management System – WordPress, Drupal, Adobe
  • Marketing Automation Platform – Hubspot, Marketo,
  • Customer Relationship Management –, Freshworks, Microsoft
  • Account Based Marketing – Terminus, 6Sense, Demandbase

With an understanding of the technographics for your MarTech stack, you can begin to develop a list of potential companies to source candidates from.  Use services such as BuiltWith or SimilarWeb to identify companies with similar technographic characteristics to your organization in the metropolitan areas you are seeking to hire.

Marketing Skill Matches

For roles requiring strong marketing skills, use AgencySpotter and to identify agencies you can poach

For functions such as public relations, digital advertising, and brand development, marketing agencies can be a great place to poach talent.  Agencies are filled with lots of junior talent that could be your next rising star.  Look for high potentials that have above-average levels of experience gained from working on lots of client engagements.  Agencies are also a great place to find seasoned managers that bring in-depth experience and best practices to your teams.  To identify the most relevant firms to target, you need to understand which agencies specialize in the skills you need and the markets you are targeting.  Consider the landscape of marketing agencies to understand their:

  • Marketing Strategy – Does the agency specialize in B2C or B2B marketing? Review the case studies and services offered on their website to understand their sweet spot.
  • Scope of Services – Do you want to source from a niche agency that focuses on public relations, digital marketing, or brand development? Or do you want to hire from a larger agency that acts as a one-stop shop?
  • Client Size – Does the agency primarily work with small startups, middle market firms, or large enterprises? Review the customer case studies in their portfolio to understand their target market.
  • Industry Focus – Do you prefer agencies that just work with technology vendors? Or firms that bring a broader perspective gained from working in other industries such as Consumer Packaged Goods, Healthcare, or Financial Services?

With an understanding of your preferred marketing agency characteristics, you can begin to develop a list of potential companies to source candidates from.  Use services such as and AgencySpotter to identify the agencies with the most relevant attributes in the metropolitan areas you are seeking to hire.

abstract illustration of business man with laptop sitting atop resume on blue background

Education Degree Matches

For entry-level roles identify the local schools with marketing, design, or data science programs

For entry level positions in graphic design, data science, or content marketing, local universities are the obvious place to source.  Much of this year’s graduating class will start their search with companies that are local to the campus’s geographic area.  Review the landscape of local universities and colleges to understand the different specializations, degree programs, and job placement services that each offers for the various skill sets you are seeking:

  • Marketing – Which schools offer undergraduate business programs with a specialization in marketing? These could be great sources for entry-level marketing generalists or summer interns to add to your demand generation teams.
  • Graphic Design – Are there nearby colleges that offer fine arts programs or technical institutions with a focus in graphic design? These could be great sources for entry-level candidates or semester-long co-ops for the creative team.
  • Data Science – Which universities offer degrees in analytics, data science, and machine learning? These could be great sources for entry-level marketing operations analysts.

With an understanding of the specializations of various educational institutions, you can begin to develop a list of potential schools to source candidates from.  Use services to identify the colleges and universities with the relevant degree programs within 100-mile radius of your office locations.

Firmographic Matches

For management roles, identify companies with similar firmographics – revenue range, funding round, ownership structures

For Marketing Leadership roles, many CMOs prefer to hire managers who have “been there and done that.”  They want Directors and VPs with experience growing a company at a similar scale and size.  These individuals not only bring prior experience scaling a marketing program, but they are more likely to be a culture fit.  Ideally, you want to hire marketing leaders from companies with similar firmographic traits:

  • Topline Revenue – What revenue range are you playing in today? Are you under $50M and trying to capture market share as quickly as possible?  Or are you over $500M seeking steady, predictable double-digit growth year-over-year?
  • Funding Round – How much capital have you raised? Do you need early-stage leaders who have experience starting marketing programs from the ground up the Seed or Series A round?  Or do you need managers who have scaled organizations through later stages of funding and IPOs?
  • Employee Count – How big is your organization? Do you need leaders accustomed to working in a small company with less than 100 employees?  Or someone who can work across a team of 1000 or more, distributed across multiple countries?
  • Ownership – Who are the investors? Do you need someone experienced with venture capital or private equity backed organizations?  Or do you need leaders who have worked at public companies and understand regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley?

With an understanding of the target firmographics for your marketing leadership team you can begin to develop a list of potential companies to source candidates from.  Use services such as ZoomInfo, Pitchbook or Crunchbase to identify the companies with similar firmographic characteristics to your organization in the metropolitan areas you are seeking to hire.

Geographic Matches

For management roles, identify companies with similar firmographics – revenue range, funding round, ownership structures

If you need talent to be 1) in the office full-time, 2) part-time in a hybrid model, or 3) close by to minimize travel expenses when you have meetings, then you will want to build a geographic dimension to your talent graph.  Map out the organizations in your region that will be the best places to poach:

  • Headquarters – Who are the SaaS, cloud, and other technology providers with headquarters offices in your geographic region?
  • Satellite Offices – Do tech mega-vendors like Meta, Alphabet, or Amazon have a footprint in your target regions?  What about competitors or vendors in adjacent markets?
  • High Growth – Who are the fastest-growing startups (or scaleups) that everyone wants to work for?  These are likely honeypots for talent.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions – Have any SaaS or cloud companies been recently acquired? There is usually a “brain drain” shortly after the deal is closed.Layoffs & Office Closures – Have any tech companies announced they are moving out of the area?  Or have they announced layoffs?  Employees who have been impacted will be obvious candidates, but even those that have not been impacted may be starting to panic.

Many of the largest metropolitan areas have local awards programs that recognize high-growth startups or the “best place to work.”  These lists make an excellent starting point for your local talent graph.

If you need talent “in region” don’t limit yourself to just the list above, however.  Remember that many people may be working remotely in your area for companies that don’t meet any of the criteria above.  The advanced search feature on LinkedIn can be an extremely useful tool to identify remote employees that happen to be in your local geographic region.

Product Knowledge Matches

For roles requiring domain expertise use G2 and Capterra to identify lookalike companies

For Product Marketing teams, it is important to source candidates that can quickly learn your products and start contributing to messaging, sales tools, and content development. Ideally, you want to hire from companies that are offering a similar value proposition or are selling into the same buyer. Consider the landscape of vendors and service providers that have a similar product or buyer focus:

  • Niche Vendors – Who are the stand-alone vendors in your market? These niche vendors typically offer a single product that competes head-to-head with your solution.
  • Tech Mega-Vendors – Do any of the big software vendors such as SAP, Oracle, or Salesforce play in your space? What about infrastructure providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, or Google?
  • Systems Integrators – Which systems integrators are involved in implementing your products? Do big firms like Deloitte, Booz Allen, or Capgemini provide strategy, design, implementation, or customization services?  Who are the smaller, specialized niche players in your market?
  • Outsourcers – Which providers offer “as-a-Service,” Managed Services, or outsourcing alternatives that solve the same problem your product does? Are the big outsourcers like Accenture, IBM, or WiPro active in your market?  Are there smaller, specialized providers?
  • Adjacent Market Vendors – What are the companies in adjacent markets that might be good sources of talent? Who else sells to the same buyer personas (CMO, CFO, CIO)?  Look for organizations with different capabilities that do not directly compete with your product functionality, but fall under the same decision makers.

With an understanding of the competitive market dynamics for your product, you can begin to develop a list of potential companies to source candidates from.  Use services such as G2, TrustRadius, and Software Advice to identify vendors with similar features or in adjacent segments in the metropolitan areas you are seeking to hire.

Industry Knowledge Matches

For industry marketing identify where concentrations talent exist

For industry marketing roles it is important to hire experts out of the industry that bring domain expertise and street credibility to your organization.  Often you will have to search a wider geographic region to find these individuals.  Pockets of industry concentration exist in many regions.  For example, there are lots of oil and gas companies in Texas. Financial services firms tend to be clustered around New York City.  The leading entertainment conglomerates are headquartered in proximity to Hollywood. Consider each of the industries you are targeting to identify who are the:

  • Incumbents – What are the Fortune 1000 companies and big private organizations in your target industries? Are some considered pioneers or innovators in using the technology you are selling?
  • Challengers – What are the smaller organizations that are disrupting the status quo and challenging the big incumbents? Have any been acquired recently?
  • Associations – What are the industry associations that your buyer personas belong to? Which groups host tradeshows, publish research, champion new legislation or lead cross-industry standards?
  • Analysts and Consultants – Which firms are considered the experts in the industry? Do the Big Four or management consulting firms play in your space? Are there niche, Tier 2 analysts or smaller consulting shops?

With an understanding of the market landscape for your target industries, you can begin to develop a list of potential companies to source candidates from.  Use ZoomInfo or Apollo to arrive at a list of companies to add to your talent graph.