Startup Blog

VP Marketing Compensation / Pay at Tech Startups

Posted by Mike Volpe on 5/28/08 1:04 AM

What should a VP of Marketing get paid at a technology startup company? I have some data below from a well respected compensation survey of a large number of tech startups. Please note, all of this data is for non-founders. If you are a founder of the company, your equity is higher (and sometimes cash pay is lower).

Percentile Cash Compensation

Stock Option %













You should check out the summary compensation report developed from the raw data that I used. You will also notice that I broke the data into four quartiles. Everyone wants to be in the top quartile, but that is not statistically possible. So, what separates the more highly paid from the less highly paid VPs of Marketing? I have a list of the factors I think are most important below. Your mileage may vary.

Factors Determining VP of Marketing Pay / Compensation Scale

  1. More experience = more pay. As a younger marketing VP, I feel weird about saying this, but I do think that people with more experience can justify a higher pay package. She or he has seen the movie before and will anticipate challenges more.
  2. More analytical = more pay. Many marketers are more emotional than analytical. All marketers need some level of emotional feel to be effective - not every decision has numerical data available - but for most tech startups, lead genration and analyical practices are critical, and a purely brand/emotion based marketer is not going to bring the proper skills to the team. Brand is nothing without leads and new customers at a startup tech company.
  3. Domain expertise = higher pay. Clearly if you have some expertise in the particular domain that the startup is serving, you can justify getting a higher level of compensation.
  4. More customers in the market = higher pay. Let's be honest, marketing is not required to be a core competency of every company. For instance, at a company that is targeting the CTOs of just Fortune 100 companies, getting new customers really is largely a sales effort - the market of potential users is well defined, and lead generation is more of an activity to support sales than something truly strategic. Sure, there is still a huge branding, messaging and positioning game, but without lead gen you have removed a big posrtion of the marketing challenge. Plus, if you think about the importance and big pay that top tier consumer marketers get, it makes sense to say that the larger the number of potential customers the more of a marketing challenge it becomes.
  5. A marketing-related product = higher pay. Companies that sell a product that has to do with marketing (email marketing software, web design, CRM, etc.) should more highly value a VP of Marketing because of the strategic input into the company. If you are selling data-storage hardware, then the VP Marketing does not have a more special skill for knowing the customer than some other folks in the company. But if you are selling to other Marketing VPs, then your own Marketing VP is a useful resource - because he or she is also a prospect / customer.
  6. Better company = better pay. The hotter the company that higher the pay should be. This might sound counterintuitive, but I believe in it strongly. Why? Because hot tech startups demand a lot from employees, and also demand an A+ team - this is true for a VP of Marketing as well. If things are going well, things will move fast, and having a VP of Marketing that can change and adapt
  7. Rare skills = more pay. If the company desires rare skills in their head of marketing, such as experience with mobile marketing, or knowledge of SEO, or expertise in international markets, they should expect to pay more for these skills.

Special thanks to two friends who are in the process of acquiring new jobs. Both of you made me think about this issue and inspired the blog post. I won't mention your names, but I think you know who you are. :)

Do you have other thoughts on VP of Marketing compensation at startup tech companies? Leave a comment below.

Mike Volpe

Written by Mike Volpe

Mike Volpe is a startup advisor and angel investor based in Boston.

Topics: marketing, compensation

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