Like any profession, most private equity marketers want to meaningfully advance in their career paths. You may aspire to expand your knowledge, lead a team, mentor other professionals, create award-winning work and, of course, increase your earnings. Everyone’s interpretation of success is different and likely includes a combination of these goals.
But a private equity marketing career path is not always clear or linear, especially when compared to more traditional marketing roles. That’s because when working with a private equity firm, it’s unclear how long each acquisition and sale will take, what type of project you’ll take on next, and which stakeholders you’ll work with. You may also feel like you’re being pulled in many different directions between balancing the firm’s internal marketing demands and supporting the marketing strategies of its various portfolio companies.
That said, there are ways to take some of the uncertainty out of the equation and position yourself for career advancement. This requires a strategic approach and a commitment to continuous growth. Whether you're a seasoned marketer or starting your first private equity marketing job, here are answers to common questions about how to advance your career in this specialized field.
What are Desirable Qualities for a Private Equity Marketer?
Private equity firms have their sights set on one thing in particular: growth. They’re constantly under pressure to achieve rapid, sustainable growth for both their firms and portfolio companies. Marketing is. of course, a big piece of that puzzle.
As a result, most firms can’t afford to train marketers on the ins and outs of the industry, wait a year for a novice to adjust to his or her role, or cross their fingers that a trial-and-error marketing strategy takes hold. They need someone who can quickly identify the firm's needs, get straight to work, and provide quick wins that drive business value backed up by reporting and revenue.
Typically, the most successful private equity marketers possess these main qualities:
1. Knowledge of Investing & Business Operations
Beyond marketing expertise, the best private equity marketers are educated on how investments and acquisitions work. Because private equity marketers work on behalf of a wide variety of portfolio companies, they also need to have enough general business knowledge to understand different business models and how marketing fits into the broader picture of sustained growth.
Although you’ll pick up on additional nuances of business and investing throughout your career in private equity, it’s not your employer’s responsibility to teach you everything. Hold yourself accountable for learning as much about investments and the types of businesses you’ll be working with. You can do this through a formal education like a business degree, or by reading, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, keeping up with the news and finding a mentor.
2. Experience in Growth Marketing & Value Creation
The more experience you gain with growth marketing and value creation, the better equipped you’ll be to prepare a variety of companies for sale. Junior marketers usually start by providing tactical support on a project, where they can observe the ins and outs of how senior-level marketers develop a strategy and timeline for increasing a company’s value.
Regardless of your experience level as a private equity marketer, aim to focus on brainstorming strategic questions that can change the course of the business, such as, “How can we differentiate this brand from its competitors?” and “Why are certain sales opportunities not closing?”
In addition, it’s important to consider that there are many different audiences that you will need to get familiar with as a private equity marketer. These include:
Your firm’s portfolio companies;
Your firm’s pipeline of founders who are considering a partnership;
The customer base of your firm’s portfolio companies;
Your firm’s investors and prospective investors; and
Investors and organizations who are interested in exiting your portfolio companies to pursue their next phase of growth.
Aim to get exposure in marketing to all of these audiences in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of how marketing touches every aspect of the private equity space.
3. A Strong Visionary Mindset
A transformative marketing leader capable of significantly influencing a firm’s revenue isn't someone who merely follows the whims of what other non-marketing leaders at the company think is a good idea. Nor do they bow down to the latest marketing trend or declare that more content will in turn equal more sales.
Instead, they focus on the company’s vision: who the firm is, its strategic direction and what makes it different from other competing firms. Once a private equity firm has determined what its strategic business goals are, its marketing leaders may then begin to consider tactical questions—like which marketing channels should be used to connect with its audience and how to appropriately package the messaging for each of those channels.
4. Ability to Tie Marketing Tactics to Revenue
A genuine strategic vision to lead an organization toward audacious goals is a necessary quality, but it doesn’t mean anything if it’s not paired with the ability to have discussions and create reports that demonstrate how that marketing vision is tied to increasing revenue.
As a private equity marketer, you must be proficient in developing industry benchmarks, furnishing data that outlines the optimal marketing expenditure for the company, generating realistic revenue expectations, and evaluating the potential for successful exits.
Without the ability to tie marketing tactics to actual revenue, you’re just running a trial-and-error marketing campaign that will ultimately drain your budget, exhaust your resources and leave you wondering why it didn’t work.
How Should I Pursue Professional Development Opportunities in Private Equity Marketing?
Networking and education are, by far, the best means of professional development to advance your career in private equity marketing. Actively expanding your network and pursuing continuous education ensures that you’re regularly being exposed to many different perspectives, career paths and knowledge centers that can directly shape the work you do.
Relationships matter for any career path, and private equity marketing is no exception. You never know where a connection could lead. Down the line, someone you meet in passing could become a client, business partner, mentor, colleague or your best golf buddy.
Cultivate a strong professional network by attending industry events, joining webinars, and connecting with other marketing and private equity professionals in your field. It pays to be part of an organization—like PEMA—to easily access educational tools, professional development opportunities and networking events.
What are the Best Ways to Recruit Non-Traditional Candidates into Private Equity Marketing?
As you advance in your career, you’ll likely find yourself in a position where you need to hire new talent to support the firm’s strategic vision. Since private equity marketing is a highly specialized field, this may require you to tap into non-traditional talent pools to find qualified candidates.
Here are a few unexpected places you can source private equity marketing talent:
Marketers from other finance-related fields, such as banking or consulting
Founders who have successfully exited from their business but are not yet ready to retire
Partner with a marketing agency that specializes in private equity
Engage with industry-specific associations, networking events and online communities where job seekers may be active
In navigating the dynamic and often unpredictable career path of private equity marketing, professionals often face unique challenges and opportunities. Although your career trajectory may not always be clear, many private equity marketers find it rewarding to learn about different types of businesses and believe it’s thrilling to help those businesses grow and seek acquisition.
By cultivating qualities such as a deep understanding of investing, experience in growth marketing and a visionary mindset tied to your firm’s strategic goals, you can continue to advance your career in private equity marketing while helping others in your network do the same.