An interesting conversation is taking place in my Legal Marketers Extraordinaire group on Facebook (PM me via the LWC Facebook page for an invite).

An LME asked about a relevant salary survey for in-house marketing professionals. Key word here being relevant.

Honestly, I’ve looked at a lot of the salary surveys out there, and there isn’t one that is truly accurate and valuable that I can recommend, and here’s one reason why:

Not all marketing directors/CMOs are created equal.

Anyone can be hired and given the title of marketing director, or CMO, but what does that mean?

I know MDs who are nothing more than glorified managers; managers who are really directors and running the department; directors who are strategic business advisers; and CMOs who are either running the firm’s business operations, or are in name only and just glorified MDs.

Some are given a lofty title in lieu of a salary bump. Some firms hire low. Some firms understand that no matter the title, you pay for the experience and knowledge of the individual and the value they provide the organization.

Salaries are hard to peg down for senior marketing professionals as they really are individualized to the ROLE that specific person will be holding in that specific firm.

The key differentiator that separates the high and low of a salary survey, no matter what the title, is the marketing professional’s strategic influence and adviser role in the business operations of the firm.

If you ask a marketing professional what their key strategic initiatives are for 2014 and they reply, “We’re getting ready to launch a new website,” you might not be looking at a strategic adviser.

If they say, “We’re realigning our practice groups to better meet new market demands,” you have a strategic business adviser. You can call them director or CMO. Their job is the same. Strategic.

And then there is the other layer of business development professional who is literally out in the community, developing new relationships, and driving new business into the firm. You can expect a premium for that role as well, no matter the title.

So when you take that salary survey off the shelf and try to measure the candidate before you, or the professional in your office, you will see the salaries for a marketing director going for $75-$300,000+, and a CMO from $150,000 – ??? And that is 100% accurate.

But salaries surveys are like statistics. They are for populations and not individuals.

Dig a little deeper, and you will see that specialty, years of experience, a seat at the table v. a VOICE at the table of the individual marketing professional all play into those numbers. Not to mention their ability to work well with lawyers.

For the past 11+ years my title hasn’t changed from “director,” but my role has evolved from tactical to strategic; from having a seat at the table to a voice at the table; from confidant to trusted adviser. Why would my salary not evolve with my role as well?