Case Study: Meet Alex Marriner, Founder of Acquire Digital Talent

At ReEcho, we take pride in the caliber of recruiters we have the pleasure to support. One of them is Alex Marriner, who has established himself and his firm - Acquire Digital Talent, as the partner of choice for Direct-To-Consumer companies when it comes to building Digital & Growth Marketing Leadership teams.

"Award-winning CMOs tend to win awards only because they have led high performing teams!"

About you and recruitment

Can you tell us more about your approach to recruitment?

My mantra when it comes to recruitment has always been ‘Inch Wide, Mile Deep’. Working in that way provides a better experience for everyone involved. I get to understand the intricacies of hiring companies’ business models and what type of talent they need. It’s not just about filling a vacancy but creating talented teams who will, not only achieve their company’s growth goals but also, help advance senior marketing leaders’ careers. Award-winning CMOs tend to win awards only because they have led high performing teams! For candidates, while I am not able to execute a marketing campaign myself, I build credibility and rapport much quicker because I understand and speak their language. 

Why is recruitment fun to you?  

After 14 years in recruitment, one of the things that never fails to give me a buzz is making placements. It stems from knowing that I have supported a business in finding an individual who will make a difference for them and who the company wasn’t able to find by themselves or who, if they did go through that journey, probably would have taken them much more time and resources to find, steering them away from focussing on their core activity. From a candidate perspective as well, some of the placements I have made have been life changing for them, whether because they were finally paid their market value, or just generally knowing that these individuals now had opportunities to learn new things and engage with new connections that can open further doors for them in the future.

What do you like particularly about Marketing recruitment?

I just like Marketing. It is an area that I have always been interested in. It was my favourite subject in High School and College. However, I didn’t go down the university route, and then found it hard to professionally get into marketing without a degree. So I moved into sales instead. Then I got into marketing recruitment and it was the opportunity to put everything together!

What is your proudest placement?

There are a few that spring to mind. I once placed an outstanding candidate who was struggling to find the right opportunity. When I placed her, it made a real difference for her. She joined a company that she truly cared about and was finally remunerated according to her market value. Other placements that I am particularly proud of were those that stemmed from situations where businesses had spent months searching by themselves or working with other recruiters, and when they engaged me, I was able to identify what they really needed and successfully make the hire much quicker. 

According to you, what makes a great recruiter? 

We can all agree that non-negotiable traits are to be tenacious, resilient and to have thick skin. But mostly, in my opinion, you have to be passionate about the market you work in and really have a strong desire to help people. In the sense that you want to help companies prosper because people are their greatest asset. And you want to help individuals to realise their worth in the market and to gain new experiences that will ultimately make them better versions of themselves in the future. 

Do you have some insights on the market you would like to share?

A lot of the CMOs I have been speaking to recently have been focussing on getting back to the basics and getting them right from a marketing perspective. A few of them are also talking about AI. It won’t necessarily take everyone’s job but it is something that will be utilised to improve efficiency within marketing teams.

The market has been somewhat picking up but still isn’t where it used to be. What piece of advice would you give talent looking for a leadership role in D2C Marketing in the current market?

The market has been very ‘wavy’ in 2023, we haven’t had the usual demand patterns, rather opportunities came in waves. Companies are more selective because they know that there is more talent available on the market relative to the amount of opportunities. So it is important for candidates to take a more strategic approach to finding their next role i.e. identifying what are their core strengths and experiences, where do they come from? Is that from a particular sector? If it is D2C for example, is it D2C e-commerce? D2C subscription? And where you have the most experience, is where companies will see the most value in candidates and that is where candidates will shine in the current market. 

What is one thing you would like hiring companies to know about you? 

Working with a specialist recruiter, in my case focussing on Digital and Growth Marketing hires for D2C brands, puts the companies that I support in a strong position. Specialism, combined with the fact that I work typically to a retained partnership model, helps establish a strong non-transactional relationship between me and the hiring companies, which ultimately leads to better processes and outcomes for everyone involved: faster hires, higher quality shortlists, as well as longer employee retention.

"Working with ReEcho has provided the opportunity for me to feel reassured that everything ‘back office’, such as contracts, invoice issuance, payments, etc., are things I don’t have to worry about, that it will always be taken care of and generally that my interests are being looked after while I focus on what I enjoy the most."

About your journey as an independent recruiter

Many people set up recruitment companies but few succeed to last in time, especially during a challenging macro climate. Acquire is one of the well established and perennial independent recruitment brands out there with over 5 years of trade and still going strong. We think we know why, but what do you think is the secret to your success? 

I think it always comes back to my philosophy / mantra. To be successful, you need to be known for your excellence at something and not be a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. For me, being true to my niche and not deviating from it has been crucial to my success. 

This is great and we are very happy for you that things are working well. However, we know the entrepreneurship journey can be challenging and lonely sometimes. What are some of the tough challenges you have been facing over the years and what have you put in place to manage them? 

I tried to do everything myself for the first few years and it was manageable for some time. However, as the demand scaled, there was more need for me to find a way to focus more on what I am best at and delegate what is not core to my business. And working with ReEcho has provided the opportunity for me to feel reassured that everything ‘back office’, such as contracts, invoice issuance, payments, etc., are things I don’t have to worry about, that it will always be taken care of and generally that my interests are being looked after while I focus on what I enjoy the most: the recruitment work. 

One of the things that we think truly sets you apart is the community of senior marketing leaders you have created. How did that idea come about? 

CMOs and marketing leaders are expected to ‘know it all’ because they are the most senior marketers within the business. However, given how quickly digital marketing can change, it’s impossible for them to know about the latest on everything at all times. So I thought that we could rally them in a community around shared interests and challenges. And around COVID time, I knew that within my network, there were some great individuals and I felt that there was an opportunity to bring them together then. For the first 3-4 months, it was a bit quiet, I had to do a lot of the prompting, but if you get enough of the right people, you then get critical mass and it starts to snowball. And that’s how the community became what it is today. 

With the strong trust you have established in this community, we assume that many of them want to work with you even outside of your sweet spot. But you are only one person and we know that one of your tenets when it comes to recruitment is hyperfocus and specialization, how do you navigate that scaling demand?

I introduce the opportunity to ReEcho who will then either help find a recruiter who can help within the network or will assign their Research team on the project. Given the ethos of the company and the calibre of recruiters they serve, partnering with ReEcho allows me to feel confident that those within the community will have a good experience and will be delivered with quality talent in areas outside of my remit. The additional plus-side for me is that I make passive income by referring qualified opportunities!

Finally, what are your plans moving forward?

I have delivered great value for D2C brands in 2023 across the UK, Europe and the US. While I will keep working across all these territories, recent successes in the US fill me with confidence that there is a real opportunity to expand further and strengthen Acquire’s position there in terms of supporting D2C businesses with digital and growth marketing hires.