Adjusting Compensation in Digital Marketing: Meeting the Challenge of Rising Living Costs

By Marti Willett, President, Digital Marketing Recruiters

With inflation soaring to unprecedented levels in recent years, its ripple effects have sent shockwaves through the digital marketing landscape. More than ever, digital marketing professionals are feeling a pinch, and they’re expecting their employers to help them out. As shown by a recent CNBC consumer price index deep dive, the average person’s overall spending jumped 13% between 2021 and 2023. And the rise wasn’t to cover frivolous things. It was to pay for essentials like housing and food.

Digital marketers can’t afford to take jobs that would put their finances in the red. That’s why they’re looking for all the green they can get from their employers. Yet employers are just as strapped. They’re experiencing an uptick in costs, too. However, they need digital marketing teams to stay afloat — and that’s been the impetus for discussion around developing and deploying innovative compensation strategies.

An Era of Unique Digital Marketing Compensation Models

Industry leaders have been tinkering with how they pay their people for many years. The result has been a surge in unique compensation strategies companies use to attract and retain talent. These strategies were a step in the right direction, but the game has changed significantly since 2020. The pandemic put more power in the hands of employees, who realized they had more bargaining ability than ever.

Take remote work, for instance. Digital marketers can work from nearly anywhere. They don’t have to be tethered to an office location, and they know it. With that in mind, candidates are casting a wide geographic net aimed at snagging the best compensation deals they can find. That way, they can cover their bills and still do the work they love.

Consequently, if you’re planning to hire a group of digital marketing powerhouses today, you can’t do it with yesterday’s compensation setups. But how can your company satisfy digital marketers’ collective desire for different types of innovative compensation strategies, particularly if you’re operating under a tight budget? Taking the following steps can help appeal to digital marketing job seekers.

Borrow ideas from other companies.

You aren’t alone in your struggle to freshen up your compensation frameworks. Businesses around the globe are doing likewise. Learning about what’s working best for them can inform and prompt new solutions.

Not long ago, a SHRM article tackled this topic. The author uncovered several compensation model gems that could be springboards for your internal team’s discussion. For example, a sheet-metal fabricating company in Minnesota is providing more paid time off to reduce turnover and entice quality applicants. Another cash-strapped startup organization is making it possible for workers to get sizable equity shares in exchange for mid-level salaries.

Even if you don’t implement what’s happening in other industries, your knowledge of emerging compensation strategies companies use to attract and retain talent will give you more confidence in the future.

Think beyond base pay.

You’ll have to offer competitive base pay to entice a digital marketer to sign on. That’s just table stakes, given that 64% of participants in a Gallup poll cited pay increase as a top priority when taking on a different job. Still, base pay is only the beginning. Digital marketing professionals looking for a soft and lucrative landing aren’t going to jump for salary alone. They need other reasons to say “yes” to your offer.

What kinds of add-ons could sweeten the pot? Compensation packages with competitive base pay attached plus a variable incentive tied to performance can work wonders. The variable incentive allows the employee to have control over what they bring home. When they perform well, they see monetary benefits. Your business does, too.

Other methods to assist your digital marketing job candidates and employees in offsetting their increased cost-of-living expenses include offering gas reimbursements, gym memberships, and generous 401k matches.

Opt for complete compensation transparency.

Always be transparent about your compensation package to earn applicant and worker trust and loyalty. Being upfront and clear from the get-go is crucial to acquiring and retaining top digital marketing professionals. For example, if their compensation and potential growth are tied to an expectation, make it known right away.

Remember that this extends to how you anticipate them performing their jobs. If you require someone to come to the office part-time or full-time, be clear. As stated before, most digital marketers realize their responsibilities can be performed remotely. To encourage them to make a commute, you must be honest and fair. This means you’ll probably need to factor the commute into their compensation in some way, such as with parking passes.

One of the biggest reasons workers leave is that they don’t feel they’re being treated like the adults they are. Your willingness to be completely transparent about financial rewards—and their nuances—is fundamental to starting off on a trusting employee-employer relationship.

There’s nothing you can do about inflation. Nevertheless, you don’t have to lose great digital marketing experts because of economic uncertainty. By tailoring your compensation strategies to align with the needs of today’s workforce, you can enjoy digital marketing success and do the right thing for your employees in the process.

About the Author

Marti Willett is the President of Digital Marketing Recruiters, a specialized firm dedicated to matching talented digital marketing professionals with growth-focused businesses. With a rich background in digital marketing, Marti has spent over a decade refining her expertise in talent acquisition, business process architecture, and leadership development. Her approach is characterized by a passion for connecting exceptional individuals with the right job opportunities, leveraging her team’s collective 30 years of digital marketing experience to offer a truly personalized service.