Why 2021 is a great time to be a marketer in Dallas-Fort Worth

Why 2021 is a great time to be a marketer in Dallas-Fort Worth

As a marketing solutions and talent company, Freeman+Leonard is in the business of matching great marketers and creatives with the companies who need them. To achieve that, our team works closely with marketing talent and hiring managers to find the right fit based on evolving market realities and business priorities.

Often, our own internal data and placement history combined with these conversations allows us to see interesting trends in real time.

This is particularly true of the marketing and advertising industry in north Texas. Though we serve clients and talent across the U.S., we’re based in Dallas and have deep roots here.

So, it is with the benefit of this experience (20+ years, in fact) that we make the following claim:

We believe it is quite the auspicious time to be a marketing and advertising professional working in Dallas-Fort Worth. Perhaps even the most promising. 

You might say we’re a bit biased when it comes to the field of marketing, and even the Dallas area, but the data backs us up. Let’s review the findings:

Marketing talent is in demand more than ever before, though some roles are increasing in number more than others.

Though marketing budgets are often among the first to be slashed during financial downturns, the worst of the pandemic’s economic impact seems behind us. Marketing departments are hiring and spending again.

But many eyes have been opened by the events of the past 12 months, and business priorities have shifted. As a result, at Freeman+Leonard we’re seeing demand for certain marketing roles increasing at faster rates than others.

In particular, we’re seeing growth in digital/analytics roles, PR and crisis communications, social media strategy and content, email marketing and eCommerce.

For more details, read: "Here are the marketing roles in highest demand in 2021.”

Contract rates and salaries are rising — especially for marketers with strong digital experience.

Before the pandemic, salary and employment data for the Dallas area already told a pretty favorable story. We were leading the nation’s metro areas in job creation for multiple years in a row, particularly for white-collar professional jobs.

Though the virus certainly took its toll, that trend seems to be holding — or at least, buoying us through the storm. In February, the Dallas Morning News reported that Dallas had regained almost all of the jobs it lost over the past year, excluding leisure and hospitality.

And as of February 2021, starting salaries in Dallas were a comfortable 12% above the national average. Meanwhile, DFW is a relatively affordable place to live, with a cost of living just 2% higher than the national average.

More experienced marketers are also finding higher average compensation in Dallas, and an upward trend.

According to Freeman+Leonard’s database and placement history, digital, UX and eCommerce expert contract rates are increasing 1-3% per hour each quarter. 

This is causing an increase in full-time salaries for these roles approximately every 12 months above the 3+% cost of living increase.

The significant growth of new companies moving to the Dallas area has played a role in dramatically increasing marketing salary averages. And fortunately, these higher salaries are holding, even during the pandemic.

Working from home is here to stay.

Though the employers we talked with had been nervous about managing a remote workforce, they’ve become less so over the past year.

Most employers plan to head back into the office at some point, but we often hear that it likely won’t look the same as it had. Many expect to have their workforces back in the office only part of the time, and to have them work remotely at least a few days a week.

In addition to the potential for better work-life balance, the shift towards remote work offers Dallas marketing and advertising professionals a greater geographic range of opportunities, even as they enjoy DFW’s near-average cost of living.

Dallas-Fort Worth is only getting better.

Over the past few years, local news sites have been splashed with headline after headline announcing yet another corporation relocating to Dallas-Fort Worth. The talent pool in this area is frequently cited as one of the draws.

It’s interesting that the trend didn’t slow for COVID.

As more companies awaken to the benefits of headquartering in north Texas, the area should become an even more lively, diverse and cosmopolitan area rich with opportunity.

At Freeman+Leonard, though our arms stretch over Texas and well beyond, we couldn’t imagine a better headquarters than Dallas for our own firm. And as our community emerges fully from this pandemic, we can’t wait to see what comes next for the area we love to call home.

Here are the marketing roles in highest demand in 2021

Here are the marketing roles in highest demand in 2021

Though marketing budgets are often among the first to be slashed during financial downturns, the worst of the pandemic’s economic impact seems to be behind us.

Marketing departments are hiring and spending again. 

At Freeman+Leonard, we’re seeing dramatic increases in new orders for talent placements from clients compared to three to six months ago, across a wide range of employers in a variety of categories.

Marketing talent is more in demand than ever before, but business priorities have shifted — and therefore, so have the roles employers are hiring for.

Demand for certain marketing roles is increasing more than others.

The following four areas are showing the greatest growth among our clients:


Many companies were forced by the pandemic to expedite their digital transformation plans, or even pivot to new business models. Quick decisions were required despite incredible uncertainty.

So, it’s little wonder that digital expertise, with an emphasis on the analytical, would now be prized by marketing hiring managers. Armed with technology and current data, informed decisions can be made quickly, powering greater agility no matter what the future holds.

Job titles for these roles include the following disciplines: Digital Strategy, Digital Analytics, Web Analytics, Data Analytics, Business Intelligence, Marketing Analytics, Paid Social Strategy, Paid Search, Media Planning, UX/UI Design.

PR and Crisis Communications

There’s nothing quite like being thrust into a 12-month-long crisis, including the deepest economic slide since the Great Depression, to highlight any gaps in a company’s communications skillset.

Managing a brand’s reputation with the public and its relationships with the media requires a delicate touch and specialized expertise even in the best of times. Public relations pros with crisis communications experience are  in demand more than ever.

Job titles for these roles include the following disciplines: Corporate Communications, Marketing Communications, Media Relations, Public Relations, Publicity, Investor Relations, Account Management (PR agencies).

Social Media Strategy and Content

Even before the pandemic, most companies recognized that a relevant and current social media presence was no longer optional. In the months since, social platforms have become more significant, with more customers even turning to them first for up-to-date information about the businesses they intend to visit or buy from.

Meanwhile over the past year, time spent online and on social media has skyrocketed. Video-first platforms like TikTok provide more creative opportunities to connect with consumers and reach them where they are: on their phones.

Strategic social media experts who can connect the dots between business goals, consumer expectations and these social media trends are in high demand among our clients, as are the content creators who bring those strategies to life.

Job titles for these roles include these disciplines: Social Strategy, Content Marketing, Community Management, Social Media Management, Creative Strategy, Design, Copywriting.

Email Marketing and Ecommerce

Email marketing is no longer about sending one-off newsletters or campaigns; it’s about managing an entire customer relationship via advanced marketing automation platforms.

For ecommerce, whose sales growth was apparently accelerated by pandemic restrictions rather than hindered by them, marketing automation platforms can be powerful tools for driving sales and revenue.

Demand for marketers with strong expertise in this area (and a scientific approach to attribution and measurement) is still growing among our client base, even as restrictions ease.

These job titles are likely to be in these areas, among others: CRM, eCommerce, Marketing Automation, Demand Generation, Marketing Operations, Email Marketing, Web Development, Performance Marketing, Revenue Marketing

Contract rates and salaries are also rising for marketers with strong digital experience.

According to Freeman+Leonard’s database and placement history, digital, UX and eCommerce expert contract rates are increasing 1-3% per hour each quarter. 

This is causing an increase in full-time salaries for these roles approximately every 12 months above the 3+% cost of living increase.

We’re seeing dramatically increased marketing salary averages especially in our home base of Dallas, which has seen significant growth of new companies relocating their headquarters to the area. And fortunately, these higher salaries are holding, even during the pandemic.

Marketers are increasingly expected to be data-driven, multi-skilled, and able to think quickly on their feet.

Based on the demand we’re seeing for roles focused heavily on digital marketing, analytics, crisis communications and ecommerce, it seems clear that the pandemic has only sped up an existing trend:

More and more, marketing teams are expected to be able to confidently make quick, informed, data-driven decisions, and to connect the dots from their own work to real revenue and business results.

Fortunately, this is more possible than ever before thanks to marketing technology with robust analytics capabilities.

We predict that marketing’s strengthened role in driving attributable revenue (and protecting brand reputations in volatile times) will elevate its perceived importance among business leaders and other internal departments. That can only bode well for the next time the economy forces companies to take a hard look at their budgets.

In this latest surge in demand, we’re also seeing an increase in hybrid requests, with companies seeking candidates who offer multiple skills. 

For instance, we’re seeing more requests for UX/UI designers-in-one, or project managers with design skills. This could also look like an account director with extensive video knowledge, or a creative director who can hands-on design and write full copy.

Many of the marketers we know are already multi-passionate and multi-talented, so consider this your cue to bring your full talents to the table!

And for those less analytically or digitally inclined, keep in mind that marketers of all focus areas and backgrounds — even creatives — can use these insights to stay competitive in today’s marketplace:

Document your wins early and often, and focus your résumés on quantified results, rather than on regurgitated job descriptions.

Ready to make your next move? Submit your résumé or portfolio to jobs.freemanleonard.com today.

8 essential post-pandemic marketing strategies for small nonprofits and startups

8 essential post-pandemic marketing strategies for small nonprofits and startups

Like many nonprofits of its size, Live Pura Vida, a 501(c)(3) based in Arlington and Fort Worth, has been hit hard by the pandemic. Revenue from for-profit arms of the organization — which typically funded the nonprofit side — had almost completely dried up.

And that meant the array of services and programming they offered — ranging from after-school programs and cultural education to dance classes and culinary instruction — could no longer be accessed by the communities and children of color who needed them.

But executive director Juleon Lewis has still worked tirelessly to reach those in his community who needed critical services like food assistance more than ever.

Then, Live Pura Vida was nominated for a special opportunity to brainstorm new strategies with some of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s top marketing minds.

A Time for Heroes, Freeman+Leonard’s community-driven response to the COVID-19 pandemic, pairs a struggling small business owner or nonprofit leader with some of the firm’s top marketing and advertising talent for a complimentary one-hour panel and discussion. The goal: to develop new strategies and ideas to help the organization drive revenue and growth in our new economy.

“The question and the challenge that I’d like to bring to you all today,” Juleon prompted as his strategy session began, “is how can we share the message of what we’re doing in an effective and digestible manner so that we can get more awareness of our brand and what we’re doing?”

After a brief review of the Live Pura Vida brand and its current marketing, our panelists began their brainstorm.

They shared the following eight recommendations for the nonprofit, many of which could be applied to any organization in need of a post-pandemic boost, despite limited resources.

1. Leverage email marketing platforms to connect directly with your community.

Social media may be at the top of many marketers’ minds, but the real gold is in your email list. After all, it’s the only digital audience you truly own — and it allows nonprofits with even the smallest budgets to have a direct line of communication with their donors, volunteers and constituents.

“One of the easiest and most time-efficient things to do is to get an email blast going, whatever your message is,” recommended agency executive Sophia Johnson.

“If you want everybody to switch over to smile.amazon.com, that’s a quick email to your entire database. If you need volunteers, that’s an email: ‘I need volunteers in these three areas.’ I would encourage you to put together an email strategy. You can do that in a couple of hours. And it’s just about putting everybody in your database.”

2. Partner with more-established, complementary nonprofits and organizations.

For smaller organizations, collaboration is often key to reaching larger audiences and broadening awareness and reach.

Marketing executive Dorothy Jones asked, “Are you open to complementary nonprofits or groups of artists in the vocal field or the visual arts that have existing, successful curriculum?”

“You’re making such a meaningful difference in broader communities, through youth, with the focus on Latin culture and African-American culture,” shared marketing executive Jennifer Fomin. “Looking at all of those programs and channels, there might be similar organizations to reach out to to amplify what you’re already doing.”

Other nonprofits aren’t the only potential collaborators. Think beyond immediate competitors to any organization or body that reaches the same populations in other ways.

“I have to ask about partnerships with schools,” said Lisa Foster, a marketing talent specialist. “You clearly partner with after-school programs, but do you have any partnerships with schools more broadly to tap for volunteers and donations?”

There are many ways to make partnerships and collaborations work, as long as the relationship is mutually beneficial in some way. In both nonprofit and for-profit businesses, it can pay to partner up and share both resources and audiences.

3. Make sure your messaging leads with what you do.

With so many worthy causes out there competing for volunteers and donors, every nonprofit must fight to win hearts and minds and position themselves as the one to back. It’s not enough simply to exist as a 501(c)(3) — you must demonstrate results.

At every opportunity, lead with your impact when describing your organization, emphasizing what you do and who you help, rather than a boilerplate description of who you are.

This can be as simple a shift as rearranging information on a website. As Sophia Johnson pointed out, moving the “What We Do” section of the homepage to above the “Who We Are” section on Live Pura Vida’s website could help the true message sink in:

“It’s not as important who you are; it’s more important what you do.”

4. Embrace your niche and local impact.

And to that end, don’t think you need to seem bigger than you are in order to win over supporters.

Many individual and corporate donors are more focused than ever on organizations that can make a real, tangible difference in specific, targeted communities, rather than on broad, globally-focused charities.

Sophia Johnson again suggested a simple messaging shift for Live Pura Vida’s homepage, encouraging the organization to emphasize the difference it makes for children and communities of color in the Arlington and Fort Worth areas specifically.

5. Get creative with video on TikTok and Instagram Reels.

Emerging social media platforms and video formats like TikTok videos and Instagram Reels also present a fresh opportunity to creatively spread your organization’s message to new people.

And because an everyday, less polished aesthetic reigns supreme on those platforms, they also take very little production investment to create. All you need is an idea and a smartphone.

Agency executive Rob Howe explained how this could work for an organization like Live Pura Vida, whose sheer variety of programs and services for communities of color presents a messaging challenge that may be familiar to many nonprofits:

“It struck me, on TikTok and Instagram Reels, that there are dancers who are also educators and use their videos to point to different things and share information and facts,” shared Rob, suggesting that Live Pura Vida could do the same, using fun video content to share information, “be it about your nonprofit or about the people that you serve.”

After all, said Rob, “what better way to really encapsulate the entire experience, than to integrate dance with messages about the impact you have?”

6. Invest small amounts of advertising for your most important content.

Unfortunately for budget-strapped nonprofits everywhere, social media platforms — especially larger and more established ones like Facebook — are now ‘pay to play.’ Without paid amplification of some kind, it’s difficult if not impossible to widen awareness of your organization on these platforms.

“Part of the challenge of growing your social media is that a lot of the platforms continue to diminish organic reach. And so what I’d consider is, ‘What is a proper  investment to simply increase your awareness?’” suggested marketing executive John Lods.

He continued, “If you’re creating content and you’re investing 5 or 10 hours to do that, very few people are able to see that content because Facebook doesn’t promote it organically.”

Thankfully, it doesn’t take a large budget to distribute that content to your intended audience with self-service social media advertising tools. Even $25 to $50 here and there can help ensure your posts are seen by the right people.

And not every post will merit the investment. Set aside a modest fund for Facebook or Instagram ads and divide it among your most significant or strategic content, messages or campaigns.

7. Create an internship program for marketing students.

It’s probably fair to say that most nonprofits are shorter on manpower than they are on ideas.

However, for new nonprofit founders especially, the idea of training junior talent can feel too time-consuming or risky to pursue. But it’s important to push past this conception to scale your organization’s impact beyond your existing team, especially if marketing has fallen by the wayside.

“We get a lot of students in marketing degree programs who are looking for internships for both summer and full-time and ongoing,” said Kathy Leonard, President & CMO of Freeman+Leonard.

“And some of those young people are in marketing and others are in social media. I’m wondering if there are unpaid internships for college credit that you could create with local universities.”

8. Get comfortable being the face of your organization, and make sharing to social media a habitual part of your day.

The best laid marketing strategy won’t take any organization very far if it isn’t implemented. For the leaders of small businesses and nonprofits alike, marketing should be approached less as a carefully crafted plan and more as a daily habit.

Furthermore, people care about people, not organizations, and they want to see the humans behind the scenes making it all happen.

For small nonprofit founders and executive directors, few strategies will take you further in reaching and engaging your audiences than embracing your role as spokesperson for your organization.

“You’ve got a great smile. I think you could be more front-and-center as the face of this organization,” social strategist Megan Van Groll suggested to Juleon. “As you go about your daily activities supporting the nonprofit and for-profit sides of your brand, you can be the face telling that story on Instagram — via selfie-style videos, explaining what you’re doing, taking people along for ‘a day in the life.’”

Shared on Instagram Stories, these behind-the-scenes vignettes can be both ephemeral and lasting, living proof of the work your organization is doing for anyone to later come along and see.

“You don’t currently have any Instagram Stories highlights,” Megan pointed out, “so you could start saving those stories to the highlights at the top of the profile.” There, they’ll always be available for future supporters to discover.

Watch the full brainstorm session here:

Though our economy is recovering from COVID-19 and we can now see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, many nonprofits and small businesses are still struggling to drive donations and revenue. Resources, both time and money, are strained.

Investing those precious resources in only the highest-impact, most strategic marketing and revenue-driving activities is never more critical than it is right now.

If you know of another small business or nonprofit that could use an injection of strategic ideas from our marketing and advertising experts, nominate them to be the next beneficiary of Time for Heroes.

“I am blown away by everyone on the call,” said Juleon at the end of the brainstorm. “The amount of experience and talent on the call is almost overwhelming. What a pleasant surprise.”

Thanks to Juleon Lewis for sharing his story so openly with us and with our community. If you’d like to support Live Pura Vida and the local communities of color they serve, you can make a donation online at livepuravida.org.