Hiring a Marketer: What Skill Set Should You Look For?

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Four candidates competing for one position.If your company has grown to the point where you’re hiring a marketer for the first time, congratulations! Marketing is an important link between buyers and your product or service, and marketers have always been tasked with finding new customers for sales to close. These days, when your prospect gets most of the way through the buying process without talking to your sales team (or another human on your team), the typical marketer is using email and website tactics to help your brand remain in consideration and warm up those prospects.

Let’s talk about what to look for.

Training and Background

The classic marketing education includes grounding in the four Ps:

  • Price
  • Place (distribution)
  • Product
  • Promotion

These days, your new marketing hire may have studied marketing in college, but it’s more likely that they’ve crossed over from some other discipline. In a recent Act-On survey asking customers how they came to marketing, only 17% said they had focused on marketing in school.

Group of Multiethnic Mixed Occupations PeopleLarger companies can have marketing teams that specialize in various disciplines, but smaller companies hiring their first one or two marketers are usually looking for help in a variety of promotional areas, including email campaigns, advertising, web strategy, writing papers and eBooks, managing social media, and so on.

So the first thing you need to do is look at your business goals. What do you need most? Brand extension? More leads? Sales tools such as data sheets? You can pick multiple things, but prioritize them, and put a number to them, so both you and your new marketer will know what success looks like.

Swiss Army Knife… or a Specialist?  

Swiss army knife openMarketing’s gotten a lot more complicated in the last ten years. New technologies have made possible many new strategies, and changing consumer habits are changing the game for B2B as well as B2C businesses. In 1995, you could get by with a marketer who could write, lay out an ad, plan a media mix and buy media, do research, buy lists of names for sales to call, and manage trade shows. Every single one of those disciplines has exploded into a specialty. “Buying lists of names” has morphed into database marketing, and become extremely sophisticated. And now we’ve added:

  • Lead generation
  • Demand generation
  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Lead management (including such tactics as nurturing and scoring)
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

Plus, many of the new technologies offer ways to measure marketing efforts that make marketing more accountable than it’s ever been for return on investment (ROI).

For most companies, digital marketing is taking up an ever-increasing chunk of the marketing budget, and delivering an ever-increasing portion of your results. It’s very likely that your new hire will be assuming at least some digital duties.

When you begin writing that job description, here are the main components to be aware of:

  • Email. Email marketing remains the big success story, with an ROI of something like 4300%, according to the Direct Marketing Association.  This will probably be a cornerstone skill for your first marketing hire. Make sure your candidate has experience beyond batch-and-blast marketing (that is, sending the same email to everyone on your list, at the same time), and understands the value of segmentation and lead nurturing. Also make sure you can support this tactic with a solid technology tool.
  • Inbound marketing. At its simplest, this tactic is all about using passive methods to attract attention and interest. It involves content creation (such as blogs, landing pages, eBooks) and uses search engine optimization, online ads, content syndication, social media marketing, etc., to help people discover you and come to your website to investigate your brand.
  • SEO. Search engine optimization is as much an art as a science; the search engines don’t often share their ranking secrets, so there’s a lot of inference. Nevertheless, applying known best practices to pages, links, metadata, and so on can make an enormous difference in your ranking, which in turn makes an huge difference in the number of people who will discover you through search.
  • Data/metrics:  Understanding essential marketing analytics and the meaning of basic terms provides a foundation for adapting marketing strategy in real time, and helps prove how marketing contributes to the bottom line.
  • Content marketing. Content can be created to attract, acquire and engage a well-defined potential buyer. It’s usually focused on meeting customer needs or answering inquiries rather than promoting a product. Whatever the content may be (a web page, an eBook, a tweet, for example), and however it is distributed, there should always a business objective for using it.
  • Social media marketing. Every day, more and more businesses are using social media successfully to build brand awareness and engage with the buyer. If you don’t use social yourself it may seem like the province of millennials, but that’s no longer true. Don’t assume that someone can manage your social efforts just because they’re young. Doing it well requires experience, skill, timing, and confidence.

You are not going to find one person who excels in all areas. Be clear about your priorities so you can hire to fill them, and be aware you will have to let some things go, or perhaps use an agency strategically to fill in certain gaps.

Soft Skills 

Casual woman using digital tablet with colleaguesBeyond the new skill sets and the traditional ones  marketers need a range of abilities, characteristics, and habits. Some of these will be more important than others, depending on your environment, but all are well worth paying attention to.

  • Customer-centricity. Strong marketers must be able to identify your target audience and learn what they need and want, then see your product or service from that viewpoint. It’s the ability to focus on the customer, not the brand.
  • Managing expectations. Your marketer must meet deadlines and be able to make promises that are kept, whether to you, to your engineering department, or to your customer.
  • Positioning. Good marketers understand the market you and your competitors operate in. They can understand your product and your brand, and can help differentiate and position you.
  • Presentation. This follows positioning, and has to do with presenting the character of your company in look and feel, tone and voice, and thought leadership. These all help buyers recognize your company’s products or services as an attractive option, distinct and unique from others.

So before you begin your hiring process, remember to think about your business goals. You’re not going to find a marketer who has deep expertise in every area, but if you know what your goals are, you can find someone who fills one or more roles nicely. For example, if what you really need is more raw leads and better lead management (a very typical situation for a small, growing company), look for someone who understands how to make a website pull in more traffic, using content marketing, social media, and SEO, and also knows how to run email campaigns. Have realistic lead quotas so you both know what expectations are, and can be clear about success or failure.

If you are the one providing strategy and direction, you could look for an early-career marketer to execute your plans. If you need help with strategies, planning, and measuring, look for someone who’s done this before and has a track record of success. Consider bringing someone in on a contract-to-hire basis; that’s a good way to make a hiring decision that works for them as well as for you. You might also want to try using a marketing agency – that way, you can get strategic, specialized help when and where you need it, rather than hiring a generalist. Take a look at the many marketing agencies Act-On works with to find one that may be right for your needs. And happy (head) hunting!

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