Like most industries, marketing is saturated with all levels of experience, knowledge and skill. Marketer is such a broad term, it seems it requires very little experience to slap the word on your social bio or promote marketing as part of your business, even if your main business isn’t intended to be as someone’s marketer.
To make it more confusing, there are general marketers covering a variety of types of marketing and niche marketers focused on single platform use or a certain stage of the marketing journey. There are digital marketers and marketers who offer digital marketing services but don’t refer to themselves as digital marketers.
Bottom line is, we have a lot of words and titles in marketing and it can be extremely misleading to a business owner who needs marketing help but has no idea what someone means or how qualified they are when they seek that new hire or outsource partner.
As someone with more than 15 years of experience, learning and practicing many marketing skills myself and also hiring and leading team members providing other areas of marketing, I have insight into what makes someone qualified to help market a business. And some important cautions most entrepreneurs wouldn’t think to look for as they’re browsing someone’s services, onboarding process and website in consideration of hiring them.
This is a list I would encourage you to apply as you vet a candidate who is going to own all or an aspect of your marketing.
A great marketer will have a mind for business. This one will quickly weed out newbie marketers who so far in their careers have mostly focused on developing their marketing skill and are fuzzy about business operation. When I would hire young marketers during my corporate tenure, one of the first things I would white board out for them was how our business worked. I would explain the backstory, the leadership structure, the buyer process and the primary products we offered. I would have to educate them on basic business principles because they had very little mind for that stuff – they just hadn’t needed it yet in life.
If you’re going to bring a marketer into the fold of your business, you want someone who understands business. If you have someone who is always thinking marketing, you’ll start to see red flags such as them attaching to an idea that is cool in marketing world, but isn’t the best for your business, or a struggle to show how the marketing results are translating to actual business growth.
Now, one advantage of a newer marketer is they are not likely to cost as much as someone with more experience, but if you go that direction with your hire, expect to have to train them in business sense or ask them lots of bottom line questions to make sure they’re matching the marketing they’re doing with the main goals of the business. This just means you’ll have to give extra time and attention to this person – and take the risk of them never being strong in this area, no matter how much you coach them.
A great marketer will readily recommend or outsource skills they’re not good at or familiar with themselves. A great marketer knows what they’re good at and what they aren’t. They’re willing to be honest about what they will own themselves, what a team member will do, and what they may need to outsource. Or, they’ll happily send you to someone else. A great marketer is strong enough in their services and clientele that they’re not threatened by occasionally recommending another marketer.
A great marketer is always learning. Oh, this is crazy important. Marketing – especially digital marketing – is changing constantly. Algorithms change, user trends change, best practices change… It’s impossible for a marketer to have perfect knowledge of online marketing. Plus, much of marketing really is a learn-as-you-go application. A great marketer will say humble things like, “I’m not sure, let me find out”, “the last I checked, this was the way this works, but I’ll check again”, “I’ll have to study that a bit.” A great marketer is not going to be a know-it-all or have all the right answers without staying constantly educated.
A great marketer is transparent about results. Whether it’s detailed reports with colorful charts or tracking basic numbers each month, there should be some form of results reporting happening. A great marketer is going to be able to clearly show how the marketing translated into new leads or sales. They’re not going to mind keeping track of this (most platforms provide this if set up properly – or there is also comprehensive reporting software available).
A good marketer will also be cool presenting bad results – calmly considering new strategies rather than hiding disappointing stats. A marketer shouldn’t be expected to produce amazing results all the time, especially on a limited budget or with limited manpower, but they should be expected to track, study and share results.
A great marketer can explain why a certain strategy is smart for your business – and why it may not be. This goes back to attaching to an idea without fully considering whether the idea targets the right audience, is budget-friendly and has strong potential to bring the right leads. A lot of marketers enjoy the cool factor of certain showy marketing tactics and platforms, but don’t spend enough time thinking through the work it will require, the budget needed, the amount of commitment to start seeing results and who is going to own it (especially if the marketer themselves is already neck-deep in tasks). A mature marketer will be able to make a strong case for adding a new strategy rather than selling out over hype.
A great marketer understands a complete buyer’s journey – and how to create that with marketing. Another tip based on experience level. An inexperienced marketer is not going to have practiced buyer’s journeys enough to think through this very well.
Where I see this most is with marketers who lean heavily on the first stage of the journey – the attractional marketing – without thinking through the other buyer stages. Building audiences is only part of a complete, sales-generating marketing approach. A great marketer should be able to show which of their marketing methods are fulfilling various stages all the way through the buyer’s journey.
A great marketer isn’t trying to cram marketing into a “we’ll do anything and everything for your business” model. There’s an emergence of business support type service providers who include marketing in their description but don’t fit any of the qualifications Iisted here. Be wary of hiring a marketer that treats marketing as a side service.
Sure, they may be good at setting up platforms and designing templated websites but they’re not going to have enough marketing depth to think through whether those platforms or that website is best for your business over the long-run. They’re not going to be the best at giving you advice specific to your marketing. They’re not going to be the best option for continuing with your business marketing once you’re ready to hire or outsource.
I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve been pulled into a client’s marketing only to discover whoever set up their website and platforms only made them look pretty and did very little of the other important aspects of well-functioning marketing. It’s easy for an entrepreneur to be sold on artistic strength and totally unaware of the less visible needs of strong marketing systems. The best way to vet this? Ask one of their clients if the system is still working for them after two years or if they had to upgrade or change it at any point to get real results.
Which leads me to my final point – don’t settle for a marketer who has only short, temporary partnerships. Anyone can make it seem like they’re a great marketer for three months by simply cleaning up accounts, designing new assets and building attractive platforms. The true test is in longevity. If someone has partnered with a business for a year or two and continually helped them tackle the nitty-gritty side of marketing, the results will speak for that marketer’s quality.
If you’re going to hire a marketer, opt for the one who has been with a business client or company long enough to apply and prove their skills over time.
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