Let’s face it, there aren’t too many companies in Central Oregon that have large marketing departments running national campaigns through big-name ad agencies.
Even the fastest growing companies in town rely on small, efficient teams of people for all their marketing needs. If that’s your situation, or if you have a fledgling start-up, you better think carefully about the type of person you hire to spearhead your marketing efforts.
The most common mistake is hiring a specialist… someone who’s deep into SEO, or social media, or web programming, or brand journalism or graphic design. Whatever. Those specialists are all important players in your marketing mix, but not who you need in the lead.
According to the Harvard Business Review, top marketing talent must be able to combine skills that don’t often go together, and might even seem contradictory… analytical + creative. innovation + execution. storytelling + sales skills. You won’t find that combination of skill sets in any specialist.
In this age of marketing specialization, you need a generalist. An idea guy who can wear many different hats.
Here are three good reasons why:
1. Broad experience means better perspective.
The marketing game is changing quickly these days, and there are a lot of moving parts. You need someone with enough perspective and experience to understand the entire playing field and keep all the balls in the air. Preferably synchronized.
If you hire a specialist you’ll get a myopic view of marketing and branding. If she only has experience in television and video, she’ll assess your entire marketing effort and come up with many creative ways to use TV and video. It’s like the old saying… if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Recently I sat in on a presentation by a young man pitching his social media expertise. With no research, no understanding of the brand or the business model and no experience to speak of, he was absolutely convinced that Facebook could — and should – replace every other tactic the client was using. A specialist with a specialist’s perspective.That’s not the kind of thinking that will take your marketing, or your business, to the next level.
2. Specialists don’t know strategy.
Specialists often talk “strategy.” One will offer an email marketing strategy, another candidate will bring a social media strategy, a digital strategy, a direct response strategy, a Facebook strategy, an SEO strategy and even a SnapChat strategy. If you’re not careful you’ll be swimming in “strategies.”
Don’t be fooled. There’s only one strategy. Everything else is just a to-do list.
British adman Simon Pont puts it quite well: “One strategy, one collective intent; many expressions and executions, all with moving parts and all aligned. It’s all about linking into that one given strategy and expressing it through many specialties.”
You can always hire outside help on a project-by-project basis to execute specific tactics and get through that specialist’s to-do list. What you can’t find so easily is someone who can think strategically and come up with ideas that actually do qualify as a true marketing strategy.
In the Brand Insight Blog I said, “A strategy is an idea… a conceptualization of how a goal could be achieved.” Emphasis on IDEA! Successful marketing strategies are rooted in big ideas. Not punchlists.
For a big idea you need someone with creative skills, common business sense and a good working knowledge of all the different marketing specialties. In a perfect world you’d find an experienced, well-rounded marketing pro who brings advertising planning experience as well as creative skills to the table… a one man marketing machine who could analyze market research data one day, extrapolate that one little nugget of consumer insight you need and write a brilliant ad the next.
That’s a rare breed. If you find someone like that, pay him or her handsomely. Give them tons of freedom and let them in on every crucial management decision. I guarantee you, your company will be better off for it.
3. Effective managers know something about what they’re managing.
If you hire a manager who knows nothing about computer programming, he’s going to have a very hard time managing a team of computer programmers. Some fundamental knowledge of the material is necessary.
Same holds true in marketing. Most specialists simply don’t have the fundamental knowledge of the material they need to manage the whole effort efficiently.
For example… If you hire a social media specialist to drive your entire marketing effort, she’s going to struggle when it comes to managing traditional advertising or content marketing, or direct response TV or any number of other tactics. And don’t expect that person to suddenly be capable of doing anything beyond her specialty. That’s just not realistic. Marketing is important, and you could lose a lot of money waiting for your marketing leader to “grow into the position.”
Hire a generalist who’s already there. Then hire a specialist to do her specialty thing under the leadership of the savvy generalist. Don’t hire a specialist to manage other specialists. It doesn’t work.
Look, hiring right is very hard. I know that. (That’s why I’m a firm believer in hiring HR specialists to handle the initial screening and recruitment and help with the interviewing.)
Hopefully this piece will help you avoid a lot of costly trial and error when hiring a marketing person. And maybe a great, well-rounded marketing generalist will find the perfect position that will lead to fame and fortune.
John Furgurson is one of those invaluable generalists. He cut his teeth in the direct response business and has worked in corporate film, advertising of all kinds, content marketing, PR, social media and just about every other specialty under the big branding umbrella. He’s available for hire.
Also, I’d be happy to provide some editorial content for that issue, if you need it. You could pick anything from the Brand Insight Blog, but there’s one piece I did recently that might be particularly relevant to your audience: How to hire the right marketing person the first time. : http://www.brandinsightblog.com/?p=1723