Archive for Marketing Leadership

New model for hiring great marketers

I recently received a promotional offer from HubSpot to download an exerpt from a book called Inbound Marketing, by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. It was an interesting excerpt, in that it suggested we need to jettison our old criteria for hiring marketers, and adopt a whole new approach to staffing. I have been around long enough that I tend to grimace at “whole new world” propositions, but this one, like the one I wrote about immediately below, had some merit. Their idea is that going forward, we will need to hire for the following characteristics:

  • Digital Citizens: people who really understand and use all types of digital media, both on a personal and a professional level; people who enjoy the concept of interacting with diverse groups of people in a virtual space.
  • Analtycal Chops: people who measure everything and are always looking for ways to produce measurably better performance in their marketing programs.
  • Web Reach: people who bring to your team a digital “rolodex” like a salespeople used to bring a physical rolodex to the job. The more people who follow or friend your candidate through social media, they more they can get your message out to your target market.
  • Content Creators: people who can create such remarkable content that it will spread virally throughout various social media.
  • I agree with the authors that a person with these capabilities would be a fabulous asset to most modern marketing teams. And I find it intriguing to think that I would score my candidates on the basis of each of these criteria to determine the best person for the job. What do you think?


    Which marketing vehicles are right for you?

    Nearly all the marketers I have spoken to lately have told me the same thing: after the headcount reductions in their firms, they don’t have enough people on their teams, or hours in their own day, to effectively use all the marketing vehicles that are available to them. They feel overwhelmed by the options, and particularly in regard to the newer social media forms of marketing, believe they lack the expertise to be effective.

    I just finished reading The Marketing Accountability Imperative: Driving Superior Returns on Marketing Investments, by Michael Dunn and Chris Halsall. They had a good 7-question filter on page 187 for how to determine which marketing vehicles are right for your firm to use. I thought it might be helpful to folks who find themselves in this situation. If you would like more information on the book, go here.

    Imagine the situation where you have the option of using 20 or more vehicles to promote your product, but you only have the bandwidth on your team to master and execute against 5 of them. How do you reduce the list of options to the 5 best vehicles for your situation? The authors suggest that you ask yourself these 7 simple questions that will rule out the least effective vehicles for your situation, and leave you with only the most effective vehicles to execute upon your strategy.

      Does the vehicle logically fit with your specific marketing objectives? For example, print advertising isn’t great at closing sales, and web forms aren’t great at building awareness of a product. Knowing whether your near-term objectives are about awareness or closing sales could help you to eliminate one of these options.

      Will it reach and resonate with your target segment? Press releases are great for attracting the media’s attention, but not so great at getting IT managers’ attention, or imparting a credible message to them, even if they do happen to see the release. Knowing how to reach your target audience, and what would really be credible to them, will help to eliminate vehicles that won’t reach or resonate with your target.

      Does it fit best with your message and positioning? If your positioning is highly technical and your message somewhat complicated, short vehicles like banner ads likely won’t be the best vehicle for getting that message across. Similarly long vehicles like white papers likely won’t be the best way to sell a product that is simply positioned and with a simple message, like buy Coke when you go to the movies.

      Is it well-suited to your company’s skills and execution capabilities? There is a little nuance to this question, in that you and your team have some capabilties today, and can (and should) build others for tomorrow. Think through both your today and tomorrow scenarios before trying to answer this question.

      Does it have the impact profile that best fits the needs of the brand and business? Some vehicles might be perfectly suited to your product and your team’s capabilities, but typically would produce only a small increase in sales, because they only tap a limited audience. That won’t work well for you, if your objectives are large scale increases in sales. Make sure the vehicles you select really have the potential to meet your goals, otherwise they aren’t worth the time and effort you would have to invest in them.

      Does it have the best track record of absolute and relative returns? Before your final selection of marketing vehicles to meet your current goals, look through your team’s past performance on each vehicle, and understand which vehicle has produced the best results relative to your current goals.

      Is it more efficient relative to comparable alternatives? Lastly, before you choose your final short-list of marketing vehicles, make sure you prioritize them on the basis of efficiency. How much resource (money, time, risk) must you invest to get the desired results. Choose those vehicles with the least expenditure per unit of result, and you’ll be sure to get good value for your investment.

    Many companies, my past employers included, use one or a few of these questions, often choosing their favorites from the top/strategic end of the list and/or from the bottom/tactical end of the list, but leaving out some of the key quesitons in the middle. Leveraging the whole list of questions should enable marketers to eliminate some of the less-effective vehicles for their situation, thus improving the overall effectiveness of their marketing programs.

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    Maintaining balance in your marketing skillset

    I mentioned in an earlier post that I am currently reading The Marketing Accountability Imperative, Driving Superior Returns on Marketing Investments by Michael E. Dunn and Chris Halsall. Yesterday, I read a passage about the “Four Compentency Domains” that got me thinking about how marketing managers manage their groups, and how marketers manage their careers.

    The Four Compentency Domains in the book are: Strategy, Creativity, Execution and Analytics. The authors make the case that great marketing requires strength in all four areas, and the people who work in all four areas must be willing to take inputs from, and share their outputs with, the people in the other three areas. Makes sense. They also make the case that many companies have a greater strength in one or two of these areas, than in the others, which can lead to less effective marketing.

    I’ve held marketing leadership positions in four companies during my career: Advent Software, Charles Schwab, Wells Fargo, and Chevron. The marketers in each of these companies, or at least the departments I worked in, had a diversity of strengths and weaknesses as individuals, but as a group, tended to be stronger in one or two of these competency areas than the others. For example, the department where I worked in Wells Fargo was highly analytical. I’m convinced that I worked with some of the best analytical minds in financial services marketing. We also were amazing at execution. We wrote incredible marketing briefs, that were perfectly aligned with our strategy, found creative vendors who could cost-effectively deliver the requirements in the briefs, and always executed our programs on time, and on budget. The group was like a well oiled machine, and our efforts were rewarded as the business grew over the years. I didn’t think about it at the time, but it’s likely also true that my old group at Wells Fargo was less strategy-oriented, and less creative than it could have been. We were certainly successful, but we may have left money on the table because of our bias toward analysis and execution quality.

    So how did this happen? Well, I suspect it relates to the strengths of the leader of the group. We had an amazing woman in charge of that group, who we all still look to as a mentor and friend. Her strengths were definitely analytical and operational. She likely hired people who were already oriented in that way (I certainly am). To the extent that she hired folks who were more creative or strategic, they likely quickly adapted to the culture of the group, and took advantage of the opportunity to round out their skillset by building their analytical and operational skills. Or, perhaps some felt that we were too analytical and operational, and left the group. I’m not sure, but over time, we were left with a lot of like-minded people, who didn’t focus perhaps as much as we should have on the weaker of our competencies, strategy and creativity.

    I have since managed groups in this same way, playing to my/our strengths, and maximizing the value we can glean from those competencies, without a focused effort to build competency, or better integrate with folks who have competency, in the areas where we are weak. I suspect that I, too, have left money on the table using this approach.

    Marketers as individuals may manage their careers in a similar way, seeking (or getting) opportunities that play to their strengths, and not really focusing on achieving balance between these four competencies. This may lead to being an expert in a particular competency, but likely will not lead toward being a leader who produces great marketing overall. Depending on one’s career ambitions, that may be OK. I, personally, aspire to be a CMO some day, and so it clearly won’t be OK for me. I’ll need to make sure that I have clear competency in all four areas, and strive daily to balance the four competencies within my group, so that we, collectively, can produce great marketing.

    If you would like to read more about this topic, check out the book here.


    Hiring great marketers

    I am currently looking for work, which got me thinking about the hiring process, and how little it has changed in the 20 years I have been working. Most hiring managers still rely on the intuition they form about a candidate during the interview, and a careful read of a candidate’s resume to make their hires. That’s certainly how I have hired people over the years, and also how I have been hired. Sometimes, that approach produces the right person for the job, but accoding to Geoff Smart and Randy Street in Who: The A Method for Hiring, about 50% of the time it does not result in making the right hire. So what will work? The authers suggest the following methodology.

  • Write a scorecard before you even post the job, and shop it around among key decision-makers internally to be sure that you are all aligned around the definition of success for this job. The scorecard should detail a set of outcomes and competencies that define the job done well. They include the current mission for the position, 3-8 outcomes that must be accomplished to succeed, and competencies that fit with both the culture of the company and the role. This isn’t a job description, but rather includes specific measurable goals that the person must accomplish to succeed in the role. It changes each time you fill the role, and so can’t be re-used over and over again like a job description. Once you have hired for the role, it also forms the basis for performance evaluations. That way, both you and the candidate can be sure that expectations were appropriately set during the interview process.
  • Source potential hires continuously, whether you have open jobs or not. This will make hiring the right person a lot easier when you do have an open position, because you will already know some candidates for the role, and can reach out to them to generate interest, rather than posting the job and hoping the right people respond. Talented people know talented people, so source from talented people in your personal and professional networks, your employees, customers and suppliers, and professional recruiters. Ask them all a simple question: “who are the most talented people you know that I should hire?” Then follow up with those people, dedicating maybe half-an-hour a week to buiding your network of talented potential hires.
  • Select the right people using a series of structured interviews that are designed to gather the information needed to complete the scorecard. I don’t have enough space to go into this step in any detail here, but the authors recommend 4 structured interviews as follows: a phone screen, an in-person “topgrading” interview, a focused interview, and a reference interview. They provide specific questions to ask in each interview. To my eye, the point of these interviews is to determine the candidate’s motivation and patterns of behavior, by asking questions in a way that forces a greater level of honesty than what hiring managers typically see from candidates. They also advocate leaving no stone unturned, by probing a number of levels deeper around each topic of interest.
  • Sell your selected candidates on the company, role, location, etc. This involves communicating directly with the candidate how they fit into the company’s vision, expressing concern for how the job might impact their family, assuring the candidate that they will have an appropriate amount of freedom to do the job well in their own way, explaining how the job will contribute to the family’s financial security and how much fun/enjoyment/satisfaction you think the candidate will get from the job. Once these points are well understood, your candidate should be excited to join the team. This sort of selling is not something you tack on at the end of the process, but rather what you do throughout the process to build a candidates confidence that the role makes sense for them.
  • My first reaction to this process, was “wow, that sounds like it would take a lot of time, which most hiring managers don’t have.” I gather others have responded that way too, as it is explicitly addressed in the book. Apparently, because very few candidates actually go through the whole process, and most are eliminated early on, this actually takes hiring managers less time than the old intuitive methods that they are using today. This hiring methodology has been used thousands of times, and the book is loaded with testimonials from hiring managers who felt it both took less time and produced a better hire than the old method. So, I’m eager to try it next time I’m in a position to hire.

    To read more about Geoff Smart and Randy Street’s A Method for Hiring, go here.