A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.
Hiring anyone new means taking a big gamble on the future of your business. Hiring an inbound marketer is no exception. Hiring the wrong person means lackluster results. Depending on how long you give them to prove themselves, you could potentially lose months of growth. For startups, hiring the wrong marketer, many times, means failure.
At Lean Labs, we work with all kinds of companies to upgrade their digital marketing strategies. This means, we come in contact with all kinds of marketing talent from across many different industries. In this article, we're going to explore six characteristics that we've found make up the best marketers.
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Recruiting Bad Marketers
If you’re looking for someone to do the day-to-day running of your inbound marketing efforts, you could hire an in-house marketer or work with an agency like Lean Labs. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models. On the other hand, if you’re just starting out and want some training, strategy help and a quick traffic boost, you may find it better to hire a marketing consultant before taking on marketing duties yourself.
Any way you cut it, though, the most important thing to remember when hiring an inbound marketer is that not all talent is created equal.
It’s important to stay as far as possible from marketers who are ineffective or who are simply a bad fit for your brand or company culture. For example, some marketers pretend to be magicians, promising the moon and stars in an extremely short amount of time; beware of these marketers. The only magic you'll see is your money disappearing into thin air.
Other marketers focus on the content and social media updates without first setting up an overarching strategy. If you don’t have a goal and a plan to reach it, your marketing efforts are not likely to bear fruit. When you're looking to hire a new marketer, get someone who understands the grind and hard work. After all, inbound marketing requires stamina and steadiness. The right guy will understand that, and be able to strategize for the future rather than focusing on instant-gratification.
Six Attributes of a Great Marketing Professional
In order to avoid hiring the wrong marketer, here are some attributes to look for during the evaluation process. If you can find these attributes in a candidate's resume, portfolio, proposal and interview, you're likely to have found your match.
1. Insightful Strategist
A marketer should start every project with the big picture in mind. Every tactic and every task should be a step toward those broad goals, and everyone assigned tasks should understand what their purpose is.
Your marketing strategy should be based on buyer personas, so you are marketing to your target audience and not talking to a wall. Marketing strategy plans should be ambitious, but they should also be realistic, measurable and concrete. They should usually cover about 90 days, with a new one created every quarter based on analysis of the successes and failures of the previous plan.
2. Curious and Collaborative
In order to create varied, exciting content, it’s important to involve as many people as possible. Look for someone who's fired up about learning all aspects of your business and liaising directly with other stakeholders and departments.
Your new marketer will in charge of the whole inbound operation, but he or she should elicit cooperation, input and insight from everyone else involved with the brand. A good marketer will empower these people to contribute content pieces, ideas and their unique perspectives.
3. A Cross Between Scientist and Artist
The best marketing talent possess a good balance of creative and analytical tendencies. On the one hand, a marketer should be thinking along lines that are visual and emotional, coming up with gripping story lines and a constant flow of new ideas that fit with your brand.
He or she should be able to write well and naturally, fleshing out ideas into sketches that can eventually become video scripts, slide decks, infographics, blog post series, and even landing pages. On the other hand, a worthy candidate should be skilled at pre-strategy research, tracking what works, competitive analysis, and reporting.
In marketing agencies and larger in-house marketing departments, there are often different units or staff members responsible for each of these aspects to provide the client with a holistic approach. However, if you're a small business or startup, you're going to need the whole package in one person. When you have a one-person marketing department, getting someone who is well-rounded is your best bet.
One recent survey found that 7 out of every 10 senior marketing leaders believe that creativity and analytical ability are equally important when it comes to effective marketing. Since creative thinking is based in the right brain and analytical thinking in the left brain, this combination is not always easy to find.
4. Keeps Eyes on Trends, Feet on the Ground
Your new hire should be on top of the latest trends – but not overly bandwagon-happy. Ask your candidates who their favorite marketing thought leaders are, what their favorite branded content items are and how they recommend integrating specific trends into the marketing mix.
It’s important for an inbound marketer to know what’s hot and be willing to experiment, but without knee-jerk reactions, which are at best wasteful and at worst damaging. Instead, he or she should be able to look at which technologies, tools, platforms, placements, formats and tactics fit your brand and can be of real benefit to your business, integrating those into the overall strategy.
5. Puts Customers' Needs First
An ironclad rule of marketing is that your audience is not interested in your brand. Instead, your content consumers are looking to be educated – they want to find relevant information and solve their problems. If you provide these things, you'll build trust and authority, and when the time comes, they will want to buy from you.
But if your marketer is constantly talking up the specifications of your products or services, consumers will stop listening. Make sure your new hire hates sales-y content, and make sure he or she can explain why used car salesman tactics simply don't work in the digital age. CEO's, you need to learn this before expecting to find a marketer who understands this.
6. Instinctively Understands Your Product-Market Fit
Figuring out where and how to distribute your brand's message requires a decent amount of research. Talking to your existing base of happy clients can give your marketer a sense of what your ideal customers care about and where they hang out online. But that's just the beginning. Well-defined personas include information about lifestyle trappings, values, devices, social networks of preference, publications favored, how they interact with content in general and more.
The best talent can quickly get a sense of the right content distribution and audience acquisition channels for your brand – and can formulate a solid argument why each is a match. Of course, once your new marketer is into the swing of things, thorough methodology will be the way to go, but you can gain a sense of fit, and the marketer's level of preparation for meeting with you, by asking for some quick recommendations on the fly.
What to Look For to Find the Best Marketer
Look for talent with the right set of values and skills, but remember – an inbound marketer who is good at what he or she does but doesn’t understand your company is unlikely to drive much business.
For startups, finding a rock-star to join your company in an entry-level position likely won't happen. Finding a talented up-and-comer might mean they can't define "product-market fit." Being able to define the term doesn't mean they don't have the talent to understand the concept. If you're looking to hire up-and-coming talent, you won't be able to rely on evidence that they possess these characteristics. Instead, you should focus your interview questions on discovering their instincts.
To do inbound well, your new marketer needs to have a feel for your brand voice, what matters to your audience and what's most likely to resonate. Focus on the above six attributes to find a marketer who understands your business, your reach potential and the strategies and techniques necessary to take your brand to the next level.
Of course, if you do hire an up-and-comer to take over your marketing, getting a consultant to push him down the right paths can develop your talent faster than a school of hard knocks. I recommend you and your new recruit jump on a free brainstorming session with our inbound marketing artist. You may find that a consultant for the first few months will be a valuable investment for developing your new talent.
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