NASHVILLE MARKETING BLOG: Insights on strategic branding, marketing management, general business and Nashville marketing topics. By Monica Powers, Vanderbilt MBA and marketing consultant in Nashville, TN.

Monday, July 17, 2006

When to Hire a Good Marketer

Once upon a time, I was recommended for a marketing job with a prominent Nashville company. This firm is healthcare-related, as so many big companies in town are, but I'll withhold the name to protect the innocent.

To prepare for the first interview, I read up on the hiring manager's credentials, and they were impressive. He had been VP of Marketing for other big names before, and had a track record of implementing healthy changes and restructuring brands. I wanted to pick his brain. This had all the makings of a great interview, where both people learn a lot from each other in a short time, and the applicant gets a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a brilliant marketing machine...

...or so I thought.

A few minutes into the meeting, I began to ask questions about the position: What challenges does your marketing division face? What problems do you hope this new position will solve? What skills and competencies are you looking for in this marketing hire?

The VP gave me a puzzled look, stood up from the little table, and headed for the file cabinets under his desk. After a few seconds of shuffling through papers, he produced a document and held it up as if it held the secrets of the universe.

"This," he said proudly, "is what we created at my last company." He displayed what looked like...well, a company newsletter.

"It's a company newsletter," he announced. "This is the kind of thing you could do to help the company. It helps the employees get to know each other better. For instance, here is an article about Shetland ponies. Someone in HR wrote an article about how she had this hobby of raising Shetland ponies, and lo and behold, it turns out there were several other people in the company who were also into Shetland ponies! They would never have known this had it not been for the newsletter."

You must be kidding, I thought. He was so beside himself with enthusiasm it almost broke my heart. I was looking for the door. After an extended conversation about the marvels of desktop publishing and the morale-boosting benefits of internal communications, I politely explained that this job was probably not for me, or for anyone with a track record in marketing, for that matter. "But have you considered hiring a graphic designer, or someone with magazine publishing or editing experience? Is this something that your HR department could take on?"

Needless to say, this marketing superstar was not looking for a marketer. He needed someone with good communication skills and polished grammar and experience in Quark.

So when might it actually come in handy to hire someone with marketing expertise? Here are some random instances:
  • You need marketing strategy for the business or division you're about to launch.
  • You want someone who understands the big-picture business implications of a marketing program or initiative (including the financial implications).
  • You need to make fundamental decisions about how to brand or rebrand one of your products or services, or your company as a whole.
  • You want to determine how to get the best return on your marketing dollars.
  • You know you need more facts (market research) to support a business decision.
  • You are launching a new product or service.
  • Your branding is tired, losing steam, or outdated.
  • You need to gain or recoup market share, or create a stronger competitive position.
  • You want to know how to connect with your customers on a deeper level.
Keep in mind that "hiring" a marketer can take on different shapes. If your payroll can't support a full-time Director of Marketing, or your needs are temporary or seasonal, consider bringing in outside help on a project basis. Look for someone who is smart and understands hard numbers, not just fluffy "marketing speak." Hire the quick study--the person who will learn all about your industry and your position, and who can speak frankly about your weaknesses and strengths in the market.

Don't hire a marketer to do a graphic designer's or a communications specialist's job. Hire only the best marketers to produce real results for your business. And don't expect your marketer to write about Shetland ponies unless they are somehow relevant to your bottom line. ;)


Blogger Lesley said...

Too many people think that a job interview is all about trying to get someone to hire you rather than trying to find out if it's the right job for you. Your story is a good example of why people have to ask lots of the right questions during interviews.

I left a Big Name Nashville Company a year ago. In the ensuing time, my replacement also got fed up and found another job, so the position is, once again, open. I read the description today and just laughed. I feel sorry for the person who gets the job and expects to be doing what's in the description and to be a viable member of the "marketing team."

July 17, 2006 4:24 PM

Blogger Monica Powers said...

True. Plenty of people in unhappy job situations because they just took the job that was offered them. An interview should be both employer and candidate qualifying each other and figuring out whether it would be a good match. In this case, it was about the hiring exec completing a job requisition incorrectly or not putting enough thought into what he really needed.

July 17, 2006 5:19 PM

Anonymous Michael Wagner said...

Helpful posting Monica!

I am surprised at what goes under the title "marketer" at times. I feel bad for the folks that have that title but are expected to do little more than order the mugs with the company logo.

I wonder if this is just an extension of the general confusion about subjects like advertising, branding and marketing?

July 18, 2006 9:12 AM

Blogger Monica Powers said...

I think you're right, Mike--there is widespread confusion on these topics. I've also been approached about marketing jobs that were, as you say, getting the logo on the mugs. Nothing wrong with that, but you just have to know whom to hire for what. An "underemployed" marketer is a huge missed opportunity to add something of value to the business.

July 18, 2006 9:27 AM

Blogger Mack Collier said...

Not sure how Nashville employers are, but here in good ole North Alabama, the term 'marketing' is a catch-all description that encompasses all customer-service and sales positions. My guess is because employers know that advertising an open position as 'Regional Marketing Manager' will get more response from job-seekers than 'Regional Sales Manager'. I've lost count on how many interviews for 'marketing' positions that I went on that I found out in the interview had exactly squat to do with marketing.

It's a shamefully deceptive practice, and usually these same positions will be advertised again in a couple of months.

July 19, 2006 1:18 PM

Blogger Monica Powers said...

I've seen many kinds of jobs loosely advertised as "marketing" positions around the country. Could it be that marketers lead much more glamorous lives than salespeople? Say it isn't so ;)

This particular one wasn't a response to a job posting. It was pitched to me as a job requiring someone with a marketing degree, MBA preferred. Just a case of misdirected energy....

July 19, 2006 2:19 PM

Anonymous CK said...

In 15 years in this biz, I thought I'd heard it all (but the ponies just keep this marketer giggling).

#1: I will likely refer MANY prospects to this post. Thanks for articulating for all of us!

#2: As marketers, we will ALWAYS be showing co's not only what they need to do in order to increase value and ROI...but also educate them on what we are and what we ain't! It's just not as cut and dry as, say, "accountant" or "carpenter", marketing is just so broad. It’s the cross we unfortunately bear.

#3: Love what Lesley said, that the interview shouldn’t be viewed as a 1-way 'sell deal'. Right on, it's a conversation among EQUALS.

#4: Mack & Monica, it's not just the south-- you would think NYC knows what marketing is--oh the war stories I could tell you both, but that would require many hours (and many martinis ;-).

July 21, 2006 4:05 PM

Anonymous Ann Handley said...

Monica -- This line totally cracked me up...very well-written:

"He was so beside himself with enthusiasm it almost broke my heart."

You really painted a picture there. Poor slow-blinking guy. : )

July 22, 2006 9:54 AM


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