The essential guide to hiring a marketing specialist … when you’re not a marketing person!

hiring a marketing specialist

By Debra Andrews, {grow} Community Member

This is a time of cataclysmic change for businesses — large and small. We have to adjust to the digital age and we have to adjust now, especially in our approach to marketing. How do you find the right person to lead this charge?

Unfortunately, the leadership of a small-to-medium-sized enterprise is typically not qualified to add new marketing professionals to their rosters.  Owners and senior leaders don’t usually have an understanding of the marketing profession and its complexity today.  They often have goals and objectives but don’t know how marketing can help drive their firms forward.  Without an understanding of what’s needed, the process of selecting the marketing “dream team” is fatally flawed.

Marketers come in all shapes and sizes with some being strategic and others being more tactical.  Many marketers today specialize in digital marketing and social media, while others only have experience with traditional methods and campaigns. Without a marketing background and experience, owners and senior leaders are often shooting in the dark when making a hiring decision.

Firms short on marketing knowledge may want to consider partnering with an experienced marketing consultant to help them select their new marketing leader.  If you’re not a marketing pro but need to hire a marketing pro, here are three key ideas to guide you:

1) Carefully Define the Position

The first and most important step in hiring a marketing professional is for business owners to determine the ideal experience level and skills needed to advance their companies.  They also need to develop a comprehensive list of functions to be performed and whether these duties are recurring, periodic, or one-time.   A very common recruiting mistake that non-marketing leaders make is assuming that one person is willing and able to do everything needed by the business.

If we use an American football analogy (my favorite professional sport), the skills and duties performed by a punter are quite different than a linebacker.  I cringe to think what would happen to a punter playing in a linebacker position!   I dare say that his career would be likely short-lived, and that is exactly what happens to marketers as well.

If your company has never embraced marketing and is seeking leadership and planning, it needs the skills of an experienced, strategic marketer at least initially.  Perhaps the business owner can hire a marketing consultant to develop the play book and then obtain a full-time, mid-level, tactical professional to actually run the plays and measure the results.  There are many ways to structure the marketing function but a having a “one-size-fits-all” mentality is probably going to fail.

In a Law.Com article entitled, “Going the Way of the Market,” Jeff Blumenthal wrote, “Large law firms seem to go through top marketing professionals like Donald Trump goes through apprentices. The high turnover is caused by a number of factors, most notably a lack of clearly defined expectations, job specifications and support from firm leadership.” 

2) Determine Eligibility 

Any marketer applying for a mid-level to senior position should be able to share a wide range of their work, including original copy, press releases, strategic plans, campaigns (from inception to completion), web sites and more.  But more important, they should be able to discuss how their work made a difference – where did it fit into the overall, integrated marketing plan, and what were the measureable outcomes?  This is similar to football players understanding how their actions work to advance their teams downfield.   It’s not about a single play – it’s about the touchdown and winning the game!

A word of caution: Most marketers are exceptional project managers; not all project managers are great marketers.  You’ll want to ensure that the professional you hire has knowledge of basic marketing concepts like positioning, segmentation, and differentiation.  This knowledge gives them the framework to perform their duties at a higher level now and in the future.  Ask them to explain the concepts in their own words and how they practiced these marketing principles in previous marketing positions. 

3) Building a competency

As you look to build your marketing starting line-up, here are some helpful guidelines to determine how to structure your position or team:

Duties   Type of Marketer Experience Level
Positioning Strategic 10+ years
Branding Strategic 10+ years
Planning Strategic 7+ years
Social Media Strategy Strategic 5+ years
Social Media Implementation Tactical 3+ years
Content Mapping Strategic 7+ years
Content Development Tactical 5+ years
e-Mail Campaigns Tactical 3+ years
Event Planning Tactical / Administrative 3+ years
Print Design Graphic Artist TBD by type of collateral
Web Design Web Designer TBD by type of online collateral
Web Updates Administrative No experience
Public Relations Tactical 5+ years
Press Releases Tactical 3+ years
Database Management Administrative No experience

I hope this blog post boosts your marketing recruiting efforts and helps to put your company in the best possible position to win market share, leads and new business! If you were advising a non-marketing professional on how to recruit for a marketing position, what would you add?

debra andrews marketriDebra Andrews is the Founder and Owner of Marketri LLC, a B2B marketing consulting firm specializing in the professional services market.

Illustration courtesy Toothpaste for Dinner.

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