Monday, March 8, 2010

A Field Guide to Marketing People

Periodically, a technically oriented entrepreneur will ask me if I can refer any good marketing people his way.  Quite often, when I ask about the skill set they are seeking, I'll get a blank look and a "What do you mean?  You know, a marketing person!"

But marketing, like most professions, consists of several different specialties, each skilled at addressing a different aspect of marketing.  At the risk of stereotyping and gross oversimplification, I present here a quick guide to marketeers.

Marketing Specialties
In my post Myths About Marketing, I defined marketing as the business function whose job it is to ensure that products that a company delivers to its target customers are those that a customer needs when they need them.  Furthermore, I stated that marketing effectiveness is determined by competition in the market as measured by market share and profitability over time.

In order to achieve this, the marketing function can be divided into six roles, five of which are traditionally considered marketing:
  • Direction Setting - The role of this specialty is to establish a competitive strategy that most effectively deploys a company's capabilities to win customers and fend of the competition.  This is the role of marketing strategists.  These people often hold M.B.A.s, are synthetic thinkers akin to industrial designers, software architects, and writers, who cross-connect their knowledge of strategic concepts with their observations about customers, competitors, and market trends to formulate strategy.  They tend to be generalists with a broad range of interests.  In hiring, you ideally want someone that has worked in many different industries, not just yours.
  • Intelligence Gathering & Analysis - The role of this specialty is to collect the quantitative and qualitative information needed to assess what is happening in the market.  This is the role of market researchers.  These people are analytical thinkers, the exact opposite of market strategists.  The quantitative ones are often trained statisticians.  The qualitative ones, such as those involved in human interface studies, are more like anthropologists.  Their tools are surveys, polls, statistical design-of-experiment, A/B split tests, conjoint analysis, blind controls, etc.
  • Product Management- The role of this specialty is to match the company's products and pricing to customer needs and manage the product portfolio to maximize profits.  This is the job of product managers or product marketing.  This is the most cross-functional of the specialties because the role requires regularly integrating the efforts of sales, engineering, operations, and the various field support groups mentioned below.  In high technology firms, product managers are almost always ex-engineers.  Product managers tend to come in two flavors, the product oriented ones who are more attuned to the possibilities of what the technology can do to fulfill customer needs and the customer oriented ones who have a high degree of empathy for understanding customer requirements.  Contrary to what you may hear, both approaches are valid.  The best product managers have an instinctive ability to "be the customer."
  • Marketing Communications - The role of this specialty is promotion and lead generation.  This is what most people think when they think of marketing.  Marcomm specialists use techniques in advertising, PR, brand building, graphic design, SEO, media deployment, and viral marketing to promote the firm's offerings and generate leads for sales to follow up.  Marketing communications is the trendiest, fastest changing, and most specialized of the marketing functions.  It tends to be populated with creative types with artistic or literary backgrounds.  If you're hiring a specialist in this area, make sure they "eat their own dogfood."  In other words, if you can't find that SEO specialist's website on page one of a Google search, the brand consultant's logo is ho-hum, and you can't find that viral marketing expert on Twitter, you might need to question what they can do for you.
  • Business Development - The role of this specialty is to establish key customer, channel, and co-marketing partnerships.  Busdev people use their extensive contacts and industry know-how to open doors and penetrate new markets.  These people tend to be human whirlwinds, are good at stirring up activity, and are highly attuned to opportunity.  Unfortunately, this often means they may not always be good closers, the most significant way in which they differ from salespeople.  (In this case, pairing them with a good sales closer can be effective.)  It is particularly important when hiring a busdev person that they have relevant industry expertise.
  • Field Support - This is providing the day-to-day support to sales and customers.  While people in all five specialties above, especially the last three, provide this support, this also encompasses technical services, customer service, and application engineering which are generally not considered part of marketing.
As you can see, given the differences in skill sets required, finding a single person who can cover all bases is unlikely, although some combine well (e.g. product manager/strategist). So who do you need?
  • Trying to figure out your business model?  Find a market strategist.
  • Trying to get to product/customer fit?  You need a product manager.
  • Trying to improve lead generation? Hire a marcomm specialist.
  • Need market data for you business plan?  Hire a market researcher.
  • How do you attack that new market?  You need busdev.
  • What market position should you take?  Ask a market strategist.
  • Trying to project communicate that position? You need a marcomm specialist.
  • What channels should you use to go to market?  You need busdev.
Happy hiring!

No comments:

Post a Comment