What Makes a Good Marketing Hire

I got this question recently and struggled to come up with a clear answer.

So I asked a bunch of people who do marketing or work with marketers at tech companies to try and find out what they thought, and here’s what I learned: I couldn’t come up with a clear answer because there isn’t one.

Hiring marketing people is tough because there’s a wide range of personality types and skill sets that might make someone good.  I know former engineers and investment bankers who are now great marketers.  I’ve seen MBA grads struggle, and people with 0 experience crush it.

But while there is no perfect mold for what makes a great marketer (and as Noah Kagan likes to point out, “most marketers suck”) there are a few things that they all have in common:

They have a deep understanding of the customer and the market.  Not just because they wrote up a bunch of questions and sent a survey out to customers.  This understanding comes from things like sitting in on sales and support calls, and most importantly getting outside of the building.

They are great writers.  In tech marketing, a great writer is someone who can easily turn product features into customer benefits and tell stories with their writing.  Evernote is a great example of this.  Anyone off the street could write about their product’s features and say things like “note taking functionality” or “we offer unlimited storage space,” but they got someone who understands the importance of value and the benefit to the customer.  The result is a message like: “Capture your ideas. Save all of your ideas, things you like, things you hear, and things you see.”

@dcorms: No one cares about your actual product.  They care about what that product does for them.  Ex: People aren’t passionate about email marketing; they’re passionate about their business and email marketing helps them be successful.

They are excellent communicators.  Marketing touches all parts of the organization.  Great marketers understand how to change a conversation based on who they are working with, whether it be sales, support, product management, etc.

They are technical.  They don’t have to have the same understanding as a product manager would, but in order to be effective they need to have some technical chops and know (and use) the product inside and out.

@mendelj2: You don’t need to be an IT pro but understanding technology can surface opportunities for growth and operational efficiency before the competition even sees it.

They pay attention to what’s going on in the industry.  It’s not a coincidence all the good ones read and tweet about a lot of the same things.

 They aren’t afraid to fail.  A good marketer will try 100 different things just to find one that works.

@inthekisser: You need to be fearless about trying new things and not being afraid to fail – because if you don’t fail sometimes you’re not trying hard enough.

They are focused on the right data.  Data-driven marketing.  We get it.  Everything is measured now, and we obsess over numbers and analytics.  But not all metrics are worth focusing on (“How many Twitter followers did we get this month??).  A good marketer will find the ones you should care about

They get things done.  Regardless of whether it fits in their job description.