If you’re going to make your living using words, like most marketers do, you should use them correctly. It bugs me when I see marketers, and others, take the meaning of words lightly.
My first rule is to make sure that you are using a word that means what you think it does. It reminds me of the line in The Princess Bride when Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” I’ve been tempted to use that line in many business meetings.
Of course, correcting the word usage of your friends and colleagues isn’t always recommended. I’m advocating making sure that you and I use words correctly. You can satisfy your need to be right by surreptitiously using Google’s define function. Then, after you have confirmed that you are correct you can subtly bask in the glow of your verbal superiority.
But, do it quietly. I wouldn’t recommend going around correcting everyone else. It can make you vastly unpopular.
Have a commonly used word that you think is misused? Let me know about it. We can commiserate.
Then, I took an informal poll at the office and was amazed at the number of people I work with who don’t play golf. Interestingly, they all own their own clubs “just in case” but, like me, they don’t play regularly. The only ones who do were the CEO and our Corporate Counsel.
So, it leads me to the question, is golf still a strategic skills for businesspeople? Maybe it is for other industries. I work in the software industry which is largely made up of IT types. While not unathletic, their preferences seem to be for more Gen-X sports like rock climbing, kayaking, and snow boarding.
For me, I’ve decided to work on the golf game. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. And, although I may never “ink the big deal” out on the course, I look forward to not being embarrassed if I’m ever asked to play.
"Should I get an MBA? A Masters in Marketing? A certification?"
These are all common questions asked by marketers early in their career. I don’t know if there is any one right answer to these questions. A lot of it depends on your personal situation, what’s important to you, and where you want to go with your career. All I can tell you is what I look for when I interview candidates.
Depending on the role that I am interviewing the candidate for, an MBA or other advanced degree is either a negative or a positive. Most people don’t normally admit to having a bias against advanced degrees so let me explain.
I think it’s generally a waste of time, effort and money to go directly from an undergraduate degree into a graduate program. If you have no experience to relate it to, the learning is “all academic” as they say. For most roles, I would much rather hire a candidate who has real world experience and good solid results to show for it than a candidate with an advanced degree and little experience.
That changes a bit as you reach the upper echelons of marketing management. If you want someone who needs to look at the business holistically and help set corporate direction, an MBA is an asset. Preferably, this is an executive who received their MBA after they had ten or more years under their belt.
That being said, an MBA isn’t always necessary. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have one. However, I don’t think it’s kept me from advancing in my own career. Performance speaks volumes.
I like to see candidates that are actively involved with marketing organizations and who have taken the time to attend conferences, but I believe going the extra step of earning a certification is unnecessary. It’s the law of diminishing returns. I’d rather see someone get back to the office and put what they learned into delivering results than someone who took the extra time to study for an exam.
If I were managing an agency with a deep focus on a specific discipline such as advertising or public relations I might think differently. I am sure there are marketing disciplines where certain certifications are a “must have.” If your career goal is to work in any of these disciplines be sure to talk with professionals in those fields.
I do have a marketing degree but I have to say that I don’t look for candidates with marketing degrees. It's a plus but not a must have. I’d rather hire someone with a computer science degree and a “marketing personality” if you know what I mean. I can teach them the 4Ps (or 5Ps depending on how you count them.) One of the best marketers I know has an electrical engineering degree. I just cannot picture him as an engineering student but he swears that he was.
I’ll go into the attributes of what a “marketing personality” is in a later post. It may not be what you think.
For all my promotion of on-the-job experience, I think marketers must continue their learning. This does not need to be formal. Luckily, the internet has a plethora of ways you can get some great informal education. More about these in my next post.
Meanwhile, I’d like to hear from those of you who have taken the time to get advanced degrees and those who haven’t. What’s been the impact on your marketing career? For those of you that have the opportunity to hire marketers, what do you look for in your ideal candidate?
Accountability to Deadlines - I don’t often have a problem with vendors that don’t hold themselves accountable to the deadlines I set. I’d estimate that nine out of ten of the vendors I’ve used have far exceeded my expectations. When I do have issues, it’s almost always when I hand over a small project to a large agency. I suspect it is a matter of their priorities with my little project being pushed to the bottom of the list.
On the other hand, I would have expected freelancers to have more of an issue with deadlines. After all, they don’t have a staff of people to delegate to. In reality, the opposite has proven to be true. I am constantly amazed at how fast the solo shops can turn my projects around.
Over-complication - This is also an issue I see when I work with large agencies. What I see as a simple project can often grow into a multifaceted project spanning many months. Sometimes agencies come up with angles that I should have thought about. More often than not though, they can make a simple project exceed what’s necessary for time and available in budget. If you’re working on short time frames and a shoestring marketing budget, keep that in mind.
Disclaimer – In the previous two examples, I may seem like I don’t like agencies. I do! In fact, they are great for when you need a “soup to nuts” project completed because they usually have staff with expertise in multiple areas. Agencies can also typically afford to hire the best and the brightest and the product they deliver usually reflects that. My point is that you should think about whether a vendor is best suited to a particular project before deciding who to use. There is no “best vendor” for everything. Or at least I have never found one.
Narrow View of the Problem – When you’re working with a specialist, they will look at the problem from their own unique perspective. However, you need to take a more holistic approach. For example, if you’re revamping your web site to optimize it for the search engines, it’s great to work with SEO specialists. They know far more about Search Engine Optimization than I have any need or wish to know. However, while they are optimizing your content for keywords, they may forget that these words mean something when strung together in sentences. The content on a web page, while optimized for a search engine, still needs to resonate with your target audience.
Different Views on Marketing – I’ve worked with marketing teams from all over the world. Offshoring marketing tasks can save money. However, capitalism is relatively new to some parts of the world. Not everyone has the same knack for creating prose that speaks to your target audience in a way that moves them to action.
Different Ways of Speaking - In addition, you may do all of your marketing in English, but English is used differently in different parts of the world. If I’m creating materials to help us sell to an American market, I often find that I have to rewrite content that I get from overseas. Although so many people speak English well, not everyone can write prose that will resonate with an American.
The same is true when content moves the other way. I am sure my team in China rewrites everything we pass over to them!
Lack of Qualifications – The marketing field is filled with talented people. The opposite is also true. It doesn’t take any creative talent to start your own marketing business. Make sure you ask for references and samples to ensure that the talent you are working with is qualified.
And, just because they are skilled in one area, doesn’t mean they are skilled in everything else. My best freelance writer is not a great graphic designer. I quickly learned that on our first project where she attempted to write and do the layout. Since then, I’ve kept her as the writer but hired an intern to handle the simple design work that most of our projects need.
Loss of Collaboration Opportunities – I love it when my team collaborates on projects. They can create some outstanding deliverables when we combine the power of our collective imaginations.
This doesn’t have to stop when you work with outside talent. However, some are better at collaboration than others. Our PR firm for example does such a great job that I forget they are not part of our company. With others, it’s like our input goes into a black hole. Eventually, we get something out and we just hope that it resembles what we were looking for.
I also expect the team to learn from each other and from our external resources. When we don’t have the opportunity to work as part of the team with the vendor’s staff, we lose that opportunity.
Delays Due to Time Zones – This is another collaboration issue. If I’m working with a team that based in the same time zone, we can complete many projects quickly. We may go through several rounds of edits in an hour. If I am relying on a vendor on the other side of the world, each iteration can take an entire day. Working with talented people in emerging countries can help you keep costs down and it can help you tap into some interesting minds and markets. However, you may not want to use a resource in a vastly different time zone when time is short.
Outsourcing marketing projects helps me contain costs. It is usually less expensive to outsource than to hire an individual full-time. Plus it keeps us agile. With outsourcing, I can hire the vendor most suited to the task instead of trying to make-do with the talent we have on staff. This also gives my team the chance to focus on what they do best.
You may have to go through several vendors before you find one that works for you, but when you do, they are golden!
This morning, I watched a webcast from David Armano on MarketingProfs.com. He was speaking about social media in general. Excellent webcast, by the way. Well presented with many good ideas. David is an avid Twitterer and follows almost 2000 people. He mentioned in his presentation that most people either love or hate Twitter.
If I were to pass judgment on Twitter at this stage, I’d have to say that I’m trying to remain ambivalent and failing. I really hate the tool. I only follow six people and my Twitter page is such a hodgepodge of stream of consciousness comments that I’m about ready to scream. It’s like a sci-fi story where suddenly you can hear everybody’s thoughts. Your brain becomes so overloaded that it shuts down.
That’s with only following six people. How on earth could someone make sense of this with 2000 people? I am begging any avid Twitterers out there to tell me how you do it.
But as I said at the beginning, I think the hostility I am developing toward Twitter is OK. I will keep at this. David made another good point in his presentation when he commented that you don’t know where Twitter will end up.
Twitter is clearly a social media experiment that’s just beginning. There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter. Twitter’s purpose is being defined by the people using it. Either it will evolve into something useful, even if it’s not useful for me personally, or it will wither on the vine. Or it will be acquired by a big corporation, but that messes up the “market will decide” factor so I won’t go there.
What’s important is that the experience I gain from using Twitter is helping me see social media in a different light. I am constantly looking beyond the tried-and-true ideas like blogging to think about what’s possible. Whatever come after Twitter, I will be ready for it. That’s why while I hate Twitter, I still think it’s so cool.