What’s in this article:
- PostFunnel’s new series, B2CMO, is the CMO’s guide to everything relationship marketing
- This time on the people and skills you should actually be looking for when hiring for new roles in your company
As the head of a marketing agency, people occasionally ask what I look for in new hires. The question always takes me back to my first interview with a PR agency — fresh out of college, inexperienced but eager. After a few standard questions, the CEO suddenly threw a curveball: “How many gas stations do you estimate are in the United States?”
I was flustered, but he pressed the question. “Think it through. How would you figure it out?”
“Well,” I answered slowly, “there are three gas stations in my hometown, which has a population of about 20,000 people. If you compare that ratio to the total US population, you’d have a ballpark figure for the number of public gas stations.” I got the job, so I suppose he liked the answer!
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Modern CMOs sometimes forget there’s no such thing as fixed marketing skills. Marketing is both art and science, sitting in a unique cross-section of creative and data-driven disciplines. You cannot prioritize one skill above all others or hire someone who can magically do everything for your marketing department. You need a diverse set of soft skills — creativity, communication, data analysis, problem-solving, working under pressure, and reacting to the unexpected. Which is exactly why my first agency CEO asked me about gas stations.
In this month’s B2CMO, we’ll talk about the people and skills you should actually be looking for.
Build a diverse team of creative minds and problem solvers
If you boil marketing down to its essence, you’ll find storytelling. Every marketing campaign is a complete story arc — what do we need, why do we need it, how can we find it. So, when you first start building your team, it’s imperative to seek out “creatives” — the writers, designers, and communications experts who can sink their teeth into messaging and narrative design.
It’s not necessary to look for specific credentials or job experience during the hiring process. Any liberal arts college will provide a strong baseline for what you need. The best candidate is a jack of all trades who broadly understands many skills, but there are a few particular traits to look for:
- Intellectual curiosity: Someone who is constantly learning new things will be an invaluable asset to your team. If they listen as much as they speak, ask insightful questions, and love taking on new challenges, this will help them succeed in marketing.
- Diverse interests: Look for unique interests or hobbies that might bring interesting perspectives to your team. Do they read science fiction or history for fun? Avidly follow local politics? Play on a sports team? The more diversity of interests, the more likely you’ll see unique ideas emerge during team meetings.
- Problem-solving: This is where the gas station question was important! Problem solvers don’t always have the correct answer, but they do have a process and excel at task prioritization.
- Teamwork: Marketing teams work with diverse groups of uniquely skilled individuals, both internally and with other departments in the company. People who can play ball with others — and most importantly, grasp and communicate the specialized needs of each individual — can succeed in almost any work environment.
Fast-growing teams need qualified data specialists
Data has become a crucial part of marketing within the past five to 10 years, particularly as more companies tie marketing techniques to revenue generation. It’s not necessarily the top priority for a startup, but large and growing companies absolutely need to bring data experts into their marketing departments.
Data experts are highly skilled at analyzing sales and market data to identify hidden trends and opportunities. Unlike creatives, data experts are highly specialized in a way that’s more comparable to engineering than liberal arts. They are highly-numbers driven by nature, using data to inform how they see the world and make decisions. In most cases, they will focus on these analytical tasks and reporting to the exclusion of other marketing tasks, such as brand messaging or communications.
Data experts are typically not hired straight out of college — few programs combine the focus on numbers with Google AdWords training that marketers need. For this reason, it’s often best to interview individuals with professional experience in marketing or analytical careers. If your company is growing and requires data expertise, look for candidates who are expert at:
- Scientific method: Data experts are scientists at heart. They will form a hypothesis, conduct experiments, run A/B tests, and present reports that prove or disprove market assumptions.
- Human psychology: Data expertise is not all about numbers — it can also encompass psychological principles. Marketers need to know what drives people to click ads or convert to optimize campaigns accordingly.
- Specialized knowledge: Where creatives excel with broad, general knowledge, data experts fill specific gaps in organizational knowledge. You’ll often hire them for clearly-defined roles that they will focus on exclusively.
As CMO, you set the team’s North Star
As you grow, you’ll be rebalancing and recalibrating your team objectives and dynamics. The incoming data experts will find new insights that creatives will incorporate into branded messaging. Your job is to act as the team’s North Star — putting specific goals before the group, balancing team skills, and keeping everyone moving in the right direction.
How do you know it’s working? Well, outside of hitting revenue targets, you might notice your team is influencing the entire company. Marketing departments don’t just create external communications; they also design internal messaging to make sure the whole company is speaking from the same page. The playbook you build with your team will define the North Star for the entire organization and how individual departments pursue corporate goals.
You may lead the marketing department, but you can’t accomplish anything without a strong team. To do so effectively, build a diverse group of creative minds, natural problem solvers, and data specialists who can meet unexpected but inevitable challenges. And during the interview, don’t be afraid to throw a curveball to see how they respond.
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