How to train a Marketing Unicorn

You have a great product and you went ahead and hired a great marketer. Yet your growth isn’t up to expectations. Why would this happen?

Well, it is possible that you haven’t got the right marketing leader. (If they don’t read this newsletter, I would certainly wonder. Ok, kidding. No, I’m not.) Seriously though, it is pretty hard to attract a really good marketing leader these days unless you have a compelling offer. The reason is that the value of marketing is clearer to a larger number of businesses and so demand for the few good marketers has gone up. This is also at a time of increasing specialization – everyone wants that Super SEO specialist or content specialist so the opportunity for these individuals to grow into an all round marketer is limited. Change is also rapid with new skill requirements – less than half the respondents in this study by Salesforce rated their team’s skills as advanced in Data Science and Coding.

But let’s say that despite the difficulties you have one or more really good marketers in your team. The next question is are they being enabled to perform? It is quite possible for a marketing team to hit all its numbers, and yet the needle doesn’t move for the organization. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of them is definitely the Pursuit of Bad Metrics. The Pursuit of Bad Metrics is a science in itself with sub-categories like Measuring Input not Output, Measuring Volume not Quality and many others. Metrics determine what marketers chase and if you have the wrong ones then it would be a classical case of ‘operation successful, patient, er, not so much”.

Because the metrics also depend on the organizational priorities and the life cycle of a particular category, there is no one size fits all solution. Each unit may need to have a different set of metrics. A chart that I found really helpful is on Page 23 of the State of Marketing Study which gives a breakdown of “Metrics by Customer Journey Stage”. This should help revisit your marketing metrics and see if you’re measuring the right stuff.

With the wrong metrics your marketing unicorn will just be a white horse with a horn.

I was recently participating in a discussion on whether a small business/start-up should hire or outsource its marketing head function. My advice is actually, neither. Marketing is critical to success, so the founder must acquire the competency to run marketing and hire folks to execute. If you lack the confidence or competence to create your own marketing strategy you can outsource that bit to an expert who will work directly with you, and get someone inhouse to manage the execution under your direct supervision. Why? Because the pool of good marketers is small to start with and those willing to join your startup is a subset of that. Moreover if you haven’t run marketing before you may not be able to spot a good one, or nurture this person to get value. It will be simpler for you to hire a “mini-me” to take the load off your core job so that you have time to run marketing.

Are marketers such a rare breed? For big successful brands, it isn’t that much of a challenge. The few that exist will gravitate to you. And they have legacy processes and technology and performance data to guide them. And tried and tested metrics. But if you’re a startup it’s hard to attract the right person and the skillset required – to create the processes, procure technology and hire the right people – is pretty broad.

Most Indian companies that have succeeded (or at least survived) have done so by focusing on Marketing. I don’t mean (just) the communications bit of marketing but that of getting all the elements right. Think Zomato, Freshworks, Amul, Byju’s. Or even Whitehat Jr (who is Wolf Gupta?).

This week I did my first official online video consultation with a doctor. I selected her on the basis of website, endorsement, referral, ease of setting up a meeting. She ticked all the boxes of the article I wrote last week. I’m in touch through Noom with a ’nutrition coach’ in California, and the app tells me whether it is a good idea to eat akki roti (it’s not). Nike+ algorithm determines my workout. Just as the phonograph, printing press, movies did away with mediocre singers, storytellers and thespians, digitization will see the vanishing of mediocre ‘experts’. Those that survive will be very good at what they do and at marketing.

On that note, I’m really glad that the School Of Business at University of Petroleum and Energy Sciences is including Personal Branding as a training module in their syllabus. Tomorrow’s marketers will really have to market themselves!

6 Marketing Steps to Your Dream Job

Face to face interviews have pretty much vanished. So it would be interesting to apply the learnings from online purchasing decisions, to see what makes people buy.

Google carried out research on how people buy online and identified 6 “biases” that determine purchasing decisions. Let’s apply that to your candidate brand.
Read more

Learn all the ways marketing has changed this year.



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