Why You Can’t Buy Market Leadership on Craigslist

It’s never been more challenging to achieve market leadership. Product life cycles are shorter, there is greater price transparency, both stockholders and customers have higher expectations and are less loyal, and there are more channels, countries, competition, and distinct segments to manage.

The “mores” also make it extremely challenging to lead the marketing function. Whether you’re a marketing manager, director, vice president, or CMO, there is more data to crunch, more silos to tear down, more marketing disciplines to manage and more marketing technology to evaluate and implement. And certainly there is more pressure from the C-Suite to prove and improve the value of marketing.

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Given these challenges, you know that both you and every member of your marketing team need to bring more skills and more experience to the business of marketing than ever before.

So why do some CEOs and boards of directors think that you can:

  • Hire part-time marketing leaders?
  • Transform someone with industry, but no marketing, experience, to be a successful marketer – within the market opportunity window?
  • Find the right marketing candidate on Craigslist?

By now many of you are nodding your head because you’ve seen one or more of the above scenarios play out – poorly. Here’s a real-life example. A friend of mine, who has been a successful CMO for 15 years, was recently approached by an executive from a company whose board had decided that they needed more marketing, now. There were new competitive threats and they had set an aggressive growth plan. In addition to competitive analysis and demand generation, the job scope included launching product definition and management disciplines, implementing solution and content marketing (including a new web site), and creating sales and marketing assets for all phases of the prospect lifecycle. This very strategic role should be a perfect fit for a seasoned CMO with industry experience, right? Wrong. It was mission impossible because they had one resource, a junior corporate communications manager, and no plans to add anyone else, and they proposed that she freelance on the weekend to achieve the goals. When she told him that what he was asking for could not possibly be delivered by one person on a part-time basis, he thanked her for her honesty and shared that the board had suggested that he recruit someone from Craigslist to keep costs low or find someone part-time.

You have to wonder, would the CEO or board have suggested that a strategic finance role be done on weekends, or that the right person could be hired via Craigslist? No, of course not; there’s too much at stake.

Well, how much is market leadership worth?

So, how do you convince your CEO or board of directors that you can’t fill your open marketing position with an untrained marketer, or by recruiting from Craigslist?

  1. Communicate, in detail, the many technical skills and marketing disciplines required for each marketing role and discipline
  2. Insist that the company invest in upgrading and expanding the skills of everyone on your team – starting with you. Then make sure that the outcome of that investment is visible

Communicate and Invest in Technical Skills and Marketing Principles and Disciplines

Marketing as a profession is not as highly valued as it should be, in part because of the misconception that marketing is only art. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. The Econsultancy 2014 Digital Trends Study emphasized that going forward marketers will need a “special mix of talents and attributes” because businesses increasingly need people who can create “brilliant customer experiences through a fusion of technology, creativity and commercial acumen.” Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein suggests successful marketers will be those who are “analytical and data-driven, yet understand brands, storytelling and experiential marketing.” In other words, because marketing is a combination of art and science, marketing leaders need to have capabilities in both right and left brain disciplines.

As marketers we know this intuitively. But so many others do not. So, during recruiting, performance reviews, ongoing education, promotion, and budget discussions; and in meetings with our manager, the executive team, and board; we all need to fully communicate what it takes to achieve required business outcomes, including:

  • Technical Skills – Planning, data analysis and modeling, project management, problem solving, technology evaluation, reporting, etc.
  • Marketing Discipline Experience – Search engine marketing, content marketing, marketing operations, marketing performance management, etc.
  • Marketing Principles Understanding – Cornerstone concepts such as the 5 P’s (Price, Place, Product, Promotion, and People), the 5 R’s (Relevance, Receptivity, Recognition, Response, Relationship), the 6 C’s of Engagement (Contact, Connection, Conversation, Consideration, Consumption, Community) and AIDA (Awareness, Interest Desire, Action)

The table below shows just some of the skills and experience required within the Marketing function in order to achieve market leadership.

Laura Article

Add to and customize this list in order to justify ongoing education investment, or to make the case that The Ladders is a more appropriate recruitment source than Craigslist.

And let’s keep the dialogue going. Let me know what you added and if this strategy is working — for you.