Hiring experts. It’s tough and can result in lost time if you make the wrong choice.
In digital marketing, there is an even larger gap between the “experts” and the leadership of a company. There are literally hundreds of SaaS companies, so the marketing, design, analytics, development tools, and knowledge base of the digital marketer has to be incredibly in-depth. Moreover, the ability to quantify results is constantly changing.
That is a difficult pill to swallow for a leader trying to ensure that their teams are accurate and performing well. This puts you (the leader) at odds in attempting to find the right talent and keep them motivated for the best outcome.
So you might ask, “Do I simply roll the dice and hope I find the right pick based on chance?”
While trying to test knowledge can lead to snake oil (confident answers, no way of fact checking their work), testing behavior is a greater tool to see how developed your digital marketer truly is.
A Series of Levels
I believe that digital marketers have to go through a series of “levels” of thought that indicate their effectiveness. Each level will create a new way of thinking and thus, a different set of behaviors. They are not exclusive; a level 1 digital marketer might exhibit level 4 traits, but they are defined by their level because of where they spend most of their time.
To clarify that last point, every marketer is always developing a level of abilities. However, the level below should be more developed than the one above. Imagine the foundation of a building: it will collapse without a strong beginning.
***Note: This has been a developing thesis, built off several studies, statistics, opinions, and experiences of other marketing leaders. If you wish to share your personal experiences or suggest alterations, please leave notes below!This is a thesis that I am developing, and I will continually back this up with new findings or revisions.
Level 1: Understanding
Level 1 digital marketers understand the principles and basics of marketing online. They can send emails, they can design graphics, they can even advertise on multiple platforms. There is a degree of experience working with multiple teams, from development teams to client teams, and they are capable of performing by instruction.
This is valuable. They are excellent individual contributors — and they understand how to read results and provide them.
Good marketers at this level will often ask “what do you want?” and “how do you want it?” and they can help you distinguish what you need and match it to the correct medium.
You will often find many content, graphic design, and outsourced agencies providing at this level. They care about production — and they do it well.
Behavioral styles: These marketers are concerned about asking questions about what you want. So they tend to ask technical or guidance questions that will allow them to produce the best product for you. They tend to adhere to details and will pursue you to make sure the product fits your desire and the target of the business.
Where they fit in your business: These are invaluable producers, and you want these on your team — if you can manage them.
Level 2: Distinction
This marketer has developed a sense of distinction that allows them to see differences and insights in marketing that otherwise would not appear. For example, if I ran an advertising campaign that was completely similar to two different marketplaces yet yielded completely different results, the marketer would be able to determine the reason why and apply it to actionable evidence in future campaigns.
This marketer also has had the experience to see that there are correlations between separate data sets or when there are actually none at all and it’s a mirage propped up by popularity or the “herd.”
They have a decisive quality about them that yields an advantage in applying the right action at the right time.
They act as advisors and will recommend a course of action. Careful though, even Level 1 Marketers will have opinions and the capability of “advising” a course of action, most likely because they know how to achieve the goal but not the “why.”
Instead, a level two marketer will suggest a course of action “X, because Y+Z suggest it’s the best choice in the field of options.” There’s a hypothesis with strategic thought, and they make good strategists for your team.
Behavioral: Look for specialized questions such as, “What are your business goals?” and “What are your challenges?” These marketers will pursue knowledge first to make the right decision second.
Where they fit in your business: These are excellent to hire for making decisions and make good strategists, product managers, and advertisers. You can trust them with your marketing strategy.
Level 3: Scalability and Leadership
Once a marketer has learned how to understand the marketplace and make good decisions, the next constraint is time. Scalable marketers are a corporation’s best friend because not only do they make a company look awesome, they can make it reach awesome by hiring and developing a marketing team.
They also have to be developed leaders. This is a difficult mix and rarer but a great timing hire if you need someone to help make your company agile and your marketing serve multiple departments in your company.
Growing companies deal with marketing bottlenecks. It’s just a fact.
One person or a small team, no matter how good, cannot possibly produce the volume required for a quickly growing company.
Level 3 Marketers develop teams to increase production, finding talent and creating systems that produce accurate, high-quality work. They also can help maximize communication between departments and centralize information so your VP of sales, customer service teams, and CSRs are contributing to knowledge bases.
This is an incredibly important attribute if you are a growing business. You need someone who can install these systems, manage your marketing efforts, and report on the key factors that affect your business.
Behavior: Because these individuals have experience in leadership, they will examine your organization’s ability to delegate and organize marketing information. Look for questions such as, “Who are your team leads?” and “How do you assign marketing tasks?”. They also tend to look for structural information such as brand guidelines, strategy documents, and organizational charts.
They will examine the soft skills of the marketing team, such as the ability to handle pressure, conflict resolution, and the decision-making process.
Where they fit in your business: Marketing managers or VP of marketing positions are common for this role. You are looking to get someone to shoulder the weight of creating content, design, product research, and advertising for your business.
Level 4: Reinvention
At some point, you find people who set out to change the world. They take the form of entrepreneurs, visionaries, large company leaders, or thought leaders, and they seek entirely to challenge the status quo.
Their thoughts, if not original, are applied at an original time. They are risk takers and understand enough about their industry to distinguish and lead a team to execute a goal.
At the offset, they might even say crazy things, such as “why we should design differently” or “why digital ads should die,” and sound like they hardly even understand Level 1 marketing.
Why? It’s because they focus on the principles of marketing as they apply to life, not just to the current ecosystem. They think there’s a better way to reach people, a better way to tell a story, and everything is suspect.
They are different. And they will make your company different too.
Note that this can sound like a rebellious level 1 marketer who simply wants to be different. But can someone truly be different who is not disciplined nor understands the industry around them?
You would hate to hire a marketer, have them take a huge risk, and find out the idea was already proven false and they missed that point.
Behavior: It’s key to know that this person has prior experience in the field, which means they are capable of leading teams, making decisions, and understanding data. If they are an effective communicator, look for explanations for existing business models, marketing plans, and processes that they have proven to be ineffective and why they need to upgrade to a higher level.
Where they fit in your business: Get someone like this as a partner, invest in their business, or hire them as they start blooming. If you can get this person on your team, you will have a fountain of competitive advantages.
All marketers fall within a gradient of these attributes. Your duty is to think about what you need in your business and look for the development process of these individuals. Their abilities and knowledge will constantly change, but their development as a thinker will not.