Essential Traits for Successful Marketers

At a party I attended recently, I had a chance to speak to some marketing folks who had ten or fewer years of experience. They were very passionate about their jobs and we had an interesting discussion about the qualities needed to market today versus in the past. Since then, I started asking colleagues for more opinions.

The overarching message is that buyers today have different expectations. Changing behavior means we need to adapt how we market. The way we engage customers and build relationships has become more complex and we have to think differently in an unpredictable marketing environment and business world.

That’s why it is no surprise that a Forrester report revealed 97% of today’s marketers are doing things they have never done before. We have to serve as agents of change. This means being open to new skills, understanding how to collaborate and bringing original insights to the table.

Would your colleagues use these words to describe you?

  • Agile. Social media might be one reason why agility has become so crucial. Brands have spent recent years figuring out how to react to Twitter and Facebook and many have gotten a handle on what works, in terms of the type of content to produce and share. The ability to react quickly on social channels is important, whether to cut off something negative or to encourage interaction and engagement. But agility can be applied to all of marketing (and it will be amplified by social media).

Oreo TweetWhen the power went out in the Superdome during the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, Oreo capitalized and tweeted: “You can still dunk in the dark”. This was retweeted 10,000 within an hour. While the television commercial for Oreo cost millions to develop, the graphic and tweet was designed, captioned and approved within minutes because the company’s agency (360i) was gathered in a war room during the game.

  • Technically-savvy. New technologies, tactics and methods are introduced faster than we can adopt them. Marketers must be willing to learn every day about digital tools that improve their understanding, analysis and effectiveness. We also have to understand emerging technology and applications to spot potential business opportunities and threats. This requires paying attention to developments as they happen, doing the research and applying what makes sense for your business. Instead of “best practices,” think of “next practices”.

For example, BetaOut is editorial project management software that can be used by individuals or teams to schedule, plan and manage content creation. It is free for up to three users.

BetaOut Screenshot

  • Daring. Comfort and growth can’t coexist. We often have to push ourselves and dive in when there is no proven method or guaranteed outcome. Taking these kinds of risks leads to opportunity. We should regularly challenge the status quo, as well as test what is working and what is not. Through analysis we can adjust and ensure marketing is working for the target audiences.

Dove got very positive reactions when the company chose to use normal, average women to advertise their products rather than the overly-perfect models or actresses we have come to expect.

Dove Wrinkled Ad

  • Prepared. We’d all love to have a buttoned-up calendar of daily, weekly and monthly activities, editorial content, trade shows, sales presentations to support and more. That’s just not reality in marketing. We can work toward that goal that but news events happen, sales people get meetings, clients leave us, competitors emerge and so on. We have to plan thoroughly but develop all kinds of contingency plans because they will be needed sooner or later.

This is a marketing competition that was waged in outdoor advertising that demonstrates quick reactions between Audi and BMW.

Audi-BMW Outdoor Campaign

  • Focused. Marketers need to understand their target market and be completely committed to communicating in the methods and channels that work for them. Build detailed client personas to ensure you can meet their needs and desires.

In this ad, belVita speaks to the love (and heartbreaks) of the game that avid golfers have, showing how it provides all the energy needed to play a long round.

BelVita Golf Ad

  • Relationship-oriented. Marketing serves internal customers and is dependent on a wide variety of other departments, such as IT, finance, customer service, etc. We rely on people at all levels from the receptionist who is the face of our company to the CEO who speaks for it. Strong marketers leverage the best attributes of others and work with outside providers effectively. A collaborative style fuels brand growth.
  • Attentive. When I’m trying to get feedback on my projects, I have found it is important to ask questions multiple ways because people don’t necessarily use the same terms or communicate so that I understand the first time. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to “talk about these features more digitally”. Not sure how to proceed, I supplied three different options and let my colleague choose. You also have to actively probe and make suggestions to come to agreement. When I proposed a new website design and messaging, I got a one line email back that did not make sense to me. A clarifying phone conversation worked wonders.
  • Open-minded. Everybody thinks they can do marketing, so it’s been my experience that coworkers freely suggest all sorts of “improvements” to projects and branding. While we might not like what we hear all the time, the best marketers need to take feedback, evaluate it objectively and use whatever we can. Even a seemingly ridiculous comment can inspire brilliance. I have gotten a wealth of idea from new employees, who did not yet know much about our business but had fresh perspectives that provided valuable insight.

Starbucks realizes the power of ideas and invited people to share, vote, discuss and see.

My Starbucks Idea Campaign

  • Fast-thinking. Effective marketers don’t freak out when something changes. They look for the opportunities in these situations. A treasured employee is leaving, a new product comes on the market that will be disruptive or an important supplier changes their offering—whatever happens, we draw on past experiences to handle difficult and/or high-pressure situations.

Recently, Google released Hummingbird. The new algorithm represents the biggest change to Google’s search functionality in ten years. This shift in focus comes as a result of some very clear trends. Mobile is the future, so Google should be attuned to answering search queries in the most mobile-friendly way. In addition, people tend to be conversational with their mobile searches (e.g., “Where can I buy cowboy boots in Elgin, Illinois?”). That’s why the future of Google search is mobile-focused and question-oriented.

Smart marketers responded by doing the following:

    1. Getting their websites mobile-ready. This means the sites are responsive, optimized for speed and free of faulty redirects and smartphone-only errors.
    2. Connecting their blogs to their Google+ profile using Authorship.
    3. Creating and publishing to their Google+ profiles
  • Leading. There are times when we have the knowledge and experience to complete projects successfully and it is important to know when we should take the lead. Put focus and energy into being a leader people can feel proud of and want to follow. Lead with a combination of imagination and practical experience.
  • Lucky. Not everything in marketing is scientific. There is a healthy dose of intuition and good timing involved (on top of a foundation of education, experience and hard work, of course). We can do everything possible to make a campaign successful but we can never know if or when it will go viral.

Evian had one of the first YouTube exclusive ad campaigns with “Roller Babies” in 2008 and could not have predicted the results. It featured babies doing tricks on roller skates in the park and was viewed 250 million times, making it the most viewed online ad ever.

Evian Roller Babies Campaign

Rather than figure out how we achieve an ideal state in our profession, marketers need to continually work to refine our ability to adapt to the current and future set of challenges. The best way to do this is to surround ourselves with people that have these qualities. We have to hire team members and providers with the right attitudes rather than specific experiences and skills. Marketing is dynamic and we must be able to both respond and lead.

What other traits do you think we need to contend with the current marketing environment?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

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