A recent Marketing Week asserts that, as the UK continues its economic recovery, marketers are more in demand than they have been for years. Certainly, within my own firm, we are doing a lot of hiring, and, if the numbers of recruiters ringing me are anything to go by, so are a lot of other B2B organisations.

So I’ve been thinking about what really makes the difference between a good marketer and a great one. And while technical marketing skills are necessary, I’ve found that the best marketers have these four essential underlying qualities:

  1. Curiosity: curiosity is probably the number one quality I look for when hiring. The best marketers are infinitely curious. They ask questions, lots of questions, of both themselves and the business. And they aren’t afraid of what might be perceived as the ‘stupid questions’, because they really want to understand what’s important and why. They want to know about you, your business, the market, the wider world. They have a real thirst for knowledge and understanding, and as a result a desire for and commitment to continuous improvement, to constantly renew and innovate their thinking, and to ultimately become better marketers.
  2. Big Thinking:In B2B marketing there are a lot of great project managers and specialist marketers. But I look for marketers who know how to think. That’s why I tend towards a bias for those who are educated beyond a marketing qualification. While such a qualification may demonstrate a commitment to marketing as a profession, it doesn’t teach the critical thinking skills that are necessary to truly excel as a marketer. For example, an English literature degree emphasises the building blocks of a great story and how the underlying messages are communicated. A public policy background incorporates human perceptions, emotional triggers, and influencing.

    One of the best marketers I ever hired actually had a university degree in theatre studies, with a particular emphasis on stage design and management. At first glance, this type of qualification may not have much to do with marketing. But what this person brought to the team was an understanding and knowledge of the wider environment in which a story is told, and the elements that are necessary to enhance and embellish that story from an audience (read customer) perspective.
  3. Willingness to challenge: The business environment in which we are working is unlike any that has come before. While marketing fundamentals may remain the same, the old measures of marketing ‘success’ are no longer relevant. The customer buying journey has fundamentally changed and we must change with it. This means doing things differently, in ways we may have never tried before. The best marketers challenge the status quo and are always looking to push the boundaries of what they and their organisations think marketing can and should do.
  4. Customer perspective:There’s a lot of talk about customer engagement and customer experience these days. But I’ve found that many marketers don’t understand what this truly means; they are still too focussed on what marketing does instead of what is really of value to their business. So I look for marketers whose thinking begins and ends with the customer, who view all their marketing activity through the eyes of their customers, and continually ask themselves: does this matter (to our customers)?

Heidi Taylor has over 25 years’ experience developing and delivering powerful multi-channel, multi-format marketing programmes and campaigns that helps organisations achieve their priorities and objectives. She leads marketing for the government and public sector practice at PwC, working with internal and external stakeholders to create compelling content and pioneering marketing action plans that add real value to the business.

She comments on B2B marketing-related topics in her blog: http://taylormadeinkew.com and you can also follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.


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