If you’re a human resources executive at a professional services firm, no one has to tell you how difficult it is to find and retain good marketing people.
Online marketing technologies are evolving at lightning speed, so attracting and holding onto employees with up-to-date skills is getting harder and harder. As if that’s not challenging enough, professional services marketers need a solid understanding of traditional marketing techniques, too.
People with the right combination of skills are out there, but they are in high demand—so you’ll need to be patient as you hunt for and vet them. Here are three things to keep in mind as you seek out great marketing employees in the professional services marketplace:
1. The world is going digital (but it’s not quite there yet). The Internet is changing everything, including how we do business. Gone are the days when an experienced marketing professional shows up for work with a fat Rolodex (remember those?) under his or her arm. More and more, networking is taking place online—on LinkedIn, Twitter and other social platforms. And many buyers are now using Google to find and vet potential service providers. Your marketing people definitely need digital skills.
But a lot of marketing still takes place offline—from public speaking and exhibiting at conferences to writing books and developing face-to-face relationships. This side of marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. So your marketing team is going to need traditional skills, as well.
2. Digital literacy is the new norm. The expanding Millennial workforce grew up during the digital age. Within five years they’ll make up 75 percent of all employees—and that includes your buyers. Apps and online platforms are second nature to them. What’s more, the digital ecosystem comes with a set of expectations that you must meet if you want to be taken seriously:
- Transparency. Today’s generation is deeply suspicious of secrecy and inauthenticity. So cultivate a genuine persona for your business online—and wherever you interact with clients, prospects, and employees. When describing your firm and what you do be as clear and direct as possible.
- Free education. The Internet has created a rich, open repository of knowledge. Your team needs to understand that modern marketing is founded on freely giving away knowledge as a way to demonstrate your expertise. Embrace this new reality or become irrelevant.
3. Clients are expecting your firm and its employees to keep up. There’s no faking expertise. If your employees don’t have the digital marketing chops your clients expect, they’ll go elsewhere.
So as a human resources professional, how can you know if your marketing department prospects have the right suite of skills? Here’s a list of the basic skills marketing teams need to thrive in the modern marketplace:
Search engine optimization (SEO). Google is where people turn first when they need answers. That means search is ground zero as you start building thought leadership and trust online. And research shows that many buyers are turning to search to identify potential service firms. To be visible and compete in an increasingly digital world, you absolutely, positively need a mastery of SEO.
Editorial content. The buyer’s journey is changing, and writing is arguably more important to business success today than ever. In many buying scenarios, trust is built up over time as business people read, watch and listen to experts. When these people are ready to buy, they think first of the experts and firms they’ve been following and learning from.
Marketing strategy. You can’t lead and grow without a solid plan. But developing a plan that is both practical and effective in a changing marketplace can be tricky. To pull it off, you need to appreciate the power of positioning, monitor your competition, and understand the full range of tools and techniques at your disposal. On top of these, of course, you need the experience and acumen to make the right choices.
Research. Your marketplace is in constant flux, so you need to take the pulse of your buyers from time to time. How? Conduct regular market research to uncover what matters to them today. In our own research, we’ve uncovered a strong correlation between firms that do market research and high growth.
Graphic design. Design is more than aesthetics. Done well, it enhances your differentiation and clarifies your message. Design is a brand enabler, and the most successful companies take it to heart. So should you.
Promotion. Visibility is a critical driver of business success. And promotion is the most direct driver of visibility. More and more, social media is filling this role, so your team will need extensive experience on the platforms that matter most to your target audience. Learn to do it right, and everything else your marketing does becomes more powerful.
Analytics. You can’t fix what you can’t see. To understand what’s working and what isn’t, you need a solid grasp of analytics and testing tools. Then you can make the real-time adjustments that separate great firms from average ones.
Implementation. Even the best strategy will founder if you don’t have the personnel and skills to carry it out. Map out up front how you will allocate resources as your marketing plan rolls out. Also don’t forget marketing automation software. It can streamline processes and make the most of your marketing team’s limited time.
Webinars & Online Video. Many today prefer to watch than to read. Web-based seminars and short, informative online videos can be powerful and engaging. Your team should know how to take advantage of these fast-growing marketing tools.
To succeed, you will have to calibrate your marketing team to meet your buyers on their terms. If you can’t afford to hire all of these skills (and let’s be honest—most firms can’t) you can always work with qualified freelancers and agencies to fill in any gaps.
These are just a few of the skills you can discuss with marketing prospects during the interview process. If you are looking for a marketing director or VP of marketing, he or she should have a working familiarity—though not necessarily deep hands-on experience—with all of these tools and techniques. Less experienced candidates may have expertise in just one or two of these areas.