How To Hire The Marketers You Need: Put Your Boots On

In my career as a headhunter, I’ve watched a lot of people try to be headhunters. The successful ones market and sell.

How To Hire The Marketers You Need: Put Your Boots On

Good marketers know how to brand and campaign. They know how to analyze and predict. They can even write good copy. But when they need to hire someone to do any of those tasks, most marketers are terrified of selling. That’s why they often have a very hard time filling key jobs in marketing.

Funny thing: In my career as a headhunter, I’ve watched a lot of people try to be headhunters. The successful ones market and sell. The failures just market. Selling requires boots on the ground—literally. You can’t do it from behind a desk or on a handheld.

Before sharing some ideas about how to hire, I thought I’d take a look at what everyone else is writing about “how to hire marketers.” Turns out it’s not much. The most recent Google result is from a year ago. The rest are two and three years before that. I was hoping for a good, general-purpose tutorial about how CMOs (and other marketing managers) can get good employees. The best I could find is specific: “How To Hire A Content Marketing Manager.”

Nonetheless, I like this how-to article because it’s wonderfully detailed. It includes no fewer than seven bullets, covering:

That’s all important stuff. Except the article doesn’t tell you how to hire anybody because it doesn’t tell you how to find them.

So I looked some more and turned up a good 2013 article published by Inc.: “How To Hire A Great Marketer.” I like Inc. because it’s big on how-to and big on nitty-gritty. This article details three steps of hiring:

I like the third step especially because it makes job candidates put their boots on the ground and show how they’ll do the work. This is great. It’s what I tell employers to ask about. But the article tells you nothing about how to find the people to hire.

Both these well-written articles tell you how to market a job and assess job candidates. But hiring isn’t just marketing or analyzing. It’s selling. And selling starts with finding the right people to market the job to and the right people to analyze.

Of course, you’re ready to point out what I must have missed: step one, which is about the job ad. Forgive me, but this makes me imagine your company’s top sales rep posting a product spec sheet online, putting his feet up on the desk, and waiting for customers.

That’s not how you sell. And it sure isn’t how you hire the marketers you need.

“We outsource that part,” you might explain. “Our HR department handles the recruiting. Well, actually, they outsource the recruiting. Then they wait for customers—er, applicants—to appear. And then I, the CMO, wait for applicants to appear after they appear to HR.”

But who’s doing the selling?

I’m no marketing expert, so I realized I’d better get my head straight about the basics. In an oldie-but-goodie edition of Chief Executive, Robert M. Donnelly gave me what I needed: a definition of the difference between marketing and selling.

“Marketing is creating a demand in the customers’ minds so that they will seek you out. Sales, on the other hand, is chasing customers and asking for the order.”

It helps to remember that. We can apply this simple distinction to hiring:

“Posting jobs is creating a demand in job hunters’ minds so they will seek you out. Recruiting, on the other hand, is chasing marketers and asking them to come work for you.”

I knew I would not have to reinvent the answer to your problem about how to hire; it’s in the pantheon of marketing wisdom. You have to chase the people you want to hire and ask them to come work for you. (See “The Real Talent Shortage: Managers Don’t Know How To Recruit.”)

Posting jobs is marketing. Recruiting is selling. All those articles about hiring great marketers are about skinning, that is, processing what you “caught.” But hiring starts with hunting. Recruiting and selling are boots-on-the-ground tasks. Just ask your best sales rep. When is the last time you went to the people you want to hire, like your top sales rep goes to the prospects he wants to sell to, and chased them?

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