I was once interviewed by students who were working on a project related to marketing. They interviewed several marketers, and they were referred to me, which I happily obliged. (I love helping students. That's the teacher in me.)
They asked me a question that sparked a really interesting conversation:
“What is your biggest skill?”
I want to share some of the highlights of that conversation and the ideas behind it because it led to an even greater conversation about marketing, which I think you might find helpful.
My biggest skill, I believe, is that I consider myself a polymath. I prefer that term over “jack of all trades.” I’m both a lateral and logical thinker. Part artistic and part analytical. I believe this is an important benefit for my clients as it makes me versatile and capable of looking at problems from different angles.
(I often joke that the combination of being creative and analytical can often feel like sibling rivalry going on in my head. But that's probably my ADHD.)
Which brings up my marketing philosophy. I think that marketers fall into one of two camps: either they're the creative, communicative, people-centric types, or they're the mathematical, analytical, numbers-centric types.
In other words, marketing comes down to two things:
People and numbers.
Some marketers are into marketing automation, technical SEO, sales funnels, paid ads, conversion rates, and data-driven research. Other marketers are into content creation, demand generation, brand building, and customer journeys.
So to be an effective marketer (or if you're a professional who does her own marketing), you need to understand and be able to work with both people and numbers. I don't think you necessarily have to be skilled in both equally, which is tough to achieve if not impossible, but you need to understand both.
- You need to understand people and what makes them tick, what moves them, and what makes them buy.
- You also need to understand numbers and how they affect your marketing, your decisions, and your business.
Jordan Danger Stalker (that's her real name, by the way, which is pretty cool!) is a marketing consultant, a fractional CMO like me, the owner of Danger & Co, and an incredibly talented marketer.
Jordan brought up a similar idea on LinkedIn, which I liked a lot. To paraphrase what she wrote, there are two kinds of digital marketer:
- One is a numbers-based person who deals in coding (or as she said, the Internet is essentially “what they do”), and
- The other is a people-based person who deals in content (in this case, the Internet is a medium or “what they use”).
Here's what she said that resonated with me.
The people-centric marketer is proactive.
She creates ideas, conversations, and buyer interest. She tells stories. She's skilled at converting complex concepts into simple ideas, and communicates them in a way that help buyers make better decisions.
On the other hand, the numbers-centric marketer is reactive.
She analyses data, statistics, and performance. She mines analytics. She's skilled at converting complex metrics into business intelligence that help business owners make better decisions.
Do you need both? Yes. To me, they are two sides of the same coin. Of course, it's better to be proactive than reactive. But you need to know your numbers as much as you need to know your market. Just be careful not to put too much emphasis on your numbers at the expense of your people.
Which is why I agree with Jordan when she said:
“If you're going to hire just one person this year, go with Number Two” (i.e., people-based marketer). “Hire an outside contractor or agency to be Number One” (i.e., numbers-based marketer). “Work from Number Two will fuel the work of Number One and make it better. Whatever you do, DON'T expect one person to manage both One and Two with equal skill.”Jordan Danger Stalker
Agreed. You can't have numbers without people. You can't work your numbers when you don't have any numbers to begin with. For that, you need people. And people are not numbers. They are individuals. People with needs, wants, hopes, dreams, problems, ambitions, and so on.
Until the day when artificial intelligence can “understand” people and take over marketing entirely, what moves the needle for businesses right now is creating conversations, not measuring conversions.
Successful businesses became successful not because they mastered SEO, for example. They became successful because they helped people.
If you want to grow your numbers, you need to understand people. You want to know who, what, and why. But if you want to make better decisions, then you need to know the when, where, and how. You need numbers.
You need both.