I once heard a self-made marketing professional say that “anyone can be creative.” This was in the midst of a long lecture explaining, rather incorrectly, that the end-all-be-all of marketing prowess lies in technical things like SEO and Google PPC ads. In their opinion, the actual words, images, and messages were so irrelevant that anyone off the street could come up with them.
As you might imagine, the mood in the room dropped as every creative person on staff absorbed the verbal slap to the face. Some shrugged. A few of us chuckled in spite of it.
The remark didn’t cut too deeply because we were all well acquianted with the person who’d uttered it. He remains one of the most non-creative people I’ve ever met. I’m not just talking about limitations in coming up with ideas; he was absolutely terrified of any idea that didn’t come from some marketing guru’s book or weekly podcast. He’s a creativity black hole, and we all knew it at the time.
This person found a comfortable groove in the mundane. They’re content with serving the warmed-up leftovers of actual creatives. In an industry that thrives on innovation and new ideas, that’s not what you want as a client.
So how do you keep yourself from making the mistake of hiring someone like this?
From my experience, I would look for these warning signs:
- They don’t ask enough questions. If I’m handling your marketing, I want to have an intimate knowledge of your company and the people in it. The more I know, the better your results will be. If they’re too afraid or lazy to ask questions, they’re going to do a crap job with your marketing.
- They prioritize the delivery system. Before they start talking about SEO and traffic metrics, they should develop your marketing strategy. By that, I mean branding, placement, and message need to be locked down tight before the word “analytics” ever crosses the room.
The sad truth is that there are so many “marketing experts” performing at this level out in the wild that it’s become difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Entire companies — companies that appear to be successful — are built on this farcical notion that SEO, traffic, and social media engagements are the holy grail.
And It’s not just the marketing industry that is being invaded by imposters. This phenomenon is casting a shadow on many professions.
Personally, I blame the online gurus.
Gurus sell their products based on the idea that “anyone can do it.” Anyone can be a wedding photographer. Anyone can be a novelist. Anyone can be a marketing expert.
Of course, these claims are correct…to a point. Anyone can be taught to use the tools of these trades. If someone wanted to learn all of the popular apps and platforms used in marketing — automatic email systems, landing pages, AdWords — they could watch YouTube videos for a week and be fairly well up to speed.
But would you want someone to shoot your wedding whose only experience with photography is YouTube videos on how to use a camera?
Nope. You wouldn’t trust an amateur with those memories. They’d be lacking the expert eye, the artistry that defines their role.
Knowledge of tools doesn’t make someone a marketing professional any more than holding a camera makes someone a professional photographer. So why trust the future of your business to a self-titled expert who believes that the tools are the trade?
Hint: If a marketing professional is constantly quoting the popular “marketing gurus” or refers to them often, they are probably not coming up with their own ideas. They’re using the same ideas that thousands of other people are hearing in a podcast or reading in a blog and pitching them as innovative. In marketing, if an idea has been around long enough to make it into someone’s “master course”, it’s obsolete.
The difference between an imposter that bangs tools together and a true marketing expert lies in their creative mind. They must be able to problem-solve, innovate, and bring fresh ideas to the table.
They must have the courage to think for themselves. You do NOT want to hire a marketing professional who is afraid of the work that they’re meant to be doing.
Marketing and advertising are undeniably important to your business. You need to have a master chef in the kitchen, so to speak. Not someone who warms old ideas in the microwave, but someone with the ability to take your marketing from “technical” to “sensational.”
Yes, the technical parts serve a purpose. SEO and PPC ads get people through the door. Likewise, a gas range can bring water to a boil, but it’s completely incapable of creating a meal that makes someone’s mouth water.
For advertising to truly work, it must serve up the marketing message equivalent of a five-star dish. That’s where you turn traffic into conversions…and that’s the only part that should matter to you as a business owner.
That, my friends, is the hard part. The human part. The creative part.
Dismiss it at your own peril.