It’s OK to Hate Data

There’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers. If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

A little secret about Target Marketing: Our data content gets less traffic than just about any other topic we regularly cover.

Clearly, that doesn’t stop us from covering the data-driven side of marketing. In fact, I think some of our best contributors write about data. But there’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers.

If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

Good Good ... Let the Data flow through you.Big data, small data, first-party data, third-party data … it can take the people element out of marketing.

I was at Ad:Tech New York last week and caught the session “Your Data Might Be Crap, But Is It Fertilizer?” Mark Donatelli from Ogilvy moderated a conversation with data-driven marketing experts from the NFL, Gap Inc., Domo and Beckon.

Aidan Lyons, VP of fan experience for the NFL, had a great line: “They’re not users, they’re fans.”

What he meant was, they’re not just users, they’re not just data. Every one of those records is a real, breathing person. A fan of the NFL. Sift and sort what you know about them, and you begin to spot groups with things in common. These are niches in your market who you can target with messaging and experiences.

Most of our readers can get into that. Once you have people to talk to, you’re back in the game most marketers signed up to play.

But not everyone can see those people in the numbers, the data, even at a persona level.

And that’s OK, because not everyone has to. There are a multitude of tools, agencies, consultants and data scientists who can help boil the data down to something marketers can work with.

A-Plus: Marketing Students Try Their Hand at Technology

It’s nearly graduation time with a new legion of graduates about to enter the marketplace. In my previous post, I noted how many are seeking careers in data, and we’re glad to have them in the marketing field. We need them by the thousands.

It’s nearly graduation time with a new legion of graduates about to enter the marketplace. In my previous post, I noted how many are seeking careers in data, and we’re glad to have them in the marketing field. We need them by the thousands.

One prerequisite to a career in marketing (or just about anywhere) is having a demonstrated comfort level in technology. Universities are spending a mint designing and delivering digital labs in their technology builds—but in the world of advertising and marketing, there’s not much measured in ad tech investments that I can find. Providing students with rewarding internships is one great way to give prospective marketing practitioners invaluable exposure to tech, working alongside professionals using these tools.

Some universities also have student-run ad agencies, providing real work for real clients. Perhaps the next opportunity is to arm these students with campaign management platforms and other advertising technologies that reflect what’s really going on in the workplace today.

The University of Akron is doing just that, in its Taylor Institute of Direct Marketing. Three years back, during a Direct Marketing Association Conference, Professor William Baker initiated a conversation with Michael Hall, vice president of business development, V12 Group. “Michael was intrigued from the start,” Professor Baker told me. “He explained V12 Group’s Launchpad Marketing Cloud and we began to brainstorm ways that we could employ it in an educational setting. [We were looking for] Data, data and data, as well as the ability to apply the key concepts associated with Direct Interactive Marketing. As Confucius said, ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.’ Our goal was to find a way that we could enable our students to turn key a database digital interactive campaign as a part of their educational experience.”

Students are using V12’s LaunchPad to devise and execute targeted campaigns for student agency clients, he explained. “The attraction to V12 Group is student’s ability to learn it quickly and marry data to the launching of email, display advertising, social media and print from one desktop system,” Professor Baker said.

To date, “Approximately 200 students have gone through [the tech] training,” said Vanja Djuric, University of Akron’s Director of Analytics. “I would estimate that in the future we should have anywhere between 200-300 students per semester—depending on the projects and class enrollment.” In few instances, the clients—often local businesses and organizations in the Akron area—have their own customer data, in which the technology acts as a customer relationship management tool, Djuric said. Most often, V12 Group-sourced data is used to identify, select and contact intended targets.

What matters most, of course, is the impact such tech use has on students. “I definitely think that using a professional tool … has enriched my education,” said Sarah Wright, who recently was graduated with an Integrated Marketing Communications degree, and is currently a Business Analytics MBA Candidate. “Having knowledge of and experience with a standard automated marketing tool sets me apart from the rest of the pool of candidates. Before, I could understand the theory behind automated marketing campaigns, but learning how to create and launch the campaign has given me the full picture. It is the type of practical, real world experience that companies are looking for in marketing candidates in today’s business world where companies compete on the quality of their data and their skills in leveraging that data.”

Students crave these real-world experiences. And we’re all better off in our marketing organizations when it comes time to put these graduates to work. Anybody hiring?

Thank you to the University of Akron and V12 Group for offering one great example of an education-private sector partnership in our field.

3 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a LinkedIn Trainer

Good LinkedIn sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales—not better proficiency at using the tool. Are you considering investing in a LinkedIn trainer or LinkedIn training for your reps? Ineffective training will cost you dearly. Here’s a quick guide to hiring a LinkedIn trainer that will help sellers set more appointments, faster.

Good LinkedIn sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales—not better proficiency at using the tool. Are you considering investing in a LinkedIn trainer or LinkedIn training for your reps? Ineffective training will cost you dearly. Here’s a quick guide to hiring a LinkedIn trainer that will help sellers set more appointments, faster.

Avoid failure by:

  1. Considering if you really need LinkedIn training;
  2. Evaluating trainers with criteria that produce behavioral change, not learning;
  3. Measuring results of your training in hard numbers.

A sales rep’s success on LinkedIn has little to do with mastering LinkedIn. It has everything to do with presenting prospects with messages they cannot resist acting on.

Do You Need a LinkedIn Trainer—Really?
Do you need what you think you need? Maybe you’ve decided, “I need a LinkedIn trainer.” However, what do you want more? A sales prospecting coach—or a LinkedIn trainer? Do you want to increase leads or proficiency with a social platform?

Assuming you value leads more, be sure your trainer shows reps how to create an urge in potential buyers. Because a rep’s success is based on their ability to create dialogue with prospects. That’s more important than knowing how to use LinkedIn’s system.

A B2B sales rep’s goal is to create an urge in the potential customer to talk. If you don’t create that urge, you don’t get to talk with the prospect. Period. Mastery of LinkedIn’s platform is secondary to your reps learning an effective, copy-able process to get more appointments, faster.

This requires learning a way to help prospects get curious about how a sales rep can help them.

The idea is to help customers wonder, “How can this person help me solve a problem?” Or, how can the rep relieve a pain, help the client avoid a risk, or fast-track a goal?

A sales rep’s success on LinkedIn has less to do with mastering LinkedIn. It has everything to do with presenting prospects with messages they cannot resist acting on. And marketing cannot always be relied upon to do that!

Evaluate: Choose Trainers Based on What They Create, not Teach
After short-listing a handful of potential trainers put them into two buckets:

  1. LinkedIn trainers (who teach how to use LinkedIn)
  2. Sales trainers (who teach how to generate response and appointments using LinkedIn)

If your goal is to learn LinkedIn hire an expert. There are literally hundreds of trainers who are self-appointed “LinkedIn experts.” Their qualifications: They’ve used LinkedIn more than you.

However, this does not make a good LinkedIn trainer for sales reps, in most cases. In fact, it can be disastrous.

“I recently encountered a couple of people in LinkedIn groups claiming to be LinkedIn experts and LinkedIn trainers, who were giving out poor advice and clearly breaching the terms of the LinkedIn User Agreement,” says Gary Sharpe of Blue Dog Scientific.

Gary says any trainer who does not teach clients how to play by LinkedIn’s rules is not doing a very good job. In fact, many LinkedIn trainers are, themselves, often unaware or knowingly breaking the User Agreement.

Avoid all of this. Make the primary criteria for evaluating your LinkedIn sales trainer:

  1. If they teach a practical, repeatable communications approach that produces leads and
  2. Results that approach is creating for clients. (or lack thereof)

Measure: Good Trainers Measure ROI in Measurable Leads
This is an investment. Your investment. Good sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales-not better proficiency at using tools. From a management point-of-view, your LinkedIn trainer should create better proficiency with LinkedIn. However, they must also help reps:

  • Develop prospecting lists—faster
  • Target & qualify potential clients—faster
  • Earn demos/appointments with leads—faster

It is not enough to measure how many sales reps or distributors attended the training—or how deeply they engaged with the LinkedIn training. Nor is it enough to measure how many reps refreshed their LinkedIn profiles.

Training must be measured in terms of how many leads your team is producing now—versus before your training investment.

Yes, it makes sense to measure your reps’ mastery of how to use the LinkedIn or Sales Navigator search function… when prospecting for new customers. Research is an important piece of prospecting and LinkedIn is a new, unfamiliar tool. But ultimately their success relies more on mastering the ability to earn a conversation with prospects.

Your LinkedIn trainer or training program should be structured to teach both “how to navigate” LinkedIn and a communications methodology that creates appointments, demos or meetings, faster.

Questions? Let me know in comments. I also welcome your criticisms of what I’ve presented here.

Mentoring: Give a Little, Get a Lot

Last summer, I heard that my alma mater was launching a mentoring program between graduates and enrolled Seniors. Even though I no longer reside in my college town, I quickly volunteered to be a guinea pig for remote mentoring

Last summer, I heard that my alma mater was launching a mentoring program between graduates and enrolled Seniors. Even though I no longer reside in my college town, I quickly volunteered to be a guinea pig for remote mentoring.

The woman running the program was hesitant at first—her vision was to put grads and students together face-to-face and create events that would bring the mentor/mentees together outside of 1:1 meetings.

Even though I reside in the San Francisco Bay Area and my college is in chilly Ottawa, Canada, I convinced her to team me with a student who was studying abroad for a semester so neither of us would be on campus.

Luckily I was paired with a wonderful senior named Mitch who was spending a semester in The Netherlands and studying marketing. We hit it off immediately, swapping stories about our pasts, our work experiences and talking about his goals when he graduates (to work in sports marketing). Mitch proved to be intelligent, inquisitive and eager to learn about the real world of marketing and advertising.

In our weekly calls, I answered a lot of questions (about marketing strategies and tactics and concerning specific job functions in the industry), but we also talked about some very practical things like how to put together a solid resume and a LinkedIn profile. Frankly, I was a bit surprised that in this social media crazed world, this very bright student was not that familiar with LinkedIn and how to use it to his advantage. Upon having further conversations with my college graduate son and his friends, it seems none of them were particularly savvy about LinkedIn and how leverage it to their advantage.

Helping Mitch with his resume was a fascinating exercise in marketing. His first draft provided a laundry list of all his summer jobs, but didn’t successfully position his experience and his growing expertise. As I quizzed him on what he actually did at each job, I helped him extract the salient messages he needed to convey about his skills and accomplishments—it was similar to working with a client to help them clarify and synthesize a product’s attributes and benefits, and how they stacked up to the competition.

For example, during his Junior year, Mitch worked for a marketing agency that was helping Microsoft increase its mindshare among college students. He described that job as “Independently reach and educate University students regarding the benefits of Microsoft products while entrusted with expensive technology.”

After some probing into what he was REALLY doing and the knowledge and skill set it required, we rewrote it to read “Manned an on-campus booth and answered questions about various Microsoft software products while retaining proficiency in Microsoft Windows 8.1 and the Microsoft Office Suite of products. Using Microsoft-provided software / hardware, performed a Pre- and Post- Attitudinal Behavior Study.”

Now he sounded impressive!

What was most exciting, however, is that this week Mitch advised me that a Netherlands-based sports organization that he follows on Twitter had tweeted about an opening for a marketing assistant. We quickly got to work refining his resume to match all the skills the job description required and crafted an introduction letter that further highlighted his skills.

We also did a LinkedIn search to determine who the position would report to and poured over the hiring managers resume. I encouraged Mitch to spend time on the company’s website, social media sites to become immersed in the brand, its mission, brand positioning, communications messages and key issues the company is facing.

Yesterday Mitch was contacted by the hiring manager and asked for work samples and to set up an interview. We then went to work prepping him with questions he might ask during the interview process. Honestly, I was as excited as Mitch was!

As I finish this column, I’m waiting to hear the outcome of that first important job interview, but either way, I’m confident that this young man will be a marketing rock star and any firm would be lucky to employ him. And, I relish the opportunity to help another grad enter the world of marketing fully knowledgeable with the skill set to market themselves successfully.

The ‘Sustainability’ of Giving Back: How Marketers Look After Their Own

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social. This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need

Sustainability in business is often referred to as “the triple bottom line”—financial, environmental and social.

This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how we—as marketers—address social sustainability, specifically our fostering of human resources and marketing talent. It is a critical need.

First, we had the Marketing EDGE Annual Awards Dinner. Nearly 250 marketing leaders gathered to honor two recipients for Marketing EDGE’s two most prestigious education leadership awards: Michael Becker, co-founder and managing partner North America, mCordis, as the 2014 Edward N. Mayer, Jr. Education Leadership Award honoree; and Google as the 2014 Corporate Leadership Award designate.

Many of the emcees of the evening, uniquely, were alumni of Marketing EDGE programs (Marketing EDGE engages thousands of students and professors every year). Altogether, the evening generated not only hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship monies, but also mini-testimonials from students and young professionals including one individual who confessed he almost became a Eurobond trader until he was engaged in a Marketing EDGE program. He described himself as an “accidental marketer.”

Think about the term, “accidental marketer.” Today’s generation of students and “market-ready” career entrants are increasingly marketing educated, and even direct and interactive marketing educated, armed with internships and professional experiences the moment they reach the marketplace. Marketing EDGE programs alone touched more than 5,000 students last year—and 6,000 are anticipated for 2015. Many are marketing majors, while others are in STEM fields, creative and other disciplines, but with exposure to marketing curricula and some marketing experience.

Compare that to 20—even 10—years ago. This business was built largely by “accidental marketers” who found a home in measurable, accountable direct, interactive and data-driven marketing, and found entrepreneurial opportunities in our field. We did OK, even spectacularly, but our successes have only made the appetite for top talent grow more ravenous. Thus, the more we “give” to marketing education today—in donated time and money, in adjunct teaching, in internships, and in involvement with colleges, universities and “bridges” such as Marketing EDGE—the better chance we have to attract the best and brightest to our field, and to our companies. Giving back pays immediate dividends. (Don’t forget #GivingTuesday is December 2!)

During the Direct Marketing Association 2014 Strategic Summit, we heard from a panel on what it takes to bring along “The Next Generation of Marketing Talent.” Representatives from IBM, Javelin Marketing Group, Marketing EDGE and University of Georgia talked about the need for flexibility, mentoring, culture and social responsibility as motivators to today’s students and career entrants. Young professionals crave guidance, and likewise to understand their role in the big picture of community (in marketing, the business overall, the end-user, the industry, the world). One might say these attributes motivate everyone, but they are particularly important to digital natives and Millennials who want to start their careers as contributors and difference makers. How much better to have these new and young professionals matched with mentors, by default or design, to bring clarity to such contributions.

Which brings me to a third event, the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s 30th Annual Silver Apples Gala, honoring seven individuals (Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman & chief executive officer, OgilvyOne Worldwide; Timothy Kennon, president & owner, McVicker & Higginbotham, Inc.; Pamela Maphis Larrick, CEO, Omnicom’s Javelin Marketing Group; Thomas “Tim” Litle, founder & chairman, Litle & Co.; Lon Mandel, president, SMS Marketing Services; Debbie Roth, vice president of sales, Japs-Olson Company; and Dawn Zier, president & chief executive officer, Nutrisystem; and one corporate honoree (Fosina Marketing Group) who have contributed a quarter century (or more) to the direct marketing discipline, through demonstrable professional success, and a giving of time and effort to promote the goals of DMCNY which incorporates education and to foster growth of the field.

All during the evening, honorees recalled having mentors, being mentors to others, and having the clarity of marketing goals and measurement to achieve marketing success. They also spoke of community—where ideas are freely explored and exchanged, the good, the bad and the not-so-pretty (testing and lifelong learning)—as being part of the key to not only professional success, but also a deep sense of personal and professional fulfillment.

We are a community—and one I’m thankful for everyday in my own accidental career. It’s always time to give back and mentor.

Mindset and Measurement

In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck purports that people possess one of two mindsets: the fixed mindset or the growth mindset. Fixed mindset people are “always trying to prove themselves and they’re supersensitive about being wrong or making mistakes.” They fear failure. They feel that they are always being judged. Fixed mindset people feel that they have fixed traits and talents, and that they’re never going to get any better. For them, success is about proving they’re smart or talented. Validating themselves.

In her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck purports that people possess one of two mindsets: the fixed mindset or the growth mindset.

Fixed mindset people are “always trying to prove themselves and they’re supersensitive about being wrong or making mistakes.” They fear failure. They feel that they are always being judged. Fixed mindset people feel that they have fixed traits and talents, and that they’re never going to get any better. For them, success is about proving they’re smart or talented. Validating themselves.

Growth mindset people believe that “your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” They welcome failure as a learning experience, an opportunity to grow. For them, success is about stretching themselves to learn something new. Developing themselves.

Which mindset a marketer possesses affects the way they approach testing and results measurement. Beginning my career in a traditional direct marketing environment, I learned early on that failure is a good thing. It tells you what doesn’t work. I thought everyone developed tests that had limited downside risk to determine the best media, creative and offers. We roll out the winning campaign and test against it time and again. Success is always evolving.

It wasn’t until I started in the agency business that I learned there was another mindset—one where in-market testing might uncover flaws in a campaign that could open it up for judgment. In the fixed marketing mindset, the agency team and the client select what they believe is the best approach. If time and money permit, then perhaps they do some research to validate their choice. But as David Ogilvy pointed out so many years ago, “Research is often misused by agencies and their clients. They have a way of using it to prove they are right. They use research as a drunkard uses a lamppost—not for illumination but for support.”

The fixed mindset marketers measure to validate their campaigns. The growth mindset marketers measure to challenge their campaigns.

Agency people can be especially prone to the fixed mindset, particularly when it involves admitting that the agency’s initial work or recommendation was not perfect. Once, I was analyzing conversion from visit to lead at a website. I found a problem with the way leads were being directed to the landing page; it wasn’t an intuitive interface for the visitor and it was a spot where visitors were abandoning the site. When I informed the account person about the issue she said, “We can’t change it now. The client already approved it.” Classic fixed mindset. Being wrong equals failure, even if admitting it means better results, learning and growth.

Clients who have lengthy, multi-layered approval processes are also prone to the fixed mindset. They resist testing because it’s too difficult to get multiple creative/offer variations approved. But perhaps they’re reluctant to admit to people across several departments and levels of the organization that they don’t know prospectively what’s going to work best.

The good news is people can change their mindsets if they change their perceptions of what it means to succeed and what it means to fail. Dr. Dweck relates that “John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you aren’t a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them.”

Testing new approaches and learning what doesn’t work is a step along the path of continuous improvement. If we’re going to take our marketing results to the next level, we need to challenge the status quo, not preserve it.

Connecting Marketing Generations: Our Opportunity

Lucky is the marketing organization that has the best, brightest and newest marketing professionals—the “Rising Stars”—working alongside its experienced, proven marketing powerhouses. Sound like your company? Well, it could be

Lucky is the marketing organization that has the best, brightest and newest marketing professionals—the “Rising Stars”—working alongside its experienced, proven marketing powerhouses. Sound like your company? Well, it could be.

The speed of marketing is as fast as the speed of data—but are we incorporating all that’s gone before: The marketing maxims and truisms which are as constant as human behavior? We could be.

Are we dedicating all we need to training—both the newest career entrants to the discipline of testing, measurement, analysis and strategy, and—in the other direction—retooling for today’s marketing science and channel proliferation?

While marketing is at a crossroads of the true and the new, whichever generation we identify with, I hope that we are open and eager to learn from others. Call it “bidirectional learning.”

When Denny Hatch shared a perspective recently on the “Newest Generation of Direct Marketers,” I was taken aback by some of the posted comments. I believe folks mean well, but it appears that there might be something of a marketing generation gap opening among us. Is that happening in your company?

A dynamic career requires continuous learning. Today and tomorrow is a sharing, learning economy—for those who want to participate. That’s why I’m intrigued to see the Direct Marketing Association announce a new award—The President’s Award for Professional Development—recognizing a company or marketing department that has demonstrated a commitment to marketing education among professionals during the past 18 months, and can show results and impact for its efforts to train. Nominations are due June 27. Perhaps the winning company will have demonstrated bidirectional learning and the fruits it has borne.

In addition, as Marketing EDGE (a client) comes off its “stellar” Rising Stars event in New York (a top USA trend that night on Twitter!) earlier this month, let’s remember this is our marketing education organization, bringing the best and brightest of students into our field and our companies.


Marketing EDGE Overview from Marketing EDGE on Vimeo.

I’m not resigned to a marketing generation gap. No matter how old or how young, there’s a lot we need to learn from each other—and class is always in session. The opportunity is ours.

I Am the Judge of You

Pointing the finger has never been so easy … and so anonymous. I suppose it’s human nature to feel (and act on) the need to take pot shots at others—whether it’s their point of view, their creations or their behavior. But to be able to do so without the fear of repercussion seems to be a growing trend. And as the owner of a product or service, it’s never been more infuriating

Pointing the finger has never been so easy … and so anonymous.

I suppose it’s human nature to feel (and act on) the need to take pot shots at others—whether it’s their point of view, their creations or their behavior. But to be able to do so without the fear of repercussion seems to be a growing trend. And as the owner of a product or service, it’s never been more infuriating.

Many small business owners complain about the power of Yelp, and understandably so. But the concept is actually brilliant. Interact with a business and, whether your experience was good or bad, you have a very large forum where you can share the love (or not). The fatal flaw is that you can do so without the business owner having the ability to correct the situation because, inevitably, pot shots are done from behind the shield of anonymity.

My Dad always used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I believe in the concept of healthy debate, so I don’t necessarily agree with my Dad, but to have a healthy debate, you need to know the enemy.

Many sites (like this one) require you to log in before you can post a comment. However you can log in with your gmail or yahoo account … and if your user name is not your actual name, it’s easy to start the attack without your boss, co-workers, spouse or clients judging you for your aggressive behavior and unsportsmanlike conduct.

The behavior is not limited to consumer sites like Yelp. On business-to-business sites like this one, there are lots of negative posts from unknown readers, and I wonder, what do they hope to accomplish??

I was recently planning a trip to Mexico and visited several travel sites trying to get the inside scoop on hotels and restaurants. While I was delighted with the many insights like “try to stay on the 4th floor or higher because the thumping beat from the dance floor will keep you awake until midnight,” I was also stunned by the spewing rants from individuals who have logged in with names like “CrabbyinNJ.”

How do we, as brand ambassadors, overcome these customer feedback challenges?

First, and foremost, train AND empower those who are on the front lines of customer engagement to act like the customer—is—always—right. Granted, you can never please all the people all of the time, but sometimes a lot of customer sympathy and a few “my apologies!” can go a long way to diffuse a situation. There is nothing more infuriating than having an issue and the person serving you is either indifferent or plainly unequipped to help solve your problem.

Second, don’t just send blanket “How did we do?” emails to every customer after an interaction. If the customer has had an issue, there should be a place to flag that issue in your customer database, so it can be quickly followed up on by someone who is in authority. Many situations can be rectified before the individual decides to go into a public forum to publicly skewer you and your business.

Third, listen to complaints and actually try to think about ways you may be able to change your policies or procedures in order to ensure the issue doesn’t repeat itself.

Finally, circle back to those customers who had an issue, got it resolved satisfactorily, and ask them if they’d be willing to write about the incident. I hear many business owners say they’re worried that if the customer “advertises” they got something for free or at a deeper discount as a way to try and resolve the issue, it will set the stage for a future customers demanding the same thing. My response is that if, as a rule of business, you treat people the way they want to be treated in the first place—with respect, concern and understanding—you shouldn’t have a problem.

As for those who slap others from behind the shield of anonymity (and you know who you are), man up.

8 Recommendations Before Hiring New Digital Direct Marketing Talent

If you’re an employer that recognizes you need new digital direct marketing approaches, you may be apprehensive about hiring new talent. Here is an eight-step plan to install the right digital marketing groundwork before hiring that new employee to make sure you are both successful.

If you’re an employer that recognizes you need new digital direct marketing approaches, you may be apprehensive about hiring new talent. When you hire new people, you risk a cultural misfit between the style and approach of a traditional direct marketer and a digital direct marketer. If it doesn’t work out between the employer and employee after a few months, there is a lot of lose-lose for all parties concerned.

The employer has made a costly mistake with the hire. The employee has possibly given up a good position and relocated. The employer gives up on digital direct marketing, declaring that it’s conceptually not a fit with traditional direct marketing, when it may actually have only been company cultural barriers, skills of the employee, or a lack of commitment to fund digital initiatives by the employer.

Consider, too, that there is the high demand these days for digital talent. Target Marketing’s recent article, 5 Trends in Direct Marketing Job-Hunting and Hiring, by Executive Recruiter Jerry Bernhart, raised excellent points about the state of human resource recruitment for direct marketing companies.

It’s clear, based on Bernhart’s experience, that candidates are getting multiple offers, suggesting that those individuals who are trained in digital marketing, or those who have reinvented themselves, are the folks getting not only offers, but competitive offers with higher pay.

But what if you’re among those “… tens of thousands of companies out there that have little more than a rudimentary Web presence,” referenced in the article? How do you, if you’re faced with the need to reinvent your marketing approaches, recognize the right talent for a new digital direct marketing position and process that’s unproven inside your organization?

Here are eight recommendations, with complete acknowledgement this is a biased perspective coming from my personal experience of having started new departments to lay the groundwork before hiring a new employee.

  1. Retain a Consultant First
    Bring on an independent consultant to work with your organization a few hours or days a week to create your new department, or your new digital direct marketing infrastructure. This individual should be expected to work with you for several months and be made responsible for several initiatives outlined in the following points.
  2. Create a Digital Direct Marketing Plan
    Your consultant should be versed in more than basic websites and email marketing. The plan probably includes development of a content marketing strategy, using multiple cross-channel media, that is designed to bring in leads. Perhaps the role includes the introduction of customer relationship management (CRM) software. The plan might also include acquisition of a marketing automation system that enables sophisticated nurture marketing programs to integrate direct mail, email, personalized microsites, social, mobile, content marketing and more.
  3. Fund It
    You must be ready to invest the money it will require to see results. Be prepared for this transition to take anywhere from six to 12 months of refinement before it’s clear how this can work for you. This can be challenging if your company is seeing slowly declining sales, but the alternative isn’t so rosy. If you wait too long, you won’t need to worry about funding it as your company slowly disappears into non-existence.
  4. Empower
    As a business owner or senior manager, obviously you’re going to want to have input in the digital marketing plan and how your company’s money is invested. But you must accept that to be successful you’ll need to empower people to make decisions on your behalf. Of course, with empowerment comes accountability on the part of the consultant and your staff.
  5. Your Company Culture May Be Stressed
    Chances are that if you’ve brought on a consultant (or fulltime new hire) to make change, your staff will feel threatened. Budget dollars that went to fund existing traditional direct marketing initiatives are likely diverted to new initiatives. That will create anxiety and stress from current long-time staff. And it’s human nature for people to become hostile, passive-aggressive, and even work to discreetly sabotage new efforts.
  6. The Org Chart May Change
    The consultant you contract with should be able to objectively evaluate individual staff’s strengths so they are placed in a role where your current employees come out winners. The organizational chart will probably evolve during this process.
  7. Be Flexible and Agile
    The future belongs to companies that are flexible and agile. If your culture is slow and overly methodical, ask yourself if you’re willing to leave your comfort zone. If not, reread the last sentence in No. 3 above.
  8. Your Plan to Transition From Consultant to Full-Time Staff
    The consultant’s responsibility will be to create a transition plan to hand off the keys to new initiatives and processes that have been created (and proven) for your new fulltime hire. Often, the consultant works with an executive recruiter to identify a replacement, and stays on for a few weeks after the new hire starts to ensure a smooth transition. Sometimes, a consultant is asked to stay on fulltime, but consider that a consultant is most likely energized by “the chase,” so to speak, and will want to move on to help reinvent the next company.

Following these eight steps will set up better odds for a win-win for employer and employee. By the time a new-hire is on board, the organization has had time to absorb and accept cultural change. Assuming the outcome is successful, this process gives confidence to not only the employer, but the new hire and the entire staff. Most importantly, you have broadened your approaches to reach your market through digital channels that are capturing more of their time and attention