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

How to Select a Social Media Agency or Consultant

Social media agencies and consultants insist that following your customers into social spaces is a smart idea. Yet it’s actually an incomplete idea, unless you have a clear means to capture demand and convert it to sales. So, it pays to make sure you have a list of specific interview questions in hand when choosing a social media agency or consultant. That’s why I’m giving you some gems that really work.

Social media agencies and consultants insist that following your customers into social spaces is a smart idea. Yet it’s actually an incomplete idea, unless you have a clear means to capture demand and convert it to sales. So, it pays to make sure you have a list of specific interview questions in hand when choosing a social media agency or consultant. That’s why I’m giving you some gems that really work.

Remember, the answer to selling more with social media is this: Starting conversations that are worth having and conversing in ways that generate questions that you have answers to. The rest is occasionally (when relevant) connecting those answers to your products/services. This is how to generate customer inquiries using social media. Your agency, freelance provider (or employee) must grasp and practice this. Let’s find out how to make sure they do.

Question Your Consultants
Overzealous “digital rock star gurus” say the social Web has revolutionized everything. We’re told to listen to and engage with customers. But what do we do with what we hear … and when does engaging connect to sales? Does it at all? As David Ogilvy himself reminded marketers decades ago “we sell or else!”

The nature of your relationship with social media agencies and consultants should be to question. Why? Because so many are questionable in terms of the results (or lack there of) they deliver!

Be Sure They’re Producing Behavior
“You don’t sell someone something by engagement, conversation and relationship. You create engagement, conversation and relationships by selling them something,” says Bob Hoffman, (“The Ad Contrarian”) CEO, Hoffman Lewis.

Read that again and notice how it flies in the face of what we’re being told to do by most social media agencies and consultants. Notice how logical this simple truth is.

Agencies and consultants that are moving the needle are reaching beyond attracting customers for clients. They’re generating leads using three practical success principles. They’re aligning social marketing with sales by:

  • Solving customers problems with social media like Facebook
  • Producing behavior by designing each social interaction to produce it—always, without fail
  • Translating needs of customers and using insights to create more behavior, more leads/sales

It’s important to consider the current social media marketing activities of the agency or freelancer you’ll hire. Everything they’re doing to “join the conversation” (tweeting, blogging, posting updates on Facebook) must be talking with customers, not at them. They must be truly interacting. Making social marketing produce behavior is the first step. Your agency needs to understand what a call to action is and practice this approach.

Ask Tough Questions
Most importantly, press your marketing consultants, ad agency reps and employees to answer business questions first. Ask them to do it without using words like traffic, engagement or buzz. Make them squirm.
In the end you should be getting answers to the following questions:

  • Is the agency hiring employees based mostly on tactical skills or ability to create tangible results?
  • Does the agency ask the right questions of us? And are they embracing or avoiding our questions?
  • When they discuss successful client cases (in their past) are they interacting with customers intimately—or are the stories more about posting and tweeting into the ether?
  • If they’re interacting with customers/prospects is it organized and purpose-driven? Are their tactics working in harmony or apart from (competing with) each other?
  • What actionable information does each customer interaction produce and where does that information go?
  • What’s done with it (or not)? Do interactions produce actionable information? Do they connect to a lead nurturing or follow-up process?
  • Are their tactics connecting with a strategy that pushes customers down the sales funnel using the collected information?

Social media marketing is a necessary component of being online. But merely “being on Facebook and Twitter” won’t generate leads and convert sales unless you hire people who are focused on purpose-drive social media campaigns. Be sure to ask the tough questions when interviewing them. Good luck!