Why Marketers Should Hire Their Moms, Dads

It’s everywhere. Professionals over 40 can’t even get an interview even when their experience, achievements and proven skills put them at the top of the list of qualified candidates. And the rationale behind recruiters, CEOs and others seems to always be: cultural fit.

marketers with experience
“Parents,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Simon Rowe

It’s everywhere. Professionals over 40 can’t even get an interview even when their experience, achievements and proven skills put them at the top of the list of qualified candidates. And the rationale behind recruiters, CEOs and others seems to always be: cultural fit. CEOs and other executives skew younger than ever as start-ups continue to get backing by VC firms and angel investors that believe in new ideas dreamed up by young enthusiastic tech masters. And these young entrepreneurs tend to hire “friends” who reflect their age, lifestyle, attitude and, unfortunately, inability to stay in one place for very long as something bigger, better, smarter, faster, sexier, richer dangles within arm’s reach. All of the time. This matters, and this is just one of the mistakes young businesses and young leaders are making with their hiring decisions.

Success for start-ups and old-time businesses goes back to the old adage: Anything worthwhile takes time.

Time matters. And the amount of time a candidate has spent perfecting a marketing, finance, or IT skillset matters big if you want your business to stand the test of time. Smart hires are not those who hire someone who fits the “sorority” atmosphere of the office, but those who bring on team members who have spent time perfecting a process for growth, know how to test concepts affordably and effectively, know how to analyze results beyond just immediate sales bumps, and know how to grow a business over time — not just in the immediate quarter, to lure more investors. It takes time to know how to grow a business, and that time comes from career success over 15, 20 or even 30 years. It doesn’t happen over one cool social media post or event that generates a lot of shares, likes or overnight sales. Once.

Businesses that value “experience” more than “sorority fit,” are those that hire for candidates with the “Time” to really understand, perfect and build upon the following competencies:

Time in the following areas matter for business’s long-term growth:

  • Understanding and Building Upon Human Behavior: It takes time to study why we do what we do, and life experiences truly add to this knowledge. Being a mom, dad, manager of people for years, or even long-time volunteer adds to one’s understanding of why people do what they do, buy what they do, and like or dislike products and cultures they encounter. Knowing this from life experience over time adds substantially to one’s ability to solve problems successfully, rally people around common projects and causes, and lead others to success.
  • Patience in Expectations and Execution: Nothing worthwhile happens overnight or from one tweet, post, like, video or blog. It takes time to develop good ideas, test them, identify obstacles, develop and execute solutions; launch, refine, relaunch and build for sustainable growth. Workers in the 40s and 50s — yep, many in your parents’ age bracket, learned to develop and launch new products, business operations, or marketing campaigns by developing processes and timelines that enabled them to do it right the first time and in a way that would be sustainable. We learned to test ideas, to find champions that truly built sales not just buzz, that appealed to target consumers’ needs — emotional and physical, and we learned that it was okay if a campaign took a few months vs. days to develop, refine and execute. We didn’t have to do it overnight. It worked. Brands this “older” generation helped build, when patience and time mattered, are still thriving. Just look at how many brands have been around for 50-plus years vs. start ups that “boomed” overnight within the past five to 10 years.
  • Testing: One of the turning points in my own career was when I was forced to stop placing ads in expensive magazines or on radio shows when I worked for a Fortune 100 brand as an international marketing manager, and start testing new messages, personas, offers and campaigns, instead. For a year, my mult-million dollar media budget was frozen by the CEO of this large brand until we could prove which approach best built sales. It was epic. No one had to prove that ads really built sales before, including our world-famous ad agency that had our $200 million budget, which was a big deal at that time. We formed a committee of bright and experienced minds and came up with various appeals to human behavior to test. We tested thresholds for fear, the impact of humor, creative elements, offers, markets with various cultural influences, humor and so much more. We took what appeared to be winning sales and tested them again. At the end of several months — close to a year — we launched one of the brand’s most successful campaigns.

The knowledge gained by taking “time” to learn, and having patience to wait until we knew how to best use our resources to grow our business was a pivotal point in my career. I wrote my first book, “Big Business Marketing for Small Business Budgets,” as a result of what I learned from this process, and I’ve operated a successful consulting practice ever since, built on taking time to understand a brands’ consumers, attitudes toward a category and expectations. And to what types of experiences they are willing to assign their loyalty. I’ve created many tests across all channels — print, digital and social — to learn how to best communicate. And by taking the time to do it right and the time to learn over the years what matters most, I’ve achieved YOY gains of more than 200 percent for response, revenue and ROI.

So if you’re hiring or looking for new ways to build your business, look at your Mom, Dad, and that generation that might have built brands and businesses in the “old” days, when time mattered. Especially if you want your “new” businesses to still be around when you’re sending your kids off to college.

Back-to-School Shopping Season Is Here, Marketers

Welcome to the second biggest shopping season of the year: It’s Back-to-School season and it’s promising to be a good one. According to a survey conducted by Synchrony Financial of parents of K-12 students, parents of college students, and college students themselves, parents are pretty upbeat about the economy and their own financial situation this year.

Welcome to the second biggest shopping season of the year: It’s Back-to-School season and it’s promising to be a good one. According to a survey conducted by Synchrony Financial of parents of K-12 students, parents of college students, and college students themselves, parents are pretty upbeat about the economy and their own financial situation this year. More than half (53 percent) of parents of K-12 kids expect to spend more this year than last year.

This is good news, and is driving an expected increase of back-to-school spending between 3.7 percent and 4.1 percent (This growth forecast for the three-month Back-to-School shopping period of July-Sept. 2017 is based on analysis of macroeconomic variables and trends).

Credit: Synchrony Financial

What is driving this increase? One reason could be that parents of K-12 kids are feeling confident about their jobs and pretty good about their financial situation. Sixty three percent of parents say their financial situation has improved this year, and three quarters feel confident about their jobs. That’s a 10 point jump from last year, when only 53 percent of parents felt this level of confidence.

So, parents are feeling like they can spend more on deserving offspring who have done Vulcan mind-melds with the pool and video games over the long summer. What will they spend money on? Clothing is the number one item. Kids tend to grow, and clothes that fit them last year won’t work — and older siblings’ clothes only go so far. Ninety-four percent of parents of K-12 youngsters are expecting to spend money on everyday clothes, totaling about $183 on average.

But that’s not the big growth item. The biggest growth category is electronics. Forty-five percent of parents are expecting to spend more money than last year on computers and electronics. Also, 46 percent of them say the supply list from schools have gone up, leading to spending more on notebooks, markers and other supplies.

How about parents of college kids and college kids themselves? They are not as optimistic about the economy and their own financial situations because, well, they’re paying for college. That takes quite a bite out of the family nest egg. Only 40 percent of college students say they feel confident about their overall financial situation, and only 15 percent are confident in the strength of the economy. That does put a damper on spending on discretionary items.

But, at least they’re done growing, right? No need to spend a ton of money on clothes and shoes, but college kids and their parents are spending a good amount of money on other items. The data shows that parents of college age students spend about $205 on average on electronics, but less on clothing and shoes for back-to-school. Forty-five percent of college parents are expecting to spend more on computers than last year, similar to K-12 parents.

So, when is all this spending happening? If you think college students procrastinate in shopping, similar to how they do their college papers, you would be absolutely right. About 70 percent of parents of kids K-12 are done spending by the end of July. But half of college students don’t start until after August. Almost 30 percent of them wait until after Aug. 15. Hey, at least it gets done, right?

Will this level of confidence and spend extend to the holiday season as well? It’s too early to tell at this point, but this is a beacon of hope, in a sea of bleak news in the current retail marketing landscape.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial. All references to consumers and population refer to the survey respondents.

If Content Is King, Grammar Is Queen

Growing up in a household with highly disciplined parents, my grammar was always being corrected. Whether it was ending a sentence with a preposition, misplacing a modifier or splitting an infinitive, any conversation could be stopped, at any moment. Now that the marketing world has turned its sights to “content” as a key brand engagement device, I’m hopeful that the grammar police are reinforcing their troops for a ride along. Because from where I sit, brands could use a little disciplinary action. (Yep, just gave myself a smack for starting a sentence with the word “because.” Ouch.)

Growing up in a household with highly disciplined parents, my grammar was always being corrected. Whether it was ending a sentence with a preposition, misplacing a modifier or splitting an infinitive, any conversation could be stopped, at any moment, to make sure I knew the right way to restate my thought (per the English grammar guidelines found in the little book Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style”).

Yes—dinnertime conversation was often painful.

The lowlight was when my parents told me that my most recent letter home from college was fraught with grammatical errors, and they had seriously considered returning it to me, complete with red pencil corrections. Needless to say, my correspondence home dwindled.

Now that the marketing world has turned its sights to “content” as a key brand engagement device, I’m hopeful that the grammar police are reinforcing their troops for a ride along. Because from where I sit, brands could use a little disciplinary action. (Yep, just gave myself a smack for starting a sentence with the word “because.” Ouch.)

Over the years, I’ve certainly visited thousands of websites, downloaded hundreds of whitepapers and case studies, and, like you, I’ve received lots and lots of emails including sales tips and e-newsletters. I’m still amazed at the lack of grammar skill. Forget the typos—they’re just inexcusable—I mean the basics like “too” instead of “to,” or “between Joe and I” instead of “between Joe and me,” or a simple sentence like this: “If you would like to discuss Social Media with regards to your business further, please feel free to contact me.” Huh?

If you read my blog, you’ll know that I love commas. I think they help the reader pause, consider the point being made, and then continue to absorb the next point. It appears that idea is lost on many writers … or worse, the comma is misplaced. Consider the famous book title “Eats shoots and leaves” versus “Eats, shoots and leaves” or even “Eats, shoots, and leaves.” Personally I like serial commas, but it seems many brands have pushed them aside as part of their brand guidelines and chaos has erupted over the meaning of a sentence. [Editor’s note: Target Marketing adheres to AP Style, as do most publications, and the AP does not endorse serial commas. We apologize for any misunderstanding this may cause about whether to leave your bullets or dinner.]

I’m the first to tell you my personal grammar skills are still not entirely A+ (my parents are nodding), but there are so many proofreaders, grammarians or other online expert sources available (not to mention a nifty little tool in Microsoft Word called ‘Spelling & Grammar’) that there is simply no excuse for any company to be executing marketing materials that are anything less than perfect.

So before you create and publish your next ‘content’ deliverable, consider getting professional help. Here are a few of my favorite editorial review pros:

  • HyperGraphix (www.hgpublishing.com): This guy is smart, fast and CHEAP; Known for proofing tediously long documents on topics that would bore the average reader. Plus he works in two languages (Canadian and American) in case you’re publishing north of the border. He has an online tool that fixes sentences for free (you can’t beat that price), and if you subscribe to his tweets, he provides helpful tips and links to helpful articles.
  • Grammar Girl (grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/): Short, sharp, and to the point, her emails on grammar tips have become part of my morning reading ritual.
  • Bulletproof (www.bulletproofonline.com): Strong proofreading skills and your ideal “brand police” if you share your brand guidelines with them.

If your issue, on the other hand, is content creation, don’t leave that to your sales guy. Cough up the budget for a professional writer—one with the research skills that can thoroughly investigate the topic, identify a point of view for your brand, and write in a voice that matches your brand style. There are hundreds of excellent writers out there who are wincing as they read your materials.

So go ahead—jump on the content bandwagon—and Long live the Queen!