So, in a post last week, we told you all about the 5 varieties of modern marketer. To refresh your memory, we surveyed over 500 marketers at large-enterprise B2Cs on a variety of topics related to how they work best, and the marketers we surveyed sorted themselves into five buckets: Adapters, Connectors, Doers, Fast Movers, and Focusers. (Check last week’s post for a more in-depth discussion of the characteristics of these groups).
What we didn’t tell you was that in addition to asking marketers about their work habits, we also asked their bosses to rate their performance. Specifically, we asked team leaders to rate their marketers’ judgment, ability to learn and adapt, and overall effectiveness on a scale of 1-7 – and what we found surprised us. Agile marketers – the people marketing leaders have spent years searching for – do not exist, and marketers with some agile traits are likely to be among the worst marketers on the team.
Here’s the first thing that knocked us over: there is no such thing as an agile marketer. As we interviewed marketing leaders about the kinds of marketers they were looking to hire, we made a list of their seven most desired characteristics:
- Digital savvy and early adoption of new technology
- Love of change and comfort with ambiguity
- Fast decision making and bias to action
- Data focus and strong analytic skills
- Strong learning posture
- Willingness to experiment
- Strong networking and collaboration skills
Literally none of the 500+ marketers we surveyed were strong in each characteristic. Most people we surveyed had some of the characteristics of an agile marketer, but none had all. Marketing leaders looking for completely-agile marketers are on a wild goose chase: they do not exist.
So, you might say – let’s settle for second best. Hire folks with some of these characteristics and trust that the team as a whole will be “agile”. That’s what marketing leaders are doing, in effect, and that’s where they’ve really gone wrong. Why? Because the people with some agile traits also have other traits that aren’t very good at all – traits that make them among the worst marketers on the team. Of the five profiles mentioned above, three – Adapters, Connectors, and Fast Movers – are “near-agile”, meaning they feature some of the seven agility traits we tested for in our study. Adapters are slightly more effective than average – but only slightly. However, Connectors and Fast Movers are markedly below-average performers. They feature low analytic maturity, poor follow-through, discomfort with ambiguity, and poor judgment.
These findings have huge ramifications for the way Marketing has been planning and staffing for the future. While attempting to hire for a busy, digital, always-on future, they’re actively damaging the capabilities of the marketing organization by hiring teams capable of putting on great one or two-day social media campaigns, but who are incapable of doing anything much more in-depth than that.
However, there is a second quality that the highest performing marketers share (you can test yourself for this quality here, and we’ll talk about it more next week) – and marketing leaders should immediately shift their teams from agility to something that better correlates with performance.
MLC members, if you’d like to skip ahead, you can review our findings by starting here.