What Makes a Good Marketer?

by Dan Walsh

My last post, about marketing interviews, made me think about the skills that are valuable in a marketer. What do I look for when I interview someone? Because marketing tools can change on a weekly basis, I’ve long held that marketing is a mindset and that skills are secondary. Until now I’d never formalized what exactly that mindset is. I’ve determined three core attributes that make a great marketer.

The Ability to Organize Data and Create Hypotheses

Data is data. The content of this data changes from product to product, client to client, or year to year. The data could be coupon redemption rates at a grocery store or complex funnel behaviors during the Amazon checkout process. It doesn’t matter how high or low tech the data is, a good marketer needs to be able to organize and understand this data. They need to know what data is important and what data is superfluous. If they’re missing data, they need to know how to get it.

The specific tools for organizing and processing this data don’t really matter either. A good marketer will change tools depending on what works best for their data, and what works best for them. They might use databases, excel, fancy charts, or post-it notes on a whiteboard. It doesn’t matter, as long as they can understand this data well enough to convert it into a hypothesis about what will work.

A Willingness to Fail

A marketing campaign is only ever an educated guess on what will work – a hypothesis. Sure, it is conceived by well organized and well understood data, but there is still a high chance of failure. A marketer needs to be able to move forward knowing that their efforts could very well crash and burn. They might waste a lot of time and money, but it comes with the territory. Not everyone can take action knowing there’s a good chance of failure.

The Ability to Learn from Failure

A good marketer will perpetually adjust. They won’t see failure as failure but as more data. Failure just means they can rule out that option and try again. They fly without a map and record the territory as they go. There is no right answer in marketing. One idea can work just as well as any other. I good marketer will fail, fail, and fail some more until they find an idea that works.