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How can that be? After all, it’s not like inbound was invented yesterday. The term ‘inbound marketing’ was coined by Hubspot’s Brian Halligan in 2005. But as recently as two years ago, only 34 percent of marketers responded that inbound was completely integrated with their marketing strategy. Unlike the more established PR or event marketing disciplines, you won’t have a talent pool with decades of experience to draw from. Typing ‘inbound marketing’ into the LinkedIn search box yielded me a little over 4,000 profiles; ‘event marketing’ yielded over 200,000. So you can’t just tell your recruiter to look for someone with inbound marketing experience and expect to have a large candidate list.
And if you are looking to turn your existing team in to a group of inbound marketers, it may even more challenging. Years of push marketing nous does not give way easily. Most of them will have to unlearn their outbound marketing practices (assuming they were good at outbound to begin with).
Whether you are hiring a new team or evaluating your current team, you are looking for personality or character traits rather than job experience. Think of it like hiring a recent college new grad where you there is no job history to rely on, and you need to evaluate the person.
Putting this into the context of a job interview, here’s how I would approach it with an inbound marketer candidate. If you have an existing team, you can assess your people against this same list and see how they rate. You might find that reassigning certain people makes sense. In either situation, these are the traits I am looking for:
- Curious – Attracting buyers (total strangers really) to your blog is the first step in inbound. Who are these buyers and what do they care about? What else do they read? I’d much rather hire a marketer who is curious to find these answers than someone who happens to be an expert on my product. A good inbound marketer needs to think like a buyer and keep asking questions. I like to ask interviewees what they read and why, to tease out how innately curious they are.
- Mathy – You don’t need to be a math genius to be good at inbound, but can you calculate a weighted average? Do you know that the difference between 1.5 and 2.2 is not .7, but a fifty percent improvement? I’m looking for someone comfortable with basic Microsoft Excel functions who is interested in interpreting results. In interviews I might give someone two demand channels, costs and conversion rates, and ask them what they would do to maximize spend. Just hearing how they think is informative.
- Relentless – A/B testing never ends. Lead numbers keep growing every quarter. I want someone who won’t get worn down or world-weary. I like to ask inbound marketer candidates about adversity, and have them take me through a difficult life period or work situation. If the candidate happens to be an ultra marathoner, that’s a plus.
- Fearless – I like marketers who are unafraid to make mistakes and fail epicly. Failing to try is trying to fail, as they say. I have had some clunker ideas myself over the years, but also some big wins (I may be the only B2B marketer to have hired two ex-FBI profilers and a WWII codebreaker to sell software). You just never know if a crazy idea is going to work. Ask the candidate what the craziest thing they ever tried was. If what you get back is timid – the kind of milquetoast response that would make you find an excuse to walk away from them at a cocktail party – then, well, you know.
- Meticulous – Inbound is all about the details. Interesting, well-written content that attracts. Visually appealing offers that convert. Small tweaks to subject lines to make subscribers open them. And, of course, attention to the numbers. The resume and preparation for the interview are first indicators. If they have a portfolio, is it organized in a cool binder or cleverly on a Pinterest page? I usually give candidates who make it through the first phase some type of exercise – a presentation, a writing exercise – and I can pretty much tell.
- Honest – Not every experiment will work. Good inbound marketers don’t try to spin bad results, but own up to them and try to figure out what went wrong. Far too many marketers lose credibility, in my opinion, because they are always spinning. I think that came from working in an era when the data was simply not easy to come by and people had to be self-promotional to be successful. I want clear-eyed analysis.
Inbound marketing is hard work, and every team will have stumbles along the way, even if you have a team of all stars. Having the right personality traits is a crucial first step. The last thing you want is a bunch of finger pointing know-it-alls. I really like how the late Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips put it, “You fail all the time, but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming someone else.”
Do you know of another trait I missed? Let me know.
Photo courtesy of Eurico Zimbres