So which is it? Is marketing an art or a science? How about both? Marketing is like a science in that experimentation is critical. We can’t know what marketing message or marketing channel or new product or strategy is going to work until we try it. Marketers are also like artists. Art students are trained how to see the world and observe things for the way they really are. The great marketers have deep empathy for their audience. They understand or strive to understand what makes their members tick. Finally, there is another element and that is generosity. The best marketing today is generous and the marketing itself adds value to members.
If great marketing is a science, an art and is generous, what are the characteristics of a great marketer?
4 Characteristics to Look for When You Hire an Association Marketer
1. Member-centric – there is marketing that tells the story the organization’s staff wants to tell. There are product development projects, policies and member service activities that only serve the organization. And then there is association marketing that puts members or attendees or sponsors first. When marketers put members first they are putting themselves in the shoes of their members and with great empathy trying to understand members’ goals, problems, emotions and opinions. Like an artist they strive to really ‘see’ members. You don’t hear marketers like these look at creative and say ‘I like it’. Instead they look at a piece of creative and ask ‘how will our members feel about this?’ In a crowded world filled with many options, the organization that identifies most closely to members gains the most engagement.
2. Endless curiosity – great marketers are endless curious, much like great scientists are endless curious. They wonder and try to learn why tactics did not work in the past. They seek to understand everything they can about members in the present. What makes our members tick? Why did they choose this over that? They also have an eye on the future. How will technology change our association’s landscape? How will members’ needs change? How will we have to change? If you manage an association marketer it is important to know that endless curiosity gets trampled under an endless crush of work and deadlines. Your marketer may need some space to reconnect to their innate curiosity.
3. Willingness to not rely on past success – baffling is the new norm of one-year tenures for new CMO hires of Fortune 500 companies. These expectations create almost inevitable, profound failure. In just a few short months there is not time to deeply learn about customers, experiment and then hit on the strategies and tactics that work. New Fortune 500 CMOs, then, are forced to recycle success strategies from their past from potentially unrelated companies to a unrelated target audience (check out this example of Ron Johnson’s attempt to revitalize JCPenney by making it more like Apple). If a marketing tactic works right out of the gate it is pure luck. 99% of the time it takes many tries or tests to learn and then perfect the tactics that make a difference.
4. Generous mindset – the relationship members form with their association has the capacity to be far deeper than any product/customer relationship. It is a shame then to squander that trust with old-style marketing – the kind of marketing that screams JOIN NOW, REGISTER FOR OUR CONFERENCE and BUY THIS!!! Far better to whisper we see you, we applaud what you are doing and we understand your problems and we have your back.
Are you looking for a new association marketer? I hope you find a generous marketer with both the spirit of an artist and a scientist.
Amanda Kaiser has been studying the art and science of great marketing for two decades and recently the new shift to generous, value-added marketing. Amanda writes, speaks and cartoons about these subjects and more including marketing that matters, innovation and storytelling on her SmoothThePath blog.