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How to hire good marketing technologists.
I think the author's description of a unicorn sets the bar way too low: managing "marketing automation, multivariate campaigns, or digital attribution campaigns" should really be something any smart, mid-level marketer can do. I have a few of these people on my team. No technical background or training yet they're super-smart, efficient, and analytical people. Very successful marketers.
When I think of a unicorn, I'm thinking of people like Josh Pigford of Baremetrics who developed, designed, and marketed his SaaS business to $10K+ MRR by himself. Nathan Barry (ConvertKit) and Justin Gallagher (Trello) also fall into this camp. Unfortunately, you usually can't hire these people because they tend to start their own businesses.
Most that I know either run their own businesses, are cofounders at (without loss of generality) a YC company, or -- too rarely -- a long-term employee of a company who decides on their own volition to cross-train.
That said, I feel that I have to mention "You can *certainly* hire these people." I just make no guarantee that the offer required to achieve success with that is palatable to one's company. I predicted a few years ago that devs who grokked marketing would eventually make quant money. I don't think I'm wrong, but may have undershot.
Patrick - great point. Did you hear Dharmesh Shah's recent prediction that marketers' salaries are poised to double in the next few years? The more leverage a marketer can offer, the more value they can offer their company, and the more valuable they will become.
“Apart from skills, the biggest wish list item for marketing technologists was not an aptitude but rather an attitude characteristic: the ability to learn.”
That phrase touch a nerve for me. It's amazing. I think any company trying to get a technical marketer on their team should think about that, instead of asking for a B.S. in Marketing or X amounts of years managing who-knows-what.
The key for technical marketers and growth hackers alike is the ability to learn and execute on that learning, is that simple.
Smart employers get this.
We're unicorns just for being full-stack these days... The industry is over saturated. Much to @rsobers point - the bar is a little low in general, but I don't think this article's bar was too low. Remember the focus was on "hiring" - and what Rob mentioned were people who weren't hirable. By their own choice. However, I do think there's more "unicorns" out there than most people realize.
We all don't want to go off and start companies either by the way. While I'm business minded, I don't enjoy many of the tasks associated with running a business. I've come to the point of getting funded even (which is the criteria for "success" to some folks, but not me). Didn't do it. Not for now. Maybe in the future with the right team.
I think the real problem is most people don't know how to identify and utilize people with a broad range of skills. Despite my graphic design education, marketing knowledge, knowledge of social media, analytics (I've gone as far as developing an algorithm and understanding statistics to a degree), branding/product knowledge, architecture, on top of all the programming (both front-end and back-end) and server admin stuff... Guess what? I still only exercise about 2% of my professional knowledge on any given day.
To be fair, it's very difficult to utilize a resource like this too though. Companies have very specific needs and they assign one resource per need generally speaking. If you are a cross disciplined employee, you need a cross disciplined company to fully realize how to capitalize on things. I have not found a single company in my 12 years of employment and contracting that can very effectively do this.
So I'd say the real unicorns are actually the opportunities.
I'd agree with your sentiments. It's very tricky to work with a broad set of skills. Most companies don't need or don't know how to utilize an employee who can work across teams.
I'm pretty lucky though. I've worked my way into a position where I'm involved in a pretty wide set of problems stretching across almost the entire company.
I feel like there are a bunch of us gathered here who fit the same buckets. We do a little of this, a little of that - basically whatever it takes to get the job done.
Hi Tom, your point about exercising ~2% of your knowledge every day resonates with me. I once read that there are many people who can do 80% of what we do (this is not true for all roles of course, but for many). But it's that last 20% that we can uniquely offer that we are really paid for. Another version of the 80/20 rule in practice!
This article really resonates with me. Coming from a financial background and now moving to growth hacking.
The ability to learn all these things faster compared your peers is what makes all the difference.
This is absolute crap. The title didn't deliver. The article just stated the problem and gave a quote about hiring in teams. A pretty useless "how to" to be honest.
For good measure, the author threw in a caveat... the problem stated one more time.
How did this get so many upvotes?
Pure marketer click bait. For shame.
Really cool article, recommend everyone check this out!
Any thoughts on how to become a marketing unicorn?
1.) Focus on your core business, marketing, and data analysis skills. Read @sean's stuff and watch his talks. Also read people like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki.
2.) Once you feel like your marketing and data analysis skills are strong then I would move on to learning HTML and CSS, followed by a web programming language like Ruby, Python or PHP. Just enough to be dangerous with APIs and databases.
3.) Try to better your design skills. This is tough because I feel it's mostly innate, but there are some principals you can apply. Watch this talk by Kyle Neath of Github: http://confreaks.com/videos/522-roa2011-design-hacks-for-the-pragmatic-minded
I'm on that "Unicorn" path myself. It's a challenging road. I'm learning as much as I can now about Ruby and keeping my primary focus on Analytics / HTML / CSS / Design. But i'm really passionate about Ruby so hopefully i'll be far enough along as I continue to learn from our engineering team and classes like onemonthrails.com
I'm in a very similar situation. My background is in marketing, but I'm trying to learn Ruby and Rails. I've already found that knowing some coding has benefited me, particularly when I am interacting with engineers.
It depends on what skill set you start with, but to me the first part of the answer is still the same - try and build something and then try and market it. You can only learn theory from lessons, you need application for mastery.
If you need to learn the technical side of things there are tonnes of great resources available.
- Team Treehouse
- Code School
- Code Academy
- Many many more
Learning the technical side has helped me in countless ways that have nothing to do with code. A prime example is my "automate the monotonous" philosophy I used as a manager, inspired by programmings DRY philosophy.
Marketing is a bit more difficult. I would recommend making friends with people at an agency to learn SEM and Display. Its much easier to learn when you are spending OPM (other peoples money).
You can learn content by writing a blog. Everybody is on an expert spectrum, there are people who know more and less than you about any given subject. Teach to those that know less. Doesn't have to be tech related.
You can learn graphic design and branding by practicing and watching endless amounts of videos.
Subscribe to @andrewchen's newsletter and read all of his site.
Read all of @sean's site. Read @morgan's book. Enroll in @anniecushing (?)'s course on Annielytics.com
Finally ask questions here!
I have a background in SEM and am more than happy to help out anyone who has questions about it. Pay it forward.
I wrote a post about what I'm going to do to become a Growth Hacker, which is almost the same than a Techinical Marketer (or "Marketing Unicorn" in this case).
Check it out here: http://ivankreimer.com/growth-hacker-roadmap/
Whoa Ivan! I've been looking for a sort of roadmap to becoming a skilled growth hacker. I've read about 75% of your post and there's a lot of great stuff in there. I love all the links to all those resources. I would love to hear what some of the more experienced guys think of this framework/plan of action. Do you think you could post this as it's own link so we can get some feedback on it? (Do you like the use of we? I'm now invested in this haha)
Another really great roundup of must-have skills here:
Thanks @natedesmond for this one!
@lloyd-alexander Thanks for the list Lloyd @natedesmond . Please continue to post similar write ups :)
This was actually the very first post I saw of this kind. @natedesmond is always putting out great stuff!
Thanks a lot for the kind word Isi! I took this framework from @bbalfour, so he's the one to thank. I just took his framework really seriously.
I'd already submitted my post, you can check it out here: http://growthhackers.com/the-roadmap-to-becoming-a-growth-hacker/.
Thanks @ivankreimer !
@sky117 I like @rsobers three steps. I think the skills that are the big differentiators are the ones that require some motivation and time to acquire (#2). Everybody can pick up Excel and Google Analytics. Programming and using database is a next level skill set with next level results. Even fundamental understanding of how these things work will help you use marketing technologies more intelligently, communicate with tech stakeholders and even allow you to execute on your own. If you are interested in learning, heres the route I took without all the detours: http://trevorfox.com/2015/02/10k-technical-skills-digital-marketing-learn @mister-izzo and @jlane you might also find it useful.
The recipe for this unicorn is to make sure his past is technology, and current is marketing. Not the other way around.
Either by now he is your unicorn, or you can make him one.
I'd love to hear people's opinions on what tech skills you think are good to have. I feel like the basics are HTML/CSS, SQL, various analytics and ad tech platforms, and some JS/jQuery. I've been talking to some founders who seem to think this isn't enough, which makes me wonder what exactly people think they are looking for (and often they don't actually know).
- Statistics for doing complex data analysis
- Advanced Excel knowledge
- Data analysis with SASS, R, and other data analysis/BI tools
- Advanced knowledge of Google Analytics
- Funnel analysis with KISSmetrics or Mixpanel
I think you're right @jessie, most people are confused when looking for a tech marketer. Many people think a tech marketer is an engineer with marketing knowledge, while others think it's a marketer with programming/data analysis knowledge.
At the end of the day, it depends on the job and on the company. Also, don't forget many founders/HR people know squat about marketing and tech skills, and what it takes to master them.
Technology changes constantly, insight and acumen do not. (BTW, can we please put to rest the narcissistic "hey I learned Omnigraffle and D3, I must be a UNICORN" term... oh my, Unicorns! stay away
Excellent post. Marketers have long complained about the struggle to prove their value, but technology is blowing that barrier away. Marketers should want to embrace technology, it makes your workday more fun, helps you prove your value, and gives you definitive feedback on how effective you truly are.
This 'unicorn' concept applies to roles outside of marketing. Teammates who can bring multi-disciplinary thinking are a big value add in general. If you're an engineer who understands customer acquisition or perhaps user experience design, it's a huge value add over someone who is just good at systems design. Likewise, if you specialize in accounting, operations, or any other part of the organization, yet can think holistically - you're adding a lot more value.
In general I think it's about having a growth mindset. These people tend to be the same people who are seeking to grow by learning new things. They add so much value because their inherent motivations are so well tied to the growth of the organization.
Hi Miron, Agree - great points here. You remind me of a recent interview I did with someone from an agency who talked about how that agency needed not just strategists and creatives, but 'creative strategists' and 'strategic creatives.' Other people call it 'slash careers' -- engineer/marketer, creative/strategist, etc. But having a growth mindset is a great way to sum it up!
Here's my story from marketing to lead developer https://www.baserails.com/blog/
I hope you don't ever refer to these sort of marketers as Unicorns outside of this article. All these ridiculous job titles which include the words such as ninja or unicorn need to die a quick death. It's demeaning to the employee in question and makes the employer look like he's trying far too hard to make a fairly ordinary web marketing job sound extra fun. The truth is you just make it sound lame, I have been dissuaded from applying for at least a couple of very attractive jobs due to the patronising job title associated with it.
@hmills I actually talked about this exact topic a long time ago:
I'm not even a fan of the term "growth hacker", much less "guru", "ninja", "rockstar", or "unicorn". "Growth marketer" is my personal preference, as I do think there is a difference between what marketers focused on growth do vs. traditional marketers.
Completely agree. I spend hours telling the IT guy how to implement this or that tag, we waste hours until we can start measuring properly, that moment is when the marketer's real job starts.
It's really difficult to find an implementation specialist and at the same time a good marketer, I guess this is even more difficult if your budget is not too high
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