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Need some new ideas? Stop hiring the same kind of people

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Here are some things being said at this very moment in marketing departments all around the globe:

"We need some new ideas."

"We have to think out of the box."

"We have to break the paradigm."

"What got us here won't get us where we want to be."

Sound familiar? You've probably heard someone say something like this. Or maybe you've even said it yourself. Seems there's universal acknowledgement that the current state is never good enough. You have to continue to change, grow, adapt, innovate.

Recognizing the need for new ideas is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out what to do about it.

I’ve spoken about this with many colleagues, and we generally agree that when you need new ideas, oftentimes you have to look outside your organization. You have to bring in the talent that will infuse new ideas into your company.

But that’s not always an easy task.

When it comes to recruiting, companies tend to think too narrowly about the kinds of candidates they want. Just look at any job board out there, and you’ll see a list of “musts”:

  • Must have eight years of experience.
  • Must have an MBA.
  • Must have category experience.
  • Must have b-to-b marketing experience.

These requirements actually screen out the kind of big thinkers that companies want to recruit. So you end up seeing the same kinds of candidates. And then guess what happens? You end up hiring the same kinds of people with the same old ideas.

Then you sit around and wonder, “Why aren't we moving the business forward? Why aren't we growing revenue?”

Then maybe you fire the ad agency. Maybe the CMO loses his or her job. But you never get the new big ideas that you’re looking for.

So what do you do about this?

Well, I don't claim to know much about anything. I'm not a specialist in any way. I've had a career that has given me broad experience across brands and categories, b-to-b and b-to-c, traditional and digital, client side and agency side.

Despite being a generalist, I have had great success over the past five years assembling a high performing team that has helped build our brand, enable our sales force and grow revenue.

I think the key to our success has had everything to do with the kind of people we bring on to the team. We’ve hired people who don’t fit a set mold. People who don’t have traditional b-to-b experience working for a media company or in the automotive industry.

Now I don’t mean to disparage people who are specialists or subject-matter experts. There are many industries that probably require a specialized skill set. But there are also many that don’t, and where learning curves are less steep and general marketing skills are easily transferable.

When we hire, we look for what I call "marketing athletes." These are people who are more generalists than specialists. Their experiences are very broad so they bring lots of different ideas to the table. They’re creative. They're collaborative. They have the ability to stretch.

Most of all, they have no handcuffs or preconceived notions of the “formula” to solve a specific business problem. They're able to look at the challenge, develop a strategy and then bring a complete arsenal of marketing tactics to help solve that problem. Many times they can bring ideas from different categories that we can transfer to our company.

If you really want new ideas, you have to hire people who actually have new ideas. And you won’t find a top-notch marketing athlete with a standard job description.

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