Now, let me first start by saying that what I talk about in this article is highly generalized and meant to be a place to start when developing the questions you plan to ask during a job interview.
If you’re a marketer who is currently considering making a move to another company or are actively doing so, one of the most important things you can try to figure out is how much the company values and understands what marketing does.
If you’re a marketing creative, you know that nothing kills creativity faster than penny-pinching and too much structure.
Marketing is Art and Science
A lot of what we do as marketers is just as much science as it is art. What I mean by this, is a lot of times we formulate hypotheses about how campaigns will perform, how the people we seek to serve will respond to them, how a new platform might work.
Often, marketers try to predict the future through the development of a hypothesis – especially the future behavior of people whose behavior is usually anything but rational.
We try to predict how many clicks or site visits a campaign will generate if we spend $X. We then try to predict how many leads we can generate and, ultimately, how much revenue that campaign will contribute.
Too much penny-pinching and structure will limit the range of testing that can be done to prove or disprove our hypotheses. It’s this testing that leads us to what works, which often becomes a major competitive advantage- especially against tight-pursed, overly structured competitors.
You get that. I get that. But sometimes a company’s leadership doesn’t get it.
If that’s the case, working there will be an uphill battle for you and it’s a recipe for failure. It could potentially put the brakes on your career – at least become a speed bump.
Do Research and Ask the Right Questions
A way to use “data” to infer about a company’s stance toward marketing and whether or not they ‘get it’ is to understand who their CEO is and where they came from.
Unfortunately, not many CEO’s come from a path of marketing. Hopefully that changes soon.
As of a few years ago, only about 18% of Fortune 500 CEOs and about 24% of private company leaders had previously held a CMO title or similar.
When doing your research, ask yourself some of the following questions: Are they entrepreneurial? Did they start the company from scratch and understand the role marketing - especially creative, guerilla marketing - plays?
Or, do they have a highly corporate or, financial background?
Why do I mention those two? People who come from a highly corporate environment usually come from a place where innovation is bought, not developed. They’re usually cost-sensitive and all about the ROI of everything. They’re used to satisfying shareholders, not customers.
They like to focus on efficiency and scale, not innovation.
Efficient Companies is Where Innovation Goes to Die
Yesterday, I was listening to the 2Bobs podcast with David C. Baker and Blair Enns, and one of them mentioned that efficiency and innovation don’t usually co-exist. The larger the company, the more focus they have on efficiency. Thus, it’s why Salesforce usually acquires smaller companies in order to continue to offer the services and products that a smaller, more nimble HubSpot can develop themselves.
I don’t think I have to dive too deep into why someone with a finance background may not value marketing the way they should if they truly want to grow the business and have happy customers.
What to Ask During an Interview
Now, remember, this is a generalization, not a hard and fast rule. Don’t avoid companies just because they’re led by people with highly corporate or financially skewed backgrounds. Just approach it with a high degree of skepticism and formulate your interview questions so you can understand their approach to marketing.
Some questions to ask anyone on the marketing team you meet would focus on culture, structure, processes, workflows, expected outcomes, and testing.
Questions you might ask a leader you interview with – marketing or otherwise – would be:
- What value does marketing provide to the company?
- What are some things the marketing team, as a whole, could improve upon?
These questions will help you better understand what they value, how they work, and whether or not it matches your marketing-related values and approach to creativity.
If you truly value creativity, a diverse slate of projects, and not feeling bottled up, then going the agency route may be the ideal path for you. I like to think we’re all a bunch of highly creative corporate misfits.