The other day I was talking to my son about the differences between skills and attributes. We decided that skills are something that could be acquired and improved over time through instruction and
practice. Writing, for example, is a skill that can be honed, as can using image editing software or hitting a golf ball. Attributes, on the other hand, are more intrinsic to a person and, while they
can be strengthened through use, they’re harder to teach.
That got me thinking about the attributes that matter to marketers. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about
this topic and over the years I’ve come up with several lists of attributes that are important in all different areas or work and life. For marketers, though, I’ve whittled the list down
- Curiosity The most successful people in any endeavor are constantly asking why, they’re constantly wondering how things work and how they could be improved.
Because curious people tend to have minds that rove, they’re also able to find interesting ideas in places you wouldn’t expect.
- Creativity This is the ability
to come up with novel and engaging ideas and solutions to problems. Sure, there are things like design or writing that are viewed as “creative” but everything can benefit from creative
thinking. One of the things about creativity is that it often results in ideas that might not work. These ideas shouldn’t be discouraged. Instead, they should be recognized as potential steps
along a path to better ideas and solutions.
- Collaboration Solitary navel-gazing is a thing, I guess, but it’s not a very effective attribute for marketers.
More than many disciplines, marketing needs to function within the wider world. Marketers work with product people, customers, partners, sales, legal, production partners, agencies, and with a whole
panoply of people, teams and sources. A marketer who can’t collaborate is a marketer who isn’t going to go very far. While collaboration is an attribute (some people are just
naturally good collaborators), it is also a skill that can be strengthened and supported by teamwork and processes. That doesn’t mean more meetings, it means finding ways to make people and
teams work together more effectively.
- Communication This is the name of the game for marketers. Without effective communication — formal or informal —
whatever ideas you have simply won’t be translated into a form that matters to other people. There is formal communication: web copy, press releases, advertising, bylines in MediaPost, etc. and
that’s important. But informal communication is probably even more important. Conveying ideas that capture other people’s imaginations, answer their needs and lead them where you want them
them to go is a tough skill to learn, but a great attribute to have.
Are there others? Sure, critical thinking is a pretty important one, planning, implementing, strategic vision
are others; but these four strike me as the most important. If someone has all four of these attributes, the chances are that they’d make a marvelous marketer. By the same token, if someone
doesn’t have any of these attributes, they’re probably not going to cut the mustard.