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Good Marketer / Bad Marketer

Inspired by a recent conversation that reminded me of Ben Horowitz’s Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager post, I wanted to share a cleaned up version of a similar talk I prepped for a subset of my team at SurveyMonkey on what a world class marketer looks like.

Sometimes people ask me how marketers can get a seat at the table, and this is a summary of some of the areas where I believe marketing delivers differentiated value within an organization. Not every marketer is going to be able to hit these areas out of the gate, but I wanted to talk about what world class marketers look like. If you can deliver compelling value in these areas, you won’t have to fight for a seat at the table, the meeting won’t be able to start until you are there.

Good marketers are experts at the customer. Not only are they up-to-speed on the overview and description of historical insights, they have the real-time pulse of what’s going on. They are constantly searching for additional data: user research studies, customer support inquiries, Twitter threads, lurking on forums, chatting with customers, watching the news about the market and competition. They are the go-to resource for people internally in the organization and are often collating real-time updates on what they are hearing and seeing. Over time they develop strong opinions about where the company should be going backed by the data they see. Internal teams consider good marketers an invaluable resource to get the pulse on customers. Bad marketers are stuck in the weeds of execution and production and rarely examine the market and industry.

Good marketers are experts at the product. They are intimately familiar with how the product works, and have in-depth knowledge about how customers use it and what they’re frustrated with or love about it. Bad marketers parrot the bullet points on the website or marketing materials without deep knowledge of what the features are. If needed, a good marketer’s knowledge is deep enough to spend a day at a conference expo table and pitching customers and answering basic questions about what the product does or doesn’t do. If you can’t do this, then spend a day playing with your product and asking a lot of questions. Good marketers need this depth of product knowledge in order to be effective and add value to the organization. Internal teams trust marketers to package and market their work, and lean on good marketers as a channel for product ideas and feedback. Good marketers are in the weeds of the details and know what product launches are upcoming and spend time getting to know the product and engineering planning process to channel feedback in. Bad marketers are surprised by product launches and have an abstract and hazy knowledge of the product.

Good marketers are the internal experts and leaders to execute and coordinate external launches and campaigns. This is their domain and an area where they should be lead. They align the teams on shared goals such as user growth or education, and apply their knowledge to make informed recommendations on how to get there from both the qualitative aspects such as messaging and positioning to the quantitative goals and tactics to get there. They have studied prior launches inside and outside of the company and have dissected what messages resonated and what did not, what channels worked and did not work, and are hungry for more learning and feedback. For example, faced with a team that wants SEM and SEO campaigns for a launch, they should have the knowledge and expertise to assess whether or not this is a successful strategy, and in the process teach those teams something along the way. Internal teams value good marketers as experts on go-to-market tactics and messaging, and respect them when they push back. Bad marketers take a punch list of inputs from all parties and blindly execute without an opinion of whether or not the work makes sense. They get bogged down in administrative work and take the path of least resistance without holding a quality bar on the work that gets out the door.

Ada Chen Rekhi is co-founder & COO of Notejoy, a collaborative notes app for individuals and teams. She’s also an executive coach who works with founders and executives looking to scale themselves as they scale their teams. If you enjoyed this essay, follow her on @adachen and subscribe to her newsletter.