If you don’t have the most deep, objective understanding of your customers and market within the entire company, it's time to drop the brochure you're building or the campaign you're planning and get out in the market.
— Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

Chris Walker is one of, if not the, most on-point marketers in the industry today. He posts regularly on LinkedIn, delivering a masterclass in modern marketing practice.

A recent post about customer-centricity struck a chord, where he wrote, "Don't take your manager's or teammate's findings and blindly accept them as true. You need to see it for yourself and draw your own conclusions."

Perhaps you've been caught out by this before? By assuming that an inside rep is having the right conversations with prospects. Assuming her learnings are accurately transferred back in to the company. Assuming she even has the right frame of reference to understand a customer's challenges. All things a marketing team should be able to help deliver.

It surprises me that the tenure of CMOs continues to decline (WSJ). Properly resourced marketers should be the most influential people in the company. We should have market knowledge derived from first-hand customer engagement. We should have the data to make predictive decisions. We should have the end-to-end touches from unknown visitor on our web properties through recurring revenue customer.

On the upside, the WSJ article notes that, "The good news is ... companies are recognizing that marketers have a point of view and can add value."

The key here is "properly resourced." The art of marketing isn't necessarily more complex than in the past. As Chris wrote in his post, "I do not know when we made such a horrible wrong turn and exiled marketing to lead gen tactics and completely skipping over the foundational, strategic customer/market research process."

But the process of marketing is now incredibly complex. Hence the (insane) number of martech vendors pitching solutions to the most arcane problems. Which is why it's so important marketers get the right people, in the right roles, on their teams. Predictable revenue becomes predictable failure when sales teams scale up before adequate marketing investments are made.

(Some argue that the predictable revenue model has had its day. That it served a different time, and different consumer behavior. I'll write about this soon.)

How do you get the right people in the right roles? I have a simple 3-step approach to understanding which hires I need for a marketing team to be successful:

  1. Understand the company's short-term strategy inside out, and if your CEO has a clear vision for the future (not all do) the business's medium-term objectives
  2. Understand market dynamics (consider this the reality in which you operate)
  3. Build a marketing strategy and plan to:
    (a) deal with reality
    (b) meet the company's strategic objectives

Only then is it possible to determine the tactical execution required. And only then is it possible to know the roles and type of humans you need on your team.

With the potential influence of the CMO on the rise, one role I'd consider a top-10 hire is a marketing/business analyst. Not a data scientist per se, but a person skilled in analyzing marketing data and modeling future scenarios. Someone who can help you understand where to invest your time and resources. Not by guessing or gut feel hunches, but by understanding how people actually engaging with and respond to your work.

Even so, marketers who don't care very deeply about customers should be avoid. People first, data second. As Chris says, "no great insights happen within the 4 walls of your building".

The only way to understand humans, is to spend time with humans.