Should Marketers Be Paid for Performance?

There has been a debate among business experts of late about whether or not pay-for-performance works or not. Competing articles published by Harvard Business Review (here and here) last month make the argument for and against paying executives (CEOs specifically) based on the performance of their companies.

They both point to similar studies from various social sciences which all but proves that performance-based pay only works for routine tasks. For creative tasks, performance-based pay has actually been proven to hurt performance.

So why are most executive pay packages so heavily skewed toward incentives?

I’m not the one to argue that. But I can weigh in on whether or not marketers should be paid based on performance.

If you take the studies mentioned above into account, you have to lean toward eliminating performance-based pay for marketers. Marketing is not a routine task. And so performance-based pay should not work to improve performance.

A marketer who is good at his or her job, who values the work they are doing and is committed to providing maximum effort should expect to perform as well or better without payment incentives.

But can we really say all marketers fit the description above? Might payment incentives help you recruit and retain better marketers? And doesn’t basing part of a marketer’s payment on performance help companies limit their own risk?

My opinion, knowing full-well that’s all that it is, is that marketers should be paid for performance. Marketing is the department within organization where the company’s performance is most directly related to the job done. And so marketers should have a little “skin in the game”. When the company does better, the marketers do better.

This might sound like an obvious argument made by a marketer looking to make more money. But I think this strategy makes sense from a business standpoint as well.

For one, I think this strategy will help business recruit and retain the hungriest marketers available. And two, by basing a large part of one’s pay on company performance, you create a win-win scenario. If performance is not there, the company’s obligations will be lower.

What do you think? Share your opinions in the comments below.

Marketing is a Scam

There are a lot of scams out there. One of the largest, yet least talked-about scam of them all is the entire field of marketing.

Marketers are all scammers, greedy folks out to convince people to spend money on things they don’t need for reasons they don’t understand, all to increase the revenues of their respective companies, and, in turn, line their own pockets.

It’s a dirty, dirty business. We spend billions of dollars every year to reach consumers like you – on your television, phone, computer, commute, newspaper, magazines. We pay other people to promote our products so that it sounds like you’re just getting a recommendation from a friend. We pay for your personal information so we can learn more about you and find new, sneakier ways to get our message across.

If our products were any good, you would hear about them or find them yourself. You don’t need us to tell you about them. We have no incentive to tell you the truth. Our only incentive is to get you to buy, to give us your money.

Marketing is a scam. Right?

Here’s the part where I tell you I’m just having a little fun. That I’m just kidding and marketers are all honest, thoughtful people. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Most of what I said above has some truth to it.

This isn’t a manifesto. This isn’t me blowing the whistle on my field. This is a call to arms.

It’s time for marketers and companies the world over to put in a little more effort. Make your products great. Treat your customers well. Sell in an honest way.

And it’s time for consumers to reward those companies with your business, and to punish the ones who don’t evolve by leaving them behind.

Not all companies can be great companies. Not all marketers can be great marketers. But we must, all of us, strive to be better.

Marketing is not a scam. But it’s seen that way by a lot of people, both inside and outside the profession. It is in our power to change that.

Is Our Goal to Trick People?

Last week, in a post titled ‘Should Marketing Look Like Marketing’, we concluded that if you show an ad to the right person at the right time, what it looks like matters less than many of us would think.

But it brought up a larger question about the purpose of marketing. When marketers and advertisers try to design ads that don’t look like ads, what they’re really doing is trying to trick people.

Is that really what we do? Is our goal as marketers to trick people into consuming our content and buying our products?

The evolution of marketing and advertising is an interesting one. We now have more ways to advertise with more consumers, in more places, more often. Advertising dominates our society. And because of that, today’s consumers are:

  1. Less likely to notice ads, and
  2. More likely to distrust ads

It’s our own fault, as advertisers. We overloaded people with ads because they worked, and I guess we expected them to always work otherwise we’d squeeze as much effectiveness out of them as we could before they stopped working.

But our response to people not noticing or not trusting ads should not be to trick people into looking at them. When we design ads to not look like ads, we might get an extra click, but we don’t grow sales.

We grow sales by getting people to trust us again. We grow sales by making a connection with people and delivering on our promises.

If your goal is to trick people into looking at your ads, you’re fighting a losing battle.

Most Important Marketing Specialties in 2015

Two weeks ago we posted about the advantages of being a marketing generalist or specialist. But what specialties are we talking about?

That question was asked of me. And now I want to answer it.

In my opinion, these are the five most important specialties any marketer could have in 2015:

  1. Web Design/Development – marketers need to have more technical skills these days than they did in the past. So much of what we want to do requires technical support. But it’s not always easy to get the support you need. So when it comes to basic HTML and CSS at a minimum, marketers can get a lot more done if they know how to do some light development work themselves.
  2. Content Development – I almost wrote writer, but it’s more than just that. A good content developer from a marketing point of view is someone who can create any kind of content for a company, from start to finish. This includes creating strategy, identifying themes, coordinating with stakeholders, prioritizing, project managing, and writing. And it doesn’t stop with a finished piece of content. The content developer should be leading the promotion of the content as well.
  3. Social Media/Community Manager – view the community as the entirety of people who interact with you online, including any and all social media sites, your own forum or website community, email subscribers, etc. Managing the community involves answering questions, creating content, getting feedback, and organizing people in such a way that they become a force for growth within your company. A good social media specialist can turn a company that uses social media because they “have to” to a company that relies on social media for real growth.
  4. Data Analyst – the marketing analyst is someone that can look at data and derive answers from it that will impact the business in a positive. They should be able to determine what data they need to answer a question or solve a problem, go about getting that data, and poring through it to find answers. And once they have answers, they need to sell it to the rest of the team in a way that provides actionable steps. Data is out there to be had and more and more companies are using it to change the nature of their business and marketing processes.
  5. Optimization Specialist – most companies rely on their websites more today than ever before. And the functionality of your website needs to be perfect. An optimization specialist is someone that is able to identify key elements of a website that can be improved through testing. They can prioritize, devise experiments, look at the results, and sell the winning formula to the marketing team. An optimization specialist has one job, to improve the conversion rate of the website.

Did I miss any? Share your top marketing specialties for 2015 in the comments below.

To Be a Specialist

The roles of marketers can be divided into generalists and specialists. Generalists do a little of everything. Specialists do a lot of one thing.

Which is better? That’s not for me to say.

But I can tell you that each have their advantages, both for the marketer in question as well as the company they work for. And over the next two days I will argue for both sides.

Today let me tell you why it’s better to be a specialist:

  1. There are lots of generalists. Your specialty makes you different, in a very good way. Companies need specialists to do the work that generalists are simply not able to do. And while generalists can sometimes be a dime a dozen, having a specialty helps you stand out.
  2. You are immediately more valuable. While I might argue that the best generalists have higher long-term prospects because they may become executives, in the short term specialists will tend to earn more. Specialists command a higher salary because their skills are more rare.
  3. You can focus. Because no one expects you to know everything, you can really dive into your specialty. You can devote more time to that one area than a generalist can devote to anything. And because of that, your skills will improve quickly over time, making yourself that much more valuable.
  4. You can work for yourself. If you’ve got the stomach for it, a specialist can do well for themselves as a consultant, working for a variety of different clients. It’s easier for companies to outsource specialty work instead of hiring a new team member. Generalists will find it much more difficult to find work as a consultant.

Not convinced? Read yesterday’s post on why it’s better to be a generalist.