‘It’s like writing with my left hand.’ That's how I respond when people ask me what I am like at activation marketing – the term I use to describe the creation and delivery of marketing campaigns.
Don’t get me wrong, I can do it. In fact, I’m proud to say that I’ve successfully created and delivered numerous marketing campaigns, at times almost convincing myself and others that I could predominantly work in activation roles. However, the reality is that I find this kind of marketing hard and, at times, uncomfortable. It’s not where my strengths and passion lies. It can take up a lot of time and energy, with the end result never quite tallying with the effort I put in.
Conversely, developing marketing strategies comes far more naturally to me. It plays to my strengths and gets me all fired up. It’s my thing. I know I produce better results, with less time and effort.
Different skill sets
Strategic marketing and activation marketing require completely different skill sets. There are exceptions, but most of us marketing professionals excel in either one or the other.
For example, I love taking information I have gleaned from talking to people, reading reports and analysing data. I equally love using that market research to make connections and come up with opportunities and ideas that may not have occurred to others. That analysis and research helps me to deliver valuable insights to my clients, which helps solve their business and marketing challenges. I refer to this as working my magic, as that’s how it feels. Like when I identified a point of differentiation that others hadn’t spotted and reversed the fortunes of a product with declining revenue.
If you asked me to design a leaflet or an advert, then that would come less naturally. Fellow marketers I’ve worked with have taken these tasks on with ease, delivering design and copy ideas that would never occur to me.
It’s no surprise I excel at marketing strategy given my personality type. According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator I am an INTJ. That means I’m a natural strategic thinker. I excel at big picture stuff, not the finer detail required for excellent campaign execution. Having said that, I’m driven to turn ideas into something tangible, which is probably why I managed to get by in activation roles and achieved a certain level of satisfaction from them. Just like a typical INTJ, I work best alone or in small groups, where there is minimal interruption. This is especially true when it comes to taking what I’ve gathered externally and turning it into valuable insights.
My drive for tangible results means that I’m able to wade through reports and data, even if it does start to get tedious after a while. Something a marketer with a personality more suited to continually working at a fast pace may find challenging.
2For1, but are you really getting value?
Despite the different skill set requirements and personality traits outlined above, just one person is often expected play both the marketing strategist and activation marketer roles. This is especially true in smaller companies.
Cost and convenience are probably the two most cited reasons for taking this 2For1 approach. Smaller companies do not have the budget to outsource on retainer to a big marketing agency and if they plan to keep their marketing activities in house then they may well question the need to hire and pay two people when one can cover both roles.
I believe this status quo has gone unchallenged for too long. In fact, when researching this blog, I struggled to find any articles that challenged this view. But I’m prepared to put my head above the parapet and question if this approach really works in the best interests of the smaller business owner.
Just as not every actor makes a great producer or director and not all performers can write and produce great songs, someone who is naturally strategic won’t perform to the best of their ability on activation tasks and vice versa. Hire the right specialist to do the right job.
How to get value, if you are a small company
If you’re the owner of a smaller business and you can’t afford to hire two full time people, or pay to retain a large marketing agency, here’s two practical and cost-effective solutions to ensure that your business’s marketing rocks:
1) Take on a great activation marketer as your full time hire and supplement with a freelance strategy specialist or pay to retain a small local marketing agency, for the times when you are creating strategy. As well as providing a fresh outside perspective, the freelance or agency strategy specialist can work alongside your activation marketer to put the foundations in place that will allow them achieve the best results possible in their campaigns.
2) Employ a great strategic marketer full time to create and manage solid strategies and supplement with a freelance activation specialist or pay to retain a small marketing agency to creatively implement your strategy, as and when required.
Your choice of option will be dependent on your company goals and the current mix of personalities and skill sets within your business. What’s important is that you appreciate the value that each skills set will bring to your business. Working together they’ll help create, communicate and deliver amazing opportunities and results for your business, which should more than cover any outlay.
There are a number of sites where you can source and hire freelance marketers, People per hour, Upwork being two of them. You can also go through specialist freelance recruitment agencies. If you are interested in the marketing agency route, RAR is a good place to start your search.
What is your experience? Do you think most marketers can be equally good at strategy and activation? I would love to hear your thoughts.
This article also appears on LinkedIn.
Photo credit: simply / 123RF Stock Photo