Self-Taught Consultants Vs. The MBA-Degreed The Five Types Of Marketers And Where They Excel
Common marketing types, how to spot them, where they excel, and where they are challenged.
The Five Types Of Marketers
The MBA Grad
The Day Worker
Obviously, not every marketer fits neatly under these rubrics, and there are elements of each in every marketer. One can typically find examples of each type in a marketing operation with a staff of 10 or more people.
So, what do you get when you hire a marketing BA or MBA versus a ‘marketing consultant’? How do they fit in? What are realistic expectations for each? What are their respective strengths and weaknesses?
Estimated Percentage Of All Marketers
Just as Steven Spielberg didn’t need film school, the truly great marketer, the prodigy, is born, not made. They see possibilities nobody else can; their wins have no ceiling, and while astonishing, are virtually impossible to predict, which is often challenging to executive management, which always wants to see the future.
Marketing prodigies are blessed with vision, the ability to inspire, and the competency to execute. They are frighteningly effective, and are defined by a track record of ROIs that consistently outpace that of their counterparts, often across employers and even verticals.
With talents larger than the role they occupy, one could consider them ‘mini CEOs‘ or ‘intrapreneurs‘, who deliver more than is reasonably required, whether they are principals or non-principals.
The prodigy hustles. While the consultant works hard as well – and both are driven by wins – he differs from he prodigy in that he lacks the prodigy’s marketing genius, even if he is technically and strategically capable.
The prodigy is almost impossible to retain for long, as they are enticed by the prospect of new challenges and relentlessly sought-after by competitors. Their careers are marked by a string of unalloyed wins; these tend to get attention.
The prodigy is exceedingly rare: Nevertheless, his or her outcomes are those principals or recruiters believe will be promised by a prestigious degree, but which almost never are.
Nobody can identify the prodigy until it’s obvious; so how does it become obvious? You come across their work or hear about them.
The marketing prodigy is far less concerned with predicting or measuring the extent of wins than actually getting them. He or she is always ahead of outcomes.
Most MBAs took just one marketing class and aren’t marketing experts. This last sentence is worth re-reading. Without experience, the MBA is a business administration generalist, not a marketing professional – and the outcomes from MBA-only marketing executives range from mediocre to abysmal.
The Consultant, The BA In Marketing, And The MBA Graduate Compared
The MBA Graduate
The MBA-degreed worker and the self-taught consultant with practical experience each provide a kind of ‘floor’ or base expectation of competency, for marketing outcomes. That said, marketing outcomes are generally better if a candidate has both formal training and practical if not diverse marketing experience.
The MBA graduate is exposed not just to marketing, but accounting, finance, economics, public speaking, ethics and business communication – the general administration of business.
Most MBAs took just one marketing class and aren’t marketing experts. Without experience, the MBA is a business administration generalist, not a marketing professional – and the outcomes from MBA-only marketing executives range from mediocre to abysmal. Work experience notwithstanding, a person with a BA in marketing has had roughly 5 times greater exposure to marketing – in the form of classes – than a person with an MBA degree, albeit academic.
The MBA is, all things being equal, better-suited to a management, or strategic, versus technical role. He or she often knows the theory of marketing: the Marketing Mix, strategy, planning, market dynamics, gleaned from textbook case studies. His education doesn’t teach him software, dashboards, stacks, integrations, or even common marketing acronyms.
MBA’s also tend to bring a bean-county and accounting-heavy approach to marketing – with a focus on monitoring and analytics. Make no mistake: there is a place for this. Bigger and legacy companies might actually prefer this more traditional and conservative approach, but the risks are that MBAs can mistake observing mediocre outcomes in high definition with either a) controlling them, or b) winning.
The consultant is versed in the practice of marketing, and has been mastering new technologies, incorporating new skills at the request and need of clients, throughout his or her career. As a result, he or she will often excel in a technical role, or where an individual, vertically-integrated, contributor must also be cross-functional. The consultant is truly an army of one, and a lot of bang for your dollar.
An apt analogy to highlight the difference between a marketing BA or MBA graduate and an experienced marketing consultant is that of attorneys to paralegals. A new attorney…doesn’t know how to e-file a motion,…he doesn’t know local court roles or calendaring tools or the document management system. None of that is taught in law school, and one cannot practice law without it – theory be damned.
An apt analogy to highlight the difference between a marketing BA or MBA graduate and an experienced marketing consultant is that of attorneys to paralegals: a new lawyer knows case law, legal writing, the court system and the principles and theory of jurisprudence. But he doesn’t know how to e-file a motion, doesn’t know a Complaint will be thrown away by a clerk if it doesn’t have top sheet; he doesn’t know local court roles or calendaring tools or the document management system.
None of that is taught in law school, and one cannot practice law without it – theory be damned.
The paralegals effectively run the law firm and often have knowledge of legal theory – if not the ability to compose legal documents – that rivals an attorney’s. Ideally, if you have either a candidate with a BA in marketing, or an MBA, you want some experience to accompany that. The theory and practice are quite different.
The day worker keeps the proverbial trains running on time, managing the mundane and non-executive minutiae of a marketing operation. You could call them ‘worker bees’, but that’s dismissive; ‘workhorses’ is more apt. A marketing operation cannot function without him or her, and they make up the bulk of marketing employees.
The day worker may not be especially gifted at marketing, but does his or her job well and deserves credit for executing the marching orders from management.
Day workers tend to have more focused skill stacks, but because not everybody can be cross-functional, or horizontally-structured, or wants to be, this isn’t really a weakness.
Making up about half the marketing workforce, in our estimation, this under-recognized contributor might not live and breathe marketing, but is conscientious, collaborative, practical, and takes pride in his or her work.
The Day Worker
And of course, in both the consultant and full-time employee segments of the marketing workforce – with the rewards being hefty fees and the technical barriers being only the ability to log into Facebook Ads or AdWords – there are pretenders or charlatans who pantomime marketing well enough to fool recruiters or executives who are themselves inexperienced or undiscerning.
In a corporation, the charlatan is dead weight, obstructive, and focused on wages with little interest in what he or she is providing.
The charlatan title-seeks, inveigles and ingratiates himself. He prefers to dig in, like any parasite, but is sometimes forced to bounce between startups, where their incompetency can be concealed (because most startups fail, anyway), and might go his entire career without a single substantial win.
Charlatans flourish at all levels of marketing. One can find them in roles as ‘specialists’, in ‘social media’, but they’re also well-ensconced as CMOs. And at 10% of all marketers, there are far more of them than you might expect.
How do you spot a charlatan? Easy: they have no wins they can prove. Whether self-employed or working within a company, the charlatan also doesn’t have the nuanced validators of a marketing professional; he may have a resume but he doesn’t have case studies, stories of wins to share at an interviews, or a portfolio (proof of the wins). There is nothing to prove he or she did anything beyond occupying a chair, draw a salary, and enjoy a titular role at any point in his ‘career’.