Wanted: Marketing Human Swiss-Army Knives

At a recent holiday gathering, a friend asked if we were hiring on the marketing team at Visa. When I responded that we were indeed hiring (check out available jobs here), my friend then followed up with "So what do you look for in a marketer?" While I offered a personal response, I also thought it appropriate to offer a more public one in the context of this post. Hiring, retaining and developing top talent will likely be the greatest contribution we make to any company. So here are my thoughts...

Technology and innovation influence everything we do today--including how we market and communicate. Whether we are understanding the differences between millennials and Generation Z or adjusting campaigns to address the new world with ad-blockers, it has never been more challenging--or more exciting--time to be in marketing.

Ask anyone that has worked on my teams at Visa, HP or Disney and they will tell you that defining a "typical day" is almost impossible. This makes my perfect candidate pretty simple: I'm looking for the human equivalent of the Swiss-Army knife.

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While not the first to use this analogy, I have yet to find another descriptor that captures the skillset needed for the modern marketer. You need to be nimble, smart, flexible, a quick study, dependable, professional, among other qualities. And since we spend as much time with our colleagues as we do with our friends and family, a good cultural fit and generally a nice person to be around.

Here are six top talents that marketing and communications professionals need to have and continue to develop:

Writer and editor: The way we communicate continues to evolve. The ability to write social posts measured in numbers of characters can be as important as crafting a press release or writing ad copy. But at the end of the day, you need to be able to write and edit to reach your target audience--a critical skill that is quickly becoming a lost art. And brevity is difficult. Remember the Churchill quote: "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." This is true as well for posts on Twitter and expressions on Facebook or Snapchat.

Metrics junkie: As budgets become tighter and targeting capabilities continue to be refined, the expectations around return on investment and making the dollars spent work harder increase exponentially. While there are specialists that live and breathe metrics and analytics, it is important for marketing professionals to understand (and be able to explain) the basics to communicate successes and share learnings to non-marketing colleagues. Showing that engagement with content can generate sales or drive brand awareness will help communicate the value of marketing to the business.

Time manager: Much like your college professor that expected all papers due at 5:00 PM, where 5:01 was late and meant you were getting penalized, people should be expected to deliver projects on deadline. [And if you are going to be late, let people know you are going to be late and why.] Most of the time, missing a deadline not only impacts your work, it holds up work being done by teammates, agencies and countless others. But above and beyond anything, the key here is to work smart, not hard. Don't focus on the amount of time you are in the office, but rather what you accomplish or advance in any given day.

Social media savvy: Gone are the days when one or two people hold the keys to the social media kingdom. Social media is accessible to everyone and the best way to learn is by doing. Share photos on Instagram, tap into trends on Twitter and connect professionally on LinkedIn and you'll see people liking, commenting and sharing your content. [And if you really want to take your social media game to the next level? Ask a millennial colleague for advice.]

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Event manager: While our world is becoming more and more digital, physical events still matter and are attended by millions of people every year. Whether you are speaking on a panel, hosting a product launch, or participating in a big event like SXSW or Mobile World Congress, understanding the best way to engage with people in person continues to be important. Just wait to see what Visa has in store when Super Bowl 50 comes to San Francisco in February!

Financial planner: Marketing budgets should be seen as investments in the future of the business--not as cost centers. Whether you are managing agency fees, planning a campaign or weighing the value of a major sponsorship, it is important that you treat your budget as if you were running your own small business. Being able to clearly explain why you are spending the money wisely--and tightening your belt when needed--is an essential skill that will serve you well in your marketing career.