Good Marketing People Are Like Actors


Picking the right person for the job can be one of the most rewarding or most frustrating activities on a CEO’s plate. Without an intimate understanding of how the job is really done, the personnel evaluator is left with only a cursory understanding and perspective. The data is clear here: 50% hiring accuracy is all you can expect in many job categories, especially the ‘creative” type jobs. One guiding principle we use for evaluating marketing people may, at first appear strange, but has proven effective in reducing misevaluations.

Marketing people responsible for defining new products, prioritizing the feature set and determining the go-to-market messaging strategy require above average empathy for the target user. In fact, these people need to morph themselves like good actors morph themselves into their character. The key ingredient is a personality of adaptation and emphatic perspective; they must internalize the needs and emotions of their perspective buyer. They must think from their point of view. They must know how the target user will ‘react” to circumstances and how they will “feel” about information provided them. Just like a good actor, they must become one of them and still maintain independence. Effective “outside-in” thinking is based on the quality of empathy in the product planning process. “Inside-out” thinking just dumps information on the prospect and is self-serving.

Worst comment ever by a senior executive in a marketing meeting: “This makes no sense to me. I would not want this.” Suprise! You’re not the target user! We have all seen this.

I remember a big investor conference where a guy was presenting his company. Good product and interesting opportunity. A VC asked the audience if anyone would buy the product and no one raised their hand. The VC sighed and made his point. The presenter said nothing; he completely missed the fact that he was being judged by people who weren’t even close to his target market. He had not morphed himself into a user. Otherwise, he would have realized that he was essentially peerless in the room.

Look for the actor in your product managers. Can they talk, look, and feel like your prospects when it matters? Can they still maintain a level of disassociation so they can deliver requirements in a way the inside groups can understand? Can they bounce between the two like a good actor can bounce between roles?  If they can’t, send them to acting school.

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