09 May 2024

What Can a Bad Marketing Hiring Decision Actually Cost You?

This article on what makes a bad marketing hiring decision originally appeared on Forbes.com as one of Christine Pilkington’s contributions as a member of Forbes Business Council. You can find the original article linked at the bottom of the piece. 

It’s obvious that hiring the wrong candidate can cost your business time and money (in fact, the average cost, according to Career Builder, is $17,000). It’s also obvious that poor hiring decisions can have an impact on your company in other ways, affecting employee trust, morale and productivity.

What may not be so obvious is that, in making the call to spin up a new role, sometimes it’s not the person being hired that ends up posing a problem. Sometimes it’s the role itself.

One major misstep I often see is a business owner hiring too junior for the marketing seat. The motivations make sense: They want to save some money and they are really only looking to offload some tasks that they might already be doing—posting on social media, sending out a newsletter or updating the CRM.

Seems easy enough?

But consider my client, an owner of a growing e-commerce company.

The owner had an active marketing team but was scratching his head because he still felt too much in the weeds. Although he had a substantial digital ad budget, he had no idea if it was being spent properly and couldn’t get a straight answer from his agency. The person assigned to generating content for social media had yet to produce a single video after six months, and the marketing manager was underqualified to lead an organization of this size—not to mention showed up to work with a tremendous ego. Morale suffered, and everyone could sense a low-simmering mutiny was in the works.

The problem? They didn’t have a leader who was experienced enough to oversee the marketing effort and translate the activities to the senior management team. The owner sought to drive the marketing strategy himself, and while his hires looked good on paper, the individuals on the team were simply not doing what the company needed them to do.

As this story shows, the many challenges of hiring can lead even savvy and experienced business leaders to pursue solutions that end up having less-than-desirable outcomes, such as:

Wasting Money, Time, Productivity And Effort

Beyond the time and money spent hiring the wrong candidate, a poor hire can also expend unnecessary training budget, time spent onboarding and offboarding, project hours or work initiatives, and may result in further recruitment and training efforts if a replacement is hired.

Affecting Morale And Buy-In

Incorporating new people (especially leaders), processes and projects takes trust, and mistakes can cost you in terms of your and your team’s attitudes around future change. Being burned in this area may even go so far as to develop frustrations and reluctance around marketing entirely (a surprisingly common scenario with the business leaders I work with as a fractional CMO).

Impacting Quality Of Work And Reputation

If your candidate is ill-equipped or insufficiently experienced to handle the true scope of your business’s marketing requirements, you might start to see a decline in the quality of work, including a failure to meet key milestones and revenue goals. Externally, this can also damage your brand and reputation.

So why the temptation to cut corners when it comes to marketing? The well-known adage about “knowing what you don’t know” comes to mind here, especially in the context of hiring for marketing. Most CEOs and business leaders without a vocational or technical background are aware that they don’t have the expertise to manage, say, a junior-level accounting hire or a developer. Instead, they might hire a more senior person to build and mentor the team (or handle the work themselves).

Perhaps the “noisiness” of the marketing industry is partially to blame for the reluctance to hire at a high enough level. Unlike in financial or legal departments, for example, a lot of marketing activity would seem to take place in plain language. (Despite what many agencies or specialist “gurus” would have you believe, a word like “strategy” isn’t proprietary.)

This has led, for better or for worse, to an overwhelming slew of approaches, insights and techniques that are more available than ever to anyone with the time or inclination to look. Unfortunately, this has also cheapened the industry and made it more difficult to recognize and evaluate true expertise.

Here’s what you need to be aware of when planning for future marketing hires:

A Reluctance To Spend Budget On A Senior-Level Salary

While no business has an unlimited budget, the temptation to hire a junior candidate when you really need a senior one might prove to be more of a headache than it’s worth. Ask yourself whether you can afford the demand on your time to supervise and train them (or recruit again in the event they don’t work out).

The Limits Of Your Marketing Knowledge

If you don’t know how to evaluate the skill set of a marketing hire because you yourself are not a marketer, it can be helpful to consult someone who is. Enlist a consultant or specialty recruitment firm to assist in your search.

Candidates With Appropriate Seniority, But Irrelevant Experience

Carefully consider the type of marketing experience the candidate has: Is it transferable to your industry and company? A CMO who performed well at a previous company may not have the right background to help you move the needle at yours.

Overly Broad Or Poorly Defined Expectations For The Role

Often the case in startups or urgent hiring scenarios, the expectation of being able to “train a person into the role” is not always valid. Evaluate whether the skills you expect the candidate to develop are realistic, and whether or not you can afford any associated learning opportunities (read: mistakes). If certain qualities are non-negotiable, the demands of the role likely aren’t as fluid as you anticipated.

We all know that doing things right the first time can be worth its weight in gold. In this case, making a thoughtful hiring decision with the future of your business in mind can also be worth its weight in productivity, scalability and growth in the long run.

This article was originally published here.

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