I was sitting in a diner eating breakfast last week with someone who was interested in helping me find my next full-time job when he asked, “I know marketing is marketing, but what industry is your specialty?”
And before I gave my answer, I started to have a debate in my head, after being asked versions of that question from potential clients and hiring managers throughout my marketing career. Is marketing the same no matter the industry? Do you need industry experience to be successful in marketing?
The answer is yes and no.
For companies who are seeking individual candidates or third-party vendors, I understand the desire to have a person or firm that knows their industry inside and out. And, I have lost out to others with more industry knowledge, both as an individual and as a firm. But… were they the best marketers?
Perhaps due to my years of working at two different marketing agencies and being in front of potential clients who were wondering if our agency had enough experience in their particular industry, I can confidently answer “yes, marketing is marketing.” Allow me to make my case…
I would argue a person who has developed strategy for various verticals and has seen what delivers results (and what doesn’t) offers a different vision than what has typically been done in your industry by your company and your competition. If you are seeking something “outside the box,” you will have good luck in finding someone from a different background.
The basics are the same – print & digital advertising, mass & social media, public relations, direct marketing, and so on. I won’t insult anyone by saying digital advertising for ecommerce is exactly the same as for a manufacturer, for example. However, where any good marketing person will show their value is how they do their due diligence and tailor their campaigns to specific target audiences.
The nice thing about someone who is less experienced in your industry, they are not bringing in any industry bad habits, nor are they full of cynicism about the problems your industry may face. Fresh eyes are not likely to give in to the, “… but we’ve always done it this way” mentality.
One consistently highly sought attribute in any business is passion. If you could pick one – would you rather have a person or team passionate about marketing, or one passionate about your industry? I would take a person who was passionate about finding marketing solutions that generate results and teach them about the industry than the other way around. As someone who has worked with clients in dozens of industries, learning the intricacies of dermatology, for example, is a lot easier than learning the best ways to generate leads and convert appointments (and I could tell you a lot about Psoriasis if you’d like).
In an ideal world, I agree it would be best to have someone who has spent most of his or her career in your industry, is passionate about both the industry and in marketing, and studies strategies in other verticals and knows how to apply them in yours. They certainly sound expensive and are probably worth it. But, in the time it takes to find that ideal candidate, the passionate marketer with great experience in other verticals could have probably learned what they need to know to be successful in yours.
So, what did I tell my breakfast companion?
Marketing is indeed marketing. And my specialty is my passion for developing and executing marketing solutions… no matter the industry.
Rick Verbanas has brought his passion for marketing to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and not-for-profits. He strives to stay current in the latest marketing best practices, and provides a weekly roundup for your news and enjoyment. To subscribe to future blogs, please enter your email address on the left hand side of the page.