You’re never too good for coaching

Have you ever heard of John Mattone? Or Butch Harmon? Maybe Gary Catona? Probably not. But I bet you’ve heard of Steve Jobs, Tiger Woods and Whitney Houston. The first three are trainers who helped develop the skills of that more famous trio.

There’s an important lesson there. No matter who you are, no matter how skilled you are, no matter how close you are to the top of your particular tree, there’s always scope to get even better. That lesson applies to business as much as sport and entertainment.

It’s a particular problem for marketing. Marketing is a huge topic and much of what a marketing professional does isn’t even recognised as marketing by other managers: strategy, pricing, new product development, etc.

That’s not a problem in itself.

Businesses only hit problems when they recruit, promote or train their marketing staff. Marketing has become synonymous with promotion so we’ve started to think that anyone who can write three social media posts a week is a marketer. If you know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’, congratulations, you’re the new marketing executive.

Mark Ritson, a high-profile British marketer, poked a stick in the hornet’s nest by criticising top marketers for not having qualifications in marketing (but he would say that – he sells his own marketing qualification).

It’s not necessarily about qualifications. A lot of what you learn in under-grad and post-grad courses is irrelevant to Shropshire businesses. Universities teach the techniques that P&G use to sell Head & Shoulders.

What matters is training. And this is where we go wrong too.

We’re all on a budget so we enrol our marketing staff on a free course. Or maybe we stretch to a £99 course. And it’s terrible. It might be interesting. It’s probably accurate. But it’s not relevant. That’s the central problem.

Take a look, for example, at courses on LinkedIn Learning. They’re professional but they’re generic. Most of what you’re told about developing a marketing strategy or revamping your marcoms programme or executing a product launch won’t apply to your customers, your products/services or your geography.

So here’s a better way to develop your marketing staff.

Imagine you want your new marketing executive to revive your email marketing programme (untrendy, I know, but very effective). Get an agency or consultancy with relevant expertise to help with the project. But make it part of the deal that the agency trains your staff on how to run an effective email programme.

As they do their work, they train your staff on the steps they take and why that particular route works for your business. Your staff learn new skills so they can take control of the programme the agency sets up.

You may be thinking that no agency will agree to that. And many of them won’t. Some agencies act as if they alone possess the secret of effective marketing. If you’ve got an agency that won’t tell you how they do something, you’ve got the wrong agency.

Other agencies will help you develop your staff because they know marketing’s a huge topic. They know that once they’ve helped with your email programme, you’ll want their help with your next product launch, then linking your sales data to your email programme, then…

Make your next step one that directly helps your business and develops your staff at the same time. Identify what isn’t working with your marketing: you’re not getting enough new enquiries; too few quotations result in orders; you need to sell into a new industry, etc. Then get an agency that will help your staff solve that problem now and for the future.

  • Steve Baxter is a director of Forbes Baxter Associates, based at the e-Innovation centre in Telford