There are important skills that your marketing personnel need to have, whether your building materials firm has an internal marketing team or partners with an agency. These skills include both hard (technical) skills, as well as soft skills. This blog post is part 2 of a two-part series on the marketing skills you’ll need to look for, and it focuses on soft skills.
This post includes a list of soft skills that building materials companies marketing personnel should have. These soft skills are essential marketing skills in the same way technical marketing skills are essential. If your employees don’t have these skills, you may want to hire additional staff, use external partners, or provide training and mentorship to your current employees. Without the necessary training or external support, your marketing team members will struggle to be successful. This can result in not only ineffective marketing, but demoralized staff and high employee turnover.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are abilities that relate to how you work and interact with other people. Examples of soft skills include communication skills, time management, the ability to work with others, and critical thinking skills like problem-solving.
Soft skills are needed in almost any role, but they are often hard to measure. They are sometimes referred to as “traits”; this term is misleading because it implies that they are something a person is born with and can’t be learned.
The good news is that soft skills can be taught, but it is a more intensive process than learning hard skills. It requires a willingness to change behaviors that may have been in place for a lifetime, consistent effort, and direction and feedback from mentors and supervisors.
Soft skills for building materials marketing
Enthusiasm and interest in what the company does
If your marketing team doesn’t care about what you do, why should anyone else? Lack of enthusiasm for the business and what the business does is a surefire recipe for marketing failure. The goal of marketing is to get others excited about the materials you provide, and if your marketing team isn’t interested, that will come across in your marketing.
Note that enthusiasm and interest are not the same as subject matter knowledge. A person doesn’t have the walk in the door with the same level of product knowledge you do in order to be a good marketer. However, building materials marketers have to want to learn and see the value in what the company offers.
Active listening is more than just hearing what the other person said. It means making sure you understand not only the words being sent, but the message the other person is trying to deliver. It involves asking questions and using verbal cues, like words and tone of voice, along with nonverbal cues, like posture and facial expressions, to solicit information and convey to the other person that you are engaged.
This skill is important because marketing personnel have to truly understand what their target audience needs and what their pain points are. Marketers also need to know what the rest of the company, especially salespeople, need from marketing to help them succeed.
Curious people seek out information instead of waiting for someone else to give them the answers. They are often self-starters, and will want to know more than the bare bones about your products and your customers. Truly curious people ask these questions because they really do want to know more. They’re not asking to look like they’re “adding value” or posturing. This curiosity leads to the research that creates effective marketing campaigns.
In order to stand out from your competitors, your marketing team will rely on research. The best teams use their natural curiosity to drive research into new topics to create content marketing that differentiate your products or company from competitors. If your team doesn’t know how to perform this research or avoids it, they’ll just end up mimicking what others are doing. Good researchers know how to research, what sources are reliable, and the difference between research and copying what others are doing or saying.
Ability to work with others
Marketing teams have to work with sales, external partners, accounting, IT, and company leadership. Before their work reaches the customer marketplace, marketers have to be able to sell their ideas to leadership. They also need to seek out feedback from others and be able to handle it, even if it’s critical or poorly delivered.
The better a marketer can work with others, the more effective their marketing will be. For example, a marketing team member who has developed a good relationship with a product engineer will be easily able to learn details about the product and ask questions about its features and benefits. Contrast that with the lack of response a marketer will receive if they’ve been hostile to other team members or dismissive of the roles other people in the company play.
Marketers must be able to differentiate between task-focused and strategic marketing. Task-focused marketing quantifies the work that must be done but doesn’t address the quality. For example, a task-focused marketer may need to post four Instagram posts a week. As long as those are posted, it doesn’t matter to them whether they conveyed the right message or reached the right audiences.
A strategic marketer identifies the business goals, creates an effective strategy to achieve them, executes tasks per the strategy, and implements tracking and analytics to measure success. What does this look like in practice? As an example, say your marketing team has worked with your sales team to identify the best customer segments for a line of specialty paint. They create a marketing strategy, then use content marketing speaks to the benefits the paint solves, including web content that’s optimized to reach the right people and social media marketing that’s written and tagged to support the goal.
When marketing is focused only on completing tasks, it has no long-term direction. Team members don’t know if they’ve succeeded and neither does leadership. Your business will be left treading water and competitors with more strategic marketing goals will soon start overtaking your market presence and your sales.
Anticipating Possible Outcomes
Successful marketers must be able to see ahead to possible outcomes from current actions. They need to be able to outline the future consequences of a current decision, and not get stuck looking solely at the immediate results. For example, imagine that one of the company’s leaders is retiring, so marketing creates a campaign that includes a retrospective on the person’s achievements while at the company. Possible unforeseen outcomes include: (1) the campaign reads to much like a memorial and some people assume the retiring person has died, and/or (2) since no part of the campaign is focused on the company’s future leadership, customers conclude that the business plans to wind down and starts looking for other companies to do business with. If a marketer can see beyond the immediate (“the COO is retiring”) and consider all of the possible outcomes (“if this isn’t messaged correctly people will think she died, so let’s make sure we’re clear about what’s happening”), success is much more likely.
There’s a saying that everyone thinks they’re a marketer, and this is a sentiment that professional marketers often come up against. Many non-marketers believe they can “do marketing” better and won’t hesitate to say how much better it would be in their hands (usually while asking for image files to be delivered as a Word document). Marketers have to be able to politely acknowledge the feedback, incorporate what’s relevant or useful, and let the rest go. If your marketing department takes feedback like “I’m no marketer, but I’ve always believed you should start every paragraph with a question” as an indictment of their skills and a personal attack, they won’t last very long – and while they’re in the job they will become less excited about the work and more prone to lashing out.
Marketers need to be patient when it comes to seeing results from their efforts. Others in the company may expect instantaneous results. With up-to-the-minute data and statistics available, it can be tempting to constantly monitor traffic and success rates. Marketers need to be able to identify meaningful measurement timelines and give realistic estimates for when tasks will be completed or change might happen. Campaigns often build over time or are meant to complement other marketing efforts on different platforms or channels.
People who give up easily will have a hard time finding marketing success. As noted above, marketing strategies don’t always bear fruit in the first day, week, or even month. Patience is required to let the strategy play out long enough to get meaningful results. Then, and only then, can the campaign be assessed and changed if necessary. Constantly changing strategies because of someone’s impatience – even a marketer’s own – is a recipe for confusion and failure.
Attention to detail
Even minor mistakes like typos, citations to the wrong person or source, and broken hyperlinks can erode the potential customer confidence your marketing is supposed to be supporting. Sometimes these errors can cause offense, like misspelling the name of your largest customer in a social media post. They can also cause larger problems for your customers if the error relates to product specifications or installation instructions. Marketers must check and double-check the accuracy and completeness of their content. Potential customers will wonder how they can trust you with their project when you don’t care enough to run spellcheck on your website.
Marketing can support your business growth or hamper it. As a business owner, you need to make sure you’ve got the right people with the right skills. If you’re keeping your marketing in-house, soft skills need to be evaluated during the hiring process and leadership needs to commit to training the new hire in areas where there are deficiencies. If that’s not feasible, consider working with an external partner to augment or substitute for an internal marketing department.