Keys on a typewriter

The one futureproof skill every good marketer needs

I have a client whose business has grown to the point where she needs to hire someone to handle the mechanics of her sales and marketing. Her requirements were nothing exotic. Just someone to handle the website and social media updates, create simple collateral pieces, and do a little filtering on incoming inquires. Never having hired a marketing person, she rang me up to ask what sort of skills she should be looking for.

“The only thing you need is a person who can write well,” I told her.

“That’s it?” she said.

“That’s it,” I said.

She seemed doubtful. “What web skills? What about software? Don’t they need to be able to make graphics and do web posts and stuff?”

“Sure,” I said. “But even if they don’t know it already, that stuff can be learned very quickly. Being a good writer, on the other hand, takes a lot of practice to develop the skill. And not many people have ever taken the time to do it.”

She still seemed skeptical, so I explained to her that the essence of marketing isn’t jockeying trendy software, or making eye candy, or branding, or influencing, or any of the million “must-haves” and “best practices” all the “experts” (more on the overuse of that term later) say are keys to success. Those are just tools and methods.

Marketing is the art of persuasion. Plain and simple.

To be good at the art of persuasion, you have to be an effective communicator. You have to be able to structure thoughts, lay out coherent arguments and support those arguments with facts and evidence your audience not only understands, but can agree with. Moreover, you have be able to do it in a way that is interesting, engaging, and inspires your audience to want to take action.

Put all those fancy tools and best practices in the hands of a person who’s a poor communicator, and all you’re going to do is spend money making more of that digital flotsam and jetsam – aka “content” (whatever that is) — that’s already polluting the Internet.

On the other hand, a person who can write well, who can communicate effectively, engagingly, and persuasively, is going to bring in business regardless of whether they’re a ninja on the latest SaaS-solution-gizmo-system-method-thingy or not.

Better yet, over the next couple of years, as AI takes over the grunt work of generating images, basic writing, optimizing search terms, automating systems, analyzing data, and all the other manipulations and mechanics that fills a marketer’s time, skills in a particular software package will matter less and less. The good writer, however, will be even more valuable because that ability to communicate and persuade will make your business and its offerings stand apart in a way no software ever can.

There was a pause on the phone and then, “so it’s that simple,” my client said. “Just get someone who can write well.”
“Yup,” I said.

“And how do I know if they’re a good writer?” she said.

“Ask them to persuade you. In writing,” I answered.

“That’ll be something,” she said. “I’m not an easy sell.”

“I said it was simple. I didn’t say it was easy,” I answered.

She humphed, said goodbye, and hung up the phone.

I heard from her again a couple weeks later. She said she hired the perfect candidate. A young woman in her mid-20’s with no marketing experience, but sharp as a tack, a great writer, and already birddogging new leads for her two sales people.

“She’s not what I would have thought of as an ideal candidate,” my client said. “But you were right. She’s great. How did you know?”

“My first boss in this business told me the hardest part about marketing is taking ideas and turning them into compelling words,” I said. “It takes a lot of work and most people can’t or won’t do it. So, when you find someone who can, you know you’ve got someone with mental aptitude and discipline. The rest of the job is easy. Twenty-five years later and it’s as true as ever,” I said.

“Smart boss,” she said. “I’m sold.”

“That’s the point,” I said.