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  • June 9, 2014

Defining the Modern Marketer: Why Grit Matters Most

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Roland Smart, Vice President of Social and Community Marketing at Oracle. He joined Oracle as part of its acquisition of Involver, a social technology platform and an early Facebook Marketing Developer. Follow Roland on Twitter @rsmartly. The following post is an excerpt of a recent LinkedIn article titled, “Defining the Modern Marketer: Why Grit Matters Most.”

Being a good marketer involves two things mostly: cultivating the right practices and adopting the right technologies. Of course, these two go hand-in-hand:

  • Marketing data management platforms, for instance, offer a remarkable level of insight about customer behaviors and preferences. But you can't obtain full value from these platforms without a basic grasp of statistics.
  • Conversely: you might be a very gifted writer, but your talent will be wasted if you don't have reliable tools for delivering content to the right people at the right time. That’s why marketing automation systems are key: they allow you to focus more on the essential task of creating valuable content for your customers.

Now, it’s hard enough to scope out these “platform-plus-practice” requirements over the short term. You can spend inordinate amounts of time identifying the best marketing solutions to meet just a few of your immediate business goals. What happens, though, when long-term (or even sudden) technological evolutions and extinctions compel you to change?

For digital marketers especially, the dilemma of disruptive technology can be quite severe.

Ask anyone who once specialized in writing copy for banner ads, or who managed link exchanges for the sake of SEO, or who built one-size-fits-all social marketing campaigns while spending zero on social advertising. We might dismiss these practices as ancient history. But in reality, they were all fairly popular not too long ago.

In incumbent fields like social media and mobile, it’s easy to prescribe eternal value to newer technology platforms and their attendant skill sets. For instance, many of us believe that we should know how to do Facebook marketing because, after all, Facebook is here to stay and has an active user base approximating 20% of the world’s population. (For the record, I do believe Facebook and Facebook marketing are here to stay.)

While this kind of thinking makes sense (today in the year 2014, who wouldn't want to know how to calculate the Customer Lifetime Value of your buyers who entered your A/B split-tested purchase flow via social networks?), digital marketers shouldn’t only define themselves in terms of their narrow skills.

Unique talent and applied knowledge are absolutely necessary, but they're ultimately insufficient. And there’s something else that matters a lot more.

The Case for Grit: Modern Marketers “Fall Seven Times and Stand Up Eight”

At Oracle, my colleagues and I spend a lot of time sharing the success stories of modern marketers. In my experience, these marketers have the following strengths:

1.They are experts in at least one digital marketing-related field (and its associated technologies).

2.They have lots of grit. Namely, when their way of using status quo technology is inevitably challenged, displaced, or even rendered obsolete, they see this as an opportunity and not a threat.

Needless to say, it's ideal to have both of these qualities. But if I had to pick one for myself or a marketing colleague, I'd choose grit.

On this topic, it's worth watching a great TED talk by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth. Her pioneering research found that grit (defined by her as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals") is the only statistically meaningful predictor of long-term success.

Indeed, after gathering voluminous data from companies, governments, nonprofits, schools, and other institutions, Dr. Duckworth found that only grit -- not specialized skills, not raw talent, not broad-based intelligence, not time management, not personality or charisma, and not the ability to persuade others -- has an observable causal relationship to measurable success.

So, how might marketers learn from this psychological finding? Check out Roland’s full post on LinkedIn for two practical tips.


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