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I read a recent post written by Suzanne Lowe at The Expertise Marketplace titled "Is Marketing Talent Overrated?" Suzanne asks why we seldom hear the words "marketer" and "expert" in the same sentence.

I thought about the companies where I have worked, and how the marketers I worked with were treated, compared with the rest of the employees.

Maybe my sample is biased, but I cannot recall the marketing folks I worked with being viewed as "experts." Sadly, marketers were among the first to be purged when the business didn't live up to expectations.

Many factors come into play when evaluating the performance of marketers. In my industry (multichannel retailing), it is downright difficult to calculate the incremental value a marketer brings to the business.

Merchandisers, the folks who are the lifeblood of multichannel retailing, are easily measured. Every item they sell to the customer is measured. In stores, items measured in terms of sales per square foot. The best merchants consistently buy items that have a higher sales per square foot than the items everybody else purchases. In the online channel, outstanding merchants consistently buy product that has a higher conversion rate than other products. These metrics are easily obtained via standard company reporting.

Inventory managers, especially those in the direct channel, have many metrics to filter out good performers from poor performers. Those who purchase too much product have to liquidate the merchandise. These individuals are evaluated on the basis of markdown percentage. Other folks don't purchase enough merchandise, and consequently have too many lost sales. Both metrics are easily obtained via standard company reporting.

Online and email marketers are entirely metrics driven, to a point where almost no true "marketing" actually happens. The online marketer is literally trapped by metrics and has to test her way out of existing practices.

Database marketers evaluate everything on the basis of test and control groups. As long as an activity can be directly compared against another activity, the database marketer can measure it. This gives database marketers power within an organization.

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Kevin Hillstrom is a database marketing executive with two decades' experience and the author of Hillstrom's Database Marketing: A Master's Complete Method for Success. Kevin's blog (www.minethatdata.com) covers topics in database, multichannel, catalog and online marketing.