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What Makes a Great Marketer?

by Jim Kukral  |  
May 14, 2007

What makes a marketer a great marketer? Here's what I mean. In order to truly be great at something, you need to have the one, most important skill or trait that you must have to excel. For example, a great track runner needs to be really fast, or a great builder needs to understand architecture better than others, right? So what makes a great marketer?

What is the one defining quality that all great marketers posess that makes them stand out from the rest?
Is it the ability to understand their target then give them what they want?
Is it their knowledge of marketing tricks and techniques?
Is it their prowress at selling themselves as a great marketer?
All good questions.
Is it impossible to define a marketer to one specific trait or skill?
I couldn't think of a better place than the Daily Fix to ask these questions. So, dear readers, and fellow authors/marketers. What do you think?

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  • by Cam Beck Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Although it doesn't boil down to a single skill, it can be summed up thusly: A great marketer sells more stuff.

  • by Claire Ratushny Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Jim, Thought-provoking post. I'd say the greatest marketers are those who know how to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with their customers, based on authenticity, respect and trust. Enduring relationships are the key to building successful brands. The best marketers are all about substance, not style.

  • by Jim Kukral Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    @Cam... lol, "sells more stuff" indeed. @Claire... I think you're on to something.

  • by David Flash Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    I agree with Cam... "A great marketer sells more stuff." I would add... The best marketers "sell the most stuff" with the least advertising/marketing expenditures. The best marketers know how much stuff they're selling.

  • by johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy) Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    great marketers have a great amount of curiosity ... they look for problems/answers where others don't think to look.

  • by Jim Kukral Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Remember, this question is asking what makes a "GREAT" marketer, not a good one. And also, I'm asking for the ONE thing. Not multiple things. I know it's a hard question, but worth asking.

  • by Bill Gammell Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Jim, I would have to agree with Cam, selling more stuff is the first and most basic building block. Selling more stuff doesn't make you "great", but without it I don't think you can become great. It's like the track runner responding to the question of "what do you need to do in order to win tonight's race?" with the answer of "run faster than anyone else." This, of course, is obvious and absolutely essential. I don't know of a single track star that has not won any races. Similarly, I do not know any great marketers that have not sold anything. However, how a track runner wins a race and how a marketer truly becomes great is made up of a million small things during their journey toward excellence.

  • by Lewis Green Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    If you work for another company the definition might be very different than if you work for yourself. Most executives expect marketers to do two things: build brand image and "sell more stuff." Marketing consultants and entrepreneurs might take a longer view and choose building brand image and developing great long-term relationships. I think the latter expectations of marketers create better and more successful businesses at the end of the day, as measured by selling more stuff. I was fortunate to work for two corporate giants who wanted their marketers to focus on the second example of what makes a great marketer. Both have been around for decades and both sell more stuff than their competitors.

  • by Stephen Denny Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Jim: I can't argue with Cam's point, of course. But as he's already made it, let me try this one: Great marketers see the future better than good ones. They understand where things are going before the masses (and competitors) do and seem to arrive just before the 'aha' moment.

  • by Claire Ratushny Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Lewis, You and I are thinking the very same way. Selling more stuff is exactly what is expected of marketers. It's how you get there that's important: substantive relationships with the customer are the key to not only selling more stuff but developing core relationships that are the single most important aspect of building brand equity. I couldn't agree with you more.

  • by Ann Handley Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Great marketer: Someone who loves what he or she sells... and who can effectively communicate that love.

  • by Joel Libava Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Jim, I agree with all, and am adding one: "The ability to see anything and everything that one runs into on a daily basis, both business related, and personally , as a marketing opportunity."

  • by Ann Handley Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    "The ability to see anything and everything that one runs into on a daily basis, both business related, and personally , as an.... opportunity." Joel -- Slightly edited, I thought this was the definition of a blogger? lol...

  • by Ryan Karpeles Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Great marketers are never satisfied.

  • by Sam Harrelson Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    A great marketer produces great consumers. Less is more.

  • by Harry Hallman Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Empathy, because it let's you "sell more stuff".

  • by Jim Kukral Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    I'm not sure we have a definitive answer yet? I don't think so. Also, what about this question? "Is it impossible to define a marketer to one specific trait or skill?" Perhaps?

  • by CK Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Point blank and net/net: a great marketer knows hot to create value. Creating, innovating and maintaining programs/services/offerings that are of value to your audience. And then guess what? Your audience will give you value (read: invest time and money into you). you asked for one thing and there it is. in fact, it's the core of all marketing as everything stems from value (be it real or perceived, rational or emotional). Thanks for asking.

  • by Thomas Scholl Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Great marketers apply a knowledge or intuition as to what makes different people cross the purchase theshold to become a buyer. At the same time they apply similar knowledge or intuition to make the company and products appeal long lasting, to reproduce future purchases.

  • by Jim Kukral Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    CK, I like your definition, however, that is at odds sorta with what others are saying? "can sell lots of stuff" is different that providing value? Or I guess just a methodology to that end point. Let me ask you this then CK. What about being able to sell stuff that isn't valuable? I mean, not every product has great value. Some of what we (marketer's generality) market is crapola. Is a "better" marketer someone who can sell ice to eskimoes?

  • by Susan Martin Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    I don't think one trait will do it, but certainly (as CK said,) creating value and also communicating that value ranks high on my list; along with zeroing in on "pain" and letting prospects know that you understand what they're going thru and can help them solve their problems.

  • by Michael Goodman Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Of course you need to "sell more stuff," but I think the question goes more to what qualities a great marketer needs to have. To my way of thinking, a great marketer needs to have a good balance of quantitative/analytical skills and insights/creativity in using what he/she learns. Lack of either will greatly diminish the "greatness" of a marketer. Once you have those, it doesn't hurt to be a great communicator too.

  • by Ben Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    In addition to creating value, a great Marketer is also able to capture value. For example, Google has been able to create great value with GMail, however users do not (want to) pay for it. Google sells ads to capture the value, which makes them a great company. In summary, its all about creating and capturing value.

  • by CK Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Jim: You ask, I answer. And I'm kinda used to being at odds--or odd :-). You asked... "Let me ask you this then CK. What about being able to sell stuff that isn't valuable? I mean, not every product has great value. Some of what we (marketer's generality) market is crapola." I wrote: " the core of all marketing is value creation as everything stems from value (be it real or perceived, rational or emotional)." Many times something is "perceived" valuable by one and then 'crapola' by others. That's why it was important to include "perceived/emotional"...cuz I'm amazed at what some audiences find valuable. But they do. But this is important. Value doesn't equal GREAT monetary value--not what I wrote/ needn't be a slick expensive car, it could be a $1 keychain that features Britney's bald head and her die-hard fans would just love it and it might be a valuable memory to them (it's about them, after all). If there is an audience that finds a product/service valuable then we've done our job...and made money. Sometimes we serve that value, sometimes we create, or innovate, it. Dig? Ben: nice job on the capturing value part...I stand corrected, er, uh, modified ;-). Great convo, Jim. P.S.: I could never sell ice to eskimoes. That's just mean. But I could market a way to build their ice-huts more efficiently or food coloring to give their huts a more distinctive flair. You get my gist.

  • by Jim Kukral Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    "I could never sell ice to eskimoes. That's just mean." @CK... Hehe, ok, what about a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves? We still don't have one definitive answer do we? I suppose the closest we have come is "creating value".

  • by Roy Young Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    In b2b marketing, I say great marketers make sales more productive.

  • by CK Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    I appreciate how Drucker hits on how marketing's job is to make sales obsolete (so creating enough value for the buyer that the product/service sells itself). Yup, I'm sticking with value folks.

  • by Drew McLellan Mon May 14, 2007 via blog

    Jim, A great marketer, IMO, is someone who creates a love affair with their customers. The rest (selling more stuff, creating value, finding answers etc) are all benefits that stem from the love affair. Drew

  • by Glenn Gow Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    Jim, intriguing question and a good discussion flow. I don't think there is any one attribute, as much fun as we've all had trying to come up with one. I don't even agree with the "sell lots of stuff" comment. This an overgeneralization AND it applies to sales more than it does marketing. The great marketer drives the strategic imperatives of the company (or product line) and then executes against those. Those strategies might not be to just "sell lots". They might be: - sell only to the most profitable customers and ignore the rest, - maximize profits vs. revenues, - put a smaller competitor out of business, - figure out what products to build, - ensure the right products are built, - create a new category, - enable the sales, organization to "sell lots", - etc. etc. In essence, the great marketer has to determine what is needed "in the moment", and deliver against that.

  • by Tim Jackson Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    Jim, Sorry I came a little late to the game... but here goes; What makes a great marketer? Me! Ok, hear me out... At first I meant that in the very joking manner, when I conceived the thought, but then it dawned on me how true it was. I get to define who/ what is great marketing by what I choose to buy or use or talk about. I am also what makes a great marketer because it is the great marketer who gets to me, understands me or values me. I am what defines that and makes it real each and every day. If they don't reach ME... THEY aren't great.

  • by Gabi Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    A great marketer is able to raise the perceived quality of a product, increasing brand value, which eventually translates into larger market share and justifiably higher prices for the product family.

  • by CK Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    Tim and Drew: your definitions are most excellent...and stem from value. How can one have a love affair if they don't value their customer...or give something of value to their customer? Tim: You choose to buy or what you talk about...yes. But choices are based on what we value. It's not that I'm being bossy (yes, I am that), it's that I've worked through this question for 15 years. And read many books. But that's not what got me to it...what got me to it was/is (and will always) be listening. And the one thing that all customers and colleagues say? Create and maintain value. It doesn't come from my head. It comes from my market's mouths. dig?

  • by leni varghese Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    Its true that selling more stuff applies to sales more than it does to marketing. Inorder to be a great marketer one needs to be proactive in understanding the need so that he is able to create value and communicate that value effectively to the potential customers. Marketer should be able to differentiate the offer and develop meaningful relationship with the customers. This will ultimately result in selling more stuff

  • by Claire Ratushny Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    There are many components to products and services that add tremendously to core value: --great design --innovation --solid engineering --quality --ethnographic research --a strong brand image Marketing should be used to leverage the distinct, differentiated core values of these products and services to build meaningful relationships with the targeted customer. Great marketers know that maintaining a loyal customer base is extremely important, as they work to build on that base by attracting new customers to their brands.

  • by Sunil S Chiplunkar Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    Great marketers undoubtedly create, communicate and deliver value, sell more, build image...but will all this make a person a great marketer? In India Lux soap is an example of great marketing. Is it only the because of above points? The edge that great marketing provides is unparalled customer delight. This makes the brand an aspirational brand. Great marketing establishes the covenant of trust (the brand). There are very few such brands out there. Another such great Indian brand in contemporary times is Kingfisher.

  • by Matt Dickman Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    On top of creating value, I think a truly great marketer enables their customers to be their top sales people. What I mean is that a great marketer gives people the ammunition and means to promote, evangelize and advertise easily. For some companies this is creating an open community for others it's creating commercials to back them up (think Apple v. PC). Either way the best/easiest sale is C-to-C.

  • by Jim Kukral Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    Is creating value and communicating value two different things? Now we have building trust, or branding in the mix as well. Which is more important? Creating value, or building trust?

  • by CK Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    Well, if you create and maintain value (like I said all the way up there) then you build and maintain trust. One begets the other since customers see a track-record of delivering on, or exceeding, their expectations. Trust is critical, as is listening. But when you create value be it for new audiences or new offerings with the same audiences (which, sure, you need to communicate) is what makes for a great marketer. It's the companies who create enough value (say Harley Davidson, Apple, etc) that have the biggest evangelists. Why? Because those customers value the company just that much.

  • by Mack Collier Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    A great marketer speaks with the voice of the customer.

  • by Kevin Hillstrom Tue May 15, 2007 via blog

    A great marketer sells a ton of stuff, and does his/her job with integrity. You can always sell more stuff by making people feel fear. A great marketer does his/her job in a moral way, a way that treats customers the way they would like to be treated.

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed May 16, 2007 via blog

    What an amazing dialog. I agree with CK (and Drucker). When a marketer's strategy and tactics attract customers without the need for external sales, that's business Nirvana. They just keep coming to you. Does a marketer need to feel passion or love for the product? It helps, but what if you're marketing pantihose, nuts and bolts, or everyday products that don't always illicit excitement? There's still a job to be done and a good marketer creates the value (or sense of it) for the customer. Besides, in many cases, good marketers create the illusion of value, when there are competitors' products or services that are far better.

  • by John Dodds Wed May 16, 2007 via blog

    Marketers don't sell stuff, they enable stuff to sell itself.

  • by BPS Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    I have to agree with the post: "empathy" makes great marketers. That's it. If you don't have it, you can't be the customer advocate in the business, and you'll never be a great marketer. Great marketers don't sell stuff, they understand their clients' fulfilled/unfulfilled needs and deliver that understanding to the business. Now the problem is: you can have a great marketer, but a business that doesn't listen to him/her, and, as a result, the business develops products they want to sell, but not necessarily that the customers want.

  • by Kirsty Wertz Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    How about this: A GREAT marketer knows how to exceed customer needs more profitably than anyone else.

  • by Lori Littlefield Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    A GREAT marketer is a GREAT problem solver. They solve problems for their customers and they continually solve marketing problems. A great marketer would not sell ice to an Eskamo because that would not solve a problem. Colored ice, as stated earlier, would solve a problem for someone who wants to be different.

  • by Valerie Huffman Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    I think it all boils down to and understanding of human motivates. A great marketer understands what drives people, and then shapes their product and message to motivate the consumer to buy into it.

  • by Kate Murchison Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    My team and I look at what a great marketer is in a number ways. Two key things are: 1. understanding the customer(s), and helping prove that what your product provides is meeting a need they have. It's easy to forget (particularly in the technology world) that just because we build it and it's cool, does not mean a customer actually needs it. 2. With the deep knowledge of the customer(s) wants, desires, needs and problems, providing the sales team with the tools needed to get them in the door. Then helping nurture the relationship.

  • by Cam Beck Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    Jim - As if it isn't apparent already... What a great job you did initiating and egging on a wonderful conversation!

  • by Richard Press Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    A great marketer is a visionary, motivator, leader, willing to take risk, is an innovative thinker, has the instincts and understanding of human nature, emits trust and integrity, harnesses the right customers to trial a product and the ability to establish a life long relationship between the customer and the company.

  • by Susan Mira Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    To be a GREAT marketer you must be aware and know how to "manage the customer's perception of value"- the benefit, need, or emotion that makes the customer buy the "stuff". Case in point. There is a prestige store in the US known for it's expensive fine jewelry, silver and fine china. When the brand first entered Asian markets they were perceived as a "gift shop". The luxury consumer went elsewhere for engagement rings, other fine jewelry, and luxurious tabletop items. The patterns and colors of their accessories were too bold and not pleasing to their taste. A great marketer understands the "perception of value" within a target market.

  • by Kathleen Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    These posts have been quite thought-proving and enjoyable. Let me toss this into the ring: A great marketer can hear unspoken need.

  • by Lisa Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    A great marketer is like a great chess player; able to see the entire game played out before it happens and able to make the strategic moves before their opponent, thus ultimately winning "more stuff"!

  • by Jim Kukral Thu May 17, 2007 via blog

    I agree, this discussion was/is very constructive and helpful. Thanks to everyone who has participated. I think we all have similar, yet different visions, and that's fine, we're all different types of marketers in different niches. Thanks again everyone.

  • by Mahmoud Selim Fri May 18, 2007 via blog

    Wut makes a gr8 markter is loving wut s/he is doing plus thinking beyond about marketing main aspects and mainly as mentioned zillion times b4, customer satisfaction at a profit. but the main thing is to be so close from ur customers and feel them. ?\ sell more is a part under maarketing. the thing is that u must make profit or you will leave the playround ?\ A gr8 marketer, who listens before he even speak a word, then have an action

  • by Alexander S. Prisant Mon May 21, 2007 via blog

    At Prism Ltd. we say give the CEO what they need. This week. Next week. If Jim insists on just one thing, it's clear: That's the job---consumer love affairs and brand loyalty are just some of our tools and strategies. It's a jungle out there. Fact: the average CMO is only in their job for 20 months--that means they get to orchestrate about one big push. Fact: The CEO's job hangs on quarterly dividend results-- each quarter. Investors have limited interested in the things we marketing people like to tinker with. Our job--even more funadmentally than "sell more stuff"--is to do what the CEO needs done to "feed the beast", otherwise known as the investor community. Alexander S. Prisant, COO, Prism Ltd.

  • by Carole Wilson Tue May 22, 2007 via blog

    I agree either you posses the skills to call or persuade people to purchase your product, so if you are not a walking product of your product how can we be successful?

  • by Steve Hoffacker Sat Jun 2, 2007 via blog

    Jim, Several of the posts define a great marketer in terms of "selling" when actually these are 2 separate disciplines. I always define and then keep my focus on the premise that marketing is everything that happens to get the customer to pick up the phone, send the email, or open your door. Sales takes over from there. Thus, a great marketer has the skill, the insight, and the innovation to draw in a circle of interested consumers and then to cause them to contact the salespeople to pursue that interest. Steve

  • by anom Wed Sep 5, 2007 via blog

    better late than never. I agree with Valerie Hoffman Quote: "A great marketer understands what drives people, and then shapes their product and message to motivate the consumer to buy into it". I'd also like to add that I know of a marketer who is self employed and doesn't have to answer to anyone. He basically could care less about branding as he just get his riches from back end products until the product matures and moves on to the next product(s). He has become rich with this method of buying cheap products selling high perceived value.Basically using the formula that valerie mentioned. That would make him a great marketer in my book because his "stuff" sells and his profit margin is off the charts.

  • by matt Tue Apr 28, 2009 via blog

    Jim, A great marketer is a great communicator. - Matt

  • by Jenn Thu Sep 24, 2009 via blog

    a great marketer has a positive attitude towards life. when he fails to achieve, he learns from it and tries ever harder- never gives up. he understands that he isnt perfect and always starts a fresh if the strategy fails. a great marketer understands that attitude is everything!

  • by Tumelo Chaka Sat Nov 13, 2010 via blog

    A great marketer knows how to keep the promise made ALIVE!

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