The CMO survey reports that companies anticipate hiring 7.2% more marketers in the next 12 months. The survey also shows that consulting companies will experience the largest increase (+17.3%) followed closely by manufacturing (+14.9%), technology (+12.5%), banking/finance (+11.9%), and healthcare/pharmaceuticals (+8.3%).
Figure 1. Which business sectors are hiring marketers?
I compared these figures to a few hiring trends in technology and healthcare/pharmaceutical companies for Fuqua students where I could get good data. The numbers are striking (see Figure 2). Among the healthcare/pharmaceutical positions filled by Fuqua students, 85% are marketing positions. Likewise, among the technology company positions filled by Fuqua students, 89% are marketing positions.
Figure 2. The proportion of marketing jobs in healthcare and technology among Fuqua School of Business grads
Why do marketing positions account for such a high proportion of new jobs in these and other sectors?
1. The customer connection: Boston Consulting Group’s Dan Leemon once said, “The marketing function, with its unique perspective on customers, products, and competitors, should take the lead in defining marketing opportunities and rallying the whole organization to support them.” Likewise, a study by The Marketing Society noted “The challenge for marketing is to impose and coordinate quality control over the growing number of customer interfaces.” In a paper I wrote with Roland Rust on “The Role of Marketing,” we show when marketing should play a role in connecting the customer to the product, to service delivery, and to financial accountability. When this happens, the company performs better financially on key revenue and profit indicators.
2. There is no blood in the turnip: Companies have sucked nearly all extra costs that they can from their people and processes. How will profits grow? Enter marketing with an eye on unmet customer needs in current markets, untapped markets, and new types of value and innovation for customers. It’s out there and marketers are often the first ones to see it. John Forsyth, a partner and expert principal in the Consumer and Shopper Insights Practice at McKinsey, shared why his firm is hiring students with marketing backgrounds, “A great deal of McKinsey’s strategy work is related to marketing and digital marketing. Specifically, we need the capabilities to generate and leverage customer insights to help our clients achieve growth and impact in the marketplace.”
3. It is hard to go two ways at once: I once had helped settle an argument between friends. Roland Rust believed that companies should focus on customer criteria when trying to get a financial return on quality investments. Peter Dickson believed that return on quality should be judged by improved firm efficiency and cost reductions. Like most of my students, I believed that both were important. The literature was split at the time. In a study of managers in firms seeking to obtain a financial return from quality improvements, we put our ideas to test. We measured the degree to which firms were using customer criteria, cost criteria, or both to evaluate quality profitability. We also measured firm performance using managers’ reports of firm performance and longitudinal secondary data on firm profitability and stock returns. Results indicate that firms adopting a customer approach performed best—significantly better than firms that try to emphasize both customer and cost criteria simultaneously. The reason is that it is hard to prioritize customers and costs at the same time. Criteria for decision making conflict very frequently and most managers get confused about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
4. Better to “sense and respond”: Super science, cool designs, and blow-your-brain technologies are today’s field of dreams. Too many times companies “build it” but then consumers do not come. It’s important for companies to know very clearly how products make customers smarter, faster, healthier, or just happier. Scientists, engineers, and computer science folks need a marketer with an eye on the customer and on new applications to help uncover new uses for cells, code, and other contraptions. However, it’s best to not to wait until the product is made to get that advice. We call that “make and sell.” Better to “sense and respond”—to have ongoing sharing about markets with bench people so everyone can be on the lookout for the best ideas.
Want growth? What strategic direction with a financial payoff? What technology to pay off in the marketplace? Hire a marketer.