How to hire introverts in marketing

This article is pretty cool / interesting and describes why marketing needs more introverts — as opposed to the extroverts more commonly associated with that business sector. The central reason should be logical to most people working in the modern world for an organization that ultimately sells some type of service: there are a lot of options out there in almost every industry, and perhaps it’s now more important to listen (to your potential consumers) than to lead the charge ahead. Introverts are, by nature, probably a little bit better at listening. This plays into issues of humility in the workplace and the shifting marketing funnel (people don’t come in to the sales process the way they used to). Here’s an example from the author of the main HBR article:

Time will tell if I am right. But the more I’ve considered Cain’s praise for introverts, the more I’ve realized that during my career, some of the best marketers I’ve worked with have been introverts. One marketing vice president at a former client launched a new product quietly in a few select markets that came up as a result of quiet reflection as he listened to superconsumers, retailers, and his R&D staff. It grew to nearly $100 million in sales with minimal advertising support. This marketer eventually left the corporate world because he couldn’t stand the pontificating, posturing, and politics that are sometimes required in corporate America—behaviors that are probably due to the prevalence of extroverts in that world. He’s now a happy, thriving, and self-employed options trader—a profession that better suits his personality.

This is all well and good, and I mostly agree with it. As content marketing exploded, that means there’s all this content everywhere — “inbound” gets you “leads,” no doubt. But with tons of content, people are also voicing views and opinions on that content everywhere. So rather than pushing forward all the time (more associated with an extrovert), you need to pull back and reflect on what the customers are saying (more introvert). Remember, it’s all about telling a story and seeing how people react. It’s less about big data, per se, and more about just straight-up listening, engaging, and reflecting. Introverts are likely — not in every situation, but in many — better poised to do that.

Here’s the problem: hiring models. They’re currently set up by many to get the “big, loud, extroverts” into marketing — the MBAs with the storytelling flair! If a straight-up introvert walked into a job interview for a standard marketing job at an average company, they’d likely be dead in the water from Second No. 12 onward. We have things — traits, personalities — we associate with every business function, from HR (compliance-oriented woman?) to accounting (math-loving nerd?) to tech developers (sweatshirt-wearing code-happy Indian?). Those bubbles do inform how these processes unfold, even if it’s primarily below the surface.

To get a marketing department to hire more introverts, you’d need better management — ideally that exists, but no guarantees — or deeper reflection on where the gaps are in the work — again, ideally that’s happening, but again, no guarantees.

This is kind of why silos can be irritating —  you look at a situation like this, and two areas of a business that don’t regularly communicate (HR and marketing, let’s say) will need to in order to get these types of “better listeners” in the door. This is the ideal, but the reality is different: meetings, cross-purposes, poor communication, outdated job descriptions, stereotypes of what marketing “should” be. At base, your talent strategy informs everything, thus: you need the right people (which isn’t the same thing as the “best” people, FYI) in the right slots, and you need to think and reflect on what that means as your business evolves and changes (which all businesses do). I’d love to see a ton of introverts in marketing. I just don’t see the path for that to happen at many companies right now, unfortunately.


Ted Bauer

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