Should You Hire a B2B Marketing Guru or Practitioner?

There are a few successful NFL coaches who never played the professional game, but darned few.  Four notable examples are Vince Lombardi, Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan and John Madden.  But even these four coaches played at the college level and Madden was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but never got to play because of an injury.

So what does this have to do with B2B marketing?  Simply this: if you are in a business that relies on outside marketing contractors to enhance your success, you need to think very carefully about the credentials of the individual or team you hire.

There is an old expression that goes, “Those who can’t do; teach.”  While I agree that some great teachers were not the best players (think John Wooden in basketball or Butch Harmon in golf), most really good teachers practiced their craft in the real world.

I remember sitting through college courses where it was obvious that the professor had little or no hands-on experience in the subject he or she was teaching.  For all I knew, my Marketing 101 professor’s real world marketing experience consisted of marketing himself to the tenure committee.  By contrast, when I teach my monthly marketing class as volunteer for SCORE, every student knows that they are hearing from someone who practices the strategies on a daily basis, for companies whose success, and sometimes survival, depends on the principles he is sharing.

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The title of this post is Should you Hire a B2B Marketing Guru or Practitioner, but there is a third choice. You can hire a practitioner who also has the expertise of a guru.  We’ll call this category Marketing Practitioner Gurus.  The practitioner guru may not be as well known as the teaching guru because the practitioner spends way more time promoting their clients than themselves.  However, the marketing practitioner usually has the same level of knowledge (and sometimes more).  And this knowledge is more valuable because it is garnered in the field of battle, from daily successes and failures, not the classroom or reading what other so-called gurus have to say about the latest theory.

The world of B2B marketing and sales is a tough and unforgiving place that rewards practical solutions over theories and execution over planning.  You probably wouldn’t hire a golf instructor who doesn’t play golf or schedule brain surgery with a professor who hasn’t performed the procedure in years.  Likewise, why hire a marketing guru when there are practitioners who consistently achieve great B2b marketing results (the true mark of a guru)?

Famed AdWords expert Perry Marshall wrote a blog post about this subject titled Fact vs. Fiction in the Guru Biz.  Marshall talks about how disappointed people can be when they hire gurus and don’t get the anticipated results.   This post is definitely worth reading.

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