by Mike Fleming

A few years ago, I went ahead and got myself a nice liberal arts education. You know, the kind that’s supposed to “prepare you for the real world” by affording you the opportunity to take courses in communications, science, budgeting, psychology, etc. I must say that it’s a good thing too, considering I landed in the profession that I did. I was recently working on something and feeling a bit “stretched” out of my comfort zone when I realized just how many hats inbound marketers are called to wear throughout the daily trappings of their careers.

Man Wearing Hats.jpg

The truth is, like many other professions, it’s not easy to be (or to find) a good inbound marketer. It requires more skills than you or I are likely to imagine when we give it a passing thought. While each inbound marketer definitely has his or her own strengths and weaknesses for each required role, below are some of the proverbial hats that I have been called upon to wear over the years. I’m sure I’m leaving some out, so this list can be fluid. I’d love to hear some others that you have to share.

When you combine the fact that we have to be ultra-flexible, keep pace with inbound marketing changes, deal with the (diminishing) skepticism over whether we’re worth the investment and likely work out of a garage, you get a sense of what a real challenge it is to rise to the top of this profession.

Now I don’t write this to claim that I’ve personally ascended to any specific level, but to bring an awareness and appreciation for those that have and a fresh perspective for those whose marketing team may include an inbound specialist.

Here are some of my “true professions of an inbound marketer.”

Scientist

As any good marketer knows, improving the bottom line is not about opinion, but results. Inbound marketers have to know how to identify questions and problems, hypothesize solutions, perform tests, analyze results and draw conclusions. By wearing the scientist hat, you allow the customer to communicate what they want so that you can deliver it for them.

Psychologist

Inbound marketing is a pull medium. You have to be able to incorporate techniques into your web presence that satisfy customers rather than annoy them. You have to know what makes them tick, what’s going on in their lives, what messages will drive them to take action and what techniques encourage more of them to do so.

Investigator

At any point in time, an inbound marketer can be called to the scene of an accident. Whether it be organic rankings that totally disappear for a whole site, PPC ads that abruptly stop because they can’t be entered into auctions or conversion rates mysteriously plummet on a site (all things I’ve experienced by the way), we have to be ready to drop what we’re doing to come to the rescue. Since the problems aren’t usually immediately obvious, we have to incorporate good investigat-orial (that’s for you, Jen) skills, such as knowing how to prioritize the most likely and simple scenarios (is it unplugged?!?!) and how to attack them.

Consultant

Part of any client relationship for an inbound marketer is being available to answer any questions that may be asked of you. In order to be effective at this, you have to take the posture that there are no stupid questions. After all, this is why they hired you. They don’t know how to do what you do. So, being patient, tolerant and having the skill to answer questions in ways that are simple and make sense while, at the same time, suggesting there’s a master-guru-mogul-genius on the team is important to inbound marketing success.

Accountant

Not only have I been called upon to research
billing issues, but also to decide how budgets are going to be
allocated, what kind of ROI campaigns are getting, what kind of
return-on-ad (ROA) spend budgets are accruing, the optimal Target Cost
Per Conversion, and many other financial metrics.

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