Having a great marketer on your team can mean the difference between success and failure of your business. While startups are hunting for growth hackers who can help them become the next unicorn, Fortune 500 companies are asking their CMOs to elevate their game and assume Chief Growth Officer roles.

Few functions have evolved as dramatically over the last decade as marketing, making great marketers with up-to-date skills a rare breed. It is no wonder that a recent study done by Lever discovered that it takes 192 applicants to recruit a single marketing hire, which is far more than the number for designers, engineers, or even data scientists.

If you are about to embark on a search of your own, it’s a natural question to ask and the one we often hear from our clients: What does a great marketer look like?

We believe that a top-notch marketer of today is a growth marketer who is defined by five fundamental qualities.

1. Ability to connect with the audience

First, a great marketer needs to have an understanding of human psychology and intuitive sense of how and when to speak to different audiences and how to form deep emotional connections with them.

If you want to attract, engage, and retain customers, you have to be able to uncover their needs, what motivates them, and how they make decisions. Once you know what drives them, it’s easier to get their attention, keep it, and get them to take action.

The importance of user research and understanding customer psychology is often lost on today’s growth hackers. Yet, without these critical elements, a marketer is simply a data scientist playing with numbers.

A marketer needs strong storytelling skills to craft the right narrative for their target audience and help them connect with your brand on a personal level. Rob Meinhardt, former partner at Toba Capital, echoes this sentiment:

I think somebody who was the top marketer in 1950’s in the world would probably be the top marketer in the world today. What makes great marketing is personality. It’s charisma. It’s touching a nerve and creating a religion [around your brand]. You have different tools at your disposal, but if you forget that marketing is about a human touch point and hitting that nerve, I think you’ll never be a truly extraordinary marketer.

2. Full-stack expertise

A great marketer in today’s digital reality has a T-shaped profile and is well versed across different channels with deep expertise in a few of them. An avid learner, he stays on the cutting edge and is always looking to discover new marketing strategies, tactics, and tools.

Modern marketing professionals complement channel expertise with a firsthand knowledge of conversion rate optimization, A/B testing framework, and marketing automation solutions that enable them to get the most out of their efforts.

3. Creative mind

A great marketer must be a creative mind and be able to generate new, actionable, and relevant ideas on how to drive growth for your company. After all, as Hiten Shah points out:

Marketing is mostly experimentation against your creativity.

It’s easy to get caught up in trends and try to apply strategies and tactics that worked for someone else to your business, but it rarely works. The reason they were effective is because they were unique to that company’s product, audience, and situation.

A great marketer, on the other hand, has the creativity to come up with out-of-the-box approaches to achieve your growth goals as well as evolve the techniques proven by other companies to reflect your specific circumstances.

4. Data-driven approach to decision making

Another fundamental quality of a great marketer is the ability to interpret data and use it to inform decision making.

Marketing as a discipline has become much more technical. With lots of data and tools at their disposal, today’s marketers have the ability to look across different marketing channels, both online and offline, to understand what’s working and what’s not.

What sets great marketers apart is their ability to bring information from different channels and platforms together into a holistic picture, derive meaning from it, and make critical decisions quickly.

While data and metrics are paramount to the way marketers discover a path to growth, they are not getting buried in the numbers. Besides looking for insights in large data sets, they also do a great deal of raw-level data analysis and qualitative research.

5. Growth mindset

Finally, successful marketers have a growth mindset and results orientation. They are relentlessly focused on getting better, building upon successful tactics, and driving incremental growth, as opposed to resting on the laurels. And they are not afraid to try and fail and regard failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.

These growth marketers with a testing DNA implement a structured process for validated learning and rapid experimentation throughout the marketing funnel to inform their growth playbook.

Although born out of the startup world, this concept of growth hacking or growth marketing is something that is applicable to companies of any size. As George Deeb of Red Rocket Ventures aptly put it,

Perhaps, the term “growth hacker” should be renamed Marketer 2.0 to better emphasize its importance for all organizations, startups or otherwise.

Final thoughts

Today’s top marketers are growth marketers. They are empathetic storytellers and growth-minded, data-driven, and creative full-stack experts. With so many companies vying for that scarce talent, finding one for your high-growth business is a daunting task. So, you need to be prepared to invest time and resources into hiring this game-changer on your team or risk being left in the digital dust.