The Fourth Skill

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Somebody screwed up. I don’t know who, and I really don’t care, because as a result of this screwup, I’m sitting in first class on my way home from my firm’s conference in Miami. And I’m sitting next to my colleague Dennis, who’s in first class because he screwed up — he took a job that requires him to fly across the country way too often.

Dennis is a rare find in the world of marketing — and not just because he likes me. It’s because he has what I call the fourth skill.

For a long time, there were two marketing “skills” — branding (although it was generally referred to more often as advertising) and direct marketing. I’m oversimplifying, of course, since within each of this disciplines there are a number of specialized (and no less important) skill sets.

Then along came the Internet, and a new skill family emerged — online marketing. This new skill family married technology, user interface design, and direct marketing skills.

Now let me ask you a question: Of the marketers you know, how many are comfortable in all three areas, and can converse equally well with experts from all three disciplines?

I only know one — Dennis. He has the fourth skill. An understanding of branding, direct marketing, and online marketing. An ability to help organizations create marketing strategies and plans that integrate the three disciplines. And an ability to discuss marketing ROI with the financial folks as well as the marketers.

I don’t think that at this point in his career that Dennis is looking to become a Chief Marketing Officer. Which is too bad, because he would be a good one. Successful CMOs in the future will need the fourth skill. Liking me is optional.

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