I hate the SATs. Yes, I am a grown man, and I still hate them. Why? Because they are ridiculous and prove nothing about a person that would be even remotely relevant in the real world. I also detest the aptitude test I took in middle school that told me I should become a farmer (although I do love gardening). With that, I want to be clear that when I reference aptitude, I do so while dismissing standardized testing and its false claims that it measures someone’s abilities in any substantial way. Standardized testing measures aptitude the same way golf lessons help determine if a person can throw a baseball.
Every person learns differently, and you can’t standardize an assessment of one’s potential. I think this is why I reject useless certifications that quiz a sales and marketing professional on whether or not they can create a segment, sales funnel, or email while completely ignoring whether or not they have the ability to do these things well. And this is at the heart of the matter, here. Proficiency in doing something is highly subjective based on how the success of a task is measured and, frankly, who is measuring it.
Before sharing an example of this, I wanted to quickly add some context. I feel it is important to share that, in general, email opens don’t really mean all that much in my experience (which is why I’m not overly concerned about Apple no longer supporting pixels to track them). Yes, they inform potential deliverability issues, but they are otherwise not that important. Some will argue that they inform engagement by users…but they don’t. Opens = Awareness, which is an unquantifiable and useless metric. What matters is click engagement, subsequent page views (depending on the product/service being marketed), and ultimately, conversions (I will write about awareness soon).
Opens can also be deceptive. Let’s imagine, as a business marketing professional, I improved an open rate from 18% to 26% in a single deployment. Open rates are measured by dividing the number of opens an email has into the number of messages delivered. If you remove long-time non-openers from the list of recipients, a basic, yet vitally important email marketing/database management task, you (ultimately) lessen the delivered count. As a result, the denominator in this equation changes despite the (actual) number of opens remaining static.
- 250,000 Delivered
- 46,200 Opens
- 18% Open Rate
- 176,000 Delivered
- 46,200 Opens
- 26% Open Rate
It isn’t a magic trick. But if I even began to tell you how many obsessive, spreadsheet-loving professionals (who have hired an entry-level marketing resource to work on their email marketing) I’ve met who have been impressed by this, you’d fall over. From their perspective, I am very proficient at my job – proficiency is purely subjective. And this is at the core of why I always point out how ridiculous it is for people to vet candidates for which they are unqualified to do so, especially when they are looking for the best marketing strategy.
In contrast, one’s aptitude is purely objective but rarely acts alone. It is when we combine it with experience, instinct, and passion that we can truly see the potential in someone. In this same example, if I looked at ‘click engagement’, as compared to ‘time spent on a site,’ I would quickly see that x% of the clicks were from firewall scraping of the links in the email (this means that bots, not humans clicked through, which is measured by those page views with one second or less on a page. My proficiency in this is a secondary factor – a ‘nice to have.’) This was an actual problem with one of my previous employers who couldn’t figure out bot traffic. On my first day, I developed a method that took time spent on a page after clicking into account when reporting on click engagement.
We also need to appreciate that despite one’s aptitude, she might simply lack the passion or interest to pursue a particular profession. For example, I have always been told I’d be a great salesperson, but I do not like sales. I’ve been told I’d be a solid chef…but I have no desire to work at night and never see my family on holidays. And my middle school aptitude test thinks I’d be a great farmer. There are also facets of life where we simply don’t want to do things, anymore, despite being good at them because we are burned out from it or no longer challenged by it.
There always seems to be an urgency when finding a marketing resource to work with and I think our radars for vetting them are sacrificed due to the pressure. Proficiency in a given system, for example, might help you achieve such short-term gains…but my money is on the marketer who demonstrates aptitude, experience, instinct, and who appreciates that these nouns function best as a group. And when they do work together, a marketer will undoubtedly yield greater, long-term benefits.