Is Domain Expertise Overrated? Who Wants More Kool-Aid?
Allow me to share a bit of introspection. In my long career as a marketer I’ve worked for eight companies as an employee, but I’ve provided services to over 55 different companies as a consultant or interim manager. Nearly all my employers and clients were in different industry segments or product categories.
So, when I see bios of executives who have for 25 years worked for three companies all in the same industry I’m astonished at their dedication to one industry. I can’t help but wonder if they didn’t get really bored though.
As you can imagine this introspective glance at my career got me to thinking (once again) about the relative value of domain expertise versus process expertise for an interim manager.
I can see the value of having experience within an industry sector or product category if one is attempting to work for another company in the same field. Really, I can. However, I think domain expertise is overrated. I believe more companies when hiring a permanent or interim executive in marketing should put more weight on the leader’s process skills and relationship skills.
One of the biggest values an IM in marketing can bring to the organization is objectivity. If the person doesn’t have in-depth industry experience they will question everything and ensure that customer data and market trends are significant factors in strategic and tactical marketing decisions. This objectivity and current market insight is absolutely critical to off-set the tendency for companies to drink their own Kool-Aid to the point of extreme myopia.
A person who has been in the industry for a time is likely to believe they know it all and be eager to show the client that they do. They will also be very tempted to rely on “what worked for them at ABC Company.” In both cases objective, market-centric thinking can take a back seat when someone wants to showboat. Professional marketers won’t do this. No matter how experienced they are in a category they’ll insist on the latest customer data, competitive analysis, and market trends to help steer their decisions.
If you’re considering interim management to fill a gap in the ranks, to shore up skill levels temporarily, or to add one-time bandwidth look first at the individuals who have a track record of applying proven processes and marketing instincts to their assignments. It’s hard to go wrong with that type of experience.