Important skills for successful loyalty marketing

In January, 2014, the following by-lined article by Jerry Bernhart on must-have loyalty marketing skills appeared on Loyalty360, receiving thousands of views, shares and likes. It is reproduced here for your convenience.

As a recruiter who has specialized in loyalty marketing skills for more than 20 years, I’ve worked from literally thousands of CRM and loyalty-related job descriptions and written dozens of them myself.  The basic loyalty marketing skills required for successful performance as a loyalty marketer are fairly straightforward- defining the customer contact strategy, implementing strategies to keep customers engaged, expert analytical skills, etc.  But there are key abilities that go far beyond the basic duties and responsibilities that are seen on a job description, and in recent years, they’ve taken on increasing importance.  I believe that in the years to come they’ll become even more critical, so I thought this might be an appropriate time to look ahead, look between the lines of the typical job description, and examine some of the other sought after qualities that employers will be looking for in loyalty marketing candidates in 2014:
Creative Thinking.  It was written by the Greek Philosopher Plato that you are either creative or you’re not, that whatever creative ability you have you were born with.  Fortunately, modern scientific theory refutes that theory.  Interview questions that probe your ability to think creatively can get, well, pretty creative.  You’d expect it.  Candidates who’ve interviewed at Google have told me about some real mind-twisters, such as:  “How many piano tuners are there in the United States,” or, “Explain a database in three sentences to your 8 year old nephew”.  While loyalty marketers usually don’t take it to that extreme, they recognize the importance of being able to look at problems differently and creating new approaches to solve them.
Managing complexity. The world is a complex place, and customer loyalty programs by their very nature have many interlocking pieces.  Building a customer rewards program that continues to generate interest, builds loyalty and results in more frequent and profitable customer touch points requires the orchestration of many moving parts.  There are hundreds if not thousands of books, scholarly papers and even college courses on complexity management.  While loyalty marketers are generally not experts in the analysis and optimization of complexity in a corporate enterprise, they should be aware that all business processes along the value chain are affected by complexity, and that the ability to turn complexity into a “value add” will lead to better operational performance.
Emotional Intelligence.  Emotional intelligence has been widely researched for decades and is typically a key component of online assessment and personality profiles that many employers now include as part of their interviewing process.  It’s been my experience that emotional intelligence is a hallmark trait among the most talented loyalty marketing leaders. Senior level loyalty marketers, like all other business leaders, need to have a high level of self-awareness as well as self-management and self-direction.  The name of the game is creating a work environment where everyone works effectively.  This becomes especially important for those in CRM who are building departments from scratch and who must engender trust and teamwork among disparate groups.
Strategic decision-making. When you think about it, strategic decision-making is the lifeblood of organizations.  Decisions must be made against an ever-changing backdrop of uncertainty, where market conditions and the competitive landscape can change at the drop of a hat.  Employers want loyalty marketers with loyalty marketing skills who can obtain information and identify key issues relevant to achieving long-range goals.  They want loyalty marketers who can commit to a course of action after developing alternatives based on facts and logical assumptions.  They also want loyalty marketers who can develop strategies and tactics given available resources and existing constraints that align with the organization’s values.
Curiosity. The old saying “curiosity killed the cat” cautions against testing and experimentation.  That might be good advice if you manufacture high explosives, but in loyalty marketing, testing and experimentation are the name of the game.  Employers look for loyalty marketers who can go beneath the surface and distill a problem down to a very clear set of hypotheses that can be tested, sort of the marketer’s version of the scientific method. Loyalty marketers are “police detectives” of CRM:  They always ways to know more about who the customer is and what motivates them to make purchasing decisions.
Communication skills. Loyalty marketers often work within highly matrixed organizations.  They need to influence stakeholders and they must be expert at using data to tell a story and explain technical concepts to non-technical people.  They also are often tasked with building collaborative relationships cross-functionally. It takes strong verbal and written communication skills to accomplish these things.  The complexities of today’s modern workplace demand it.  In 2015, this will remain at or near the top of the most important loyalty marketing skills that employers will be looking for in loyalty marketing candidates.