In this post, we define what is a marketing mentor, the value they deliver and the potential disadvantages of mentoring. We try to dispel the confusion over the difference between a marketing mentor and a marketing coach.
The Role Of A Marketing Mentor?
The definitions of the role of a marketing mentor are many and varied. One of the better definitions (from MentorSET) states; ‘it is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee) normally working in a similar field or sharing similar experiences.’ It is a helpful relationship based on mutual respect and trust.
In any mentoring process, the mentee generally sets the agenda. A mentor asks questions and challenges while providing guidance and encouragement. They normally have specific experience of the mentee’s occupation or role and will focus on helping the mentee improve in that role.
What Is The Difference Between A Coach And Mentor?
To many the terms business coach and business mentor are interchangeable. Given the many definitions of mentoring and coaching the confusion is understandable.
Business coaching has many definitions but the role of a coach is to help a senior business executive reach some specific goal. That goal is to take a business from a starting point (A) to some desired future point (B)
A coach may be less experienced and from a different industry to their client. Their focus is on change management and/or developing the soft skills of their client. They help their client improve their business skills, business relationships and decision making. Coaching is often a long term engagement.
Mentoring tends to be short term and focussed on role-specific issues. A mentor will take the time to dig to the root of a specific problem. They will plan a way forward to address the issue and set milestones (targets). They use their specific experience to ensure time and resources are not wasted on unproductive tasks or blind alleys.
What Does A Marketing Mentor Deliver?
A mentor can deliver real value by developing the skills of the mentee. The mentee then applies those new skills on an ongoing basis to benefit the business. A mentor is:
In their particular area of business. They will hold a range of relevant qualifications and have many years of experience. It is the combination of up to date knowledge and practical business experience that is at the core of a marketing mentor value to a business.
A Sounding Board
The first skill any good mentor should employ is listening and active questioning to get to the key issues. They need to understand the real root of the problem and the needs and aspirations of the mentee. The mentor is also there as a sounding board for the mentee to bounce ideas off and to get constructive feedback on those ideas.
The mentor should use their skills and experience to suggest the best course of action and to agree on a way forward and plan for the mentee to implement. The mentor’s role is then to provide ongoing advice to deal with issues as they arise during the rollout of the plan.
With the plan in place, the role of the mentor is to hold the mentee accountable for their actions. Their role is to keep them on track delivering support and guidance as appropriate.
Depending on the seniority of the mentee the mentor may act as a role model. The mentor may also be required to act as a motivator and/or councillor to ensure the objectives of the mentoring service are met.
An often overlooked advantage of a mentor is their ability to arrange introductions to suppliers and contacts of value to the mentee. A mentor can often point to potential opportunities that may not be immediately obvious to the mentee.
The Disadvantages Of Employing A Mentor
It is important to choose a mentor with skills, qualification and experience that precisely matches the needs of both the mentee and the business. They should also be a fit with business culture and the personality and needs of the mentee. Given this specification, finding the right mentor can be a challenge.
Even if the right decision on a mentor is made there is a risk the relationship between mentor and mentee can break down. If this happens then there is little point proceeding. This will waste resources and can demotivate the mentee.
The mentee can fail to understand that mentoring is a short term activity meant to upskill them to the point they can take on a task themselves. They can become over dependent on the mentor, taking a back seat rather than driving the relationship forward.
In contrast, if the mentoring process goes well the mentee may have overblown expectations of where they fit in the organisation moving forward. They may expect more than the business can offer in the short term.
Marketing Mentoring is often overlooked as an option for business. The most common solution is to use an agency to take on most, if not all, marketing tasks. They may be supported or managed by an internal person or left to get on with the task. The problem with agencies is the costs and the lack of a long term legacy.
In small to medium-sized businesses mentoring takes existing personnel and develops them to the point they can take on the marketing task. In larger organisations mentoring is used to upskill personnel or to fill gaps in marketing capability.
A mentor can help with specific tasks. For example they can act as a content marketing mentor or provide digital marketing guidance.