“We’re all learning here; the best listeners will end up being the smartest.”
~ Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff (authors of Groundswell)
This week I’m kicking off a new series on my blog highlighting specific professions. A big part of my work as a career coach is connecting my clients with those who are in the know about their area of interest. Not just people who work for the companies they are interested in targeting, but those longtime professionals who have “been there, done that” and can offer certain subject matter expertise that can be worth its weight in gold.
So with that, I wanted to start with a profession that is oft-misunderstood, cross-functionally driven, vital to a strong business model, and way more tech-savvy than many realize: Marketing.
I sent out five questions to longtime marketing professionals in my network, targeting those who have been in leadership roles and have a diverse set of backgrounds that I strongly felt would benefit those at the beginning of their careers, along with those who are considering a career transition to this profession.
The seven contributors to this week’s post come from the following areas:
- Susan Bladholm, Director of Marketing (aviation)
- Nick Schuder, Senior Marketing Account Manager (energy)
- Robin Cangie, Head of Marketing (e-learning)
- Lissa Gienty, Marketing Director (healthcare)
- Sarah Lazzaro, Senior Marketing Manager (insurance)
- Kristie Conner, Product Marketing Manager (technology)
- Gladys Nortey, Marketing Consultant (communications)
Below is what they had to share with me about their work in the Marketing field, what they’ve learned, and tips for those looking into a career in this profession. Enjoy!!!
1) What helped you the most in getting (and succeeding in) your current job?
Networking / Relationships
“Having solid relationships with people in my industry and of course, a career coach. During my search I met with as many business leaders as possible – those I already knew, as well as ones I didn’t. Once in my new position, I found success by being a humble, eager learner and through being extremely collaborative.”
“Constantly reaching out and being open to new possibilities. I found my current job through a neighbor of my mother’s!”
“Reconnecting with my professional network helped me land my positions. It is always critical to articulate my pitch (what I want and need), so my network can assist me.”
Staying Open to Learning/Growth
“Maintaining a growth mindset is crucial to success. I work at a small startup where priorities and goals are constantly changing. Letting go of dearly held assumptions and beliefs about what you think will work can be scary, but ultimately it liberates you to try lots of new ideas and run with the best ones. Not, of course, at the expense of your principles – don’t relax those for anybody!”
“All my stops along the way have required me to know at least a little about all areas of marketing and communications. What helps me succeed is maintaining a “lifelong learner” attitude. If I don’t know something that can help my organization, I learn it or I hire a resource who can help me learn it while they implement.”
“Being open, flexible and trusting my instincts. When I realized I was not passionate about nursing school, I changed course, followed my instincts and graduated with a BS instead and soon after got my first job in Marketing. This (flexibility) allowed me to capitalize on opportunities that allowed me to end up in career that I love. When recently presented with a new role, one that is not yet clearly defined in the industry, I had the great privilege of creating a new position – one that is a hybrid of marketing and customer success. Had I been resistant to change, I would not be in this new position that is one of the most exciting of my career.”
“Having a good education certainly creates a solid foundation, but there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. Organizations and hiring managers care about what you’ve done. The type of projects, the size of projects, and – most importantly – the results of projects.“
Strategy AND Execution
“Strategy is key, but being able to execute is essential too. The most successful projects and campaigns that I’ve been part of involve marketers with a smart up-front plan but who can also find a way to make it happen.”
“I can’t think of a single successful project or program that didn’t take a team to plan and execute. Combining your own good ideas with a talented team takes everything to the next level. It’s hard to be brilliant in a vacuum, and even the smartest marketer is challenged to make his/her plan work without support.”
2) What is one of the most common misconceptions about working in Marketing?
That We Don’t Have Good Business Acumen
“That we’re not good at strategic planning, project management or budgeting! The best marketing generalists excel at all of the above.”
That Anyone Can Do It
“That anyone who has marketing in their title can write award-winning copy on the fly, and graphic-design a masterpiece in 15 minutes.”
“It’s humorous to me when engineers, scientists and other technical professionals assume that it’s a simple task to plan an event, build a website or run a campaign. They have no conception of how essential it is to plan a cohesive messaging strategy or how to use multiple channels to deliver those messages. I certainly have no idea how to write code or manage a network, but I realize that it takes a specific and practiced skill set to do it. Few realize that marketing is also an art.”
“I’ve seen people put in charge of marketing who have no marketing background. Just because someone is smart or charismatic they can lead a marketing department. Unlike other career paths – engineering, for example – I have not seen leaders inserted who don’t have experience.”
That It’s Not Analytical
“A lot of non-marketers think that marketing is all about designing ads, attending conferences, and playing on social media. It’s actually a lot more analytical than most people realize! I spend a good chunk of my day in spreadsheets and using various tools trying to understand campaign performance. Creativity is important, too, but at least in the B2B world, marketing is becoming less of an art and more of a science by the day.”
That It’s Not Hard Work
“Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely creativity in our field, and generally the people who work in Marketing are pretty enjoyable to be around. However, there’s a lot of planning and effort that go into executing our work well. It’s actually one of the things I love most about my job – I get to be creative and analytical – i.e. I get to face, and overcome, a different challenge every day!”
“They think we get all the fun jobs…and get all the “cool” giveaways.”
That A Marketer is a Marketer is a Marketer
“Today’s marketing organizations are complex with very different roles – Digital Marketing, Product Marketing, Programs, Lead Generation, and more. Each require different personalities and skill sets. Regardless of your role, however, you can’t be amazing unless you know your product and your audience.”
3) What advice would you offer those wanting to get into this line of work?
Hone Your Writing Skills
“Hone your writing skills, from ad copy to creative writing to technical writing. Center your thinking around, “the customer comes first” rather than “this is what we want to say/sell.””
“Learn how to write for businesses. Marketing always needs good writers.”
“Learn to write and clearly communicate. Everyone thinks they are a writer. Seriously. You might not be the best writer, but it’s imperative to your professional growth. “
Focus on Diverse Work
“Gain as much experience as you can through volunteering for a diverse range of projects; the best marketing practitioners I know have a range of skills to help tackle the really odd or enormous projects.”
“Get involved in juicy projects. I’ve worked in food marketing, technology marketing and now healthcare marketing. There’s something interesting about each industry.”
“I have found that taking the projects nobody else wants can be a huge career opportunity. A few years back, I was given a product line that nobody wanted, but it had great potential. It gave me a lot of freedom to grow the business and build my brand internally. This served as a great foundation for new opportunities. “
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
“You must be willing to take on just about anything – even if you are a specialist. Be comfortable managing ambiguity. “
“Regardless of the industry, find companies where you’re challenged and allowed to take chances. Challenge yourself to create interesting and engaging products and/or programs that provide compelling experiences for your audience. There’s nothing like creating a unique campaign with amazing copy/creative that actually gets customers to respond or buy or engage. It’s the best thing.”
“Remain flexible, open and seize opportunities that excite you. If you are passionate and engaged, you’ll find the path less traveled might be the one that gets you just where you want to be. “
“Be passionate and willing to role up your sleeves to make whatever happen! Every day could be different, so be open to the possibilities and think BIG IDEAS!”
Focus on Relationship Building
“Meet with as many people in the field as possible. Get ready to buy a bunch of coffee for people all over town.”
“Test your people skills. Half my day is making sure everyone is onboard with the ideas that are moving forward. I’m interpreting feedback, both verbal and non-verbal, navigating personal tastes, and quite frankly spending about half my time in a conference room. I said before – this job isn’t always sexy – but it can be rewarding!”
“Learn to influence. Understand what motivates them and build sustainable authentic relationships.”
Focus On Continuous Learning
“Embrace data. Learn how to set goals and measure progress against them – it will help you far more than you realize. “
“Stay open. It’s the only way to learn from all the amazing people around you. Like it or not, everyone has a gift – and maybe it’s simply learning what not to do.”
4) How has the work changed since you entered the Marketing profession?
Technology & Analytics
“Marketers must be able to use technology to not only improve personal productivity, but also understand how technology has transformed marketing.”
“The foundation of what we do has remained the same, but the tactics we implement have changed significantly. Almost everything has gone digital, and more importantly, what we do must have analytics and MROI tied to it.”
“When I first started out, we were just beginning to talk about analytics and ROI. Since then, data has completely transformed the profession. Intuition and good judgment still matter, but the ability to measure your campaigns and tie them quantitatively to revenue is incredibly powerful. It’s also raised the value of marketing in the eyes of the C-Suite – we’re seen as more of a strategic partner, not just the people who host events and make things look pretty.”
“There’s definitely more weight given to digital marketing these days. We’re not required to just be good communicators any longer, we need to have a minor in technology. While print experience is still invaluable, it’s never going to be a standalone solution any more.”
“Marketing has gained much more credibility since we can measure ROI. The availability of technology and the improvement of marketing automation and tracking tools have made this possible.”
Complexity & Mediums
“There are far more mediums to reach audiences, but also a lot more competition/noise.”
“It used to be that you worried about your brand and/or products and marketing them effectively across events, advertising and PR. And then came the web, and that grew into a whole new set of disciplines and opportunities to reach customers. Now no marketing plan is complete without thought for digital properties like web pages, email campaigns, webinars, blogs, slideshows, online ads, etc. Don’t forget social media either. What started with Facebook and Twitter has grown into myriad ways to reach customers with compact and compelling messages, videos, images and infographics. And mobile. Not only do all of the above digital experiences need to be mobile optimized, but may also be delivered by a mobile app. A marketing plan doesn’t necessarily need to have all of these elements to be complete, but it’s not complete until you’ve thought all of these elements through.
“In product marketing, we used to just have one platform (software) but now there are multiple platforms (tablets, phones, etc.), and each have different requirements. The complexity is not linear – it’s exponential. Launching a product has changed dramatically with SaaS and the advent of smartphones. Also, marketers have more information by which to engage customers, but customers have more information and tools to return the engagement – good or bad. “
“Marketing teams need to move to a customer-centric engagement model – it is just too easy for them to find another company to give them what they want. It used to be a customer bought software, now it’s SaaS and if they decide at the end of the contract or month they don’t want to service, it’s much easier to turn it off. Probably still some pain involved, but it’s nothing like it used to be.”
“Marketing requires a broad range of skills and it’s critical to always be interested in technology and how your brand is going to be different from the competition but at the same time, how is your company going to capture the hearts and minds of your customers.”
5) Why do you do what you do for a living? Any other dreams out there you still want to pursue?
“I love the mix of solving problems, building beautiful but simple solutions and truly believing that the work we do helps to make the world a better place. Dreams? I want to continue to learn how to fly, to watch my children be happy and healthy and see many more corners of this remarkable world. And, I hope I leave a legacy of being a trusted friend and loved one.
“ I’m doing it! This is my 17th year getting paid to be a marketer. And getting to combine marketing and creative while reducing environmental impact is pretty darn rad.”
“I fell into marketing by accident, but I stayed because it turned out to be pretty fun. I love to write, and even though I’m not a copywriter, marketing gives me lots of opportunities to do that. Someday, I might devote myself full-time to writing, but until that day comes, I have no intentions of leaving the marketing field.”
“I find now, 20 years into my career, that things have come full circle for me. I started with a degree in journalism because I like writing and delivering good copy – and back then it was largely about appealing to the masses. Now content marketing puts a whole new emphasis on things. It’s still about delivering good copy to engage audiences, but these messages are now targeted and personalized. It’s about the 1:1, not as much the 1:many. My goal is to continue to grow more practiced in content marketing and evolve into a Chief Content Officer.”
“I do it because there’s something that makes me smile every day. I love the challenges and opportunity to be ingrained in every part of the business I work for. I get to be a solution for other departments, and conduit for our customers to interact with our products and services. I connect people, and that makes me smile. When I was young I wanted to be an optometrist – mainly because I LOVE wearing glasses. In my next life – I might be the next hot eyewear designer.”
“It is the combination of marketing + high tech. It moves fast, almost at a blinding rate. I have had the fortune to be in the center of product, customers and sales, and am able to interact with almost everyone in the organization. It is always changing, moving and it attracts really smart, passionate people, and pushes me to find my best and work through my ‘worst’. It’s rarely easy, but it’s always interesting. My job is to help customers market our solution within their organization, and I would likely never have gotten his opportunity in any other industry (basically kick-off a beta program, build it and execute). I don’t have a different dream than my original dream right out of college. It’s a state of being versus a destination. I firmly believe by following the formula that got me here I’ll stay on track for the rest of my dream to unfold.”
“I love brainstorming big ideas, securing and executing the plan, and delivering service excellence to customers. I still want to purse working for a global brand that is making an impact in the fight against cancer or be a part of a technology company that is making a huge impact in our society.”