The skillsets, backgrounds and experience levels of marketing professionals are very diverse, which brings both opportunities and challenges for the companies they work with. While many professional industries have strictly defined educational and professional paths, the marketing industry has few rules or strict requirements for entrance.
Almost anyone can call themselves a marketer and find some company to pay them for it. Yet does that mean anyone can succeed at marketing? Well, that’s a flat ‘no.’ The professionals who take on leadership roles that help businesses drive real growth and awareness take great care to educate themselves, think critically, operate well within a team, listen and continually work to improve their communications skills. As in many aspects of life, the cream will ultimately rise to the top. Here’s how you can too:
• Pay Attention: Marketing isn’t about flashy graphics and catchy stunts (although those tactics do have their place at times). It’s important to really pay attention to the needs of the organization, understand the company’s goals, and create a plan to support those goals. All of your activities should be executed with those goals in mind. To help you along the way, you also need to pay attention to the marketing landscape: What are people doing? How are they interacting with your brand? Where do they spend their time?
• Know Your Sh*t: If you’re new to marketing, you have to put in the extra effort to learn the skills, trends, opportunities, tactics and strategies that will lead to success. Likewise, if you are a long-time pro, it’s still important to put in the extra effort to learn the skills, trends, opportunities, tactics and strategies that will enable you to retain your role as a leader. Self-education is critical and continual. Your team will see right through you if you don’t position yourself as an expert.
• Find a Mentor (or be a Mentor): To become a great marketing leader, a mentor or coach can be uber important. Look and ask around, and you will find that most great leaders have had a mentor at one point or another. If a mentor hasn’t naturally fallen into your daily life, seek one out. And as you advance in your career, seek to be a mentor to others. You can learn a great deal about your profession and personal life in general by helping others.
• Work Hard: Throughout all ranks, you need to work hard. Not only does it help you hone your skills, but it builds trust and respect among your team members. Be willing to get dirty. Show up early and stay late. Dig into tasks that some would consider “below your pay grade.” Great leaders aren’t afraid of hard work, and they do what they need to do to build trust. The “do as I say, not as I do” mantra won’t serve you well.
• Don’t Get Caught up in Trends: Some trends will come and go quickly (like hyper colors and a slew of other bad fashion decisions in the 90s). Don’t fall victim to constantly jumping on the newest and hottest train. Pay attention to the needs of your organization, and then discern whether or not the latest trends are truly beneficial. Sometimes they will be, sometimes they won’t.
• Don’t Let Decisions Slow You Down: A leader is required to make decisions, sometimes hard ones. While transitional and transformative decisions need to be taken very seriously, you can’t spend an abundance of time and energy making them. You can overanalyze data forever (and nowadays there is plenty of data to go around), but at some point, you need to make a move. Effective leaders understand when enough information is enough, and then they move forward. Every decision isn’t going to be right, but the inability to make timely decisions is always going to be wrong.
• Understand Your Talent: Great leaders not only understand their own talents, but they understand how to utilize and grow the talents of others in order to create a well-functioning team. This helps individuals find success, as well as the company. I’ve always said, “give your team the tools to leave the company today, but keep them happy enough so they never want to leave.” An employee who feels successful will stick around for the long haul.
• Strive to be a Better Communicator: Great leaders keep their teams informed and educated. As a leader, you are often privy to information the rest of the team may not know. It’s important to share what you can, whenever you can. Talk to your team members about what you’re doing and how it will impact them. Be open and honest with them about how they are performing and provide positive feedback whenever you can. Communication will provide the confidence your team needs to trust you and your decisions.
Great marketing leaders didn’t achieve their success overnight. They seek to continually improve their skillsets, empower others and think strategically. They are team players who aren’t afraid to get dirty, and they even seek it out.
Elie Goodman is VP, Marketing for MeMD, a national telehealth solution based in Scottsdale. He has built and evaluated marketing teams for a range of small businesses and startups to ensure profitability and growth.