10 Tips for Your Career in Marketing

Having been happily self-employed for half my marketing career, I hesitate to give career advice. But when asked, I have plenty of opinions to share on how to grow and thrive as a marketing professional. Here are 10 tips for your career in marketing that I wish someone had shared with me years ago.

Having been happily self-employed for half my marketing career, I hesitate to give career advice. But when asked, I have plenty of opinions to share on how to grow and thrive as a marketing professional. These are tips for your career in marketing that I wish someone had shared with me years ago. This subject came up for me as I was interviewed by Jim Obermayer of the Sales Lead Management Association recently on “Five Lessons in Business and Life.” In conversation with Jim, I enjoyed looking back on my professional life and drawing some conclusions. Delighted to share herewith.

  1. Start your career in a small company, where you can make small mistakes, and get broad exposure to a variety of sales and marketing functions.
  2. Fail fast. The Silicon Valley folks are right about that. If you find yourself in a dead-end job, or in a culture where you don’t fit, don’t wait around hoping it will get better. Be proactive and make a change.
  3. Make friends in business. Your business connections will serve you well over time, not only for career purposes, but also for your emotional and social life. Invest in building and sustaining friendships.
  4. Don’t make enemies. Life is too short. And the world is getting smaller every day. You don’t need the aggravation. Reach out and repair broken bridges, no matter how old they may be.
  5. Embrace data. Learn the new technologies. This is an area you can’t dismiss.
  6. Make testing a regular part of your marketing practice. It’s so easy these days, there’s no excuse. You can test subject lines and from lines in email, and offers and headlines in landing pages. The payoff is worth the effort.
  7. Connect with people you admire. I am not saying “get a mentor.” That’s too formal. But select someone who’s career or thinking impresses you. Send an admiring email. At the very least, it’s a generous gesture.
  8. Join professional associations, and become active on committees and advisory groups. My colleague Mary Teahan tells me that the opportunity to judge the Echo Awards every year keeps her up to date on marketing thinking, and provides her with a trove of useful case studies.
  9. Try moving into B2B. OK, I am biased. But B2B is simply more fun than consumer marketing. It’s bigger, more complex, more challenging, and just as engaging. In fact, B2B marketers are united by some kind of tribal mentally that makes it a particularly nice community.
  10. Think like an investor. Marketing can no longer live on brand awareness. It’s all about tangible, revenue-related results. So, you need to focus on marketing efforts designed to deliver a demonstrable ROI.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

What It Takes to Get Ahead in Your Marketing Career

Today’s marketing industry is growing and changing at lightning speed. Marketing leaders are looking for key skills, attributes and characteristics when building their dream teams. So whether you’re searching for a new job at a different company or trying to accelerate your career at your current one, it’s time to get real about what it takes to achieve your career goals.

TM0310_businessclimberToday’s marketing industry is growing and changing at lightning speed, so if you’re looking to land a great marketing career opportunity, you’ve got to be savvy and strategic in your thinking and execution. Marketing leaders are looking for key skills, attributes and characteristics when building their dream teams, so whether you’re searching for a new job at a different company or trying to accelerate your career at your current one, it’s time to get real about what it takes to achieve your career goals.

I recently spoke with Laura Patterson, President and Founder of VisionEdge Marketing. Ms. Patterson is one of the leading authorities on marketing and performance management, marketing operations, and marketing data and analytics – and has helped more than 100 companies in a variety of industries fulfill their marketing potential and achieve a competitive advantage.

I wanted to get her perspective on how she hires for VisonEdge, as well as what it takes to maximize your success in your own organization.

Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Michelle Robin: What types of qualities do you look for in candidates?

Laura Patterson, President and Founder of VisionEdge Marketing
Laura Patterson, President and Founder of VisionEdge Marketing

Laura Patterson: The role has a lot to do with it, but generally speaking, we look for people who have common traits, the first being passion for service and learning. We’re a service organization in a space around data and analytics, process, transformation. And, it’s a space that evolves, so you can’t just assume that what was working, say 20 years ago, will work today, so marketing professionals must have a passion for learning. We have a motto in our company: Teach our customers how to fish, and you’ll feed them for a lifetime, rather than simply giving them the fish, so they’re not beholding. You have to be thinking that way all the time.

I’m also looking for someone with really excellent communication skills. We work with companies all over the world, so you’ve got to be able to communicate online, over the phone, as well as in person. Good, solid presentation skills and facilitation skills are also crucial.

It’s also mandatory to have people on our team who are responsible and reliable. Customers are counting on us for deliverables, and there’s often a time crunch. They have a problem, and they’re trying to solve it as quickly as they can in order to be successful.

Our team members also have to be resourceful and have the ability to evaluate. Part of being a creative problem solver is being able to evaluate. Finally, the last thing is initiative. You need to solve the problem, get the job done and move it forward.

Robin: Those are all great soft skills. How do you evaluate candidates for some of these soft skills?

Patterson: We prefer to hire people that we’ve worked with or come from referrals. It helps that I’ve been in the industry a long time, and most of our team has engaged in customer work for a long time as well. Often times, our candidates are people that our team members have known, so we have a sense of their caliber of work.

We look at their Linked in profiles and their Twitter account, too. They are the face of our company, so they’ve got to be professional in their impression. You don’t have a second chance to make a first impression, and my people are definitely checking them out.

Robin: Of all the qualities you’ve mentioned, what is the most important thing you consider in assessing a candidate?

Patterson: Integrity. Ethics and integrity are very critical. There’s a lot of autonomy in what our senior level people do, and there’s even a level of autonomy in what some of our junior level people do, so if you’re not coming from a place of integrity with a really strong value system, you’re going to struggle. Trust in our industry is also very important.

Robin: When you’re hiring people, how important is a person’s resume? Also, how about a cover letter?

Patterson: I find that it’s most important with our folks that are at an earlier stage in their career, instead of the folks that are at a later stage in their career. That might sound strange, but odds are that if they’re later in their career, I have many other ways to vet them. I know people they know, companies they’ve worked at.

So when we receive their resume and cover letter, we are able to easily determine whether or not the candidate is appropriately representing himself/herself. It’s very unlikely that someone in a senior position is someone we don’t know. But in the junior ranks, the resume and cover letter are very important because we don’t know them. We want to be able to ask intelligent questions when we interview them, and many of those questions will come from what they’ve put on their resume or in their cover letter that we’ll ask them to expound on or clarify.

I still am a believer in cover letters. I think that spelling and grammar matters. If someone can’t put their best foot forward in a cover letter when applying for a job, then how can I trust that they’ll be able to put together an articulate email to a customer?

We also check out the recommendations on LinkedIn. I have thousands of connections on LinkedIn, so sooner or later there’s a connection on LinkedIn that is in common with someone applying for a job.

Robin: Since your clients are also marketers, what do you suggest they measure to illustrate their value to their team and their company?

Patterson: Unfortunately, many marketers are not very good at setting performance targets for their work that are meaningful to the business. I don’t want to know that you got the webinar done or that you sent out “x” number of invites. I want to know that we’ve got the right people coming and how many of the right people. How do they match up to the kinds of people we like doing business with?

5 Practices That Grow Good to Great Marketing Leaders

If you’ve been in direct marketing, say, 20 years, do you have a career full of wide-ranging experience? Or are you stalled with only five years of experience repeated four times? Growing your value proposition to management is essential, because sometimes marketing leaders have to make difficult choices of whether the right people are “on the bus,” if they need to be “moved elsewhere on the bus,” or if there are people who need to be “moved off …

E-commerce for the B-to-B MarketerIf you’ve been in marketing, say, 20 years, do you have a career full of wide-ranging experience? Or are you stalled with only five years of experience repeated four times? Growing your value proposition to management is essential, because sometimes marketing leaders have to make difficult choices of whether the right people are “on the bus,” if they need to be “moved elsewhere on the bus,” or if there are people who need to be “moved off the bus.”

The bus metaphor comes from the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In my last column, “Neuroscience, Leadership and 7 Challenges for DM Leaders,” I described a brain-adaptive approach linking neuroscience to leadership.

Today I share another requirement of leaders as described in “Good to Great.” This is where great leaders get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figure out the route to their destination.

If you’re not a direct marketing leader today, but aspire to be a well-rounded professional, in a moment I’ll share five growth practices you can adopt to position yourself to not only have a seat, but someday drive the bus.

But let’s begin with looking at what leaders are encouraged to consider as they look at their “team on the bus.” The concept of “First Who, Then What,” from “Good to Great” summarizes it well:

  • Good to great leaders begin organizational transformation by first getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figure out where to drive it.
  • “Who” questions come before “what decisions” like vision, strategy, organizational structure and tactics.
  • When in doubt, don’t hire.
  • When a people change is needed, act.
  • Put the best people on the biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.

For leaders, seating your team on the bus, and in the right seat, they (you) must leverage individual strengths that will have the highest impact on an organization’s success.

For direct marketing team professionals, there are five practices where you can bring value to both the organization, and to yourself and your own future.

  1. Reinvent every few years. You don’t want to be the professional who has been in the workforce for 20 years, and suddenly realizes that it’s really only five years of experience, repeated over and over, like you’re on a treadmill.
  2. If you want to grow, ask leadership in your organization what you have to do to attain certain goals. Muster the confidence to ask someone you admire, and who’s successful, if they will be a mentor.
  3. Learn about what others are doing in your organization. Cross-train yourself. If you’re a marketing manager, learn more about product fulfillment. If you’re a copywriter, learn from the marketing manager. If you’re deeply rooted in direct mail, learn digital. Not only will you become more valuable, but you’ll enrich your understanding of the bigger picture.
  4. Attend events, especially local programs. Read every day. Challenge yourself, from time-to-time, to read about a topic outside your normal area of interest.
  5. Peer into the future. Anticipate what you can contribute to transform your organization’s direct marketing success.

For aspiring leaders: when you take charge of your career and your future with these five practices, you can improve the odds that you’ll be placed on the correct seat of the bus in your organization.

For leaders: evaluate your organization’s structure and the people on your team now to determine who should be on your bus and where they should be seated. This is your first step to grow from good to great.

(Read more about using neuroscience in marketing, along with left brain/right brain thinking in my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code” available at the DirectMarketingIQ bookstore. Or download my free seven-step guide to help you align your messaging with how the primitive mind thinks. It’s titled “When You Need More Customers, This Is What You Do.” )

How to Write a Killer Marketing Resume

I don’t know about you, but I never had a class in college called Resume Writing 101. Consider this article your first class in that course. By the end, it will help you create a marketing resume that gets you interviews.

I think you’ll agree with me that marketing yourself is one of the toughest projects you’ll ever face. We’re all great at marketing the products and services of our companies, but not so much when it comes to promoting ourselves.

It is not so hard to promote yourself if you approach it like a marketing problem. Who is your target audience? How do you solve the pains of your potential employer? What is it that is unique about you? And, how do you convey that?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I never had a class in college called Resume Writing 101. Consider this article your first class in that course. By the end, it will help you create a marketing resume that gets you interviews.

I want you to dig out your most current resume. Go ahead, I’ll wait. What? You don’t have a current resume?!

Lesson one: Even if you’re not actively job searching, you should have an up-to-date resume. You never know when that recruiter may call with the opportunity of a lifetime.

Lesson two is going to walk you through each section of the resume and how to position yourself to stand out from the competition.

Please note, some of the recommendations below to enhance your resume will make it unsuitable to pass through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Watch for the ATS tips to format a version for online applications.

Breakdown of a killer marketing resume.
Breakdown of a killer marketing resume. (Click to download the PDF.)

1. The Header
One simple way to stand out from the crowd with your resume is to design a professional-looking masthead for it. The majority of resumes I see have contact information presented like this:Bad Resume HeaderWhile there is nothing eminently wrong with this, it does not stand out in any way. Stacking the data in this way also takes up precious space.

Instead, you can do something similar to the killer example. Get creative with font sizes and don’t feel like you need to dedicate a whole line to each data point.

ATS Tip: When submitting your resume online, you do need to devote each data point to its own line as applicant tracking systems read that much better. Also, make sure this content is not in the header or footer section of Word.

2. Title and Summary
Think of this section as your elevator pitch or unique selling proposition. Recruiters only spend about six seconds looking at your resume to decide if you go in the yes or the no pile, so this area of your resume is hugely important.

If I had to hazard a guess, I bet most of you have a summary section that looks something like below.Bad Resume SummaryIn the killer example, you’ll not only see a target job title, but there is a subhead that serves as a personal branding statement. This candidate had a history throughout his career of growing successful brands to be No. 1 in their markets, so we really wanted to highlight that.

You’ll see more details in the three bullets of the specifics and some of the strategies he used to get there.