As marketing becomes increasingly data-driven, skills in testing and optimization, content publishing, business intelligence and resource management are more and more important. CMOs of the future must master the traditional responsibilities including brand management, sales and communications while at the same time embracing these new trends. It’s an exciting time, but it makes me nostalgic for my early days in marketing when I was a fresh graduate trying to find my footing.
There is a lot I wish I could say to that younger me, tips that would have helped me develop important skills and take advantage of the opportunities I was facing—and a few I missed. I can’t go back in time, but I can offer advice to the next generation of marketers, the CMOs of the future.
Here are a few things I wish I had known from the start:
Don’t be afraid of numbers. A lot of marketers tend to hesitate at the suggestion of math. Analytical thinking may not be your natural strength—or maybe you’ve just been conditioned to think it’s not. Don’t worry, no one is going to ask you to break out your algebra skills, but you need to start developing an intimate relationship with data.
In the future, marketers will not be able to make decisions based on experience, gut instinct and best practices alone. Successful marketers will manage an immense number of customer touch points, deliver business insights based on that data, test into their marketing ideas and prove ROI on marketing spends.
Do this today: Get your Google Analytics Certification. You can listen to the online videos for free. Then it’s just a small fee to take the exam and get certified. If you’re already GA certified and looking to up your game, sit in on one of the great webinars offered by Monetate or Optimizely and start learning the ins and outs of these great testing tools. Our Clickipedia: A Field Guide to the World of Testing & Optimization is a great place to start.
Tell Great Stories
Once you start to become familiar with data and its role in marketing, you need to learn how to communicate that information to others. Most C-level executives don’t have the time to scroll through endless reports or lengthy presentations. Customers don’t have the patience to wade through disjointed prose. But everyone has time to listen to a great story—especially when it conveys a key business insight or addresses an immediate need.
Use your marketing and communication skills to help develop a great story and a context that positions the data to prove your learning. It is your job to humanize data; to ensure it communicates business insights effectively.
Do this today: Read broadly and write regularly. Reading everything from fiction to magazine features, newspaper clips to marketing blogs—and beyond—is the best way to develop an ear for stories. When you’re reading, think about the structure of the piece. Then try to adapt those structures to your own writing, which you should do regularly—if not everyday. Starting a blog is a popular approach, but I feel keeping it private is best. Developing writers need the freedom to fail, to copy others, and to keep writing through the mistakes—all things that should be avoided when publishing publicly.
Over Deliver, But Make it Count
I know you are already living by the philosophy of under promise and over deliver—it’s the refrain of most young, eager marketers. But I want to amend that mantra. It’s ok to over deliver, but make sure you are doing it effectively.
Instead of spending countless hours running extra reports or putting together presentations that people may or may not look at, stop. Take a moment and ask your boss if there is a pain point she or he is facing? Is there something the company is trying to explore more deeply? Use those ideas and dig into the data to create a report or presentation that will address these specific suggestions. That’s the type of over-delivering that will get you noticed.
Do this today: Talk to your supervisor about some of the marketing and business goals your company has set for the next quarter. Evaluate the goals and see where you can add value. Formulate a presentation or report that uses data and research to address the issue.
Develop a Work-Life Balance NOW
Your job is what you do, not who you are. No really, I’m serious. I know you are constantly stressed and working 60 plus hours a week. I also know that you have little social life, few hobbies and your cholesterol is on the rise. At least, it was for me when I was new to the business.
Fact is, the further along you get in your career, the more stress will naturally become a part of your life. If you don’t learn to achieve a work life balance now, it will become a greater problem as you get older and your career and responsibilities expand.
My colleague at Brooks Bell, Chief Performance Office Naoshi Yamauchi, has a great outlook on this balance that he shared during his presentation at the SAS Customer Connection for Customer Intelligence meeting last week. He said, “You can’t manage others if you can’t manage your self.” Think about that.
Do this today: Discover a new hobby or activity, or revisit a forgotten one. Set aside a few hours a week to enjoy your hobby or learning a new activity. Don’t sweat the small stuff and learn to take mental breaks through the day. Walks around your office building, watching a silly video online or visiting your puppies at lunchtime are all acceptable if it’s a responsible aid to your long-term productivity.
Align Yourself with Superstars
You know the individuals I am talking about. They may work for your company. You might have seen them at a networking function. They have that ‘something special’ that you know is going to take them places. Get to know those people with more familiarity than a casual hello at a business event.
Ask to take the person out to lunch or to grab coffee. Use the time to pick their brain and learn more about their passions, what cool projects they are working on or what charities they are involved in. And don’t just do this once: Make the effort to build a genuine relationship with these people. Hopefully, as you grow and gain more experience, you will be able to help each other.
Do this today: Identify two superstars you would like to get to know better and arrange for a casual coffee meeting. Leave that meeting having learned three new things about the person.
Working in a fast-paced job in a changing industry is hard work. But it’s exciting and ultimately, I think it’s rewarding. Hopefully, these tips will help you to not only avoid common pitfalls, but establish a foundation for success, too.
Do you have advice for young marketers? Share it in the comments!