I like to talk about the skills, behaviors, and experiences you need to succeed in Marketing. However, this list in today’s article is not about growth, but about what could destroy you. To succeed in your Marketing career, you must hit deadlines, know your business, be open with communication, take control of your brand, be able to use feedback, and then listen to the experts around you, before you decide.
Trust me when I say this: if you do not nail these six behaviors, you will eventually annoy someone enough to get rid of you. You’ve likely heard of CLM’s, also known as “career-limiting-moves.” These six behaviors are non-negotiable CLM’s, and if you miss them continuously, you will be gone. Fix these.
For many Marketers, these could be a blind spot. You could be amazing in all other aspects of your job. And when one of these brings you down, you will be left wondering what happened.
1. You must hit deadlines.
Never look out of control or sloppy. Marketers have enough to do, so if you begin to miss deadlines, things will just stockpile on each other. Do not be the one who is seen trying to negotiate extensions constantly. That might work with a University essay. But in the real world of Marketing, there are no real extensions. Just missed opportunities. If you miss one, two or three, your behavior will be viewed as a pattern. I went to school with someone who always asked the prof for a deadline on everything. The professor always said yes. And she thrived in school. Yet, never made it in Marketing. In 20 years in Marketing. I never asked for an extension.
2. You must know your business.
Avoid getting caught off-guard with questions that you cannot answer, such as profit (sales, growth, margins, spend) market share (latest 52, 12, 4 weeks for your brand all significant competitors) and your sales forecasts. Make sure you are asking the questions and carrying forward the knowledge. I was lucky in that I grew up a baseball stat geek, so I could easily remember every number on my business. I was never the type of manager who openly tested people for the sake of it. But, when I had 15 brands and you had one brand: how do you think if I felt when I knew your numbers better than you did? It is your job to know your business and your numbers.
3. You must be open with your communication.
There should be no surprises, especially with your boss. Keep everyone aware of what’s going on. If something could go wrong, make sure everyone knows. When you communicate upwards, always have the situation, implications, options and then quickly followed by an action plan of what to do with it. And when something does go wrong, have a plan ready in place, action items laid out, before your boss says “Oh man, we need a plan.”
4. You must be able to take control of your destiny.
Act like the owner. Tthe best Marketers run the brands; they never let the brands run us. Always be slightly ahead of the game, not constantly chasing your work to completion. Once you are chasing, you can never catch up. Instead, you should always be proactively looking for an opportunity in the market, and work quickly to take advantage. Watch your tone. When you don’t know something, it is perfectly acceptable speak in an “asking way,” but do so with a limit on how many times you show up begging for help. When you are in charge of a brand, and when you know the answer, you have to teach yourself to speak in a “telling way” even to the CEO.
Once you are given the reigns of a brand, it is expected that you tell everyone what to do. As your boss, I would rather that I have to step in and push back on something, rather than to have to encourage you to voice your thoughts.
5. You must be able to use regular feedback for growth.
Always seek out and accept feedback, good or bad, as a lesson for you. Do not think of it as a personal attack or setback. Identify gaps you can close, never think of them as weaknesses that hold you back. You should always be striving to get better. It is true, the best marketers are ambitious. They want to get better. It is perfectly acceptable to not enjoy getting negative feedback. I would never judge someone’s reaction at that moment.
I have worked with many amazing marketers, who looked devastated and ready to quit, in the heat of the feedback. I’ve seen that look 100 times. That’s perfectly fine. However, I also know, those same great people came in the next morning, ready to make a change and ready to demonstrate it to everyone who was watching. Marketing is an iterative career. Honestly, we repeat the same 20 key skills over and over again, at junior, mid and senior levels. The best get better each time. The worst don’t.
6. You must listen first; then decide.
There is a somewhat bizarre relationship Marketers have with subject matter experts. We don’t really do anything. We don’t make the product, sell the product, make the ads, buy the media or make the event happen. But as the ultimate generalist, we do decide everything. Very early in your career, you must figure out the magic in using your subject matter experts to teach you everything you need to know about your job, while still leading them, even if they are 10 or 20 years older than you. These subject matter experts have seen hundreds of marketers come through the door, and if you do it right, they will quietly teach you more than your boss ever will.
As you hit the director or VP level, you must figure out how to use these same subject matter experts as an advisor or sounding board to the toughest of issues or what you think are great ideas. Subject matter experts don’t want to make decisions. They want you to do that. Subject matter experts don’t want to be a leader. They want you to lead them. At these senior levels, you have to learn to listen to them and make sure you really hear them out. You can question and challenge them. And, then it is expected that you will give the direction that pushes them towards the end goal. While you make every decision, if you don’t manage this unique relationship well, they will influence the decision to get rid of you.
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