I came to marketing by way of sales. I was a territory rep—company car, expense account, living the dream. Like so many (usually young) sales people, the siren song of management lured me away from the freedom, perks and commissions of sales. I transitioned from sales to sales management (a thankless, awful position) and then to marketing management. In the 30 or so years since that transition, I have embraced a few non-negotiable musts for being a marketing manager.
As a marketing manager, you have two primary customers: (1) your sales people and (2) their customers.
If your marketing initiatives don’t support sales, you are a dilettante, and you are wasting time and money. Either finance will catch up with you and question what you are doing, or sales people will call you out for being useless. Don’t isolate yourself from the sales team. You can take it.
As a corollary, if you don’t get to know your sales people’s customers, you can’t help drive sales. Sure, you can get descriptors from the sales team, but it’s a good idea to get out of the office and meet customers in person. Trade shows, conferences, social events—any type of face-to-face marketing event will help you do this. Talk to customers—the people in charge of budgets. Find out what keeps them up at night. Learn about the challenges in their industries. Marketing investments should flow from real life because it certainly doesn’t happen the other way around.
If it doesn’t drive revenue, don’t do it.
One thing I learned as a sales person is that there were marketing people who had no clue about what worked in the field and what was a waste of time and effort. There were also marketing managers who couldn’t face rejection from the sales team, something sales people handle on a daily basis.
Flash forward 25 years: I was with a group of sales people who were being asked by a marketing manager what the customer response was to a particular sales aid. No one answered, everyone shuffled papers, you know the scenario. You’ve been there. When the marketing manager left the room, I said to the sales team, “You don’t use that piece, right?” They breathed a sigh of relief, and we had a conversation about wasted marketing efforts. As a marketer, be brave and find out what works—and what doesn’t. Learn how the sales people sell, how much time they have with the customer, what interests customers and what bores them.
Learn as much as you can about each line item you approve. Then question it.
- Are you approving a budget for a new website? Do you know what is included? What platform will your developer use? Why?
- Are you building a new trade show exhibit? What kind of lighting is specified? Does it require truss to hang? What are the construction materials? What is the estimated set-up time? How much will it cost to ship?
- Can you get web banners as a spiff with your print advertising? Can you get a discount on purchasing the subscriber list?
Question intelligently: the best vendors will appreciate it, and your marketing investment will yield a positive return.
Develop a DIY attitude.
You never know when a crisis can occur mid-project. Your web person is in a cycling accident. Your exhibit manager’s pregnancy develops complications, and she is on bed rest during show season. Your admin suddenly quits to join the Peace Corps. Or (gasp) there are staff reductions that play havoc with your department. Yes, this could happen to you. Now what? You don’t have time to find a replacement, much less train someone. You need to know how to pick up the project, work with your vendors, and keep the wheels turning. The buck stops with you. You are not micromanaging when you make an effort to find out what’s going on and how the project comes together. If you don’t know, learn—and learn now.
Never stop learning.
Attend classes, sign up for webinars and seminars, network with smart people. Read everything you can get your hands on. Show up for meetings, put your phone down and pay attention. Ask for both the time and money to pursue an advanced degree or certification. You are worth it. The best thing about marketing? It’s never boring, and it’s always changing.
As a marketing manager, what are your marketing “musts”? Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know!