An Open Letter to a Marketing Manager

Being the marketing manager for a company can be a thankless job — there’s probably a director (and maybe a CMO) above you who’s in charge of the broad-strokes strategy of the company, and there are account managers and content creators below you in charge of actual execution.

It can feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to either execute your own visions or see them executed yourself — but that doesn’t mean your role is any less important.

You’re the glue that holds your entire company’s marketing efforts together. You’ll need to work with vendors, collaborate with other department heads to make sure that your goals align, and coordinate campaigns across channels. You also have an advantage in that you almost certainly started your marketing career in the same position that you’re now overseeing. You know how the company works and how to get the most out of your people.

Whether you’re just starting out as a marketing manager or you’ve been in the role for some time, it’s never too late to learn more about how to be the best marketing manager you can be. Here’s our advice for all the marketing managers out there.

Market Yourself

You got this job because you’re good at marketing and have been for at least a few years. But you’re not just a marketer — you’re a sales rep. Whether you’re working at an agency and pitching to clients or working internally and pitching your bosses, you need to be able to make friends and influence people.

That starts with you.

If you’re going to sell your ideas, you need to sell yourself.

Dress the part, learn how to work a room, stay engaged and prepared in meetings, and leverage your social and professional connections to stay on everyone’s radar. If you can get your reputation to precede you, you’ll be able to do your job better.

Learn Your Company

We don’t just mean the elevator pitch about your company, we mean every detail you can find. First of all, you need to know your company’s stated mission. What is the purpose of the company? Why does it need to exist (and “to generate value for shareholders” doesn’t count)? How is that different from your competitors?

When you’re courting business or trying to forge new partnerships, you’re going to face questions about what your company stands for, how it operates, what it’s done in the past, and where it’s going in the future.

Branch out into other departments. Talk to the sales team about their sales cycle. How long does it take for them to close the average sale? How much did that sale cost? Where do their leads come from? Ask your customer retention and customer success teams about renewal and churn rates and what trends they’ve noticed about who renews and who doesn’t. The more you know about your company, the better.

Understand Your Customers

If you’re going to craft messaging and strategy for your customers, you need to know who they are. If you’re putting out marketing campaigns that don’t resonate with the people that need your services, you’ll never succeed.

Start with the existing customer base. Gather as much data as you can about the people that have purchased from your company and look for trends in demographics, habits, buyer behavior, and anything else you can think of.

Don’t forget about the people that almost purchased from you, but didn’t. Talk to your sales team and ask them about the sales they lost. What was the deciding factor for those customers? Was it the price, a feature you were missing, or something more subtle? Knowing what your non-customers have in common is just as important.

Put these features all together to make “buyer personas,” fictionalized representations of your ideal customer. If you spell out exactly what makes for a good target customer (and what doesn’t), you’ll have a handy cheat sheet for all your materials going forward.

Continue to Grow

The best thing you can do for the advancement of your career is to keep learning.

Marketing is a science, but it’s an art, too.

You’ll need to generate creative ideas, think about how to execute them, analyze data, crunch numbers, and make convincing pitches. You’ll be walking a line between creativity and analytics in every campaign you run.

The best way to do that is to learn from those who have come before. Study your competition, your predecessors, and the best marketers in other industries. Read blogs from the best marketers in search of better ideas.

The world of marketing moves pretty fast — if you want to stay in your role (or move upward) for the next ten years, you’ll need to be able to keep up. The best way to do that is to be relentless, driven, and humble enough to know that you always have room for improvement.

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