kara stanford five lifelong skills you need as a marketer article marketing spaces

Five lifelong skills you need as a Marketer

I’ve been a marketer for over 20 years now. While there are many specific skills that marketers may or may not need, there are five that I feel have stood the test of time.

They are as relevant today as they were when I started before digital marketing kicked in.

The five lifelong skills you need as a Marketer are:

  1. Be obsessive about knowing and representing your customers
  2. Be systematic in how you plan, run and monitor your marketing
  3. Accept that you’ll be forever teaching people what marketing really is
  4. Develop a neverending curiosity
  5. Put your values at the heart of your marketing to get the best results

Before we look at each of these traits in detail, let’s remind ourselves what marketing truly is.

Marketing is “a social and managerial process by which individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging products and value with others” (Kotler et al, Principles of Marketing).

For us to be successful marketers, we have to:

  • set up and manage a social and managerial process, i.e. marketing is a systematic business process
  • give individuals and groups what they need and want, i.e. you have to know what these people want and need
  • facilitate an exchange between these groups, i.e. you get something in return for giving me something.

Once we understand what marketing actually is, we can start to see the lifelong skills we need as marketers. 

Be obsessive about knowing and representing your customers

Marketers can only give individuals and groups what they need and want if we understand them. And once we know these groups, we have to make sure that everything we do has them at the heart of it. 

I’m often brought into organisations to assess how well their marketing is doing. Unfortunately, one of the things I see constantly is that they have lost sight of their customers.

Sure, they are focused on REACHING their customer base, on SELLING TO their customer base, but along the way, their marketing has become less about engaging with their customers.

As a marketer, we need to be constantly asking:

  • How do our products/services meet our customers’ wants and/or needs?
  • How can we improve our products/services?
  • Does our marketing ‘speak’ to our audiences? How do we know that it is the right message using the right communication tools at the right time? What customer research are we basing this on? What is the data showing us?
  • How can we improve our marketing, so we are better communicating with and engaging with our audiences? 

Make space

Take some time to dig out your customer Personas (if you don’t have any, then create some).

Now, look at your most recent marketing. Does it have those personas at its heart? Are you reaching out to them in the way that you know they want to be reached out to?

Be systematic in how you plan, run and monitor your marketing

Marketing is a business process. If you are using marketing or are a marketer, you need to understand how to plan, run and monitor your marketing systematically. 

This means understanding some key marketing frameworks, like PR Smith’s SOSTAC, Chaffey’s RACE, Kotler’s The Buyer’s Journey.

We then have to make sure we apply these frameworks to become the foundations of our marketing processes. 

Systematic planning, running and monitoring of your marketing means:

  • You have a marketing plan in place that you are following
  • You know which metrics you have to look at to see how successful your plan is
  • Your marketing is controlled, focussed, and justified.

The last word is essential: ‘justified’. If someone says, ‘Why are you doing this?’ when your marketing is systematic, you can answer them. This leads nicely into the next skill that we need as marketers.

Make space

Think about the last time you ran a marketing campaign or planned your marketing. Did you take a systematic approach? Which one? Where can you make improvements?

Accept that you’ll be forever teaching people what marketing really is

This is actually a combination of a marketer mindset and a series of skills. First, acceptance.

Most people don’t really know what marketing is. They base it on their experience of marketing – all the ‘stuff we see every day in our lives.

The ads, the promotions, the selling techniques, the influencers, the socials. 

Like an iceberg, people only see the top part of marketing – they don’t realise the HUGE amount of effort that goes on beneath the surface. 

It is our role, as systematic marketers, to ‘teach’ them what marketing really is, and there are different ways to do this.

In my experience, these are the best ways to explain what marketing is about:

  • It matters what you do and how you speak about marketing, so lead by example and show people that marketing is a business process that is systematically thought about and actioned.
  • Share how you are setting up marketing, discuss your concerns that your organisation’s marketing is only focused on ‘Awareness’ and you need to be more at ‘Interest’. Show them the Buyers Journey model so they can see there is a whole framework.
  • Challenge them appropriately. Depending on the situation and the person, gently ask them questions that link to a systematic approach to marketing. For example: ‘Which customer persona is that marketing aimed at?’, ‘Is this an Awareness piece of marketing or an Interest piece?’, ‘What are your goals for this campaign?’, ‘Why do you think it isn’t working when we can see that leads are coming in?’.

Finally, defend yourself. Again, assess if this is the best approach in your situation. There might be a time when it is appropriate to explain what marketing is, why it is a journey, and how successful each part of this journey has been so far that it takes time and so on.

Make space

To jot down some analogies and quick explanations that help you explain what marketing is.  

Be constantly curious

Marketing tools are constantly changing, and the way our audiences communicate and their expectations are always moving too. You cannot keep up with every trend, every new tool, but you can be curious about them. 

This means keeping on top of what is happening, what is going on. I find online magazines like Marketing Week and Campaign good for dipping into.

I also enjoy reading/watching blog posts, videos and articles about marketing from all kinds of sources such as MetaMetrics (marketing econometricians – all about measurement), The Lucas O Keefe (a social media specialist) as well as regular networking with business people and marketers.

Make space

Take some time to consider how often are you making time to be curious about marketing? 

  • Can you schedule some more time?
  • Do you have a list of ‘go to’ people or publications whose material you can dip into when you have a few minutes?
  • Have you made the most of your The Marketing Spaces membership, engaging with the relevant content, attending seminars and sharing ideas in the LinkedIn Group?

Put your values at the heart of your marketing to get the best results

Be the marketer you want to be – not the one you think you should be.

I’ve had moments in my career when I felt that I was being asked to do marketing that I didn’t agree with. Not necessarily pushing products I didn’t like, but it was what I was being asked to do. I have, eventually, left jobs and clients because of this.

The values that I was being asked to apply really didn’t chime with mine; these include:

  • Being told to bury a product that would have benefitted many people because it won’t make much money, but we have it so ‘box ticked’.
  • Using a marketing tool that I knew wouldn’t work and spending taxpayers’ money on it.
  • Being asked to be dishonest and link competitors’ names to a website so when people typed in the competitor, they’d get our website – and the competitors knew this was happening.
  • Having to lie in marketing material I was being asked to produce.

My values are honesty, respect, doing good. I put them at the heart of my marketing even when it has been unpopular, going against the wishes of the people paying me, and even contrary to the ‘marketing wisdom’ that can get touted.

Make space

Think about what kind of marketer you wish to be. How do you want people to refer to your marketing? What do you want your name to be associated with when it comes to your marketing?

Those are your values. Put them at the heart of your marketing. 

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