Learn how TOPO helps sales and marketing grow faster at www.topohq.com

Marketing Careers: The 12 Habits Required for a Great Career in Marketing

At TOPO, we work with some of the world’s best marketers. Over the years, we’ve recognized a number of shared habits and traits that these marketers possess. One of the most common traits that successful marketers exhibit is that they’ve given real thought to their marketing careers. While a marketing career can last 40 years or more,  most marketers don’t spend enough time thinking about their careers in the long run. That’s understandable given that most professionals are busy satisfying the daily requirements of their current job. But there are some simple habits that marketers can develop to greatly improve the odds of having a long, rewarding career in marketing.

Marketing Careers – The Essential Habits

We’ve identified 12 habits that the best marketers share when it comes to thinking about their marketing career:

  1. Have a long-term plan for your marketing career
  2. Recognize whether you enjoy marketing or not
  3. Set short and long-term objectives
  4. Develop general skills required for marketing
  5. Recognize whether you are a right or left brain marketer
  6. Develop specific marketing skills that will win in the long run
  7. Work in a high growth industry
  8. Make time to network with other marketers
  9. Work for marketers who are smart, driven, and respected
  10. Build a personal brand that stands out
  11. Make the people that count ecstatic
  12. Remember that your marketing career is a marathon, not a sprint

Have a marketing career plan

Career planning involves taking the time to think about your big, long-term objectives while accomplishing the day-to-day tasks associated with your current marketing position. While career plans can be invaluable, it’s also important to remember that they can quickly become obsolete given how fast markets, companies, professions, and people can change. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a career plan. It just means that you should be prepared to deviate from the plan when an unforeseen opportunity or risk arises. This is particularly true in a rapidly evolving profession like marketing.

Recognize what you enjoy

The biggest threat to a successful, long-term career is job dissatisfaction. The most successful marketing careers are built on a foundation of enjoyment. Marketing professionals need to perform an honest self-assessment of whether their work is making them happy or not. The assessment should focus on three questions. First, do you enjoy the substantive work that you do? Second, do you find the industry you work in and the company you work for interesting? Third, do you enjoy the people you work with? Preferably, you conduct this analysis once a quarter, but at a minimum, you should perform a self-assessment once a year.

Set long-term career objectives

One of the easiest ways to manage your marketing career is to set long-term objectives. The simple act of declaring what you want to become over the course of your career and then mapping the steps required to achieve that objective is a powerful act. For example, stating that you want to be a VP of Marketing in ten years and recognizing the specific steps required to achieve that goal is an effective way to plan your career. Try to have objectives for one, three, and five years down the road.

Marketing Careers

Develop the general skills required for marketing

There is a general set of skills that every marketer must master to enjoy a long career. Essential marketing skills include things like the ability to communicate, present, and write well. Critical thinking is a more abstract skill that many employers look for. The development of these skills often takes place while a prospective marketer is still in school, but can also take place on the job, particularly during the first five years of one’s career.

Determine whether you are a right or left brain marketer

The best marketing careers are usually built on top of either a strong understanding of numbers and analytical thinking or strong creative skills. Many psychologists believe that the left side of the brain is responsible for the former and the right side for the latter. The top marketers we know are all innately excellent at right or left brain marketing. Most people aren’t great at both so it’s important to discover which type of marketer you are. You should strive to be great at one and proficient at the other.

Develop specific marketing skills that win in the long run

Marketing has experienced a tremendous amount of change in the last ten years. As a result, marketers have had to acquire a variety of new skills. Social media marketing, search engine optimization, email marketing, and lead nurturing all emerged as hot marketing skills in the last five years. Marketers who have mastered these skills will be in high demand for years to come . More recently, employers have started to place a premium on a new set of skills such as big data and analytics, frictionless selling, and freemium pricing models. If you want to learn more about the specific skills required to become a successful marketer, check out our post on Marketing Skills.

Work in a high growth industry

Marketers who work in industries that are growing rapidly see more opportunities for advancement than marketers who don’t. It’s like the tide that lifts all boats. When an industry is growing, companies in that industry tend to hire aggressively in response to that growth. Marketers benefit directly from this – particularly marketers who have relevant industry experience. The technology industry is a perfect example of a market that has seen high growth over the last couple of decades and seen a massive number of marketing jobs created as a result.

Make time to network

Networking with other professionals is a key driver of long-term career success. The trouble with networking is that it takes time. Marketers need to set aside time every week for their professional networking efforts. Fortunately, there are a few tactics you can use to make your networking more effective. First, use social tools like Twitter and LinkedIn and make sure you have engage in conversations. Second, there are numerous local events that are great for networking with dozens of fellow marketers at once. Third, try to have three to four one-on-one networking meetings every month. Simply asking people to coffee is a great way to do this. Finally, spend time networking with your manager and colleagues.

Work for smart marketers

It pays to work for managers who will have good long-term careers themselves. When interviewing or considering a promotion, make sure that the person you will work for is exceptionally smart, driven, and respected. As your manager’s career develops, so will yours. If you prove to be a valuable employee, your manager will consider you for new opportunities as their own career progresses. It’s a simple tactic, but one of the most effective when it comes to advancing your marketing career.

Build a personal brand

The internet makes it easier than ever to build a personal brand. Blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a variety of other social media tools enable marketing professionals to develop personal brands. While this can be said of any type of professional, it’s particularly true of marketers who manage brands as part of their day-to-day job.

Make the people that count ecstatic

The average marketer will meet thousands of people during their career. While it’s difficult to make each and every one of those people deeply satisfied with your work (you should still try!), it is possible to make the people who can make or break your career ecstatic. The first step to doing this is identifying who these people are. In the marketing profession, they include direct managers, CEOs, Chief Marketing Officers, and VPs of Sales. They also include very smart co-workers who show real marketing aptitude. When you identify these people, go out of your way to do exceptional work. It will pay off in the long run.

Remember that a marketing career is a long journey

It’s hard to imagine when first starting out, but a marketing career can last decades. As such, it’s important to remember what your long-term objectives are. It’s also critical to remember your career is a path and that just about every job you have is a stepping-stone to the next. Connecting daily, weekly, and monthly professional goals to long-term career objectives will ensure that you have a long, successful career in marketing.

These 12 habits should get you on your way to a long and productive marketing career. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author:  Scott Albro is the CEO and founder of TOPO. TOPO is a research, advisory, and consulting firm that believes in a really simple, but powerful idea – that all revenue can be distilled down to a series of conversions. By connecting everything we do back to this core idea, we help sales and marketing organizations exceed their revenue targets. You can connect with Scott on Twitter.

  • David Cheng

    Scott, suggestion: it’d be great if you gave some concrete examples of the marketers who have been successful in executing 1 of the 12 habits. For example, Jon Miller is great with his personal brand.

    • Great idea for a follow up post David. Thanks!

  • I think #1 is a lot harder these days then it used to be. With the economy it’s hard to get a job period, which makes long-term planning almost impossible. One thing that I would recommend, which I think should be #1, even before working on a plan, is to figure out if you want to be self-employed or work for someone else, then you’ll be able to cater to your chosen path.

  • Hey, Scott! Big fan of this post!

    I’m relatively new to marketing, so a lot of these things I’ve come to learn over the past year or so. Especially numbers 1, 2, 3, 9, and 12. I can’t say whether I’m a left or right brain marketer yet — I’ll have to get back to you.

  • Tim O’Connor

    Personally I don’t think number 1 is number 1. As I look back on my career in marketing, having been a CMO for 3 multi-billion companies and several smaller ones, and a few start ups along the way, candidly I couldn’t have predicted the roles I wound up in 2 years before I wound up in them. If anything I think number 2 and number 9 are more important. I also don’t think number 7 is that important. But do be in industries that you can relate to and like.

  • Ashmita

    Hi Scott, I am an absolute novice in Marketing. I would like to ask whether an understanding of Economics is also beneficial to marketing, as I have a strong foundation in the subject. Thanks.

Your Free Membership

Join the 100s of high growth sales and marketing teams that depend on TOPO. Your free membership includes:

  • 1Free research and data
  • 2A 30+ point assessment
  • 3Access to TOPO Councils