Taking steps towards leadership in 2018

08 Dec 15:00 by Ally Lee-Boone


So, you've spent 2017 boosting your knowledge and developing your CV. Now, you've set your sights on a big step forward professionally in 2018 - either securing a promotion or landing an exciting new role.

Does this sound familiar? We explore the essential skills for marketers seeking advancement in the next 12 months. 

Sharpen critical thinking

One of the most important skills for marketers looking to advance up the career ladder is critical thinking. This is the ability to assess information and situations to derive insights and determine the best course of action. Managers in all disciplines need to demonstrate this skill, but for marketers, it’s particularly important, because of the intense rate of change within the industry and rapid advancement in technology. Today, more than ever, marketing managers need to be able to differentiate between gimmicks and those tools that could offer a competitive edge.

In a broader sense, this is about being able to see opportunities. Marketers able to spot trends before they become mainstream – and tease out business openings – are highly valued by senior management.

Learn the language of the board

However, in order to articulate their observations and ideas to senior management, marketers need to adjust the way they communicate. Most marketers are used to thinking in terms of sales metrics such as customer acquisition cost, return on investment and social reach. But the board uses a lexicon all of its own that relates to business-wide, financial goals with an emphasis on profit and loss. If marketers can adjust their language – as well as the text on their presentations – to match this, it’s much more likely their voices will be heard. This ability to be ‘bilingual’ is a vital skill for marketers looking to advance their careers.

John Neugebauer, communications advisor at RHP, is a participant on the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Marketing Leadership Programme. He recognises the importance of supporting ideas and executions with data: “Using facts and figures to back up your activity enables colleagues across the organisation to see the role marketing plays in delivering against the bottom line – and re-emphasises how business critical it is. Thinking beyond your department is a large part of this, too. Consider how you can educate your colleagues to recognise the contribution marketing makes.”

Become a storyteller

Even the most compelling arguments can fall on deaf ears if they’re poorly presented. Career-minded marketers often use the power of storytelling to make their case more compelling. Storytelling in its most basic form is the ability to condense information and events into a linear narrative, with the aim of informing or entertaining. Stories usually take the form of a main character (a department or the business itself) attempting to achieve an objective (winning an award, or increasing profit) despite obstacles (budget or time constraints, or competition). Anthropologists believe our brains are wired to comprehend stories with this simple structure – they hold our attention and enable us to absorb a surprisingly large amount of information. 

Marketers seeking an advancement opportunity should have a grasp of the power of storytelling and understand how it can be used to shape an organisational narrative – one that every employee can remember and internalise. 

Own creative projects

Although creativity as an individual skill is valuable for a marketer, the ability to manage creative projects becomes essential higher up the career development ladder. Effective creative project management can mean coordinating a group of designers, artists or videographers, and often involves the contribution of external agencies. Irrespective of the brief, marketers must be prepared to keep a firm grip on the organisation’s brand, in relation to established guidelines. This prevents creativity from becoming random and establishes marketers as ‘brand guardians’ – the authority within the organisation regarding branding and identity, and is highly valued from the point of view of senior management. 

Become the customer’s champion

Finally, since the boom in digital technology shows no signs of slowing, marketers need to remain crystal clear in terms of their priorities. Otherwise, there’s a real risk of losing sight of the customer in the snowstorm of tools, apps and data. In fact, every element of a marketing strategy should be centred on the customer, in terms of understanding and anticipating their wants, needs and behaviours, to delivering a quality overall experience.

With this clear remit in mind, marketers should approach senior management meetings with the intention of guiding the organisation forward in synchronisation with customers. As such, marketers can create a niche for themselves and provide a vital link between the board and the world beyond the business.

Moreover, marketers should lead in encouraging the wider organisation to be brave in the relationship with the customer, says Neugebauer. “For example, if a consumer comes forward with a complaint, businesses can see this as an opportunity to convert them into a brand champion. From this perspective, marketing can lead the customer experience.”

To learn more about how to develop the skills that will advance you to the next phase of your career, find details of CIM's Level 7 Marketing Leadership Programme here.

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