Fresh out of business school, you are all geared up to take on real-world marketing. A few years into your first few jobs, you’ve started picking up various marketing skills, behaviors and experiences. You’ve naturally started walking and talking like a marketer now. I know enough about marketing to do my job right, you sometimes find yourself thinking. However, it is possible for you to end up with certain gaps due to the specific responsibilities that you have along the way – without even realizing it.
Today’s marketing scene is in a state of evolution, where media platforms are further diversifying, consumer expectations are changing and business dynamics are shifting. The marketing opportunities available to you are growing on a perpetual basis, and it is imperative that you keep up with current marketing trends to maintain your brand’s relevance. This is where it becomes important to assess where you stand and what gaps you might need to address for the sake of your brand’s success. In order to realize their full potential in a marketing career, marketers need to master several key skills that act as the foundation for effective marketing operations. This includes the ability to think strategically, define your brand’s position, build a plan that can be followed, inspire creative marketing execution, analyze the performance of your brand and customize your strategy based on performance analysis.
Take your time to think
A good marketer is a slow thinker. Yes, you read that right. It is important to think both critically and strategically – asking the right questions – before you can propose solutions. This includes assessing your brand’s core strengths, its relationship with consumers, who you’re targeting, the competitive stance you can take and the overall market context. Interruptive questions are the hallmark of strategic thinkers, posed to slow everyone’s thinking so they can reflect and effectively plan before acting. Strategic thinking encompasses a few steps to ensure brand efficiency: first is being able to envision where you see your brand in the future, and then set out to explore the opportunities available to you. Set your focus on an identified opportunity and then invest your resources in that direction. At the same time, build your brand power by deciding how to respond strategically to consumers, competitors, new entrants, employees, influencers, media, suppliers and channels in ways that benefit not just the brand, but the business itself. A good idea is to start by articulating your strategic objective in a way that marries the brand vision with the issue at hand.
Define your brand
Once you’ve strategically aligned your objectives and identified opportunities to leverage, it is important to shine the spotlight specifically on your brand. Clarify who your consumer targets are, determine all possible functional and emotional benefits, create a distinct and clear brand positioning and then work on developing your brand idea in a way that it caters to all your consumers across multiple touchpoints. Build consumer profiles framed with need-analysis, consumer insights, pain-points and determine your desired consumer response. Then think about what the brand promise is, and clearly identify how your brand delivers on that promise without fail.
Craft a plan that sticks
Instead of working on at short-term plans for a specific period, turn your focus first towards long-term brand goals. The brand vision must sit at the very core of your brand plan, surrounded by its purpose, values, goals, key issues, strategies and tactics. These elements help frame both your short and long-term course of action, which is translated through a clear execution plan, incorporating elements of brand communication, innovation and constant improvisation.
Your responsibility as a marketer does not end there – as you will now be expected to build an effective presentation to align senior management and company decision-makers with the strategies you lay out, so you can garner necessary support across the company. Red-taping is almost everywhere, and a good marketer will identify opportunities to materialize their plans despite the constraints.
Ensure seamless execution
Your role as a marketer does not require you to become a micromanager – too many marketers have stepped over the line into execution. A good marketer inspires the experts to produce smart and creative execution. However, your judging criteria needs to be honed so you can make the final call on what to go forward with and what not to. One of the ways this can be ensured is by following the ABCs rule. The best executions drive Attention (A), Brand Connect (B), Communication (C) and Stickiness (S). In order to achieve this, you must perfect your skill of writing strategic, focused and thorough creative briefs that will inspire effective work. All the execution you produce must connect back to the overall brand experience, while keeping in consideration the desired customer experience.
Keep your performance in check
It is unfortunate that the biggest dilemma faced by marketers these days is whether to invest in market research or not, and it has been seen that most marketers select the latter. Investing a portion of your resources in research activities is important not only to better understand the market, but to also analyze your own brand’s performance. You must first identify all the metrics that are relevant to your brand’s vision, and have a clear understanding of how to dig deep into this data. Once you put the right data into perspective, you will be able to draw out insights and conclusions that can turn into an analytical story which inform performance reports and key issues presentations. This way, you will customize your plans to fill any gaps you may have overlooked.
Marketer by profession, entrepreneur by heart
Traditionally, marketers have always been expected to build brands, promote sales, create demand, and help their companies earn consumer loyalty. But in today’s day and age, marketers are required to play critical new roles – they must be strategists, allocating resources to support business priorities and increase return on investment. They must be technologists, leveraging the most useful and sophisticated technologies required to grow the business. And they must be scientists, because the future of their company must not necessarily look like the past. A lot of the innovation that takes place in companies comes from recommendations made by good marketers; and so a good marketer must take an entrepreneurial approach in decision-making, focusing on business growth rather than just brand growth.
A walking, talking growth machine
Marketers need to be multi-talented and acquire skills that transcend the boundaries of traditional marketing to ensure business growth and drive results. From brand positioning and strategic planning to business development, product innovation and consumer experience, the ideal marketer must take into account all facets of business excellence through effective marketing – in a step-by-step fashion.
Muhammad Ali Khan is Associate Director Creative & Strategy at Spectrum VMLY&R. He also teaches in the Masters of Advertising program at SZABIST-Karachi.