Most of us think of marketing careers as selling products or services, and while this type of activity is included in the concept of marketing, our view of marketing should be expanded to include much more. According to the article All About Marketing by Carter McNamara on the Free Management Library website: “Marketing is the wide range of activities involved in making sure that you’re continuing to meet the needs of your customers and are getting appropriate value in return.”
The article goes on to describe what the author calls “inbound marketing,” or efforts to research and identify the needs customers might have; how to meet those needs; the type of packaging that might be needed; pricing; competitors; and product design for a unique value proposition. Advertising, sales, public and media relations, customer service, and customer satisfaction are all part of “outbound marketing.” Inbound and outbound marketing careers may require significantly different skills and training.
The American Management Association website has published a white paper, Dominating Your Market by Shortening the Customer Decision Cycle, which states: “What are we trying to do as marketers? Put simply, we are trying—through a variety of means—to get lots of people to buy our products—repeatedly, in large quantities and at rewarding prices. We are trying to bring our products to people in the most profitable manner possible, both for our customers and ourselves.”
This paper goes on to state that there are three primary ways to increase sales: increase the number of customers; increase the dollar amount each customer spends per purchase; and increase the frequency with which the customer buys. This author adds another way to increase sales, which is to increase the speed at which decisions are made. He says, “Decision speed is more powerful than positioning, image, value, customer satisfaction, guarantees, or even product superiority, because focusing on it forces you to organize these factors, and many more, into the most potent combination possible.”
It is apparent that marketing may be a complex effort and that successful marketing involves a great deal of research in order to understand what customers need and how they will respond to choices like pricing, packaging, and various types of advertising. Companies that fail to do this type of research may find themselves either creating and trying to sell products that customers don’t want or need, or pricing themselves out of the market. Those who enjoy dealing with these types of complex problems will find marketing careers rewarding.
Some types of marketing are direct, such as advertising. Advertising often describes in some detail a product or service and may include pricing information. Advertising is often found in print media such as newspapers and magazines. Many websites also take a very direct approach to advertising. Websites may be designed with a great deal of information, which is often what potential buyers are seeking when researching products on the internet. Other types of advertising may also be much more subtle. Television advertising is often an example of this type of subtle marketing. Short, often 30-second, ads strive to create a feeling that will inspire someone to buy a product. Scantily clad women, muscular men, fast cars, and well-chosen music may communicate the seller’s message much more effectively than a direct appeal would. The variety of types of advertising that are possible allow for individuals interested in marketing careers to specialize in areas that they find most interesting, like television or creating websites.
Understanding competitors is also critical for successful marketing. When entering a market with pre-existing competitors, companies must find a way to compete that will allow them to gain market share. Their product or service must take customers away from their competitors. When a company is the first to enter a market, it will quickly find competitors entering that may be able to undercut their prices. In this type of competition, the first to enter the market must find ways to distinguish its products or services that will help them to retain customers. This is especially true in the global economy. Newly developed products, even patented technologies, may be quickly copied and marketed by international companies. This means that companies that originate new products must be able to market them in ways that will protect their market share.
People who work in marketing careers may work on various facets of marketing. Some may work more on researching customer needs, competitors, or things like effective packaging. Others may work more on things like advertising, media relations, and customer service. These different types of careers may provide a significant variety for those who choose marketing careers.
Qualities of a Good Marketing Professional
There are a number of qualities that are often found in professionals who succeed in marketing careers. A good marketing professional often has the quality described as charismatic. Although the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines this as “having charisma,” it is perhaps better understood by looking at the synonyms. These include: alluring, appealing, attractive, bewitching, captivating, fascinating, charming, enchanting, engaging, entrancing, fetching, and glamorous. This elusive quality is probably innate and not one that may be learned. Politicians, religious leaders, and even cult leaders may have this characteristic.
For those who are engaged in marketing careers, being charismatic may help them to sell goods or services more effectively. For example, an advertising sales director with charisma may be more effective in making presentations to clients and winning projects. Individual sales representatives will also benefit from a charismatic personality that will help them to obtain and retain clients.
Being confident is also an important quality for those in marketing careers. Sales representatives and advertising sales directors must project confidence in order to gain clients and to keep them. Unlike charisma, confidence may be developed by marketing professionals. For each type of marketing career, individuals may learn the skills and best practices that will build confidence. Confidence is also built by strong managers who know how to train and encourage staff in ways that allow them to be successful. Also, as professionals succeed in achieving business and personal goals, confidence is built.
A good marketing professional understands people. This sounds simple, but interacting with many different types of people is not easy. On the creative side of marketing, those who design advertising campaigns must understand the needs, wants, and purchasing capabilities of the people in the target market. A market research director must also understand people. For example, in designing questionnaires or other research instruments, the market research director needs to understand how to frame questions in ways that participants will understand and will yield useful information. Public relations specialist must understand how to represent clients in ways that will cause people to perceive them in positive ways. In order to do this, the public relations specialist must understand people.
A good marketing professional must also be creative. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the synonyms for creative are: clever, imaginative, ingenious, innovational, innovative, inventive, and original. Creativity is clearly an advantage in many different marketing careers. A market research director needs to be creative to design and implement market research programs. A public relations specialist must be creative to find ways to represent clients, especially those who may have done something that has destroyed their reputation in the eyes of the public. An advertising sales director must also be creative to find ways to sell projects to clients.
Some marketing fields also require strong analytical skills. For example, the market research director may have to develop statistical models to use for product development. Market analysts also may need to apply statistics and mathematical models to assess the potential of various target markets to produce income. A market analyst may also need to develop models to use to set prices for new products or for variations of existing products.
Strong written and oral communication skills are essential for most marketing careers. These skills are needed for working in project teams to develop marketing campaigns and to present them to clients. Public relations specialists may prepare press releases and must use words to communicate effectively. A media coordinator must be able to communicate effectively with both media company and client employees; otherwise confusion and chaos related to a marketing plan may occur. Product development managers must communicate the concepts for new products clearly or the product may never be produced.
It is clear that those in marketing careers must have many qualities that work together to succeed as a marketing professional. Many of these qualities are related to understanding and interacting with people; those who do this well will have greater success in the marketing field.
Advantages of Marketing Careers
There are a number of advantages of marketing careers for people to consider who are interested in the field. Marketing careers provide individuals with a great deal of variety. People may work in areas as diverse as market research or public relations. Some areas are highly analytical and may involve use of statistical methods, like the role of the market analyst or market research director. Others require a good understanding of people and what motivates them to make purchasing decisions. This understanding is necessary not only to successfully market the client’s goods and services but also to obtain clients in the first place. People who enjoy managing both projects and people will also find opportunities as directors in various fields such as market research and advertising sales.
Teamwork is another advantage of marketing careers, because it often takes a team of people to conceive and develop a marketing plan or even a new product. For example to create a marketing plan a team of people will work together to create the concept, then work with graphic artists, media experts, a media buyer, and the client to bring the project to a successful conclusion. Marketing experts often work in teams to develop a new product. A market analyst or researcher will work together with product designers, production engineers, budget specialists, and procurement personnel to design, test, and market new products. Working on these types of creative teams may be interesting and exciting.
Marketing often provides fast-paced, interesting work. When working with an established client and product, it is necessary to meet ongoing deadlines for publication in print and other media. This means that concept development and execution cannot proceed at a leisurely pace but must go forward rapidly. Often, clients buy not just a single advertisement but a full campaign, which includes television, print, radio, and online advertising. These campaigns are coordinated and the timing of each piece of the program is critical to the campaign’s effectiveness. When marketers participate in new product development, the work is not only interesting but may also require meeting deadlines. Companies don’t operate in a vacuum; they face competitors who are trying to carry new products to the market first.
Another advantage of marketing careers is that those who work in this field often get to see the results of their work. A market research director may not only see the results of his or her analytical work but also gets to see a new product suggested by the research come to fruition. Public relations specialists may see the results of their work in polls that measure the popularity of their clients, especially those who have experienced a downturn in popularity after a scandal. Advertising sales directors see results when their proposals gain clients for the marketing firm. Product development managers can see results when a new product that their team worked on is produced and sold.
Disadvantages of Marketing Careers
Like any other field, marketing careers may have some disadvantages. Some of the same things that may be an advantage—like fast-paced work—can also become a disadvantage. Marketing careers may be high-stress precisely because they are fast-paced. The pressure to meet deadlines creates some of the stress, but that is not the only stressor. Producing quality marketing campaigns that satisfy clients and produce good results may create stress, too. Large clients may invest millions of dollars in advertising campaigns and they expect these investments to produce sales. A campaign that is a flop may not only waste the client’s money but can also result in the loss of many clients to the marketing firm. Those involved in new product development also work in a high-stress environment as they try to create products that will bring a good return on investment to the company that produces them.
Marketing is also a very competitive field, not only for individuals who work in it but also for marketing firms that compete aggressively to win and keep clients. Entry-level positions in marketing firms will have a large number of applicants competing for each opening. Once inside a marketing firm, the competition continues as marketers seek high-prestige projects and to work with top clients. Marketing firms frequently compete for clients, preparing and presenting proposals that clients use to select a firm. Especially when the projects are for large clients who may budget millions for the campaign, the competition is intense.
Because of the competitive nature of marketing careers, it may be difficult to break into the field. Obtaining a high-quality education may help those who wish to enter the marketing field. Other tactics include networking with those who are already active in marketing. This may be accomplished by joining marketing associations or other business associations and attending meetings and events to make connections with those working in the field. For students, participating in an internship during the summer or another semester may enable them to gain employment in the field. Recommendations from marketing professors may also help students to gain entry-level positions. For those interested in opening their own marketing firms, breaking into the market may also be difficult. Companies want to work with a firm that can show successful results. To gain market share, new firms may join the local chamber of commerce, volunteer to do some complimentary work for nonprofits and, of course, conduct their own marketing campaigns.
Marketing Associations and Journals
Those who participate in marketing careers may benefit from joining an association. One option is the American Marketing Association (AMA). The Houston Chapter of the AMA website gives some of the benefits to joining an association: “…more networking, more continuing education, more job referrals, and more opportunities to meet and connect with fellow marketing professionals.” This association offers members access to “free webinars and the latest research in the field of marketing, steep discounts on the AMA’s national training programs, and a choice of AMA marketing journals for cutting-edge articles and information.” The membership cost for a “Young Professional” is $75 per year and includes a subscription to Marketing News.
Membership in the AMA also gives people an opportunity to subscribe to journals that are specific to their area(s) of interest including: Marketing Management; Marketing Research; Marketing Health Services; Journal of Marketing; Journal of Marketing Research; Journal of International Marketing; and Journal of Public Policy and Marketing.
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) website says: “The Direct Marketing Association is the leading global trade association of businesses and nonprofit organizations using and supporting multichannel direct marketing tools and techniques. DMA advocates industry standards for responsible marketing—both online and offline— promotes relevance as the key to reaching consumers with desirable offers, and provides cutting-edge research, education, and networking opportunities to improve results throughout the end-to-end direct marketing process. Founded in 1917, DMA today represents companies from dozens of vertical industries in the US and 48 other nations, including nearly half of the Fortune 100 companies, as well as nonprofit organizations.”
The DMA cites these benefits on its website: “Advocacy in federal and state legislatures on behalf of members; education, reputation management, research, and networking. Membership in DMA is corporate rather than individual. For marketers, annual dues are based on the company’s total direct marketing expenditures and start at $1,500.”
The Business Marketing Association (BMA) Houston Chapter website discusses this association’s goals and benefits: “BMA provides a wide range of services, resources, and opportunities, to help you meet the daily challenges of sustaining business profitability and enhancing your development as a B-to-B marketing professional.” (B-to-B stands for business to business, as opposed to someone who markets to individual consumers.)
The national BMA website indicates that the corporate membership program has these benefits: “The restructured membership program enables companies and their employees to access the world’s experts, best practices, and current content in business-to-business marketing.” This association provides webinars, telecasts, podcasts, industry surveys and market research, a career center, and a speakers bureau. The annual membership dues for individuals are $185. The BMA web site states that: “Focusing solely on the field of business-to-business marketing, BMA provides a wide range of services, resources, and opportunities to help you meet the daily challenges of sustaining business profitability and enhancing your development as a B-to-B marketing professional.” The benefits cited include: networking, professional development, market research and studies, celebrating B-to-B success stories, affinity benefits/partnerships.
The Internet Marketing Association (IMA) website indicates that the group was formed in 2001 and has the following focus: “Sinan Kanatsiz, Chairman and Founder, started IMA with four key values as a foundation for success in today’s highly competitive business environment: integrity, communication, professionalism, and education. We take pride in developing relationships with our members and providing them with the resources necessary for success. The members of IMA are dedicated to building a voice and creating standards for internet marketing on a global basis. Members are encouraged to offer their input on topics related to the field and the practice of internet marketing for the benefit of themselves, their peers and the industry.”
The website continues: “The IMA mission is to provide a knowledge-sharing platform for business professionals where proven internet marketing strategies are demonstrated and shared in an effort to increase each member’s value to their organization” The IMA indicates that corporate partners fund the organization, so unlike most associations, there is no cost to join.
There are many other associations that marketing professionals may benefit from joining. This is just a sample of the types available. Marketing professionals should seek out those that most benefit their career and are in their area of interest. Subscribing to journals, viewing webinars, listening to podcasts, and researching online articles are all ways to continue to increase proficiency in marketing careers.