While the core purpose of marketing remains mostly the same, the skills that go into achieving those goals shift radically with time. A marketing expert who minted their credentials ten years ago will need a skill refresh to thrive in the current marketing environment.
A truly effective team manager will need to understand things like data, digital marketing, and social media, all while balancing the needs of their team and the client.
It’s a tough job, but with the right skills, you can do it well.
What Does it Mean to Be a Business Leader?
The concept of the business leader has shifted a little bit in recent years. Once a steward of the workplace in charge of making sure everyone under their roof thrived from 9-5, modern managers often take a much more hands-off approach to employee management.
This shift has been in the works for a while, with many corporations playing with schedules that allow their employees as much flexibility as possible. The shift to remote work exacerbated it. When a collaborative team is scattered all over the planet, it’s hard to manage them in the traditional sense of the word.
Oversite still takes place, but modern team management, in marketing and other professional settings, is more about facilitating success. As a team leader, you set the tone. It’s your job to find one that brings out the best in everyone on your team.
That doesn’t necessarily mean being a big softie. It does mean recognizing that everyone on your team is going to thrive under unique conditions. Strike the balance that works for all of them.
Data technology has moved forward rapidly in the last few years. Marketers have always responded to what the numbers were saying, but never has this information been so encompassing and fast-paced. Modern data implementation happens in real time.
You don’t need focus groups and long-term sales records to tell you how a television ad is doing. Send a marketing message out into cyberspace and get up-to-the-second updates on how it’s doing.
Marketing managers don’t necessarily need to be data experts — there will be another person on the team for that — but they should understand how to read the numbers and use them strategically.
Isn’t all marketing about communication? It is, but for the team manager, this responsibility extends beyond just figuring out how to reach consumers. To do the job effectively you need to be able to:
- Communicate effectively with business leaders. This means listening to their marketing vision and translating it into terms that your team can use effectively. Depending on the day, it may also mean dealing with difficult people, always with a smile on your face. Your job is to effectively filter a business leader’s idea into something your team can pump out into the real world.
- Communicate effectively with your team. Naturally, team-related communication comes next. You need to inspire and motivate. Not only should your team members understand what is expected from them, but they should also receive the message in a way that is most conducive to their personality type.
None of this is to say that the job is simply about telling people what they want to hear. It’s about meeting executives and team members alike where they are at. This is a challenging skill to learn, but you can hone it with repetition.
Be a careful, active listener, and make selective decisions about when you want to provide your own input. Listening well is a significant component of effective business communication, and it’s something everyone can do. The other elements you will develop over time, with practice.
Of course, effective marketing will always involve stepping into the mind of a consumer to create highly tuned messages that meet them exactly where they are at. Because data is so good now, this might mean making very specific marketing messages that appeal directly to people who fall within the brand’s key demographic.
Instead of casting the widest net possible, marketing team managers might choose to direct campaigns that appeal strongly to the rank-and-file brand loyalists. People who will not only buy but buy with enthusiasm, spreading the word organically to friends and family members.
Branding is less about the product a company brings to market and more about the feeling that they create. Branding at its best can almost personify a company, taking an abstract notion — the idea for example, that Company X is a single entity, rather than fifty individual employees scattered throughout the country, and binding it together with something concrete.
With good branding, Company X can be a business that focuses on sustainability, from their packaging materials to how they source its products. The ripple effect is that anyone doing business with Company X can feel like they are making a contribution to this value as well. They aren’t just shopping at a large multinational corporation. They are dollar-voting for a green future lit by solar panels.
Marketing managers don’t necessarily create branding messages (though in some situations they might) but they do need to understand how to play into them. Keep in mind, the job isn’t just to come up with the cleverest marketing materials possible.
It’s about maintaining tonal continuity. It’s a fine line, but good marketing managers will know how to walk it.
It’s All About the Soft Skills
Notice a pattern here? Marketing, particularly at the managerial level is all about honing your soft skills. Understanding people and knowing how to interact with them. You do need to understand how to use the tech, and general marketing principles, but without understanding how to work with others, this will only get you so far.
While you can’t go to school to learn how to be a leader, you can practice by seizing on leadership opportunities as often as you can.
About the Author
Ryan Ayers is a researcher and consultant within multiple industries including information technology, blockchain and business development. Always up for a challenge, Ayers enjoys working with startups as well as Fortune 500 companies. When not at work, Ayers loves reading science fiction novels and watching the LA Clippers.