How do you develop your strategic, creative and analytical skills as an early-stage marketer when you’re placed into a tactical role and given a very specific set of tasks to do in your first marketing job or internship?
The landscape is changing faster than ever as marketing techniques and processes to develop hand-in-hand with new technologies.
For young marketers and those just starting out, navigating our fast-evolving industry can be extremely daunting.
While timeless skills such as strategy, creativity and analytical skills reign supreme, understanding the context in which these need to operate is a skill until itself.
Of course strategy is paramount, and the last thing you want to is run from one shiny new tool to the next, caught up in tactics and trying to learn a myriad of hyper-specific digital tools just for the sake of it.
But the reality is, if you’re starting out in an entry-level marketing role, you’re most likely going to be involved in some form of execution on someone else’s strategy, while you build up the credibility, trust and wisdom that is needed to have your own strategies taken seriously (enough that a company would spend their hard-earned money on them!).
There’s no denying that you’ll need to get proficient in at least a few tools over the course of the first few years as a practicing marketer.
And knowing “which” tools is an art and science unto itself these days.
Just a few years ago, ad campaigns for Facebook pages consisted merely of a post, geographical range, target audience, and budget-per-day. Now, entire technical courses are offered on the subject, teaching marketers how to reach their audiences optimise their ad campaigns using an ever-expanding set of integrated tools.
When I started running Google ads back in 2001 (yes, the era where a click from your ideal customer on your best keywords was just $0.05!) and doing SEO there was just Google to be familiar with. It was pretty basic and we were able to get to #1 in our space pretty consistently without doing anything particularly fancy.
Anyone in that space now knows just how many myriads of tools, bolt-ons, options and enhancements there are to choose from. As a practicing marketer for 25 years now (20 in the online space) it can even do my head in just thinking about them all!
Make no mistake, we are now in the era of performance-marketing, in which marketing is (or should be) data-driven , analysed, and refined using the insights that are available.
In an industry that is now shifting to one where cold hard data and statistics lead marketers by the hand, how can an emerging marketer adapt and stay relevant?
And how do you bring your strategic, analytical and creative skills into a role where you’re charged predominantly with carrying out tactical tasks?
Being curious is important because it means you constantly ask questions, and what’s more, genuinely seek out answers.
You are always on the look-out for inspiration and ways you can improve your outputs and savviness as a marketer, whether this inspiration comes from the marketing industry, or elsewhere.
A curious person is adaptable and ultimately, willing to learn and integrates their learnings into their marketing methods.
In the context of modern marketing, this means learning how to interpret data (not just export it) and how it can guide your brand and campaigns.
Marketers still need to be artists, unleashing their creativity in campaigns and materials to achieve brand objectives.
But with the advent of tools that can track nearly any kind of digital engagement or footprint, a marketer must be more responsible in that they must also be commercially-oriented rather than just standalone artists.
Marketers must now be able to deliver very specific results which before would be very difficult to measure. Marketing now goes hand-in-hand with sales and is inextricably linked to financial outcomes.
Creativity can’t be measured, but audience response to a particular style of creative can.
A marketer also needs to be emphatic. An emphatic marketer instinctively latches onto an audience’s most pertinent pain-points, empathises with them, and sees how they can help solve the problem.
This helps build a brand with a personal connection, from which a relevant and effective campaign can flow.
Once the campaign has been run, then data can be gathered and analyzed, eventually being used by the performance marketer to tweak their campaigns to optimise and integrate for next time.
Which means you are likely going to be hands-on and working at a tactical level for your first few years of your marketing career.
However, that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t think strategically.
Your ability to be observant, curious and understand why things are (or aren’t!) working, to offer suggestions, recommendations and ideas, is the fastest to grow up the marketing career ladder.
If you choose to be a curious, empathic, and holistic marketer, then there is nothing for you to fear in the modern marketing industry.
Technical skills can always be learned and you will probably never be the leading expert or first-choice in a particular skill; there will always be someone out there who can do it better, faster, and cheaper than you.
But the other things that you can bring to the table alongside that are what will set you apart.
Knowing a couple of tools well will get you in the door, but it’s the incorporation of the timeless marketing principles into whatever you’re doing that will see your career take-off faster than you could expect.
I’ve seen this time and time again, regardless of a young marketer who is focused on PPC/SEO, or content and publishing, or design and visual messaging, or big data and analytics.
If you constantly seek to level up in the way you think strategically, creatively and analytically, and be observant and intentional about how those play out in whatever facet of marketing you put your hand to - you will stay versatile and able to adapt to whatever changes come your way.
Starting out and want to get ahead quicker?
Grab a copy of my ebook 21 Things Successful Young Marketers Do Differently to get the Top Jobs. It’s a meaty 40-pages jam-packed with insights and top tips which will change the way you look at your career if you’re starting out.
About the Author
Nina Christian is a passionate marketer and mentor to young marketers and entrepreneurs around the globe.
Her marketing agency Braveda, founded in 2000, is a boutique marketing agency (est. 2000) that specialises in building brands through thought leadership and content creation, and was named Best Marketing Agency at the 2018 Australian Marketing Excellence Awards and Nina was named 2018 Certified Practicing Marketer of the Year (Victoria).
Nina believes every marketer deserves the chance to build a career that inspires and is helping young marketers become the marketers the world wants and needs through Launch Your Marketing Career.
She is also an entrepreneur with several start-ups under her belt, including a successful exit in 2008 of a pioneering ecommerce brand she co-founded in 2001.
She is a Fellow of the Australian Marketing Institute, and Chair of the AMI State Committee in VIC.
Nina is a regular speaker on the subjects of Marketing and Entrepreneurship and believes there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer.
Outside of work (which she loves!) Nina enjoys the outdoors, is an active CrossFitter, and after 3pm most days is off-duty having fun with her five young children and doing mum stuff.
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