The Formula for Successful Marketing Career

I still remember one of my past interns asking me this question back at a previous job.  She was driven, and wanted to succeed in marketing, and asked me if I had any tips for her.

She noted that she already talked to multiple people, and was not sure on which career path to take to be a successful marketer.  I will give you the same advice that I gave her a few years back.

  1. There is no path.  Gone are the days where you work for one company and climb the corporate ladder directly up.  If you talk to 100 successful people in marketing, they will all tell you a different story, and how they got there.  There is no “one path” to becoming successful in marketing.  To become successful, you have to make your own path.  You define success, and being successful can mean a million things.  Figure out what you want to do, and find a way for you to get there.
  2. Over Deliver.  Always.  On every project, give everything you can to it.  Don’t just skate by and deliver what is asked for.  The key to being successful in marketing at any level is adding value.  Anyone can deliver a project – you have to make it special to stand out.
  3. Never stop learning.  Never.  Marketing is a hyper competitive field, and you will need to stay at the top of your game to continue to grow in your career.  Think about 5 years ago – where the smartphone did not exist, and tablets were not mainstream. Now think about today, where social media and mobile marketing are a great way to reach and engage with customers.  If you stopped learning 5 years ago – you are dead in the water today.
  4. Try new things – even if you think you will fail.  Sometimes to move up, you have to move sideways, or even backwards.  Having a well-rounded background is a key to growing in marketing, so be sure that your skills are always up to date by trying new things.  Volunteer for side projects.  Take classes on the side.  Don’t fall behind, because there are a million people waiting to jump ahead of you.
  5. Don’t focus on job titles or money.  Job titles and money will come with time – but you have to earn it.  One thing you will find about successful people in marketing is they worked hard and paid their dues to get where they are at.  You will get there someday, be patient and humble.  Good things come to those who work hard and are dedicated.

Lastly – if you say you are going to do something do it.  It seems simple, but make that a goal of yours in your personal and professional lives.  If you say you are going to call, call.  If you promise a project on a date, deliver that project.  Always follow through.

So those are my tips – but I figured you might enjoy some tips from folks I admire in the field.  I have asked some of my friends in the biz to share their tips with you, and they are below.  Great advice from great hard-working people.  Another great tip in marketing is learning from others, and the folks below share some great advice on being successful in marketing, and how they got to where they are at.

Name: Angela Ferguson

Education: Bachelors in Communications & Rhetoric/Certificate of Professional Writing from University of Pittsburgh; MBA with concentration in Management from Point Park University

Internships: American Red Cross Southwestern PA Chapter, Marketing Communications Intern and Disaster Public Affairs Volunteer; Big Science Sound Studio Public Relations Intern

Current Role: Assistant Marketing Manager, Market District Format, Giant Eagle, Inc. Responsibilities include managing multi-million dollar marketing budget; communicating to customers through print, broadcast and digital media, direct mail, street teams and outdoor placement; creating a food experience by coordinating monthly large-scale, multi-store sampling events and guest chef appearances

What most excites you about what you do? First, I get to talk about, research and market on-trend foods with a group of people who are passionate about the business. The Market District format is a testing center for new programs with enterprise-wide implications, so creativity is welcomed. The marketing team is lean and therefore every day is busy and unpredictable. Also, the work is active and dynamic, involving interaction across teams with merchandising, legal, operations and HR professionals.

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? The Grand Opening of the Columbus, OH, Market District location. The store was built from the ground-up at the right size, with the right product mix, in the right market. We introduced the concept to a new market and built brand recognition. We brought in a celebrity host, Adam Richman of Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food, hosted Team Member Friends & Family, neighborhood and VIP open house events and opened to the public with weeks of ongoing activity — all while maintaining our marketing budget…and sanity.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  Three tips: 1) Do something to differentiate yourself from the student next to you; 2) Don’t burn bridges, even if you think you have a boat. Your network will get you further than any job search website; 3) Be yourself and keep your confidence. Going from upperclassman to rookie is a big adjustment; you’ll have to work hard to prove yourself.

Name: Chris Droesch

Education: B.S. in Management Information Systems, Case Western Reserve University, MBA, Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business

Internships: Nope. I was considering a career in the military and spent the summer between junior/senior year of college training at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, VA

Current Role: I work on an innovative banking experience. My official title is Senior Product Analyst Online. It’s a product management role, which means I work on identifying and implementing new features.

What most excites you about what you do? I love getting to work with teams from different functions: sales, engineering, marketing, and design, just to name a few. Also, there’s no better feeling than hearing a customer tell you that the product you work on changed their life.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  When I was in college, I was afraid to pursue a career in marketing because I thought that marketing departments were the first to get laid off in bad times. This is simply not true. I also thought marketing was the same thing as “advertising.” There are many aspects to marketing; advertising is only one piece in the marketing puzzle.

Name: Diana Besoiu

Education: Grove City College,B.S. Marketing Management,Minor: Communications

Current Role: Social Media Manager – Manage my organizations social media properties including: content creation, execution, strategy, analytics

What most excites you about what you do?  The ability to think creativity (both proactive and reactive) in a quickly changing space

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? Vision casting for enterprise and lines of business. Love the ability to think freely and put all options on the table. It’s always nice to see where things could be, where they could go with the right amount of resources.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  Educate yourself. Learn real-world advice and keep up to date on ever-changing trends and advancements.

Name: Alexa Davenport

Education: BA (Advertising), Michigan State University

Internships: Michigan Opera Theater, Production Department, Sales Intern at WLAJ/ABC 53 Lansing-Jackson, Delegate, 52nd Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival

Current Role: Assistant Vice President, eMarketing

I manage the onsite advertising on our site as well as the offsite display/mobile/tablet marketing for all lines of business within the bank. Our team works with each line of business to understand their goals for the year, and we collaborate with the ad agency to determine the best strategy to meet and exceed them. We approve media plans and creative and work with internal designers and developers to design and build new site content, landing pages and microsites.

Once a campaign is launched, we monitor performance on a weekly (at minimum) basis and work with the agency to optimize the media and creative. We report back to each line of business on a monthly basis, and help increase the general knowledge of the online space for each of our partners.

I also manage the budget and billing for our department to make sure that (1) we stay under budget, (2) we deliver within our monthly forecast and (3) our bills are paid on time.

What most excites you about what you do?  The online landscape is constantly changing, so (to be completely cliché) every day is new. The tactics and strategies I used at the ad agency 4 years ago are almost obsolete, so we have to stay on our toes to make sure we stay relevant and interesting to our consumers. The work can be stressful, but its nice to push yourself to do things differently and because we work with multiple agencies, it gives me a great opportunity to learn from many different points of view to find the most efficient way to accomplish a project.

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? Launching an innovative banking experience in 2008.  I was the digital media planner at my current banks previous agency and it was the first project I really “owned”. My media director had recently left the agency and the bank trusted me to plan and execute the first majority-online launch of what has become the lead product for the bank. Of course I had a ton of help from the offline media director and the account team, but at the digital “expert”, I had the opportunity to lay out the launch strategy, recommend the websites and sponsorships and work with the creative teams to coordinate the messaging.

The launch was a success and probably a big reason why the bank hired me 2 years later.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  Learn paid search and online marketing in general.  There aren’t many people who are ‘experts’ in search, because it’s so data-driven, but this job will always be in high demand and you can work in any industry as long as you have the basic knowledge.

Also, TV will never go away, and neither will print and radio (to an extent), but advertising spend is quickly and dramatically shifting to online; if you don’t understand the medium and learn to work with the constant flow of information and data, it will be incredibly difficult to adapt.

Name: Maura Pohland

Education: B.A. in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh (minors in Lit, Children’s Lit, and Psychology)

Internships: I had two, which were absolutely invaluable. Both were through the University of Pittsburgh — one was in the Media Relations office, working mostly on PR-related activities, and the other was in the Career Services office, creating an event series from the ground up that would connect students and professionals to talk about career options.

Current Role: I am a Marketing Specialist on the Advertising and Design Support team. This basically means that I support a team called Affiliation Banking (comprised of University Banking, WorkPlace Banking, Military Banking, and Employee Banking) with marketing across the board — events, advertising, collateral, promotions, social, messaging, etc. I like to say that my role consists of getting the train to the station on time without the wheels falling off — plenty of time management along with adherence to standards such as brand guidelines, customer engagement, relation to business goal, etc. In this role I get to do a little bit of every part of marketing but they are all grounded in project management and creativity.

What most excites you about what you do?  I love that every day is different — one day I’ll be collaborating with WorkPlace Banking on creating a sweepstakes promotion for their on-site tabling events, the next I’ll be working with University Banking on determining what messages resonate with students today, and the next I’ll be brainstorming with the University Access team on what can be created to further build excitement in-branch around the student audience. I also love that I truly believe that these business in particular are destined for great things. I have such a belief in what they can do, and it makes me passionate every day to push a little harder for their success.

What is the best project you ever worked on?  Why? The first is the University Banking 2012 sweepstakes promotion that we created for use at 50 schools at which our bank has an exclusive relationship. To me, promotions are always fun in that we get to play more so than usual with tactics and creative, and namely within this project, we created 50 porcelain piggy banks to be used as tabling enhancements, produced entry forms that had a perforated portion that could be turned into an origami piggy and served as the customer takeaway, and in conjunction with that, created a video that showed a real person making the origami piggy that could be used as instructions. It was a really enjoyable project to work on and bring to life, and we doubled the amount of paper and online entries received. A definite success!

The second project is currently still in the works, but its overall objective is to confirm and create customer-authentic messages and communications for the student audience. This is something we’ve never done, and it’s needed more than ever as customer insight becomes more and more important in what we do as marketers. I always find it enlightening and energizing to hear true feedback from the demographic we target in our everyday work because that will only make our deliverables more successful in the end.

If you could give one tip to a graduating senior looking to get into a marketing related field, what would it be?  NETWORK! It absolutely pays to know people — they can refer you for an open position, keep you up to date as what’s available in the market, and especially give you guidance and serve as a mentor as you look to expand your career. Don’t discount someone just because they can’t do something for you right now — you never know when it will pay off. So, with that, be nice to everyone!

Last tip: learn from the world around you.  You just got a huge opportunity to from the advice above.

Chris Lovett


4 thoughts on “The Formula for Successful Marketing Career”

  1. I believe I would enjoy a career in marketing with a company that I believe in and already have knowledge of. I think it would be extremely difficult to be in a marketing firm where there is a chance that you can get a contract with a company that you know absolutely nothing about, or you do not have the same morals and values of the said company. It would be a challenge when you need to learn everything about a company so you can portray that company’s strengths in the best way possible to the public.

    I found this article and thought that it stood out from the rest because it seemed to be more self oriented rather than being focused solely on your client.

  2. I think a career in Event Marketing or Strategic Marketing would be interesting. At this point in my life where I am now starting my career path, I am open to just about anything. You’ll never know what you really want to do until you rule out the things you know you don’t like. I thought these two different types of marketing sounded the most interesting and that I could see myself potentially doing.
    I thought Event Marketing was interesting because they are creating marketing opportunities for companies by specific events such as sporting events, trade shows and holidays. These professionals use certain occasions to promote their products; they also can create their own events to do so. It would be fun to help create different types of events for new products or promotions.
    I thought Strategic Marketing was interesting because they deal with almost every aspect o a company’s business. I think I would like this because they are using all aspects of marketing to create a long-term marketing plan. I like creating plans for projects and monitoring their progress and long term success.

    I thought this was a very good and helpful website with tips to further/start your career in marketing. Some of the tips that were listed could help you further/start your career in line of business, not just marketing.


    I don’t have a definite interest in one particular marketing career, but if i had to choose one it would be in advertising or event marketing, I’m very interested in being able to deal with how you would go about promoting a product to people whenever a business would have these special events.. Tips for marketing success include know what you want to achieve before spending a penny, know your audience demographics and psycho-graphics, don’t try to be an expert at everything and treat your employees as customers.

  4. I thought that this article had some good advice on how to be successful in marketing; namely, provide a quality product as a reasonable price, create a dialogue with customers on a 1-to-1 basis, stay ahead of the curve, take a longer-term view of marketing, and don’t chase every customer or compete on price.

    These tips are especially important to me, because any marketing I would be doing in my career would be for a scientific company, and these things are crucial to succeed in the scientific marketplace with a new product, especially a new drug.

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