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Thursday, 27 June 2013

From digital marketing executive to CMO: 10 tips to get to the top

This blog post originally appeared on the Firebrand Talent blog.

If you want to be a CMO or Marketing Director at a big brand and currently work in social media or digital marketing, you’re probably not going to make it. The fact is, you’re in the wrong job. I am often asked for career advice or to mentor young professionals looking to make a name for themselves in the digital marketing world. Currently there aren’t many digital marketers or social media marketing professionals that have made it to the top levels of marketing at a major brand. While I strongly believe it’s possible (in fact, as digital becomes more mainstream, it’s becoming much more likely) to reach the top, there are a lot of misconceptions about digital and social that many don’t understand. Some of the challenges and issues include:


Social media is perceived as “operational”. It is something that is “executed” by (usually less experienced) specialists. Big Brands are looking to hire specialists who understand social media but the scope of these roles tends to fall in two areas
  • Community Management – This is increasingly about managing a pre-built editorial calendar, managing digital assets (images, videos, written posts, etc.) and moderating community comments.
  • Customer Service – As much as 40% of enquiries via social media platforms (specifically Facebook and Twitter) are customer-service related.
Digital marketing campaign management is too technical and siloed. Managing digital campaigns is very important but the skills needed tend to be either:
  • Technical – especially if you’re running digital display with media that is managed via real-time bidding, you are doing e-CRM with re-targeting and multi-variant testing, etc.).
  • Niche and often overly specialised. For example, Search Marketing professionals are now often responsible for both paid search/PPC and SEO, and to be great, require a number of years specialising in the craft.





So, if you are currently in a social media or digital marketing role, here’s 10 tips on how to break through to the top:
  1. A successful digital marketing function = change management. Digital marketing in large organisations is about building capability and making change. This includes tools, processes, ongoing education and executive level training. Your job should be to help make all marketers digital, not just a select few.
  2. Shift from operations to achieving results. I don’t mean hitting campaign targets or driving incremental sales. When I talk about results, I really mean achieving the “wow” factor. You see this in memorable digital work like Old Spice Guy’s ongoing social engagement, or more recently inSamsung’s “The Next Big Thing” work. These campaigns think big and achieve big. Do this, and you’ll be on the fast-track to success.
  3. Develop great presentation and communications skills. It doesn’t matter where you are in an organisation, if you can’t communicate or present well, you won’t get to the top.
  4. Stop talking about tactical digital metrics and start talking business objectives. Too many marketers get caught up in impressions, click-throughs and social media sentiment. CEOs don’t care about these things. They care about sales, market share, savings/efficiency and building great relationships with customers. Tactical metrics are important but they need to be clearly linked to business metrics.
  5. Be a thought leader. If you have deep subject matter expertise, share your knowledge. Consider presenting externally, talking to the media and blogging/writing. Even better, if you can help senior management understand how digital and social is impacting your customers, this is a big win.
  6. Lose that sense of entitlement. This is much more subjective but I often see those starting out in digital with inflated job titles (or even worse they are “ninjas” or “jedis”!) or overconfident because they know more about a particular niche skill than others. Be humble and patient. As you grow older and wiser you’ll realise that your previous big title or knowing how to grow a Facebook Fan or Twitter Follower base doesn’t entitle you to a Marketing Director job.
  7. Understand the broader marketing landscape. You might not want to hear it but TV advertising still dominates marketing. Never be a “digital vs. traditional” person. Be smart and learn how digital and social media works well with other forms of marketing in the media mix.
  8. Understand that your social networking ability does not equal actual networking ability. So much of working in a big brand is about building strong relationships and networking. Sadly, being great at social networking often limits your skills at face-to-face networking. Get out from behind the PC or off your mobile phone and learn the art of conversation.
  9. Understand both brand marketing and performance marketing. Unfortunately digital marketers tend to fall into one of two camps – driving brand engagement (through social marketing, online video, digital display, etc.) or focusing on sales (through search, e-CRM, affiliate marketing, etc.). CMOs need to understand both to be successful.
  10. Realise that eventually some other new technology will come along and it’ll shake things up. It’s been happening since the invention of the ink and quill. New technology enters the market and changes how people interact with each other. It’s inevitable and some radical shift will happen again soon. Please don’t look down upon your senior managers who have struggled with the introduction of the PC, Internet, tablet, social networking and smartphone (to name just a few). You’ll be in that same place soon, I guarantee it.

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