5 Big Marketing Lessons | What I’ve Learned in 23 Years of Marketing

I moved into marketing in May 1997 to become a product marketing manager at Microsoft. I didn’t have any formal marketing training, but I did have in-depth knowledge of the product, having been a pre-sales consultant at Microsoft. I was fortunate to have a manager who saw my potential and was willing to invest in training me. Since then my career has followed a marketing path; even when I’ve managed multi-disciplinary teams, marketing has been a major part.

Doubtless, the first months and years involved a degree of winging it and a heavy reliance on my product knowledge, but with training, good managers and a desire to learn I left my past behind and became a marketer (or, as my technical colleagues still consider it, I sold my soul to the devil).

Now it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. I’m a product marketer at heart, but different jobs and teams have given me a t-shaped skillset that serves me well. Looking back, there are big marketing lessons learned that should be useful to anyone in marketing and those considering it as a career option.

You will never feel like you have enough people or budget to do what’s asked of you

Never. The value of marketing has been difficult to prove so justifying spending has always been tough. Today it’s much easier to show that it works, using data to. shake off the old perception that marketing is the source of golf umbrellas and the organizer of Christmas parties. Entrenched attitudes are hard to dig out, but they can be overcome.

The solution? Fight back. Prove your worth. For every £1k I spend, I have to deliver between £10k and £15k in the pipeline for sales. I can prove this happens. If you can too, you’re in a position to negotiate. Any decent sales director can provide a rolling four-quarter sales forecast with a high degree of certainty. Marketing needs to match or better this.

Brand matters

Always, and regardless of what market and business you’re in. I will make a distinction here between when brand matters because the customer price and convenience often matter more. But to get to the point that the customer can see your price and enjoy the convenience, they need to engage with you. And they’re only doing that if they know you exist.

If you’re the market leader, it’s easier to build a pipeline than if you’re not. If no one’s ever heard of you, you have no recognition, no matter how good your product is. Imagine you’re a tire brand like Continental or Michelin. Emails with offers are going to be read, because who doesn’t want money off big brands? But if you’re an unknown budget brand, you will struggle to get anyone to open your emails, let alone read them.

So while you can’t measure the value of brand against pipeline creation or new business it is built into your costs.

Right-brain creativity is just as important as left-brain math

A lovely image, a great headline, a compelling piece of copy: this is the stuff that helps turn customers into fans and fans into customers. The barely intelligible state of most websites, rendered incomprehensible by a merciless pursuit of advertising revenue, suggests this isn’t widely understood. Just finding the content you want is a battle – we’re literally fighting to keep the ads out of the way.

Martech promises great things but it can’t make bad writing good and rubbish images beautiful. For now, human creativity and intuition should be at the center of everything we do.

Get the right message to the right person at the right time

It’s still true. And more important today than ever because, as Google worked out, “people are more loyal to their need in the moment than to any brand.” Delivering the message isn’t the hard part, nor is it particularly difficult to make sure it’s the right one. It’s doing it at the right time that’s still problematic. This, I think, is where the true opportunity lies. Our understanding of what an audience wants has come so far in 20 years. Now we need to work on our relevancy.

And finally, marketing is more disposable than ever

The last, but not least of the big marketing lessons is about the disposable nature of digital marketing. You might think your new campaign is amazing (and it may well be) but most people won’t see it. And most of those that do won’t take much notice of it. Digital makes marketing cheap and quick, so we deliver too much to audiences and they treat it as disposable.

Golf umbrellas and Christmas parties had one advantage over today’s digital marketing assets: they stuck around and people remembered them. I still have a Mercedes golf umbrella that has outlasted the car it came with.

I hope you’ve found my insights valuable and please share big marketing lessons that you’ve learned in your career.

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