What I Wish Someone Told Me Before Starting a Career in Marketing
Starting out in any career is full of surprises and unexpected challenges. Marketing is no exception. Even with all the possibilities and excitement, there can be a lot of unknowns that come with starting a career in marketing. But without years of experience, how can you know what to really expect?
Well, for one, you can lean on the experience of others.
You may be wondering whether a marketing degree is worth your time or are looking for advice on how to land your first job, and there’s a lot of useful information experienced marketing professionals can provide about the career. They’ve walked the walk—and now they want to share the bits of wisdom they wish they had when they were just starting out.
Keep reading to get their advice and learn what to expect as you launch into marketing.
Before starting a career in marketing, I wish someone had told me …
1. To find a mentor
Sometimes, there’s no substitute for experience. When it comes to breaking into marketing, finding someone who can support and guide you along the way will make your journey so much easier.
“I wish someone had urged me to find a marketing mentor early on,” says Jerry Han, chief marketing officer at PrizeRebel®. “Instead of struggling through questions I had, it would have better prepared me for adjusting to the industry. Because it changes so quickly, this foundation would have surely accelerated my professional growth.”
Whether it’s a professor, network connection, supervisor or friend of a friend, finding a mentor can open doors and help you navigate those big-picture career planning questions that don’t always have easy answers.
2. To be ready for rapid change
As Han alluded to, marketing is constantly evolving and adapting. Marketers must keep up with trends, new technologies and shifting customer wants and needs.
“Be prepared for change,” says Mayank Batavia, head of marketing and partnerships at QuickEmailVerification. In today’s interconnected world, marketing is changing faster than it ever has before.
“Don't hold on to assumptions you found were valid 10 years back,” says Batzvia. “Even if you had tested something a few years back and found it to be true, be sure to test it again. You'll be surprised with the degree of change that has come about.”
While the principles of marketing you’d learn in a marketing degree program are consistent, their application adapts to the times. For example, a successful print advertising-based marketing campaign will share many of the same product positioning and promotional strategies used to create an effective digital marketing campaign with advertisements found throughout online spaces. The challenge often comes from adapting to new formats and understanding how they’re used.
3. How important data analysis and interpretation would be
The continued adaptation of the latest and greatest digital marketing techniques has also ushered in a huge wave of data. Marketers now have the ability to track individual sales to specific tactics and glean insight from other information captured along the way to a purchase.
This can be a blessing and a curse, as data can provide insight into customer behaviors that “common sense” instinctual decision-makers would likely never expect. But it can also be a daunting task to interpret and make sense of this often-noisy information when you’re just starting out.
Batavia says she initially didn’t know how much of the job focused on data.
“I knew marketing is both art and science, but somehow didn't quite understand how scientific it can get,” she says. “I thought the art of psychology would be the dominating force in marketing. Modern tools bring us tons of data—marketers can carry out their job successfully if they know how to make sense of that data.”
Having a solid understanding of how to read and interpret numbers is a key skill set for the best marketers. It’s important to have a solid understanding of statistical concepts and to know the limitations and context of the data points you’ll encounter.
4. Testing and experimentation are key
Even though marketing can be incredibly data-driven, there’s still plenty of room to experiment with a new strategy or test a campaign. Creativity is just as important in marketing as understanding data. New ideas and innovation can create the best marketing plans—and the key is to prove these “hypotheses” with well-designed testing plans.
“I wasn't aware of the extent to which marketers experiment,” says Batavia. “Nor did I know that such experiments are run more frequently than most people believe. Today's technology platforms provide excellent opportunities to test and experiment, and thus learn about customers.”
It’s commonplace for marketers to conduct “A/B tests” where one element of an existing asset—like an email subject line, for example—is adjusted and the results are compared side-by-side to understand which is most effective. These small experiments can have an outsized impact, so there’s typically an appetite for this style of controlled tinkering.
5. Results will often take time
“Marketing requires patience because getting results takes time,” says Natalia Brzezińska, marketing and outreach manager at PhotoAiD®.
While it’s disappointing to not see the instant success of your brilliant marketing plan, it takes a while for the campaign to take effect and for potential customers to interact with it.
Brzezińska explains that when her first campaign started, she expected to see results within a few days or a week. “To my surprise, it took some months to see the total result. In the meantime, we gathered data and analyzed outcomes, improving as we go,” she says.
6. Try not to overthink it
Between tracking data, waiting for results and keeping up with innovations, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in marketing. “The number one piece of advice I would give myself when I was starting is don't stress about it too much,” says digital marketing consultant Eduard Dziak.
Dziak explains that when he started in marketing, he would over-research for campaigns. “While it's good to do research and do some learning before, don't spend too long on it,” he says.
He recommends being willing to learn through some trial and error and not overthinking it. Research and data are important in marketing, but at the end of the day, the campaign will either succeed or fail, and it’s impossible to know what will happen with total certainty.
Often, you can learn more by just trying a few things that are not “perfect” and then refining the approach based on those results.
7. Writing is critical
“What really surprised me is the amount of writing required in marketing,” says Dziak. Between emails, creative briefs, social media content and reports, marketers spend a lot of their time writing.
While some marketing roles are definitely much more writing-intensive than others in this field, having a solid understanding of basic grammar and writing style is still critical to your success. If you’re not literally writing the copy for advertising campaigns, you still need to be able to convey the key message, sentiment and key demographic information to those who will.
Ready to get started in marketing
With this advice in hand, you’ve got a jump start on beginning a career in marketing. Whether it’s finding a mentor or brushing up on your writing skills, you’re prepared with the inside scoop on what to expect.
Of course, before you can run full steam ahead toward this career, you’ll need to make sure your qualifications stack up well to the competition. Earning a marketing degree can certainly help with that and open you up to a variety of roles. Learn more about what could be in your future with our article “What Can You Do With a Marketing Degree? 10 Potential Options.”
Prize Rebel is a registered trademark of Iangelic, Inc.
PhotoAiD is a registered trademark of FunFotos Sp. z o. o., LLC.