Be a powerful marketer: do less marketing

April 28, 2021

Guest post by: 

Michael Stewart,

Part Time Marketing Director

That seems like a counter-intuitive thing to say, doesn’t it? Do less marketing and you’ll be a more powerful marketer! I’d also argue that if you did less marketing, you’d also be a more valuable marketer for the business in which you work. It’s certainly my firm belief that most marketers spend too much of their time doing marketing, and not enough time thinking marketing and the bigger picture.

Get out of the shallow end

It’s just human nature to stay where we feel most comfortable, where we are safe, where we are in control – I’m sure you recognise that. But like everything in life, we grow when we start to move out of the shallow end which is our comfort zone and into the deep end where we are less comfortable.

Time and again in businesses and agencies I have seen people content to stay and play in the shallow end. Indeed, I have seen people who have become ever more proficient at swimming with their floatation ring and/or armbands on. But is anyone really impressed by someone who is a world class swimmer in arm bands?

It feels like I’ve stretched that analogy as far as I can, and I need to get more marketing specific.

Be more general

In marketing, many believe that getting ever more knowledgeable and “skilled” in particular marketing tactics is the way to success. It may be if what you want to do is just be the best you can be in that particular channel or tactic. However, if your aspirations are broader and different to that then you need to make sure you don’t get sucked in to a dead-end of narrow channel expertise.

In my recent interview for Powerful Marketers, Mari-Liis asked me about what it meant to be a marketing director and it caused me to take a step back and think … always a good idea when being interviewed I have found!

I don’t profess to having risen to lofty heights, or to have become a “mover and shaker” in business or in marketing, but my ability to gain seniority and/or influence, and the opportunity to get more and more interesting and exciting assignments, I put down to my ability to think marketing within the widest possible picture – that of the business as a whole.

See the whole picture

Marketing is often misunderstood, even by many of those who work in it! It’s so much more than marketing communications and knowledge about channels and tactics. No matter how much that is dressed up as strategy, it’s simply not – it’s just in-depth tactical execution expertise.

Strategic marketing starts with the identification of a problem or need, moves on to the creation of a product that solves it, the definition of an audience or audiences and on to the competitive positioning of it within a competing set of alternative solutions or options (competitors).

I believe that this kind of marketing is the driving force behind business success – it defines why the business was started in the first place and the promise that it is making to its audience. It is the foundation on which the business is built and the reason for it to remain relevant.

Without it there is no future for the business. No matter how operationally efficient or expert the business is, no matter how motivated and productive the team are, with no demand and nothing to make they are a wasted asset.

Many of us come to marketing and are immediately tasked with doing stuff. We’re taught how to execute and we learn and get better and better. Show some aptitude and (dare I say it) do a bit of self-development too and we’ll get better faster. We’ll probably then get the opportunity to do something else and become proficient at that too.

That’s great and a vital foundation for any marketing career. But just like a GP, a marketing director, a senior marketer, a commercially valuable marketer, needs a broad range of knowledge to be able to explore and critically assess communication options as well as manage/challenge those that manage them. They do not need the deep understanding and ability to be able to run activity themselves.

Hence, I return to my answer to Mari-Liis’ question about marketing directors and some thoughts about what you might want to get in the deep end and become proficient in, if your aspirations lie in the board room.

The most important skills a senior marketer needs to possess are:

  • A comfortable understanding of the whole scope of marketing and not just tactical experience.
  • The ability to position the role of marketing within the business as a whole and its contribution to creating a successful future for the business.
  • To think and understand about commercial issues right across the business, in order to become a valuable member of the senior management team or adviser to the business owner.

What stops marketers from achieving this? Getting bogged down by chasing channel expertise and being world class at swimming in armbands in the shallow end.

Get yourself in the deep end!

Watch the full video interview with Michael Stewart on the Powerful Marketers YouTube Channel.

Michael is a Part Time Marketing Director, digital strategist, a business coach and business speaker with more than 20 years of marketing experience.

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