There’s no question that going to business school can offer you a wealth of information that will serve you throughout your career, whether it’s a solid grounding in financial management and operations or human resources issues. If your goal is to become a marketer, however, you might have a little extra homework to do.
It’s not that business schools don’t also cover a lot of the fundamentals that are important in most marketing roles. If you’ve already graduated, you probably learned a lot about planning a campaign, key performance indicators (KPIs) and the classic four “Ps” (product, price, promotion and place). These are elements that can be applied in almost any kind of organization, whether you’re working the marketing department of a large enterprise or in a small business where you’re a marketing team of one.
Beyond those basics, however, much has changed in the way companies conduct marketing activities that may not have made the syllabus in business school courses yet. A lot of it relates to the impact of digital technology -- not only the way organizations can use the tools available to them, but the many ways in which consumers now search for information and consume content on their personal devices.
Marketers who might once have graduated from business school would have been ready to build a brand using billboards, TV commercials and ads in print publications, for example. Those channels can still be effective, but today you also have to complement them with things like online ads, email newsletters, social media and even text messages.
None of this should be cause for despair, however. Many marketers have had to learn about the best ways to work in the digital realm while still on the job. Given how fast technology changes, you can’t always expect business schools to keep up, and it’s really up to you to be ready to adapt to new tools and channels as they emerge.
With that in mind, here’s a selection of subjects about which all marketers could readily educate themselves -- and which will be critical whether you’re a CMO hiring new talent or trying to land your next role:
In the old days of marketing, driving demand was about making sure your products and services’ names were as visible as possible, along with some catchy slogans or taglines in the ad. Now it’s a matter of developing a digital strategy based on the right keywords that relate to your customers, rather than your own wares.
A company marketing a new range of kitchen appliances, for example, will not only want to post content that references its brand, but all the keywords and terms that someone looking for purchase ideas on a search engine might type. These could include “energy-efficient oven,” “oven small apartment” “best cheapest oven” and so on.
These keywords and phrases not only need to be part of the metadata or background descriptions of your online product landing pages. You also need to think about how you can weave them into things like blog posts, social media content and many other assets that might be discovered by customers who don’t know your brand or would not have considered it in their list.
While the basics of SEO and SEM are fairly straightforward, changes in search engine algorithms mean you need to stay as current as possible to be effective.
In business school, you might get assigned projects to create mock campaigns for a fictitious brand’s products and services. More than likely, the way you organize all the information you need will be done in fairly low-level tools like spreadsheets -- or even sticky notes that you stick to the sides of your screen.
Fortunately, we’ve come a long way from those days in real-world marketing departments. Today, successful companies have to manage a wide array of data about their customers’ buying habits, preferences, account histories and more. That’s why customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Sales Cloud and marketing automation tools like Marketing Cloud were developed in the first place.
CRM and marketing automation allow marketers to bring things like customer personas -- which might have remained on paper in the past -- to life through a variety of campaigns and tactics across digital channels.
As you learn more about these tools, it’s best to think not only in terms of your own objectives as a marketer but how your use of them will dovetail with your coworkers in sales. When they’re used to their greatest potential, CRM and marketing automation become the linchpins that bring sales and marketing groups together and get them to revenue and other targets faster than was ever possible in the past.
In business school, studying historical examples of marketing campaigns and brand strategies of the past are a popular way of teaching best practices. The hope is that what worked yesterday will work in the future -- even though there’s not always a lot of evidence about that.
Historical data is still a big part of real-life marketing departments, but it’s analyzed at a scale that would simply be out of reach for the average student, or even their instructors. Instead, analytics software can churn through years of customer activity in a matter of seconds. Better yet, this data can be sifted through artificial intelligence tools like Einstein to predict what’s likely to happen in terms of engaging with marketing content, converting engagement into purchases and more.
You don’t need to be a computer scientist to make the most of AI, though. Instead, it’s more a matter of thinking through the kinds of questions you’ll pursue as a marketer, and how you’ll put the results of what’s predicted into a concrete action plan.
As with any other kind of professional vocation, working as a marketer means making a commitment to continually educating yourself, whether you’re just starting out or have achieved a senior leadership position. You won’t always know the next hot topic, but you should always be prepared to find out and explore it.