marketing training

A New Job Path Away From Marketing Services

by Susan Zweibaum on January 23, 2012

What happens to all those professionals who lose their jobs as marketing services teams disappear?

It’s something I thought about as I reread a post of mine from last year. I wrote then about how companies, particularly CPG companies, are getting rid of their in-house marketing services teams, and I recommended ways for companies to better manage without those teams.  This time I want to focus on all of those marketing services professionals who find themselves looking in the mirror and wondering where their careers went.

Ok, I realize this sounds a bit negative, and truthfully it isn’t all dire for marketing services pros.  Those focused in digital or PR still have a strong role and often find roles in the corporate sector.  It is those in more traditional roles (consumer promotion, corporate design, etc) that are having a harder time rebounding.  Let me say candidly that I fall somewhere in the middle, and this Nowhere Land predicament has led me to think long and hard about what comes next.  See, I am one of those people with broad expertise and not focused in the areas that are considered “hot” and my knowledge of the “hot” specialties (i.e. digital) is not readily seen as expert enough.

So then, fellow lost marketing services professionals, what comes next? 

Go into Brand Management

It is true that many of the marketing services people came from brand management at some point or decided that it wasn’t their cup of tea.  However, there are always positions for good brand managers at all levels, and marketing is marketing regardless of the industry.  The hard part is convincing the hiring managers that you are capable of doing the job since you haven’t come up in the ranks of brand management.  In the right company you will be able to convince them as long as you have participated in enough brand initiatives to give you “brand” experience.

Change Industries

Marketing services is something that is needed in all sorts of industries.  While it is something that is synonymous with CPG, these kinds of skills are useful and needed in other industries as well.  In fact, my skills in sponsorship and endorsements is much more usable with companies such as American Express and Bank of America where they have sponsorship departments to manage all of their sponsorship deals.  Healthcare is growing and they need to advertise and create selling collateral just as much if not more than CPG companies.  Look outside your comfort zone and you might be surprised what jobs are available. 

Move to Trade/Shopper Marketing

Before going into marketing services, I spent a bunch of years in sales and trade marketing.  The experiences were similar, and most internal marketing services folks have worked on customer specific programs as part of the larger marketing plan anyway.  You will likely continue to manage agencies and you will be developing customer specific promotions and programs.  The key here is embracing the idea of working with the retailers and sales teams and being a willing go-between between the brand and sales folks.

 Go Work for an Agency

Okay, this is not for everyone.   In fact, I spent 8 years working for agencies and determined that it is not for me.  It takes a specific kind of temperament to work at an agency.  However, all those skills, all that knowledge of marketing vehicles, profitability and what a client wants can be valuable insight for an agency (as I’ve written about in previous posts.)  Working internally at a company, you have your internal clients, so the concept shouldn’t be that different.  Clients don’t always make good agency people, but the skills are definitely transferable if you want to be on the creative side of things.  I have two warnings: 1) Make sure you are okay taking orders and working for the client vs. being the client as it is a whole different ballgame; and 2) Realize that agencies are all about the “big idea” and get frustrated when you try and throw reality into the mix.

Rebrand Yourself

This is probably the hardest one of all and that one that I have been drawn to most often.  Can you parlay your experience into another type of job or industry?  Can you do something completely different that isn’t exactly marketing?  I always considered going into theater marketing or management and have explored ways of utilizing my CPG knowledge for local theaters.  Don’t get me wrong; they are mostly looking for people with theater experience, but I am trying to get in by consulting or volunteering and letting them see what I can do.  Training is also a interesting alternative and a way to translate all that marketing knowledge to those not as experienced.  If you choose to rebrand or change direction, just realize that you might not get paid what you once were paid in marketing services.   Then again, you might be paid more!   The trade-off, however, is something new and interesting that is not a dying profession.

 I have to admit that the dearth of good client side marketing services roles is frustrating and that the knowledge we bring is not always appreciated.  However, I have seen a number of my friends succeed by doing one of the above.  For instance, a director of integrated marketing left CPG to be a V.P. of Marketing at a healthcare company, another colleague left to run a creative management team at a hospitality company, and still another left to open her own franchise business.  I have no doubts that they will all be highly successful even though they have changed their original paths.

 And I have no doubt that you can too. You might even like that reflection staring back from the mirror.

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They No Longer Work Here

by Susan Zweibaum on January 21, 2011

On a recent post on Promomagazine.com where agencies provided solutions to client problems, they asked how companies can restructure themselves to best support integrated marketing initiatives.  While the answer given was dead on, the bigger question facing both agencies and their clients is, how do you best manage integrated marketing and promotions even as companies continue to downsize or eliminate marketing services departments altogether?

More and more companies rely on their brand teams to manage all aspects of the marketing mix, including PR, promotions, advertising and digital. These already overworked brand managers and directors are being asked to manage and communicate daily with each of their agency partners without any additional expert resources to help guide them or relieve the burden.  This can be a daunting task when you consider the possibility of separate agencies for consumer promotions, advertising, PR, customer marketing, digital and packaging.  If the brand managers spend so much time managing these agencies, when can they actually manage their business?  This pressure to do more with less ultimately burns out brand teams, hampers good client/agency communication and puts more emphasis on outsourcing activities to the agency partners.

As more emphasis is placed on the agencies, the lack of knowledgeable internal client representatives makes it difficult for those agencies to manage programs efficiently.  Agency partners want clear concise direction, and since they operate on tight budgets, they are often frustrated by the confusion, rework and misdirection that can result without the internal client expertise they prefer to have.

Even if the economy improves, it will not necessarily equate to more hiring in the marketing services specialties on the client side.  Those companies that are not structured for marketing service departments or have cut back significantly are not likely to go back to having a larger department or adding one. They have made a philosophical change in how they manage their marketing department, or decided they can live without the department altogether and continue to outsource more to their agencies. 

What then is the solution?  I have a few ideas, especially assuming the downsizing of marketing services departments is here for the long haul.  These same approaches also can be used by smaller, growing companies that are not ready for added staff to handle these areas.

1)   Train Your Staff:  Consumer promotions, PR, digital, etc. are all unique disciplines that require a certain level of expertise to manage them effectively.  Unfortunately, these disciplines are not generally taught within a traditional MBA curriculum, and while an associate brand manager learns by doing on the job, he or she needs guidance and training.  Hire an outside consultant or use your agencies to do some internal training – Promotions 101, Digital 101, Social Media 101 – to give your staff a basic knowledge of the disciplines and provide benchmarks for future activities.   Continue the training with more in-depth and specialized topics to build the expertise.  Knowing what to question and how to challenge agency plans and budgets only comes from ongoing experience and knowledge,  and that questioning and challenging will lead to a more efficient agency spend. 

2)   View the Agency as Your Partner:  Agencies prefer to be a part of the initial planning and strategy development and not just handed an RFP to do the work.  This earlier involvement benefits all parties because it means less interpretation of an RFP, clearer communication and more commitment from the agency.  In the Promo Magazine article, it was mentioned that having a clear process is important in effective integrated marketing initiatives.  It becomes even more important when you don’t have an internal team dedicated to solely managing this process.  By making the agency a partner in this, you can relieve some of the burden from your team because the external team is vested in the success of the plan from the onset.

3)   Require detailed execution plans from the agencies:  It means more work for your partners, but will make the process easier for the internal client team.  Instead of the magic behind the curtain, you will understand what each step of the process will be and enable the internal team to do a better job of managing the checks and balances associated with the program execution.  It will also make it easier for the agency partner in the long run since they will have a client with realistic expectations.  Unrealistic expectations are rampant when the client lacks the knowledge and expertise they need to manage the agency partner.

In the end, best practice says clients should retain at least one internal marketing services expert to help provide guidance and internal consulting.  Companies do not always believe in this practice or are unable to allocate funds for this role.  When they don’t, the above ways can help their marketing teams work better with their agencies and create efficient and effective programs.

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