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.
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.
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.