The 3 Things I Learned From My Marketing VP: Vision, Strategy, Message

Recently our company went through some routine team changes, leaving me serendipitously with our Vice President of Marketing as my manager. It’s not every day that the little fish in the pond gets to play with the frolicking whales of the ocean. Yes, in my head whales frolic. No, unfortunately, our VP of Marketing does not.

In my one month directly reporting to our VP of Marketing, I have learned three important lessons that can help entry-level marketers take their careers to the next level.

Do You Have a Vision?

My VP of Marketing asked me a simple question, but the answer required opinions I had not formed. He asked: “Where do you want to take this thing?”

At Marketo, I manage lead nurturing. Although I know how to execute like the back of my hand, I had never formed strong opinions about how lead nurturing should evolve. Opinions usually form after multiple experiences shape the way you think, but what happens when you need an opinion before you’ve had enough experience?

Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to have an opinion. If you don’t have one, take one from someone else. The future is riddled with uncertainty, so conviction is what drives a plan forward. Don’t be afraid to ask your more senior co-workers for their advice. Where do they think your industry is headed? Also, make sure to do research and read some industry blogs. What are external thought leaders talking about? And finally, make sure your opinions can be backed up. Preferably, you can back them up with data, but a lot of cash works too.

What is the Strategy?

The first question I asked my VP of Marketing during our weekly meeting was, “What do I have to do in order to be a Marketing Manager?” The question wasn’t because I want to become a manager, but because I’m ready to bring my competencies to the next level. His response was that a coordinator may know how to execute, but a manager knows what needs to be executed and, more importantly, why.

Marketing managers bring strategy. Resources are finite, and the proper allocation of resources to achieve the maximum results is what separates mindless execution from strategic marketing.

Lesson #2: Learn to strategize. To come up with a marketing strategy, take the time to understand the needs of your company. Meet with different stakeholders to find out what their pain points are and determine how you can help them. Also, make sure you spend time to learn the business road map so you can prioritize. Then, once you have completed your situational analysis, craft objectives for future achievement in the most critical areas. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from more experienced co-workers and managers. They will be able to give you really great advice.

The Right Message, at the Right Time, Sent to the Right Person

At the end of the day, your goal as a marketer is to achieve relevancy. My VP of Marketing constantly challenges me to think about what segments I should be targeting. Anyone can segment things in a hundred different ways, but a great marketer is able to choose the right segment as their target market.

Lesson #3: Crafting the message. Once you have selected your target market, crafting a message that resonates with them through each stage of their purchasing behavior is important to driving engagement. When determining your message, ask yourself how you should speak to each particular audience. Rinse and repeat.

Although I no longer directly report to our VP of Marketing, his lessons have helped shape the way I approach my marketing. Learning without application, however, is like reading absolute numbers without relative figures – they lack meaning.

Here is how have I applied these three lessons from my mentor to the way we do nurturing at Marketo today.

Having a Vision: Nurturing of the Future

After talking to multiple stakeholders, the vision I have for our future nurturing first includes a testing program, which will benchmark and optimize our results. Once we have tested our assumptions, we will begin integrating social and mobile into our nurturing for multi-channel engagement.

In the more distant future, I would like the ability to nurture people based on their levels of engagement. Lastly, my vision includes a system that would allow for optimal prioritization of our segments.

Having a Strategy: Effective Segmentation

The plan of attack for nurturing at Marketo revolves around effectively segmenting our database. To segment effectively, we created an operational system that prioritizes certain segmentations over others. For example, if someone is a marketer from North America, they apply to both our geographic segmentation and our role-based segmentation. Our system, however, will prioritize the role-based segmentation because we believe it to be more relevant than geographic segmentation. As we collect more data about which segmentations work better than others, we will revise segment prioritization within our system.

The Right Message at the Right Time for the Right Person: Positioning Statements

For each segment that we use at Marketo, we have crafted messaging statements about how we want to talk to that audience, as opposed to other audiences. For example, one of the segmentations we use is geography-based. In our international regions, people are less familiar with marketing automation, so our messaging is more focused on what marketing automation is. In North America, however, people are more aware of marketing automation, so our messaging is more focused on why they should use marketing automation. This is just one example; we have positioning statements for each of our different segments.

The Last and Most Valuable Lesson: Feedback

The most valuable commodity you gain from your job is not the paycheck you receive – it is the feedback you receive. This blog post is a thank you to all of my mentors and managers who have provided me with this incredible level of mentorship. A special thank you to my mentor Shonal Narayan, and to David Cain, our Vice President of Marketing, who have both taken the time to teach me all that they know. I hope that more senior-level marketers take the time to mentor entry-level employees. Even a thirty-minute meeting can have a meaningful impact.