3 Powerful Marketing Leadership Strategies

Seasoned marketing executives’ advice to those seeking to advance their careers. 
September 15, 2020 10 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When I graduated from college, the best career advice I never followed was to build my professional network. As an introvert with a borderline avoidant-personality-disorder, I preferred the mellow illumination of my computer screen, and the sound of a keyboard clicking like rain on a tin roof, over actually meeting people. In retrospect, my understanding of business and sales was naïve.

Now I know that networking is the key to success. Fifteen years of working with other professionals taught me that. More recently, interviews with over a dozen marketing professionals in the health and wellness industry drove the point home.

Related: Build Your Brand Online with This Up-to-Date Marketing Course

As part of EMPATH’s giving-back efforts, we donate time to local non-profits, schools, and other community organizations that need support. We found a common thread during engagements at our local colleges: what should students expect when they enter the workforce? A straightforward enough question.

My team and I developed our own take on the matter – through our prism of experiences, biases and inexperiences. It got us thinking. We’re a boutique brand and marketing consultancy. Many of these students aspire to work in large agencies or with exemplar brands. In the spirit of our mission to develop a deep understanding of our clients’ customer’s wants and needs, we decided to apply our own methodology to discovering what eager students can expect and plan for in their new careers. After speaking with many leading marketing professionals, we found that the advice shared, while valuable for students, would also be valuable for those in leadership positions (or those aspiring to become leaders).

We invested hours in interviewing leading marketing professionals in our network, and even more time doing secondary source research (listening to speeches, following social media comments and posts, synthesizing other sources). We found three central themes: be a generalist, know your customers (really know them), and pursue lifelong learning.

Of course, speaking with over a dozen specialists with the highest pedigrees elicited more than three takeaways. The conversations were so rich, it was a challenge to winnow the ideas down to just three.

A hearty thanks to all those who donated their time to satiate our curiosity as to what it’s like on the other side of the screen. Now, back to our three themes.

“It’s not a bad thing to be a generalist.”

Jann Parish, named as Forbes CMO NEXT 2019, is an experienced CMO/executive level marketer with brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and L’Oreal. She described how being a generalist can make you a better leader. Early in her marketing career, she said she had an insatiable drive to learn as much as she could. That meant “never having the loudest voice,” but always developing the deepest level of understanding through asking thoughtful questions. “I didn’t want to be viewed as someone who would take over, but as someone who would contribute.” Especially when she was a young woman seated in a room full of men who had more experience and felt strongly that they knew best. She says that becoming a great leader is about developing a range of skills and being an active listener. But it’s also about “putting the ego aside and hiring the best talent.” When you’re a generalist, you’re good at a lot of things, but you rely on your team to be great in their own domains.

Related: Successfully Pivot Your Marketing Efforts Digitally With These 10 Master Courses

Erin Fitzgerald, CMO at Sermo, agrees. “It’s not a bad thing to be a generalist.” She explains how, for executive positions, “you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into being an email marketing or social media guru.” A big challenge for all brands is understating the polar opposites of creative and technical marketing. From automation to the emotions that your marketing elicits, being a generalist gives you the ability to understand both extremes. She says that myopic views in marketing are dangerous: when you are too focused on technical and esoteric skills, you miss out on knowing why data is important, how to operationalize it, and how to figure out which KPIs matter.

Having spanned various roles at Carl Zeiss Vision over the last 16 years, Pamela Andrews corroborates this take on skillsets. She says that good project management skills are founded on having a broad range of professional experiences: they’re quintessential to overseeing the kinds of disparate projects a marketing professional has to juggle. “Literally, every day, I’m working on something different. One day might be a product launch that has many different elements that need to be pulled together, another day might be a promotion campaign.” The ability to manage all the different aspects of her role reinforces the value of a generalist point of view.

Greg Barntsen, a former P&G Exec, sums it up nicely: “A brand manager is the hub of the wheel of the cross-functional team.” The hub is only as strong as its spokes. And in life, you can’t be both hub and spoke. If your aspirations are to become a manager, to lead others, become a generalist. Your team will love you for it.

“External resources are good fodder. But…”

One of our key questions was to ask what resources these executives use most often to learn, evolve, and improve their skills and knowledge. Perhaps one of the most challenging responses came from Kristin Harper, previous Global Vice President at Cardinal Health: “external resources are good fodder and good food for thought, but the most important thing is to know your customer intimately.” She went on to explain how she doesn’t invest a significant amount of time to reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts. Instead, she invests the majority of her time in deeply understanding her customers. While every other interviewee listed multiple resources, Kristin became an outlier by expressing the importance of focus groups, tradeshows, qualitative data, customized surveys, and secondary source customer research. This was music to our ears because we beat that drum all the time to our prospects, clients, and team. Kristin expressed her love of reading customer behavior reports, looking at sales data, and using her access to PEW and IRI (among others), to learn about her customers’ motivations, interests, and aspirations

A key takeaway from our interview with Kristin is that “salespeople are a good source for getting to know your customer.” She mentioned the need to work closely with salespeople, but cautioned against drawing conclusions on one-off conversations. Like the rivalry between circus clowns and party clowns, sales and marketing folks are often in strife overvalues and approaches. You need to break down that barrier. Our next interviewee explains how.

Sarah Mayer, having held senior marketing roles at fledgling brands and stalwarts alike, had this to say about getting to know people: “everyone is busy these days, full days, jobs, family, bills to pay. Take a step back. Rather than being purely transactional, be down to earth, personal, and call out the fact that you know they are busy. Ask them to coffee. Tell them it’s just a conversation.” She says having coffee with people has been a key factor in her success.

Related: What Vans Can Teach Us About Influencer Marketing

Matthew Polk has similar insights. Having been a Marketing Director & General Manager at Foster Farms, he said, “I’m likely not the market for what my company sells. Being over-educated, overpaid, and having lived in too many different areas, I’m not the target customer.” What he said next surprised me. “Understanding consumer insights is quintessential, but It’s not an advantage to be one of your own customers. It puts blinders on you.” For those of you who are worried you can’t relate to your market: don’t be. According to Matthew, it’s an advantage, if you leverage it properly. He says you should develop a “method of thinking about consumer insight, target market, and what the consumers’ attitudes are. How your brand or product fits into, or needs to evolve to fit into their lifestyles. What’s the benefit proposition, relevance, what are their beliefs?” As Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

If you haven’t learned this already, or are still fighting the urge to live behind a screen, take some advice from Bob Hurley, former Executive Advisor at eHealth. “Relationships are often—usually— the key to all success in life. Both your business and personal lives. The most successful business people are often excellent relationship people. The key to effective relationships in business is to create win-win partnerships that in the end serve all partners and constituents by adding value for everyone involved.”

“The journey is about learning.”

Beyond learning about your customers, Matthew Polk also advised to always be learning, period. Learn by getting involved, being curious and inquisitive. Each executive we interviewed either explicitly expressed their interest in learning or conveyed it by example. Like the way Haystack LLC Marketing Manager, Maria LaTour, started practicing meditation and yoga to inspire calmness. Or Jessica Yarmey, Chief Marketing Officer at Club Pilates, who says, “time in the seat is vital: you’ll make mistakes and learn from them.”

Erin Fasano, seasoned Marketing Director and Brand Manager, shared a resource that provides advanced brand strategy courses, Planning Dirty.

On the subject of strategy, Vice President of Integrated Marketing at Sambazon, Sebastien Marcq, explained how the Prof G podcast is continually improving his critical reasoning abilities.

The leading resources these marketing executives use to discover and distill insights was social media networks (no surprise). LinkedIn led the pack (biased because that’s how we sought out the interviews) with 80% acknowledging it. Instagram was second at 73%, with Twitter and Facebook tied at 26%. Podcasts were mentioned by 26% of the executives. Adweek and CMO Moves were cited by 20%, and Adage, Food Business News Daily, and HBR lagged behind at 13% each.

Key takeaways

If you want to be successful in marketing, it’s essential to acquire a deep understanding of your customers. Beyond personas and reviews. Meet them where they’re at: at work, in their homes, or in the field as they use your products.

If you want to become a successful executive, strive for four things. Be a generalist. Develop a focus on relationships. And become an amazing listener, because it’s never about who shouts the loudest, but who listens the longest. And always keep learning.

Want to Rank Higher on Google? Learn SEO Strategies From an Expert.

This $30 course can help you improve your rankings.
August 30, 2020 2 min read
Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

Getting your webpages to the top of Google search page results is absolutely crucial if you want to grow your business. More than 70 percent of organic search traffic goes to the first page, with the vast majority of that going to the first three listings. If you’re not ranking for the things your business does well, you’re very likely missing out on potential customers.

But no, you don’t have to hire an expensive SEO agency to completely overhaul your business. You can do it yourself after spending some time in this SEO Blueprint Course Bundle.

This eight-course, 21-hour bundle can teach you all you need to know to improve your page ranking. The courses are taught by John Shea, an entrepreneur, podcaster, and blogger who hosts the online marketing show Voices of Marketing. He started online marketing as a side hustle, but it’s now become his life and he loves sharing his knowledge with other aspiring marketers.

Here, you’ll learn how to identify your most promising keywords, how to make your website more technically up to date and better equipped to rank on Google, and how to improve your domain authority through backlinking. There’s even a course dedicated to YouTube SEO and SEO for small businesses with local presences.

Whether you’re a growing web-based company that markets to people across the globe or you’re a mom-and-pop shop that wants to attract more people in the neighborhood, a good SEO strategy can help. The SEO Blueprint to Rank #1 on Google Course Bundle will help your business grow and it’s on sale now for just $29.99.

4 Key Strategies Small Retailers Need for a Healthy Business

Chief among them: Know who you are and have a plan.
August 26, 2020 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The retail landscape is ever-changing and evolving. Trends come and go, and the marketplace continues to stay highly competitive. Retailers must have a clear plan in place to ensure they stand out from the crowd, attract more customers and remain profitable.

In order to do this, you must have a clear sales strategy, one that is properly executed to ensure that your store can rise above your stiff competition and consistently generate sales.

A good salesstrategyconsists of four main elements.

1. Know who you are as a brand

Each retailer must ask:

  • Do I know exactly who I am as a brand?
  • How does every aspect of my online and offline presence reflect this?

Your customers need to know who you are. How you portray yourself online and in your brick and mortar store says everything about what you stand for, what you sell, what messages you want your customers to know about you and your brand, and who your target customers truly are.

For example:

  • Are you a modern, crisp, clean and minimal type of store?
  • Is your brand loud and trendy?
  • Do you take risks?
  • Is your product high-end and made overseas? Or is it relatively inexpensive but durable and made in America?
  • Are you targeting 6-figure executives or the frugal college student?

The more dialed in on who you really are as a brand and who you serve, the clearer all of your messaging will be.

Related: How to Make Your Brand More Cohesive

2. Have a plan to increase online traffic

Your online presence is a vital part of your success. Whether you have a brick and mortar store or not, your online presence is key to your overall growth.

To craft your plan, you need to understand what makes you unique so you stand out among all of the online noise. Once you pinpoint what that is, determine how to showcase that on your site. The first 10-20 seconds are crucial when someone visits your site. This is the only time you have to make that first good impression that will inspire visitors to browse your website.

Your website is not the only place that you need to focus on when attracting more traffic online. Your social media presence is key. This goes well beyond posting basic ads or “pretty” posts. Retailers should use their social media as a marketing tool. Try the following to increase engagement with your brand:

  • Showcase the products that you sell and lead customers back to your online store for purchase.
  • Engage with your customers to give them sneak peeks into your brand.
  • Have customers be able to purchase on the platform or get a shipping or sales discount when they buy from your website.

3. Have a plan to increase storefront traffic

Your brick-and-mortar store can still be the heart of your overall business with the right sales strategy in place. Understanding this part of your business strategy is key to your future success.

This is where yourmarketingand communication skills come into play. You have to develop an overall plan that draws customers to your physical location. Then you need to communicate this with your customers. Email marketing remains a smart strategy here. The people on your email list are your true supporters (or they should be). You need to nurture these people and ensure they remain your raving fans. Give them special sneak peeks of new launches, products or collections. Share a behind-the-scenes look into your brand and business. Give them in-store shopping incentives to come shop at your store. There are many ways to use email marketing to keep your customers engaged with your brand.

Social media can also be used as a marketing tool to boost traffic to your brick and mortar. Similar to the online strategy, you should use your social media to foster engagement and connection with your customers. You can post about upcoming in-store or pop-up events or post sneak peeks of new lines, collections, products or brands you carry. You can offer a unique discount just for them for buying at your store.

Related: Learn How to Engage Gen Z With Email Marketing

4. Know all of the needed visual merchandising strategies for your business

Understanding the importance of having and implementing a sound visual merchandising strategy is one of the most missed opportunities that both online and brick and mortar retailers have.

The one good thing about these key elements is that they work similarly for online as well as offline. The elements show up a bit differently online vs brick and mortar, but the concept and results are the same.

Thefive key elements that your merchandising strategy needs are color, storytelling, categories, visual display techniques and signage/descriptions.

Color

Color is a key element of communicating with your customers. Colors tell your customers the characteristics you want them to know about you and your brand. For example, a furniture store that is modern, minimalist and high end would have a color pallet with a dark or muted tone to portray this message to its customers. If they chose a color pallet of bright neon colors, it would send the wrong message.

The colors you choose can also evoke certainemotions from your customers while they are shopping with you. You can create a certain atmosphere that can foster or deter buying behavior just by the colors you choose in your store or on your website.

Storytelling

You want to create themes or stories in your store and on your website. Stories enhance customer engagement with your store or website and increase their overall experience. The stories you create should tell your customers all about your product — how it can be used, what it can be used for, where it can be used. On your website, your stories can center around an overall theme such as new arrivals, items on sale or new brands you carry.

Categories

Categoriesare how your products are grouped together. You should group like items or collections together in your store and on your website, so customers can find what they want quickly and easily. You should also create subcategories when possible. This makes the shopping experience even more streamlined.

For example, on a boutique website, all 25 tops offered should be showcased under the “Tops” tab on the website. A subcategory would group tops by sleeve length so the customer can find the style they want faster.

Visual displays

Be creative and change things up! Too much of the same thing can become repetitive and bore your customers. Brick-and-mortar stores should change up what type of fixtures are used, the number of items per display, folding methods, fixtures and mannequins used in the windows.

Online stores should vary the way they arrange the photos on their website, use different display techniques in pictures and mix up what is showcased in each picture (i.e. just a still of the item vs a lifestyle scene showing the end use of the item). The more variety you can give your customers, the more engaged they will be on your website or in your store.

Related: How the Crisis is Changing Consumer Behavior and How Entrepreneurs Can Act on It

Signs/descriptions

Having proper signage is key to any successful merchandising strategy. Signs are the multi-purpose silent sellers that have two main functions: to inform your customers and increase customer engagement. An effective and strong signage strategy will include the following:

  • Price signs. Highlight key items and strong regular prices.

  • Sale/promotions signs. Showcase great deals and special promotions.

  • New arrivals signs. Let your customers know what is hot and new in your store.

  • Brand information signs. Gives behind-the-scenes info about the brands you carry.

  • Used in proper proportions. Moderation is the key; avoid clutter.

  • Be balanced throughout the store. Only use in key areas of the store.

Similar to the signs in a brick and mortar store, the wording you use on your website should be used to inform and engage with your customers. If there’s not enough information about your products, your customer can get frustrated, confused and ultimately leave. Too much information can make your pages look cluttered and can distract from the main purpose of your website — your products.

When planning your sales goals for your brick and mortar shop or your online store, make sure to address each of these strategies. In doing so, you will ensure that you will have the foundation by which you can build your business and keep it healthy.

5 Simple Strategies to Propel Your Online Business Success

An award-winning marketer offers inside tips.
August 7, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I was recently referred to Robby Blanchard, an increasingly popular online marketer who got his start as a gym owner. Blanchard was perpetually looking for new and better ways to market his gym, and in the process, he developed a series of easy steps that every business can use to accelerate their desired marketing goals. He became familiar with the Clickbank online digital platform, and within five years became Clickbank’s top-selling affiliate. Following that success, he created an online program called “Commission Hero” to teach other users how to earn online affiliate revenue from their homes.

In a nutshell, Blanchard shared these five simple marketing strategies to propel any small online business to greater success:

1. Network your way to the top

Blanchard explains that when he started his online business, there was no one he could consult or emulate and he didn’t have the money to gain more experience. An important lesson he teaches consumers is that if you don’t have traditional resources, you have to get resourceful. So he took on extra clients at his gym and worked as a landscaper part-time to save enough money to attend an event in California that promised to offer networking and learning opportunities. In this way, he lived by his motto that success is a choice, and your destiny is in your hands. Whether you succeed, he said, is up to you.

Related: Selling Through Service

2. Run paid advertising

In the current age of technology, there are many varieties of paid advertising for your online business. For example, social media marketing allows you to place ads for a fee and run them daily, weekly, or monthly. One of the advantages of running ads on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is that these platforms allow you to “micro-target” to your target audience. For example, as a small business owner, you can maximize the effectiveness of your ads by targetting them to the desired geographic location, age, and gender of your audience.

Related: How to Create Content Built for the Future of Social Media

3. Use the power of psychology in advertising

Because psychology is a critical component of advertising, basic psychological principles can make the difference that drives your prospective customer to act, Blanchard says.

The goal of advertising, in almost every case, is to provoke your target audience to the desired action. You can achieve this through strategies such as manipulating emotions, evoking pleasant memories, and gaining trust.

Fear, for example, is a powerful motivator. A familiar tagline, ‘fear of missing out‘ (FOMO), illustrates that many people seek to be current, stylish, and modern. So you can apply this factor to your marketing by using phrases such as “only a few left,” “limited edition,” or “one day only” to communicate that your consumers need to act fast or miss out.

4. Stay relevant by being consistent

In the fast-paced world of technology, remaining relevant is a significant key to online business success. This means carrying out the small moves on a consistent basis that reap significant results over time. Just as taking on extra clients and part-time landscaping produced the money for Blanchard’s formal training, setting small and achievable goals for your business and staying consistent produces higher payoffs than making giant changes that are short-lived. A new article and one minute video on a small but golden point every week, for example, with an invitation or offer to take a particular action will be more successful than running an all-or-nothing $15,000 campaign and then fading away. Small and achievable steps win the day.

5. Systemize as you scale your marketing

The classic dream is to have your online business grow and begin to produce passive income. However, the reality is that as your business scales, in almost all cases, your workload increases. To solve this, you should systemize your business, Blanchard says, to create a well-oiled machine that is able to run at every new level on its own. Some of the ways to accomplish this as you scale are to identify the systems that work, identify all repetitive duties, and determine the smartest way to execute each. Then create a sequence, and document your process. Finally, test your systems to be sure your assumptions are accurate before you pull the trigger and step away. Observe the system’s operation and take note of any tweaks you can make for additional improvement. At each level, repeat the process to test your assumptions before you invest in a campaign and turn the conduits on. As another of my favorite online marketers, Ken Krogue likes to say: “Test the process with a rifle investment of $2,000. Then, when you know the results, you can pull out the cannonballs and begin the campaign at full scale.”

In all, these five simple strategies — networking, paid advertising, psychology, relevance and scale — will help you succeed. Then you simply watch and recognize when your consumers’ needs are changing, and adjust your offerings and methods as you go for continued success.

Related: CGI-Created Virtual Influencers Are the New Trend in Social Media …

Strategies for B2B Executives: How to Boost Content Marketing ROI and Impact

Though marketing teams can produce content marketing that resonates with prospects and customers, executive-team buy-in and participation can elevate their efforts and open more opportunities to attract higher numbers of qualified leads. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

Although those in the C-suite often feel disconnected from content marketing, they can nonetheless be key contributors to its success for their organization.

For many executives, content marketing, or its impact, is like a unicorn: Someone might have told them it’s real, but they don’t have the time or inclination to prove it. That, together with other constraints, leads executives to leave the management and measurement of content marketing to marketing managers.

What may grab the attention of execs is that content marketing can provide conversion rates up to six times higher than other digital marketing methods. However, though the ROI can be high, top-quality content marketing requires a significant time investment—from planning to writing to editing to distribution.

Considering the focus and energy your marketing team is putting into content marketing, wouldn’t it be great to find ways for leadership to amplify those efforts?

For insight into how B2B leaders can (and should) contribute to content marketing efforts, here are three key content marketing initiatives that especially benefit from leadership participation, input, and energy.

1. Webinars

For many, webinars remain one of the most popular forms of B2B marketing outreach: Of all the webinars held within a year, B2B companies account for 61%. And your team is working hard on these webinars to pull in the 20-40% of webinar attendees who are going to turn into qualified leads.

To pull in more attendees, having presenters with “CEO,” “president,” or “executive” in their title can help to viewers who are interested in learning from professionals at the top of their field.

Your team can still be responsible for creating the content and designing and packaging the webinar, but showcasing an executive presenter can be a huge booster to their efforts.

Webinars are commonly just 30-45 minutes, which means you as an exec need to devote only a small portion of your time to generate a larger pool of high-quality leads for your organization. If you do want to take a more active role in the webinar itself, marketers on your team will be eager to get your insight into topics that will resonate the most.

Through your daily conversations, insights you gain from industry events, or even emails you receive from newsletter subscriptions in your industry, keep an eye on the most discussed topics in your field so that you can share them with your marketing team and they can turn them into valuable B2B webinars.

2. Informational Interviews

Encouraging your team to sit down with you for an informational interview on a topic is another way to add value to your content marketing. From just a 20-30 minute interview with you or another executive team member, your marketing team can gather inspiration and collect content for blog posts, webinars, whitepapers, e-books, and more.

Our team practices this tactic by regularly sitting down with our executive team to discuss a topic that is relevant to our audience and about which our leadership team has expert knowledge. (See the Four Questions Answered blog series to see this approach in action.)

To ensure that the interview is as impactful and valuable as possible, request that your team prepare the following deliverables, to be shared with you prior to the interview:

  • 5-6 primary questions
  • 2-3 additional questions
  • Proposed content marketing opportunities
  • Sharing and syndication plan for the content

3. Videos

Content marketing is traditionally thought of as taking the form of blog posts, whitepapers, and e-books; however, many people are visual learners. They want to watch instead of read.

Though digital and online are often seen as media that disconnect people from their surroundings, including people, video marketing is proving that audiences want a more human and relatable type of content to consume.

Videos can also paint a picture more clearly than words can, in some cases, particularly when you’re trying to communicate information quickly and succinctly.

And informational videos featuring organization leaders or showcasing their expertise create pull and intrigue that drive clicks, leads and ultimately sales.

Videos can be used in many different ways and across may different channels—on social, in emails, on your website, or in exhibits. Embedding a video on a key website page can also increase the time spent on-page, exposing visitors to more content and lead gen opportunities.

Videos will also increase the opportunity to get your organization and brand in front of key decision-makers: Of B2B decision-makers asked, 59% prefer video content to text.

Here are some B2B video ideas to get your team thinking creatively on how they can use your expertise in a digital format:

  • Company core values
  • Customer pain-point remedies
  • Industry best-practices
  • Product, service, and solution overviews
  • Thought-leadership topics

Executive Impact on Content Marketing

Though an effective marketing team is equipped to produce content marketing that resonates with prospects and customers and aligns with your company’s goals and strategies, buy-in and participation from the executive team can elevate their efforts and open more opportunities to attract higher numbers of qualified leads.

Particularly in the B2B world, putting faces and names to a company’s leadership team can also make the business feel more relatable, reliable, and reachable.