how to become a marketing manager

How to Become a Marketing Manager

Becoming a marketing manager in the real world.

Being a marketing manager is your first step on the professional journey of becoming a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) if you so desire. It’s where you gain the opportunity to develop and lead strategies with more of your ideas in the mix. No doubt about it, it can be fun and like drinking from the firehose in developing professional skills.

For as much fun as it is, there are also challenges that come with leadership roles. Often, a person promoted to a manager’s role is one of the top performers on the team. They show spirit, drive and are often a “go-to” person. They generally get along with their colleagues and contribute to a positive team environment.

However, something funny and downright cruel can happen to recently promoted marketing managers. They are now in charge. They’re now responsible for meeting deadlines, people management…those colleagues that you joked around with at work…well, they work for you now. A new marketing manager is now tasked with not just driving the output of projects, but they also need to deliver and prove the ROI of those campaigns.

There are people in the organization that won’t like something you did and you’ll be asked to defend it. There will be quality concerns you’ll have to answer to. There will be typos and you guessed it, you’ll be where the buck stops.

New marketing managers are both in a wonderful role, but will also need to grow some thick skin. Just when you thought you’ve arrived, there it goes feeling like you’ve just started.

If you’re not scared yet…to quote Yoda…you will be…you will be.

All jokes aside, going through some of these growing pains never feel good but they are worth it. You’ll learn more about how not to sweat the small stuff, while learning what the small stuff is. You’ll go through periods of being afraid to not know the answers. You’ll go through the awkwardness of telling a former colleague, now employee that you need them to do something you know they hate.

Being a marketing manager, means becoming a good leader. There are good ways and horrible ways to take this on and we’ll cover a few of both.

The Power Hungry Manager

Most first-time managers don’t get training. As mentioned before, they were one of the best employees and so they were promoted to be in charge. That can be an unhealthy stroke of the ego. You might begin to see this new role as you’re rising to power. You forget the old friends and want to show you don’t take any goofing off from your employees. You might be tempted to micro-manage them because you know how they spend their time. You might see the opportunity to prove yourself by improving the volume or speed of output.

And why wouldn’t you? You don’t know how to be a manager? You know how to be a hard-working, diligent employee. You’re simply taking the skills that made you a success at your old job, and transferring them to what you believe you need in this new job. If it kills employee morale, so be it.

Don’t think it can happen to you? Just read the story of the Stanford Prison Experiment. It’s actually fairly easy for those put in charge to become dictators within their department.

Being a Leader instead of a Manager

Defining who you are as a leader will likely take some time and it will always evolve. Some of the best managers and worst managers you’ve ever worked for will serve as a mentor in your own leadership development.

Being a good leader is not so much an action, but the results of your actions. But those actions can easily an eye of the beholder scenario. Maybe you have a happy team and you’re feeling like you’re being a good leader, but your boss doesn’t think they work hard enough. Your team sees a good leader, your boss sees an ineffective manager.

Maybe you rule with an iron fist and your team’s productivity is through the roof. Your boss might see great leadership, but your team may dread every moment of their job and only stick around until a better role comes along.

The point is, you can’t let your environment, bosses or employees dictate or define what kind of leader you are. You need to find what leadership qualities you admire most, adopt them and make them your own. They will change over time as you’ll experience new challenges and see new ways to be more effective. But, by knowing who you want to be, you can help carve out your personal leadership rules.

These rules should be the way you govern, regardless of who or what is vying to influence you. Don’t want to be a micromanager? Learn how to illustrate the results of letting your team have some autonomy in their job. Want to get more work out of your team without creating bad morale? Learn how to motivate your team for a goal that is more meaningful than just clocking in and clocking out.

Bosses and employees will come and go. You have to learn to make decisions based on your principles. Don’t beat yourself up too much when you make mistakes. You’ll get there.

Leading Creative Teams

Finally, let’s talk about leading creative people and teams. As the marketing manager, you’re now responsible for the quality of the output by your team. Depending on your personality, confidence and style, you may see this as a welcomed role or a daily gantlet you have the pleasure of walking into. It’s not uncommon to see newer manager’s give up too much control to their team for fear of not wanting to be the “boss” or not wanting to seem critical of. their team’s abilities. Additionally, back when you were their co-worker, you had opinions, but those opinions weren’t the final say…now they are.

Some creative employees can be very sensitive, while others, are more confident and open to feedback. Regardless of if they like it or not, you have to give feedback and challenge your team to make it better if you feel it’s not where it should be.

You may feel uncomfortable, but you are in fact, the boss and the final product is a reflection of you and your choices. Don’t sacrifice your reputation because of fear of upsetting or offending someone. You’ll get better and better at this over time.

If you’re interested in help shaping your marketing leadership skills, subscribe to our Left Brain | Right Brain CMO Newsletterd. We offer tips and guidance to help up and coming marketers learn to unleash the power of their marketing leadership skills. If any questions, feel free to reach out.