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Building a career in marketing. What should you know?

Exploring a career in marketing? Learn the basics, career paths, KPIs, and more in our latest article.

As a company, we’re always talking to potential apprentices. We’re often talking to people who have never really considered marketing as a career. So, we wanted to write a quick article to discuss some of the basics of what marketing is, how to enter the field, and ultimately, how to build towards a successful career in marketing. Here we go.

First things first. What is marketing?

Marketing is the process of promoting, selling, and distributing products or services to satisfy consumer needs, utilising strategies to attract, engage, and retain customers profitably. Put simply, marketing is about telling people why they should buy something and making it easy for them to get it, so businesses can make money.

How do I figure out my career path after school, college, or university?

When figuring out your career path, it’s important to plan early. But, don’t worry, you don’t need to know things down to the minute. We get it, you probably hate planning, or, you’re asking the question “How can I plan if I don’t know what to do?”. But, let’s assume that you’ve heard the word marketing, and thought, “Hey, I’ll give it a go.” Here’s a basic process:

  • Identify the industry and area you want to work in;
  • Look at the sorts of marketing jobs available in that industry;
  • Check out companies within that industry that you’d particularly like to work for;
  • Google stuff. Read about marketing, the industry or products you’re interested in, etc;
  • Youtube is your friend. Find some basic videos on the ins and outs of marketing.

If after doing some reading and snooping around, you still like the sound of marketing, then you should look further. If you’re immediately put off, then that’s good, you know that it isn’t for you and can focus on things that could be.

How much could I earn?

I guess it’s like asking how long is a piece of string. However, the average salary for marketers in the UK varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and industry. However, on average, a marketing professional in the UK can expect to earn between £25,000 to £50,000 per year. Senior positions or those in management roles can earn significantly higher salaries, potentially exceeding £70,000 per year or more. It’s essential to research specific roles and industries for more accurate salary information.

What does career progression look like?

Again, it’s quite hard to give just one route as there are dozens of routes you may take depending on the industry, specialism, etc. However, an example of career progression may include:

  • Entry-level marketing Assistant or Coordinator role;
  • An executive, specialist, or junior manager role;
  • Senior Marketing Executive or Manager role;
  • Marketing Director or Head of Marketing;
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Vice President of Marketing

Within each level, there may be opportunities for specialisation in areas such as digital marketing, content marketing, brand management, product marketing, or market research. Additionally, lateral moves into related fields like sales, advertising, or public relations are also possible career paths for marketers.

What are the top KPIs for marketers?

Like all jobs, you’ll have targets. But, firstly, what is a KPI? A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is a measurable value that shows how well a company is achieving its objectives. While KPIs can vary depending on the company and role, some personal KPIs for marketers include being bold, transformative, having an insight mindset, continuous learning, and prioritising people. However, these are less quantifiable targets. Some common KPIs you may be targetted on as a marketer are things like:

  1. Conversion Rate: Measures the percentage of users who take a desired action, like making a purchase or signing up;
  2. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): Calculates the average cost to acquire a new customer;
  3. Return on Investment (ROI): Evaluates the profitability of marketing campaigns by comparing revenue generated to the cost of the campaign;
  4. Website Traffic: Tracks the number of visitors to a website, indicating the effectiveness of marketing efforts;
  5. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Predicts the total revenue a business can expect from a customer throughout their entire relationship with the company.

How do I convince stakeholders about my marketing plans?

As part of your career progression within marketing, you’ll eventually be responsible for working with stakeholders. Part of that collaboration will be around convincing them to support your ideas and spend money on your plans. To do this, use insights and data to support your marketing plans. By providing stakeholders with facts and evidence, you can have more productive conversations and build trust in your strategies.

How do I balance strategy and tactics as a marketer?

Let’s start with the basics. A marketing strategy outlines long-term goals and plans to achieve them, focusing on target markets, positioning, and overall brand direction. Tactics are specific actions or methods used to implement the strategy, such as advertising, social media campaigns, or promotional events, aimed at achieving short-term objectives. Striking a balance between strategy and tactics is important. While tactics are the day-to-day activities, strategy provides the overall direction. It’s crucial to have a clear strategy in place and then align your tactics to achieve your goals. As you venture further into your career, like mentioned above, you may be responsible for formulating strategies for stakeholders. These strategies will involve selecting the right marketing channels and tactics. This level of knowledge and skill takes a little bit of time to develop, though eventually, through understanding your audience and your products and services, you’ll be able to crack the code.

Why is having a marketing mentor important?

A marketing mentor can provide guidance and advice on career development. They can offer a fresh perspective, share their experiences, and help you navigate the challenges and opportunities in the marketing industry. Apprenticeships are an excellent start with mentorships. As an apprentice, you’ll get a mentor within your workplace, but also from someone like your apprenticeship coach. Their advice and guidance can really kick-start your marketing career and put you ahead of the curve.

How can I transition into a role with potential but lacking experience?

Start by educating yourself through online courses, books, and workshops to learn marketing fundamentals. A lot of this stuff is free. We created a marketing challenge not long ago which comprises dozens of free resources. Build a portfolio of projects through things like freelance work or your own initiatives, even if they’re hypothetical or small-scale, to showcase your skills. Network with professionals in the field, attend industry events, and seek mentorship opportunities, like apprenticeships. You could even consider internships, volunteer work, or freelance projects to gain practical experience. Whilst doing these sorts of things, tailor your CV to highlight relevant skills and transferable experiences. Finally, be persistent, adaptable, and willing to start at entry-level positions to gain hands-on experience and work your way up in the field.

What advice do you have for building a marketing career in an SME?

To build a marketing career in a Small to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME), focus on versatility and adaptability. SMEs often require marketers to wear multiple hats, so develop a broad skill set covering various aspects of marketing, from digital to traditional methods. You may want to look at learning things like graphic design or a little bit of web design as these work really well with marketing. Demonstrate initiative by proposing creative and cost-effective strategies tailored to the company’s needs and resources. Build strong relationships with colleagues and stakeholders, leveraging teamwork and collaboration to drive results. Stay updated on industry trends and continuously seek opportunities for learning and growth. Finally, be proactive in seeking feedback and refining your skills to contribute effectively to the company’s success.

What advice do you have for building a marketing career in larger organisations?

To climb the ladder in larger organisations, focus on specialisation and leadership development. Identify a niche within the marketing function where you excel or have a passion, and become an expert in that area. Seek out opportunities for advanced training, certifications, or higher education to deepen your knowledge and skills. Build a strong professional network within the organisation, connecting with mentors and influential leaders who can provide guidance and advocate for your advancement. Take on leadership roles or lead cross-functional projects to demonstrate your ability to drive results and manage teams effectively. Continuously seek feedback, embrace challenges, and showcase your potential for leadership roles through consistent performance and strategic contributions.

What is the future of marketing departments in the next ten years?

The future of marketing departments will likely see a continued shift towards data-driven decision-making, leveraging advanced analytics and AI for personalised customer experiences. Integration of emerging technologies like VR, AR, and IoT will enhance engagement and interaction with consumers. Sustainability and ethical considerations will play a larger role, driving brands towards purpose-driven marketing initiatives. Remote work and virtual collaboration will become more prevalent, enabling teams to be more agile and globally connected. Marketing departments will evolve into agile, cross-functional teams, prioritising innovation, creativity, and adaptability to meet the evolving demands of the market. Put simply, marketing will look very different in the next ten years from what it does today. However, with all of that change comes opportunities to change and advance as a marketer. So don’t worry, the robots won’t take your job.

How important is work-life balance in marketing?

Work-life balance is important in marketing to prevent burnout and maintain overall well-being. Taking time for rest and recovery, setting boundaries, and prioritising personal and family time can help improve performance and job satisfaction.

Interested in seeing more of our guides, advice, and articles on marketing apprenticeships?

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