Moving up the corporate ladder can be particularly difficult in marketing because most companies have limited top-level positions. (In fact many don't even bother to appoint a CMO.)
We asked 12 marketing leaders from companies such as GE, Sony, Bank of America, and Intel, how marketers can gain more visibility and respect, and move beyond middle management.
Here, in their own words, is their best career advice:
-> Promote yourself both within your company and within your industry
"Go on the offensive with your ideas and accomplishments. No one would ever hear about Britney Spears if her people weren't pounding the press every day. If you're stalled, you've got nothing to lose by being aggressive. Department newsletters, quarterly updates, analysis of recent events in the marketplace are all good ways to stay visible while informing the company. Circulate wide and always CC upper management." Joe Rapolla VP Consumer Marketing Services Universal Music Group
"Seek out and lead projects that will get the attention of key people within the organization. For example, if your HR department is in need of a document that promotes the charitable work of the company in the local market, volunteer to take the lead."
Look beyond the requirements of the project. How can you get it in front of more eyeballs? "This may include making it available in a .pdf format or creating a Web page that fully details the company position and charitable record."
Finally, look for other means of promoting it. "Go to the communications department and suggest they do a press release on the topic of the company's charitable work." Don Kintner Manager, Communications GE Power Systems
"Be 'in the know' as to what the buzz is as it relates to new business (new accounts, new products, upcoming challenges). Volunteer on those projects. You never know where they might take you." Mindy Stockfield Director of Marketing Cartoon Network
"Get your name and face out there -- write and submit articles for trade publications, newspapers, etc. Become active in trade groups so you can network. Offer to give talks, speeches, presentations at industry events." Tom McGee VP Doyle Research
"Identify specific projects or areas you are interested in and prepare a proposal to review with your manager. Explain why you're interested, how your skills and experience will enable you to make a valuable contribution, and how your current responsibilities would be managed if you took on more. Being proactive and demonstrating initiative and enthusiasm will surely get people's attention." Denise Lee Yohn VP Corporate Strategic Marketing Sony Electronics, Inc.
-> Find a mentor and ask for help
"You have to have a rabbi, a mentor, some sort of internal juice. It's difficult to move around in a company if you don't have someone who loves you." Richard Ellis President 12to20
"Engage with a mentor or someone who is 'where you want to go' and get feedback from them about whether or not you're on the right trajectory. If not, what would be some things that you could do to nudge it in the right direction?" Shauna Pettit-Brown Market Intelligence Manager Intel
"No man is an island. Find someone in a senior position in the company that you have, or can, help. Offer to do something to help them -- everyone has needs. If they have any voice in the company, when the time comes to speak on your behalf, you will have someone in your corner." Joe Rapolla VP Consumer Marketing Services Universal Music Group
"Find the highest ranking marketing executive (within your organization) you can and ask for their advice on moving to the next level." Phyllis Kinsinger VP Consumer Card Customer Satisfaction Bank of America
"Advancement can be perceived two ways by a manager: Demanding advancement or asking for help to achieve your goals. My experience suggests that taking the 'Can you help me?' approach will win out in the long run. People are eager to help another when asked vs. told." Jason Heredia Director of Marketing Turnstone Furniture
"Make sure people know your aspirations. Unless you ask for additional responsibilities, people may not know you are interested in taking on more. And be willing to prove you are ready to take on those additional responsibilities prior to getting promoted." Denise Lee Yohn VP Corporate Strategic Marketing Sony Electronics, Inc.
-> Focus on the bottom line
"Get closer to the money. Whatever you're doing right now, ask yourself how you might move closer to and/or contribute more to revenue creation. The more you have to do with creating revenue, the more power, visibility, and quality of career you'll have." Michael Wood VP Teenage Research Unlimited
"Align yourself with a project that has direct connection to bottom line results." Jason Heredia Director of Marketing Turnstone Furniture
"Understand and come to terms with the objective of upper management. Long-term strategic growth may not always be the objective of upper management -- and therefore suggestions that don't immediately impact the bottom line may fall on deaf ears." Joe Rapolla VP Consumer Marketing Services Universal Music Group
"Spend more time speaking to the folks that directly buy the goods and services. It becomes an organic process, by listening to the customer one is more focused on what the customer wants. Therefore the work product improves, responsibilities follow." Frank Saulsbury Managing Partner TradeMarketing Incorporated
-> Move horizontally
"If there's no clear career path and you're basically stuck but want to stay within that company, you have to reinvent yourself. Discover what's critical with the company from a bottom-line perspective. Watch internal postings and network with individuals within that department, then take a job in that department." John Menke Sr VP Database Marketing & Market Research Webster Bank
"Too often, we concentrate on building our careers on a vertical ladder of growth, always trying to anticipate the next promotion/level up the corporate ladder. However, sometimes we need to lay that ladder down on the floor and look at it from a horizontal perspective. While new responsibilities may not immediately translate into growth from an 'upward' standpoint, it may provide you a new opportunity to broaden your career." Mindy Stockfield Director of Marketing Cartoon Network
-> Be willing to leave your company if you're unhappy
"If you choose to jump companies, that's the easiest way to advance. The problem is, you can only do that one or two times before your resume starts people thinking, 'I'm not looking for someone like that, I'm looking for a long-term employee.' So yes, if you are stuck and have no hope of moving on, jump companies, but jump to a company that has a career path." John Menke Sr VP, Database Marketing & Market Research Webster Bank
"Remain dignified and continue to work hard and stay on the higher road. Attempt to turn things around, but be willing to accept that your talents may just be better served elsewhere -- no one has time to be unhappy!" Joe Rapolla VP Consumer Marketing Services Universal Music Group
"Take a big step back and consider whether or not you still enjoy your job. If you're not satisfied, consider other fields or another area within the field. More power and visibility are not always the answer." Tom McGee VP Doyle Research
"The days of being a yes-person are over. You have to take risks. And the good thing about taking risks is that, if it doesn't work out and you get fired, you have the skills to start your own business. The payoff is better than being a brand manager by doing nothing wrong." Richard Ellis President 12to20
Note: The 12 marketing leaders quoted above all served as speakers at IIR marketing conferences in 2003. We'd like to thank them for sharing their wisdom. http://www.iir-usa.com
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