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Apr 21, 2004
How To

How to Soften the Bumps in Your High-tech Marketing Career

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Steve Hall

Brian Chertok, currently Marketing Director at Siemens Business Services, has had a long career in high-tech marketing management, including stints with NEC Computers, Nynex, and Avid Technology. We asked him what he's learned from politics, job switches, and bumps along the way...

-> Client-side versus agency-side

Before joining Siemens, Chertok was a VP Account Director at Leo Burnett Technology Group, so he's seen both sides of the client-agency equation.

For marketers considering a switch, he advises, “If you're moving to the agency-side, your prospects are wholly dependent upon your ability to ‘make rain’-bring in new business. If you're moving to the client-side, there are generally more politics involved and longer approval cycles."

He adds, “The client-side is far more strategic and slow-paced where the agency-side is tactical and time sensitive. Where possible, the agency gets as much time as I can afford them and I work hard to relieve them of internal review processes which can be fairly prolonged and occasionally political.

"Delivering successful tactics, however measured, is a baseline criterion for achieving advancement. It's a ticket to the dance - it's what gets you into consideration. After that, it's political.”

-> Client-side Politics: How to convince your CEO to switch agencies

Many times, a CEO will have a close personal or business relationship with top management at the agency which creates a strong bond irrespective of whether that bond mirrors the reality of the overall client/agency relationship.

When Chertok is faced with navigating these choppy waters, particularly during an agency review, his advice is to be truthful and upfront.

When asked how he would handle a situation in which either the CEO has a strong bond with the agency yet it’s obvious the “fit” isn’t right, or in which the CEO has a strong dislike for the agency but it’s equally obvious the “fit” is right, Chertok says, “I think the answer is the same for both scenarios - run a search. Let the incumbent compete fairly. That said; don't set it up as a 'mine versus yours' exercise. Position it as a reality check to make sure we're getting the best.”

-> Surviving downsizing layoffs and gaining job stability

Like many technology marketers, Chetok was laid off after the dotcom boom went sour, and finding a new job took months despite (or perhaps because of) his high level of experience.

"The last two years have taught me that no amount of success can protect one from downsizing. Likewise, no amount of ‘pandering’ will protect you if you're not adding real value every day. If I am laid off in the next downturn, it will most likely result from sharp reductions in marketing rather than personal achievement.”

He adds, “The value of marketing and those that make it happen is often dependent upon the culture and type of business you're in.

"Successful marketers don't get fired from consumer packaged goods companies. Marketing drives their business. In sales or product cultures, marketing can often end up on the chopping block even when the company's weaknesses lay elsewhere. As a consequence, one's job security can depend upon one's industry. At Gillette, a mediocre marketing exec generally has more value than a production manager. In technology, the reverse is often true.”

Age discrimination can also be a factor in both layoffs and re-hiring. How can you prove to upper management that your skill level and higher salary are of more value to the company than a younger, cheaper, less qualified marketer?

Chertok says don’t play games. “Either they are looking for and willing to pay for experience or they are not. Sublimating my experience or capability has not worked for me in the interview process, much less the workplace. I am fairly convinced that, unless I am recruited with the right offer, I am in my last job. If I fail to retain it, than I will have to take considerable risk to do something on my own at a time when I should be bankrolling my retirement.”

Therefore from day one at Seimens, he's made sure he structures each project so he has “the ability to demonstrate objective, quantifiable improvements to the sales process that ties back specifically to marketing” whenever possible.

It's tough, but that's the nature of being a tech marketer -- or indeed working for any sales-driven organization.
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