When it comes to marketing, Kathy Kane has done it all: she's worked for everything from consumer packaged good firms to dotcom start-ups. She's also been on both sides of the fence -- as a rank and file executive and as an external consultant. Currently, she's VP Marketing for BabyCenter.com.
We asked for her for career advice based on her long and winding path...How does working for an online-only company differ?
While Kane still focuses on classic marketing tasks such as setting goals, researching the target audience, building brand positioning, and measuring results, in the online world budgets and time are harder to come by.
"We tend to move faster. It's a little bit like, you take all those good marketing fundamentals and traditional marketing approaches and find a way to make them work in our environment," she says.
However, this speedier way of doing things -- reacting to possibilities that present themselves at a moment's notice -- brings an inherent risk: failing to keep your eye on the longer-term projects. That can mean lost opportunities, she cautions.
Kane says the marketers most likely to succeed at typical online companies tend to share two traits:
- A varied background including direct response, consumer tech
marketing, and advertising
- Love of change. "Working in the Internet space for a younger
company, you have to be really flexible." What's the difference between working client-side vs. consulting?
Kane says she prefers client-side because "I love managing teams, and as a consultant to you don't have a lot of opportunity to do that."
She also enjoys the satisfaction of seeing projects through to the end. "You're not just completing a project and handing it off. When you're on the inside you get to own it and see where it goes," she says.
Consulting offered a different kind of pleasure. "I enjoy stepping into a company," she says. "You're brought in to solve a specific problem that may take a few weeks, a few months, a year to sort out. You have a lot of focus and more flexibility." How do you keep fresh after 20 years in marketing?
Kane advises you continue networking with new contacts, just to keep your mind and skills fresh, even if you're not looking for a job.
"When you've been on a career path for 10 or 20 years, you'll be at a point where you know a lot, so it's really helpful to identify people who know something that you don't know or have worked in area you haven't worked in," Kane says.
"Networking is such a cliché, but you have to be out there talking with people, staying in touch with everyone you know," says Kane. "Know what they're working on, be in organizations, put yourself in a community of professionals."
"That doesn't necessarily mean you have to be meeting with tons of people, though that's probably the most helpful," Kane says. "Just be out there listening, reading, being in touch with people who are doing the things you're interested in."
As your career becomes more about general management than functional expertise, it's critical to network outside of marketing. "I happen to be in marketing but I have friends in finance, in law," says Kane. "It's a challenge to learn new things, so you have to put together your own curriculum."Best advice -- Enjoy the ride
"If I think back on my career, the only thing that I would think about doing differently at this point is that earlier in my career I was a little bit more cautious about change, about making those big leaps."
Time and experience have shown her that sometimes those big leaps have the biggest pay-offs. "Rather than facing those transitions with caution, you just need to go for it," she says.
"Things tend to work out better than you think. It's easy to spend a lot of energy worrying about what will happen. If I had taken the same amount of energy enjoying it and moving on to what was next, the journey would have been more enjoyable."
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