September 26, 2023

Marketing Mentorship: 10 digital marketing lessons your fellow marketers learned from their mentors


I hope you have a mentor in your career that serves as an Obi-Wan Kenobi of sorts – someone you can learn leadership, partnership, and collaboration from, who is always there to facilitate your career growth.

Or perhaps you are the Obi-Wan for someone in your work-life.

Either way, you can get ideas for what a successful mentor-mentee relationship looks like, and get some ideas for advancing your career and brand’s success, in our latest article.

Read on for examples about integrated marketing communications, bringing strategic meaning to everyday tasks, collaborating to launch a new product offering, not being afraid to ask for help, and more.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

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Even if you don’t have a mentor, you can peek into these conversations to get ideas for your own campaigns and career.

After we released the How I Made It In Marketing episode Strategic Marketing Collaboration: Find your partner in crime, a reader wrote a long, passionate email to me and said (I’m paraphrasing):

“It’s so hard these days to find a true expert, mentor and advocate in the marketing world…How about you highlight someone that truly made a difference to her team and each individual person?... Your specific ‘partner in crime’ progressing you through you career and achievements… Just a thought…love this article…and would love to share how beyond forever grateful I am to my mentor.”

I love the idea. As the AI Guild community has grown, we’ve seen collaboration and mentorship naturally take place, especially in the small cohorts.

And in the second half of How I Made It In Marketing episodes, we discuss lessons (with stories) from people our guest collaborated with, which often includes lessons from mentors (and sometimes even mentees).

So here’s a bit of encouragement to, well, offer a bit of encouragement to someone in your career through mentorship.

And then breeze through these stories to get ideas from mentor-mentee relationships that can help you reach your goals and overcome the challenges in your career. (I have edited these insights for clarity and brevity.)

Everything needs to be integrated for maximum impact

Christine Ackley

on Patty White, Director of Marketing, Compaq Education

She was initially my client at an agency I worked at (on Compaq) and talked me into going client side vs. another agency. Her rationale was spot on and I'm so glad I did!

She led our team to take Compaq from #4 to #1 in K-12 Education, launch us into HigherEducation and HiEd retail (Campus Reseller Program) and from integrated efforts and well thought out incentive programs, increased Education product/service revenue by as much as 250%.

I often mention my mentor in interviews and such, how she taught me (and her entire team) the importance of all the touchpoints (marketing, product, inside sales, field sales, channel partners, tech partners, etc.) in a successful product launch, marketing initiative or competitive effort AND how critical it is for collaboration and teamwork to effectively ‘hit’ all those touchpoints to succeed.

'Teamwork' – meaning within the marketing department (respect, communication, planning, analytics) and cross-functionally (product, inside sales, field sales, channel partners, other partners, PR/AR, advertising, etc.) to ensure every stakeholder(s) at every touchpoint are 'taken care of' for the most effective/results-producing marketing initiatives.

'The Big Picture' type thing of looking at how everything connects in a successful marketing-to-revenue-to-profitability perspective. How everything needs to be integrated for maximum impact. I took this knowledge to every position afterwards and it's crazy to say how many teams/orgs don't really think this way and focus often on immediate 'tasks' vs. influencing all key touchpoints through real strategy/big picture thinking.

This set the stage for me moving forward in ways I couldn't have imagined, i.e. Intel wanted me to move to Germany to head up their CPD products in EMEA because of my thought process (what I learned from Patty that wasn't the 'norm' at Intel – or other orgs).

I've taken the learnings to every position, but most recently at Storj, I was 'tasked' to launch a new product in a new category, consolidate two brands into one, acquire users and convert them into paid MAUs in a short five months. Documenting all the touchpoints and work needed for each helped me to do all the strategic/foundational work + execute an integrated plan for brand awareness/building, sales enablement, user acquisition/onboarding/usage/advocacy, partnership marketing, tech support and so much more.

We went from 12K web/month to 1M/month three months post launch, generated 8K+ leads, reduced HSAL from 19 hours to 3 hours in three months and increased sales revenue by 543%. I attribute a lot of that success to how I was 'taught' to think about marketing as a whole.

There's often 'competition' in orgs today vs. really teaching/listening/progressing/working together to meet company-wide objectives. Having a mentor who is smart AND caring can not only teach you amazing things, but can be your 'partner in crime' (in your head) as you progress in your career and introduce thinking and approaches to other orgs, teams and future marketers. I don't know if I would be where I am today without my mentor and the wisdom she bestowed upon me and our entire team.

We're still in touch today and she remains a constant inspiration to me.

Breaking Barriers: Why your degree doesn’t define you

Maor Sadra, CEO/Co-Founder, INCRMNTAL

on Tim Koschella, current CEO & Co-Founder,, previous CEO & Co-Founder, Applift

Tim once said to me, “You don’t need a degree.” This simple statement had a huge impact on my career, as I previously felt my lack of academic degree was a blocker for me. It made me feel insecure in my abilities and my opinions. Hearing this from Tim, who has multiple degrees but never judged me for not having one, helped empower me.

I started my career in advertising technology very young. I considered going to study, but my career had already started, and I was just too “in it” to pause and get an academic degree. The fact I didn’t have one bothered me for years and was my own glass ceiling.

Meeting Tim, who spent a good amount of time in academia but is the opposite of judgmental, made me understand that a degree isn’t a blocker for me. That my vast years of experience serve me well, and no certificate is needed. This helped me break that ceiling and let go of reservations about my own abilities and self-belief.

Tim exposed me to the entrepreneurial path more than anyone else. He helped me eliminate my own insecurities about being “ready” by understanding that there was nothing for me to wait for; I was ready, I had enough experience, enough of a network, knew enough, and had the passion and grit to do it.

In an industry such as marketing, which is transforming at such a rapid pace, it’s essential for every individual to have trusted and experienced mentors they can lean on. However, with the advent of AI and its integration into all aspects of marketing, we’re all looking at things afresh, as none of us has experienced working with this type of technology before. This shakes up the notion of mentorship as those in more senior positions can also learn from newer recruits.

Focus on the role their immediate tasks play in the bigger picture

Morris Isaacson, EVP Marketing and Sales, Empeon

on Moshe Berger, CEO, IDT Entertainment

The mentor who had the most transformative impact on my career was my first boss. He positioned our company as a leader in the entertainment industry through massive PR and awareness campaigns which eventually led to our department being acquired by Starz Media for $480M.

From Moshe I learned how to think about the big picture and long-term goals and how to line up the steps to get there on an international scale. I could never have learned that otherwise.

I always try to help my team focus on the role their immediate tasks play in the bigger picture and strive to help make them part of the broad strategic planning.

I have been thinking about mentorship a lot lately. Just like retail has changed from transactional to experiential, I believe that certain careers, and marketing is certainly one, are becoming more about the experience than just the cool stuff you can put on your resume. When junior marketers feel that they are treated as equals in having a seat at the table, that their ideas are sought after and that mentorship is a priority, I have seen the response be overwhelming.

Challenge the obvious

Yuliya Gorenko, Strategic Advisor, Mischka Agency

Tatiana Dumaine, Regional General Manager, L'Oréal.

One of the leaders who immensely impacted my professional growth was Tatiana Dumaine.

Tatiana taught me that the beauty is in detail.

Tatiana was the most demanding person I’ve ever worked with. When presenting something to her, you had to know each number and minor detail about your brand and project. Any visual asset you create for the brand has to be absolutely flawless. For any brand event you organize, Tatiana would require perfection of every element.

She always challenged the standard, the ordinary, the obvious. She required unique ideas and solutions for every project the team worked on.

Sending a gift pack with product samples to beauty editors to announce the launch of a new shampoo? Cliché! How about sending them a giant (5-feet long) pillow with a message: “You’ll need a bigger pillow for the hair volume our new shampoo creates”. Media frenzy guaranteed!

Interestingly, despite the high standards and severe pressure Tatiana put on our team, everyone loved her. I guess we all knew that the person she demanded the most of was herself. She led by example.

I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work with her. Under Tatiana’s leadership, over the course of three years, I grew from a marketing intern to the head of the PR & Digital Marketing department.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Alison Richmond, Senior Vice President, Marketing Services, ClearEdge Marketing

on Adam Bleibtreu, CMO, ASGN

When I first met Adam, I was in the process of transitioning to a new role within the ASGN family of companies. It was my first time as VP and as the most senior-level leader within marketing for the division. I was excited and overwhelmed and not great about asking for help. (Biggest lesson learned in my entire career: don’t be afraid to ask for help!)

Adam would check in on me regularly and always started by asking how things were going. If I opened up with something very tactical, he’d help guide me to the big picture and always end with “see you knew exactly what to do.”

One time when I was navigating a particularly tough situation, he told me to go to this conference and even volunteered me to moderate a group discussion. He was pushing me to get out of my head and reminding me of all that I am capable of without really saying a word.

He is also someone I always think of when they say “lead by example” as I learned so much from watching his positivity, consistency, and ability to make tough decisions. Being a great mentor isn’t just about actively teaching, coaching, or advising, it’s about those moments where you let your mentee watch and derive their own insights.

Find a niche in the marketplace to fill a need that is being underserved

Michael Nova, CEO, Nova Custom Printing

on Russ Paladino and Lyle Benjamin

The top lessons that I have learned from a mentor have to start with learning how to properly position yourself in the marketplace to reach the right audience. I learned how to find a niche in the marketplace where I could fill a need that was being underserved. My mentors taught me that this is a crucial step in the success of any business. It's important to find an area of the marketplace that you can fit into where you can serve your clients better than anyone else can.

When I first started my company, I was working for an event planning firm. At the same time, as a lifelong musician, I wanted to bring my skills of creativity and organization to create a new business that would serve the needs of other fellow musicians. I created my company to fill the niche that was unserved. No one else at the time was offering business services to musicians in the way that I was.

So, I found an area of the marketplace where there was clearly a need. Musicians want to focus on the music, not hunting around for the best services at the best prices, so I did that for them. I properly vetted companies that would be reliable and trustworthy to connect with my musician friends and later, musicians that came through the referrals.

When I started out, I went from being referred to local musicians to being referred to many record labels and studios, including King St., Studios and Palm Pictures, and worked my way up from there.  Musicians who worked at businesses would refer me to those businesses that they worked at, and that began the shift from the music industry to serving corporations.

To this day, referrals are the lifeblood of my business.

It’s our role as leaders to match-make

Christine Marvin, Chief Marketing and Experience Officer, Marvin

on Bill Marvin, former CEO, Chairman and President, Marvin

My grandfather, Bill Marvin, was the CEO, Chairman and President of Marvin for many years, and is credited with much of the company’s early transformation. He was a true visionary. Bill knew that everyone has a certain talent or gift. It’s how you understand that and leverage it for the value of the individual, the work and the company that’s essential.

When you can marry talent and passion to a challenge, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. My grandfather taught us that it’s our role as leaders to match-make. If someone isn’t thriving in a role, it’s our responsibility to understand why, so we can support and enable another path for them. Find the sweet spot where their talents, passions and what the company needs align, and you will have a flourishing team.

It’s not about you

Shahar Sorek, CMO, Overwolf

on Darell Calkins

Darell, my teacher and friend in the real sense of the word, taught me a valuable lesson of selflessness and humility. As a teenager, a sports champion, and later an actor, I was under the false impression that the sun revolved around me. However, Darell made me realize that true growth and fulfillment come when we shift our focus to others.

I learned that becoming a better person involves recognizing the needs of those around us, quietly supporting them, and helping them achieve their goals. Instead of seeking praise or recognition, our reward lies in their success. This mindset not only empowers others but also fuels our own personal growth.

Develop relationships with everybody

Chris Erb, CEO and Managing Partner, Tripleclix

on Peter Moore, Former COO of EA Sports and CEO of Liverpool Football Club

Peter taught me the importance of building authentic relationships. Peter was my boss during our time at EA Sports and I quickly recognized how skilled he was at developing relationships with everybody. He’s the kind of person that would remember your wife and dog’s names two years after initially meeting you. Making that effort to connect with people translated into sharing his successes with them, and I really took note of the power of connection he was able to garner through relationship building.

Collaborate extensively

Morgan Decker, Founding Partner, IMMRSE Partners

on Richard Brown, AVP Publishing Operations at National Wildlife Federation

Rich Brown, my manager during my three-year tenure at National Geographic, profoundly shaped my growth in leadership and management.

One standout experience during my time at NatGeo was creating a kid's subscription box aimed at enhancing the National Geographic Kids and National Geographic Little Kids magazines. Recognizing its potential to elevate content, boost revenue, and provide an engaging platform, I approached Rich with this idea and his unwavering support encouraged me to collaborate extensively with global production companies, editorial teams, product specialists, branding experts, and leadership. Together, we meticulously crafted a comprehensive product and go-to-market strategy for testing and scaling the concept.

NatGeo was acquired by Disney in March 2019 which led to a temporary suspension of this project. Despite this setback, the invaluable lessons derived from this venture will forever shape my professional journey.

In essence, Rich Brown's mentorship transcended the ordinary, fostering an environment of growth, innovation, and empathy. My collaboration with him has had a lasting impact on both my managerial prowess and my approach to tackling challenges head-on.

Related resources

Nonprofit Marketing: No job is as glamorous as you think it is (podcast episode #63)

NFTs For Brands: It’s OK to say no, always be a student, don’t resist change (podcast episode #26)

Marketing: High growth can be excruciating (podcast episode #64)

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