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Lessons Learned in Marketing: Tales from the Trenches

With over 24 years of marketing experience, you could say I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn a thing or two. Some lessons were hard fought, forged in difficult circumstances and fraught missteps - others resulted from big wins and great teamwork. In this blog post, I want to share 3 of my favorite lessons so you, too, can benefit from the pearls of wisdom my experience has gleaned.

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Lesson 1: Have plans A-E, but be ready to throw them all out the window and roll with it. Preparation is just a ritual - your experience is really the most important.

One of the biggest challenges I faced in my career was running the first-ever customer conference for a startup with little to no leadership direction. The CMO told the CEO that we were having a conference that calendar year, then put it on my personal goals worksheet. Surprise!

There were so many wins that first year - we sold out, had great speakers, and enjoyed (mostly) smooth operations. There were also many laughs. The custom Lego people we ordered that were supposed to look like our male CEO, once we assembled them at 2:00 a.m. before the first day, turned out to actually be bald lady Lego people. Some serious surprises also came our way too, such as the Airbnb we lived in for the two weeks leading up to the event being infested with mice. We also experienced heartbreak; I met a new colleague in the bathroom while she was miscarrying. At the end of the day, you can be so prepared and end up throwing literally everything out the window. Have confidence in your chops. You can do it.

Lesson 2: Hire the smartest people you can find. Then do your job and develop them.

Hiring is time-consuming and a drag. And the process leaves many exceptionally talented people overlooked because their resume doesn't have the "right" experience. You can teach almost anyone how to build a marketing campaign. You cannot teach someone to be smart. And super smart people can learn just about anything.

Two of the best hires I ever made were a customer marketing specialist whose only work experience was as a nanny of twin toddlers, and an events manager who had never been to an event. They were (and continue to be) absolutely stellar marketers. But I got a lot of flack from leadership as I was trying to get them hired because they didn't fit the job description to a tee.

The second piece of this is that, as a manager, it's your job to "manage" your people: develop them, nurture them, put them on the right track, and make sure they get there. I get frustrated working with managers who think that their direct reports are there merely to do their execution work. You're the manager. It's your job to make sure they are successful. Make sure they are on the path to promotion and growth.

Lesson 3: My foolproof way to motivate sellers: SPIFFs, GIFs, and candy!

It's hard as a marketer to get your sellers to pay attention to your update emails, to win over BDRs to the point where they will collaborate on messaging, or to get the audience to put their phones down during your SKO campaign presentation. My trick is to work with leadership to create SPIFFs that include marketing benchmarks - align what's important to you with what's important to them. Put lots of funny GIFs in your decks. And throw candy at them erratically during presentations. It keeps everyone laughing and paying attention.

There you have it: three crucial lessons I've learned from my career. They’ve served me well and I hope they can help you out, too. Ready for more marketing advice? Contact us.

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