Training to Become a Marketing Athlete

Marketing Ninja. I hate this buzzword. I don’t know who coined it, but unless you’re actually marketing to ninjas or are in fact a marketer that moonlights as a ninja, don’t use these words together. I understand the value of self-promotion and being able to market yourself. After all, if you can’t properly sell yourself, how would you properly represent and promote your company. When people ask what I do for a living, it can be difficult to sum up into a concise sound-bit worthy synopsis. Maybe that’s why some marketers are self-proclaimed marketing ninjas, but I think the more appropriate role for modern marketers is learning to become marketing athletes.  Before this term catches like wildfire and becomes so trite its meaning is lost, let me explain why every successful modern marketer needs to become a marketing athlete:

Marketers need to be well-rounded.  You don’t need to be an expert at every marketing tactic or operation just as an athlete isn’t an expert at every physical ability or sport. But, you do need to have an understanding of the different areas of marketing and how they operate within your organization to meet your overall business objective. It’s great and even essential to have an aptitude for certain areas and to grow into a more specialized marketing role the further you get in your career. But you should always have a well-balanced working knowledge of marketing trends, an understanding for how those trends relate to your industry and an open mind to new industry ideas and approaches.  Just as some football players may take ballet to become more nimble on the field, enhance your skills by exploring new marketing topics and learning more about topics that are less familiar.

Be well-rounded, but don’t spread yourself too thin.  Fresh out of college, I would apply to any marketing position I came across. It was excessive. I’ll never forget the critique given from a high level manager while interviewing during this time in my career. Looking at my resume, cover letter, writing samples and graphic design portfolio I had provided him, he called me a “Girl Friday” and told me my resume and sample work is going to confuse people. The “Girl Friday” thing will always stick with me, in part because as much as I hate to admit it, the guy was right.

It’s important to have a broad understanding of your industry, marketing trends and best practices but don’t hold yourself to the standard that you need to know everything or exude a persona that you know everything. This doesn’t work for a few reasons:

1.)    It’s impossible.
2.)    It won’t get you any closer to your goals.
3.)    It’s not an attractive trait…especially early in your career.

You need to determine what you’re trying to achieve, whether it be right now or further down the road. Focus on your long-term goal/goals and then determine how you’re going to train to get there. Showcasing all of your abilities without highlighting your strengths won’t get you the kind of experience you need.

This brings me to my next point; every opportunity is part of your training.  No matter how big or little your goal, every job, connection, project or campaign is another opportunity training you to become a better marketer and communicator. Just as being a top-notch athlete takes practice, so does perfecting your marketing craft. Don’t waste the opportunities you have in front of you now because you’re distracted by the big picture. If you strive to rise to the ranks of CMO, determine what choices you’re going to make to help get you there and commit to the training opportunities your current position provides. Doing the same thing over and over again can lead to muscle memory and staunch your progress. Push yourself to look outside of what’s required of you and start taking a bigger initiative to assess additional and future marketing needs within your organization.

Training to become a Marketing Athlete | You Miss 100% of the shots you don't take - Wayne Gretsky

Above all, athletes are dedicated and hard-working. Commit to the goals of your organization’s marketing efforts and your own professional career goals. As a marketing athlete, you’ll be more likely to regret the chances you didn’t take than the ones you did.

Have some additional tips on what modern marketers can do to stay ahead? Share your insight and advice!

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