How to Get a Marketing Promotion: Top Execs Share Their Secrets

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Corey Wainwright
Corey Wainwright



marketing-promotionsWarm and fuzzies are nice, but let's get real -- we're not in marketing for sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. This is our job, and we want to do it well. And if we do it well, we hope to get promotions and raises. There I said it.

But how do you do that? Kinda hard to say. And since I'm not your boss, it doesn't really matter what I think, since I can't promote you! So instead of pontificating, I asked some marketing leaders what they look for when promoting marketers. I contacted C-Suite executives, VPs, and Directors to try to address readers at all levels of their career. Here's what they had to say.

Created in conjunction with our checklist of 15 Qualities Managers Look for When Promoting an Inbound Marketer, this post will feature prescriptive career advice from some top executives including Mike Volpe, HubSpot's CMO; Blair Lyon, VP of Marketing at MonetateChris Welham, Marketing Director at Space Age Technologies; and Brian Kardon, CMO at Lattice Engines. Thank you to all of the executives for their advice -- by the end of this post you should have some actionable takeaways to help you get promoted in the future. 

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How to Get Promoted in Marketing: Advice From the Top

1) Make your manager's job easier.

Your boss is looking for solutions, not problems. Ideally, you come to him or her with solutions that are already tested and proven to work.

This somewhat dovetails into the idea of being a "yes" person. "When you manage a team, there are some people that make your life difficult, and others that make your life easy," Mike Volpe shares. In other words, your boss doesn't want you to be a mindless robot, but doesn't want to argue with you for an hour, either. Employees that make life easier for their boss are incredibly valuable and more likely to get promoted.

2) Generate measurable results.

Figure out what number the company needs help moving, and then move it. For instance, it'd be hard to find an organization that doesn't want to see, say, profitability grow. Figure out how to do that, or to generate more leads, or to drive more traffic, or to bring in more revenue -- whatever number your boss is laser focused on.

Check out this article about the marketing metrics CEOs care about (written by a CMO, so you'll really please the C-Suite with this one) to get started identifying important marketing metrics. Then, download this template to learn how to compile those numbers into a presentation you can share with your boss. Because just generating the results isn't enough -- you have to back it up with numbers and shout your accomplishments from the rooftops.

3) Work closely with Sales to help generate new business.

Like I said, we're not in business for sunshine and unicorns. We need to make some green. One way to get promoted is to show how you can help bring in new business -- yes, even though you're not in Sales.

"The best way to become a legend is to actually help land new business," recommends Brian Kardon. "Tap into your friends and connections to make introductions for the sales team. Help connect the sales team and give them insight on how best to approach your prospect. There is nothing better for a career than seeing your name under the 'Source of Lead' column for a newly won deal."

Mike Volpe agrees. "If the sales team loves you and says they can't do their job without you," he says, "it's much easier to justify your promotion to the rest of the company, including the CEO." If your sales and marketing alignment could use a little work, read this free ebook about better unifying your marketing efforts with Sales.

4) Try new things. Experiment.

"Have the courage to try new methods and stop ones that are not working," recommends Chris Welham. Marketing can get stale fast, so the people that experiment with new marketing tactics will find new, creative solutions that the whole team can benefit from. This will also result in a more efficient use of resources.

"Marketing can consume enormous amounts of time and therefore, money," adds Welham. "The leadership team needs to know that the person leading marketing will make responsible decisions -- both in what to start and in what to stop."

5) Fill skill gaps.

Marketing runs at a fast pace. The marketers that get promoted are the ones that adapt and learn along the way. Brian Kardon recommends focusing on the skills your team needs for which there is currently a gaping void.

"Build your skills in ways that fill gaps on your team -- things like HTML, video editing, SEM, and SEO. Sometimes, the marketing team is missing a skill and it may not be efficient to make a full-time hire. Your new skills will get the attention, respect, and gratitude of management."

Mike Volpe adds that the skills related to newer types of marketing -- like, ahem ahem, inbound marketing -- are usually more rare, and thus more valuable. For instance, visual content blew up recently, and lots of marketers weren't prepared to take advantage of it. Don't be them. Download this free visual content crash course to stay ahead of the curve.

6) Remove yourself from the tactical once in a while.

Of course, marketing leaders are good at more than just execution. Your boss is likely looking for a strategic mind if you're looking to climb the ladder. Blair Lyon recommends showcasing your ability to think strategically once in a while, even if your job is largely tactical.

"Lift your head above the tactical weeds. Though executives rely on and value the tactical doers on their teams, unfortunately just being really good at executing doesn't typically lead to a big promotion. To move up the ladder, you have to see the bigger picture and think strategically about the business, then demonstrate that point of view to leadership. Make sure you schedule at least one hour each week to shut down your email, think about how to grow the business, and put yourself in the shoes of the leadership team."

7) Exhibit leadership qualities.

Blair Lyon put a lot of emphasis on the leadership potential in employees when considering promotions. "Seek out opportunities within your own projects or others where you can demonstrate leadership and human organization skills. Showing that you can influence not only outcomes, but also people, goes a long way to get you noticed by the C-Suite."

But this also means you should keep your emotions in check -- leadership isn't about being the loudest, most excited person in the room. "Great executives have a remarkable combination of passion and control," he said. "Passion and unstoppable energy is great, but tends to worry the higher ups -- they wonder if you will be able to control that exuberance at key times. Finding the right mix can be a challenge, but if you use common sense and look at things from the big picture perspective you can hone your skills and have the best of both worlds."

To learn how to hone these skills and find out what other qualities marketing leaders are looking for in their employees, download this checklist with the 15 qualities you need to get a marketing promotion with resources to help you step up your marketing game.

Image credit: aresauburnphotos

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