Having been happily self-employed for half my marketing career, I hesitate to give career advice. But when asked, I have plenty of opinions to share on how to grow and thrive as a marketing professional. These are tips that I wish someone had shared with me years ago. This subject came up for me as I was interviewed by Jim Obermayer of the Sales Lead Management Association recently on Five Lessons in Business and Life. In conversation with Jim, I enjoyed looking back on my professional life and drawing some conclusions. Delighted to share herewith.

  1. Start your career in a small company, where you can make small mistakes, and get broad exposure to a variety of sales and marketing functions.
  2. Fail fast. The Silicon Valley folks are right about that. If you find yourself in a dead-end job, or in a culture where you don’t fit, don’t wait around hoping it will get better. Be proactive and make a change.
  3. Make friends in business. Your business connections will serve you well over time, not only for career purposes, but also for your emotional and social life. Invest in building and sustaining friendships.
  4. Don’t make enemies. Life is too short and the world is getting smaller every day. You don’t need the aggravation. Reach out and repair broken bridges, no matter how old they may be.
  5. Embrace data. Learn the new technologies. This is an area you can’t dismiss.
  6. Make testing a regular part of your marketing practice. It’s so easy these days, there’s no excuse. You can test subject line and from lines in email, and offers and headlines in landing pages. The payoff is worth the effort.
  7. Connect with people you admire. I am not saying “get a mentor.” That’s too formal. But select someone who’s career or thinking impresses you. Send an admiring email. At the very least, it’s a generous gesture.
  8. Join professional associations, and become active on committees and advisory groups. My colleague Mary Teahan tells me that the opportunity to judge the Echo Awards every year keeps her up to date on marketing thinking, and provides her with a trove of useful case studies.
  9. Try moving into B2B. Okay, I am biased, but B2B is simply more fun than consumer marketing. It’s bigger, more complex, more challenging, and just as engaging. In fact, B2B marketers are united by some kind of tribal mentally that makes it a particularly nice community.
  10. Think like an investor. Marketing can no longer live on brand awareness. It’s all about tangible, revenue-related results. So, you need to focus on marketing efforts designed to deliver a demonstrable ROI.