Well executed marketing campaigns have the power to turn around sales and redefine companies, creating household names from unknown products.
Nike’s 1988 “Just Do It” campaign, the iconic Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign of 2010 and Apple’s defining 1997 “Think Different” campaign are just a few examples of the power of a good marketing strategy.
Behind all of these pivotal campaigns were world-class creative teams, and at the head of each of those teams was a marketing manager.
A marketing manager is a leader responsible for the development and implementation of a company’s branding strategy. They make all the calls on how to promote a business, product, or service; deciding on the messaging and the best communication streams to attract customers and grow a bigger audience.
The decisions a marketing manager makes shapes the way a brand looks and feels in the market, playing a crucial role in the success of a company or product. It’s a growing career path with strong demand, and an average base salary of approximately AUD$80,000.
Marketing manager duties can cover the entire spectrum of branding and communication, from social media engagement to campaign events, particularly if you’re working for a small business. Specifically, some tasks involved in this role could include:
- Conduct market research
- Design creative strategies across multiple channels, including social media, television, billboards, and written content
- Create and manage comprehensive budgets and cost estimates
- Negotiate with potential clients and partners to prepare sales and advertising contracts
- Create marketing plans detailing outcomes and goals
- Handle public relations and troubleshoot issues as they arise
- Responsible for hiring team members to work on campaigns
- Website management and social media management
- Oversee ongoing copywriting and content management
- Use data analytics in research
As a marketing manager you have to be a creative problem solver and a jack-of-all-trades, confident in your ability to understand and manage all the different elements of marketing.
If this role sounds like it comes with a lot of responsibility, that’s because it does. It’s a mid-career role for someone with broad training and experience, and you will usually also need a degree in marketing or communications.
If you’re impatient to climb the ladder in the marketing world and want to start managing your own campaigns as soon as possible, you will need to combine education and work experience together in an intensive, self-directed learning process. Let’s get started on how.
1. Get started as early as possible
If you already have a clear idea that you want to get into marketing, there is no such thing as ‘too early’ when it comes to steering your education and self-driven learning towards your goal.
Still in high school? Choose subjects like creative writing, economics, finance, design, visual arts or computer science to start your education in marketing. You need to develop your creative brain, learn about culture, and gain some fundamentals about ICT and how the market works.
Marketing is fundamentally a type of creative story-telling that’s heavily anchored in popular culture.
The best marketing experts are typically creative people who engage a lot with the visual arts, literature, photography, fashion, memes, film or music. You should consume as much cultural media as possible, following whatever area interests you. Practise taking and editing photos, and learn about what makes images, stories and video engaging. This education will be invaluable when it comes to developing good ideas.
If you’re not already, you should be using TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook; that’s a good beginner's education in social media. Become intimately familiar with these platforms, experiment with creating your own content, and take some time to read articles online about how these platforms function, how advertising works in these spaces, and what goes viral.
2. Enrol in a bachelor of marketing, communications or similar degree
A degree in marketing or communications is not always essential, but it does fast-track your learning. You want to learn the A-Z of marketing as quickly as possible, and that is what a degree is there for.
A good degree in marketing will teach you all you need to know about the fundamentals of data analysis, marketing strategy, branding, research, communication and using different channels, as quickly as possible. It should also teach you hard skills like how to use analytics software, leadership skills, soft skills, critical and creative thinking, ethics, and how to be a self-teacher.
Because marketing is culturally and technologically a cutting-edge field, course content should be up to date as possible. For example, if a university you’re considering isn’t teaching digital marketing strategy or environmental sustainability as part of their course, then you may want to find one that’s offering a more relevant syllabus.
The Torrens University Bachelor of Business (Marketing), for example, offers core subjects that reflect how marketing is done in 2021, including:
- Digital Marketing Communications
- Marketing Strategy
- Ethics and Sustainability
- Organisational Creativity and Innovation
- Consumer Behaviour
Universities also provide ample volunteering or internship opportunities and support services to help you gain other types of precious work experience. Make sure when you choose a marketing degree that you choose a university with a lot of extracurricular activities and an active internship program. For example, through Torrens University’s work-integrated learning program, students gain hands-on marketing experience in industry. A prime example is through the Communify and Hands-On-Art partnership.
A degree will take three years to complete, full-time. While you study, you should also be gaining crucial work experience in your spare time and over holiday periods.
3. Volunteer to work on marketing campaigns for charities and nonprofits
As a young student with no work experience, you are going to have problems getting paid work in your field that gives you the kind of professional experience you want. The best way around that is by volunteering.
There are lots of charities, university clubs or societies and nonprofit organisations out there who really need bright young marketing students to manage their social media accounts, help run their awareness raising campaigns, or to design and distribute advertising for their event, for free. This kind of experience gives you an essential start, so you should pursue it as soon as you begin to study.
Enquire with your university for opportunities with social clubs, sports teams, student publications or events, or look online for volunteer opportunities with charities. Check out Govolunteer, or Seek volunteer opportunities online.
4. Run your own social media project and get it to be a success
If you want to be a marketing manager, you need to be all over social media.
Social media just continues to grow, already overtaking print media as the third-largest channel for advertising in 2019, claiming a total 13% share of global ad spending, behind television (29%) and paid search (17%). Spending on social video content advertising is due to double this year, because of the huge growth of platforms such as TikTok which is now at a huge 800 million active users.
There are a lot of ways to prove that you are an impressive marketing candidate to employers, but one of the best is to simply show results. Whether it’s a cat photos Instagram account or a TikTok fashion tutorial channel, turn your hobby into a popular social media project. Get a decent number of followers and likes, learn as you go about how to grow an audience, and add your success to your resume.
5. Become familiar with all the creative tools and relevant software
A marketing manager is an all-rounder who is expected to have knowledge and experience of most areas of branding. To get the experience you need, you will likely be called upon to do work in junior positions using a whole suite of programs and technologies.
For example, you will need to have at least some knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop and InDesign, as well as being familiar with popular website building and blogging tools such as WordPress. Plus, you will be expected to understand how to use search engine optimisation (SEO) platforms such as Google Analytics, and customer relationship management or CRM software like Salesforce.
You will be taught how to use many of these programs during your degree, but it’s never too early to start playing around with them.
6. Start working in an entry level role
Don’t wait until you’ve graduated to try and get your first entry level marketing role. Once you have a bit of experience under your belt, you should be able to get part-time or holiday work as a junior marketing assistant, or social media content manager.
There are a lot of small businesses out there who want someone to step in as their marketing all-rounder, doing everything from product photography to social media engagement on a part time basis. You can even approach small businesses directly and offer to set up their social media and marketing strategy for them, as a freelance contractor.
7. Develop a portfolio and online presence
If you want to be a marketing manager, you need to start by being good at selling yourself. Once you get to the final year of your Bachelor of Business (Marketing), you should already have enough part time, project and volunteer experience to create a LinkedIn profile, a succinct website and a decent marketing portfolio.
Another way you can further strengthen your online portfolio and add some points to your resume is by completing a short course. Torrens University offers an extensive range of short courses across various areas of study to help drive your career forward; scroll down to point ten for details on which courses you should study.
8. Organise an internship or placement in final year
An internship is an essential step into your marketing manager career, providing invaluable opportunities to learn on-the-job. Make sure when you enrol in a bachelor’s degree that an internship program is built into the degree, and that the university offers a good placement service with companies that you actually want to work for. At Torrens University, for example, each student gets a Success Coach who guides your internship program, and helps you to set up an interview.
If you aren’t studying, there are a lot of different ways you can organise an internship, such as looking for placements online, or contacting a marketing agency or company you like directly, to ask about opportunities.
9. Working your way up
As a marketing manager, you need to be able to conduct really high-quality data analysis to see what strategies are working and which ones aren’t. Being a superstar data analyst will definitely put you at an advantage while working your way up, so make sure you put some time into developing these skills.
The great thing about marketing is that it is a very results-driven field. If the data shows that your idea or contribution in your entry-level role is showing results, you can expect to move your way up fairly quickly. Once you get your first big role, you need to prove you can deliver.
Now that you've graduated from your degree and got your first job at an agency, it does not mean that you can take a pause on learning. On the contrary, you need to use this opportunity to learn as much as you can and actively grow your career, while continuing with your self-teaching in your spare time.
Identify any gaps in your knowledge that you will need to fill to be a competent manager, and make sure you spend the next few years filling those gaps. If you take an active and conscious approach to pursuing your goal of marketing manager, you should be able to achieve that within just three to four years of graduating from your bachelor degree.
10. Short courses to hone your marketing and leadership skills
Marketing is an incredibly fast-moving field where new trends and technologies are adopted early, so it’s great for people who love to learn. A degree and self-teaching will get you far, but even after you graduate you may find there are some additional skills you need to learn or practise.
Short online courses offer an excellent opportunity to fill gaps in your knowledge, while also giving you a little extra qualification to add to your portfolio.
Torrens University has developed a range of short courses that can be completed online within just one or two hours, at any time of the day that’s convenient to you. These cover many of the key topics that a marketing professional should study.
For aspiring marketing managers, I recommend the following short courses:
- CSR and Customer Engagement
- Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Styles
- Content Marketing Dynamics
- How Big Data is Changing Content Marketing
- Marketing in the Digital Age
- Quantifying Marketing Success
- Seamless Omnichannel Marketing
A marketing manager works at the cutting edge of culture and technology, so you will always have something new and exciting to learn in this rewarding career.