How to Become a Marketing Manager?
If you Google ‘how to become a marketing manager’ you’ll see a featured snippet suggesting that the first things you need to do are to get a degree, some work experience, an entry-level job, acquire some necessary skills, and join professional marketing associations.
Well, I guess that does it then. That’s all you need to go out and start your path to becoming a marketing manager. Right?
Of course not. That’s a general answer by a college university. And that’s not good enough, is it?
Let’s start by addressing some of the most common questions folks have such as:
- How much money does a marketing manager make?
- How to become a marketing manager without a degree?
- How long does it take to become a marketing manager?
- What does a marketing manager do?
- Is being a marketing manager fun?
- Are there any certifications I should try to get?
- How to get marketing experience?
- What marketing skills are the most important to have?
How Much Money Does a Marketing Manager Make?
Reviewing the most popular salary aggregators, Glassdoor, Paysa, Linkedin, Angel.co and U.S. News, the salaries for marketing managers range from $70,000 — $145,620 with the average salary being $88,740.
U.S. News reports the median salary for marketing managers at $132,230 (Primary Source being the Bureau of Labor and Statistics) as of 2019, outpacing inflation rate by about $1033 between 2018 & 2019.
How to Become a Marketing Manager without a Degree
Fremont University may suggest that you need a Bachelor’s degree to become a marketing manager (no bias on their part, right?) but that’s definitely not necessary. It will often depend on the size of the company with the available position (some may prefer a Master’s degree).
There’s also not a single definitive path to get there either. It can vary based on your own background, what type of marketing manager role you’re trying to obtain (product, digital, sports, global, etc.), where you’re located, your work ethic, who you know, and a ton of other factors.
If you want to become a marketing manager without getting a degree you should learn a fair bit about programming, marketing automation, digital marketing, project management, and UI/UX.
You don’t have to actually know how to perform the day-to-day work in each of these capacities, but you need to know just enough to gauge the quality and competency of the work your team will be producing.
Beyond technical skills, make sure you’ve developed a keen sense of soft skills as well. Empathy and listening are your allies here.
If you do want to get a degree you don’t necessarily have to get a marketing degree. That may be the most common degree but I’m going to be blunt and say that I find an affable person with a degree in computer science, statistics or psychology to be far better marketers than those with marketing degrees.
Not what you wanted to hear. I know. You wanted a clear path, but that’s unrealistic and you know it. This world rewards people who can adapt and navigate murky waters.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Marketing Manager?
Get used to hearing these words: “It depends.” They are sort of a staple in marketing.
If you take the traditional route by obtaining a college degree first then you’re looking at a minimum of four years (it’s highly unlikely anyone’s going to promote you to management while you’re still taking midterms).
Hitting target KPIs each month may not always be a sure guarantee for promotion either.
In fact, marketers who continually hit their KPIs shouldn’t necessarily be promoted to management, instead, they should just be compensated more as they’re far more valuable doing to work.
I have yet to figure out why some people think it’s a good idea to promote their best performers to management.
If you want to fast-track your path to a marketing manager position you should:
- Help with project planning and organizational abilities as much as possible.
- Apply for open marketing management positions at other companies and don’t bank on a position at your current company opening up.
Seriously, seeing people linger in jobs for years waiting for the position of their dreams to open up is depressing. You must be ready to change companies if you want to advance your career.
What Does a Marketing Manager Do?
Hey! It depends.
I told you to get used to hearing that. Seriously, it depends on the industry, the size of the company, level of management and so on.
I’m going to equate Google’s general answer to this question as synonymous with horoscope readings in the newspaper. A lot of words are put together but not a damn thing is said.
At Large Corporations
Corporate marketing managers typically specialize in a particular marketing channel like Paid Acquisition Marketing Manager, Social Media Marketing Manager, Product Marketing Manager, Search Marketing Manager (this can go on for a while).
At Small Businesses
Marketing managers at SMBs likely wear several hats. They may be in charge of social media, SEO, PPC, creative, PR, email marketing, etc.
Don’t expect that having a role as a marketing manager at an SMB means you’re qualified for the same position at a huge corporation. It is rare to find someone who excels at managing both small and large groups of people.
Know yourself and your strengths and capitalize on those. Don’t let the prospect of more money cause you to chase after the corporate positions alone.
You’ll regret it.
Go after those positions if you legitimately enjoying managing large groups of people, projects, and budgets.
Types of Jobs Every Marketing Manager Does
Marketing managers are responsible for finding ways to create business growth, run campaigns, and report on the results of those campaigns.
In simple terms: get shit done.
Is Being a Marketing Manager Fun?
Good news. In 2018 marketing manager was ranked #45 by U.S News Top 100 Best Jobs category.
That number has now increased to #31 in 2019.
Are There Any Certifications I Should Try to Get?
A Bachelor’s degree is typically listed as a requirement but most hiring managers care more about results than anything else.
Apply for these positions even if you don’t have the degree to go with it. Worst case scenario you might land a face-to-face meeting and get valuable interviewing experience even if you don’t get the job.
If you lack a degree and want to get a few certifications to help bolster your resume check out these three:
- Those offered by HubSpot Academy
- Copyblogger’s Certified Content Marketers Certification
- AMA Professional Certified Marketer in Digital Marketing
What Marketing Skills are the Most Important to Have?
All marketing managers should have a good understanding of the entire marketing scope as well as the capacity to develop and hone their soft skills.
Breadth, as opposed to depth, is what is important here (T-Shaped Marketers). Remember what we said earlier about the folks who were specialists? They should stay specialists.
Most Important: Soft Skills
If you’ve spent all this time consuming every bit of information you could around marketing and ignored developing your soft skills then you should probably brace for impact.
Marketing skills are necessary but not sufficient requirements for management in this wonderful field of ours.
Focus on improving yourself in the following capacities:
On the night before a major battle, the first Duke of Marlborough was reconnoitering the terrain. He and his staff were on horseback. Marlborough dropped his glove. Cadogan, his chief of staff, dismounted, picked up the glove and handed it to Marlborough. The other officers thought this remarkably civil of Cadogan. Later that evening, Marlborough issued his final order: ‘Cadogan, put a battery of guns where I dropped my glove.’
‘I have already done so,’ replied Cadogan. He had read Marlborough’s mind, and anticipated his order (Ogilvy on Advertising).
Being able to take the direction of your SVP or CMO is good. Being able to anticipate their direction before they say anything and act on it is even better.
Creativity is one of those words that people hide behind to prop up their own egos.
Get over it.
If you want a majority of your campaigns to be successful don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Modify what works to fit your purposes and bide your time thinking about big problems.
If you get lucky you’ll have a spark of innovation hit you when you least suspect it (mine tend to hit me while teetering on the very edges of sleep).
When those moments occur. Capitalize on them.
Curiosity about everything is one of the most common characteristics I’ve seen when it comes to good managers. It helps them learn just enough about everything to understand everyone reporting to them.
People need to be comfortable approaching you and talking to you. The best way to obtain this trait is listening nine times as much as you speak.
Being able to take complex ideas and distill them into meaningful and coherent sentences is critical. Keep things simple and to the point. This isn’t academia. No one cares about your vocabulary.
Skills that can be taught, clearly defined, tracked and measured are hard skills.
Marketers can literally drown in data. You want to improve your ability to comprehend large sets of data and glean useful and actionable insight from it.
If you don’t like math or don’t think you’re a math person, you should either start looking into a different profession or you need to go read Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset and adjust how you look at challenges.
Social media marketing, re-marketing, targeting, and segmentation are critical. Even if your company has a separate department that handles advertising you should be collaborating directly with the professionals of this craft as they work in tandem.
Facebook was the preferred medium amongst marketers for several years in a row but we’ve seen things changing in 2019.
Facebook still reigns supreme but this is the first year in 5 years that Facebook has declined as the most important platform for marketers, dropping from 67% to 61%. You can read more by downloading the Social Media Marketing Industry Report here.
While Facebook may be losing steam with marketers, advertisers should still be utilizing the platform for the foreseeable future so long as the ROAS makes sense.
In its wake, Instagram has become a very viable alternative and LinkedIn is proving to be lucrative for B2B advertisers who position themselves appropriately.
People are starving for good content. Create something unique, new, fresh, actionable, it doesn’t matter.
Just give people something even if it’s just an improvement on what someone else has done (a.k.a. Brian Dean’s Skyscraper technique). Things are being outdated so quickly that producing (or keeping) updated content is in high demand.
Why is content so damn important? Well, in the 60’s we just called this advertising. You can create content that provides readers with value by solving problems and affords you the opportunity to nonchalantly position your business in a favorable light at the same time.
Branding and storytelling fall under this umbrella.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO is the foundation upon which content marketing rests. You’ll promote your content through normal channels but you want people to find that content via organic (i.e. non-paid) means as well.
Be sure you understand the fundamentals of keyword research and how searcher’s intent should inform your content and copy.
Also know how links, semantic structure, and schema impact rankings as well.
Outreach and PR
Put more effort into promoting your content than you did to create it. The best copy and most creative graphics in the world won’t mean a damn thing if no one knows they exist.
This is one critical skill that I’ve seen a lot of folks lack and there’s really no excuse for it.
You don’t have to be the best people-person to execute this. You can get the more charismatic people on your team to handle the actual outreach but you should understand how to manage the process.
Getting a marketing manager position is going to require much of the same qualities it would take to get any worthwhile management position. Don’t neglect to develop your soft skills in the pursuit of technical knowledge and you’ll be on the path to advancement.
Are you a marketing manager yourself? If so, what do you think are the most important skills a marketing manager should have? Please let me know in the comments below.
A philomath who loves to teach. Often too sarcastic in meetings. Head of Content Marketing & Search Optimization at Ardent Growth. CMO of RunDoyen.
B.S. in Computer Science & B.S. in Philosophy from MSU.