- Connecting The Dots
- Becoming a Marketing Manager
Becoming a Marketing Manager
Managing a marketing team is F***ing hard.
We can all agree on that.
On top of that, everybody always focuses on the hard skills of marketing.
But rarely focuses on the soft skills of becoming a manager.
Or even worse, helping you decide if a managerial role is indeed the route you want to take.
I started managing my first team of coffee baristas (not even marketing yet) when I was 20 and made a huge amount of mistakes running teams.
In today's newsletter, I am sharing a few thoughts I wish I had known before I started out managing a team in marketing.
I'll break it up as per:
- Should I Become A Manager Or An Expert? 🤓
- Why Most Experts Suck At Managing 💩
- Managing A Team Coming From An Expert Role 🤔
Let's dive right in. 🏊🏽♀️
To Manage or not to Manage, that's the question 💀
Before we move into the topic of being a manager, there is an important question people need to ask themselves.
In my humble opinion, when leveling up in Marketing, there are 2 routes to pick from (none of them excluding the other later on):
1. Expert Role
In this career path, you'll want to pick an expertise/skill you really love, become the go-to expert, and niche down to move up your career.
Here is the formula I would apply (considering you have basic marketing skills).
Expert Role = Deep Skill + Niche --> Level Up
Let's take an example of a copywriter.
Copywriter = Conversion Rate Copywriter (deep expertise) + B2B SaaS (niche)
By focusing on just conversion rate copywriting, you are able to charge more compared to a regular copywriter.
By adding an extra layer of focusing just on a specific niche you can charge even more because people hiring you to know you are the best in your specific field.
From there you can always outsource bits of the expertise (like market research for your copy) to further expand without building an actual team.
2. Manager Role
In this career path, you'll want to pick an expertise/skill you really love and become good at it, while you also broaden your understanding of other fields to be able to manage a team of experts.
Here is the formula I would apply (considering you have basic marketing skills)
Manager Role = Deep Skill + Broaden Skill Expertise --> Level Up
Let's take an example from my own experiences here.
When I started my marketing career, I wanted to become the best at running Facebook Ads.
I learned everything from technical tracking to offering creations, and creatives.
From there, I quickly realized that becoming 'the expert on ' scared me to death.
I decided to understand running social ads very well but find/connect with the right experts when the time was needed to expand my impact within a company.
My goal was to understand each expertise at a high level while keeping my core expertise to build a high-performance team.
Leveling up was therefore not achieved by improving my copywriting skills nor by creating better visuals for Facebook Ads.
Levelling up was done by understanding each expertise, the dynamics of the team, and what was missing to further expand the output of the team I was managing.
The goal for you here is to understand what kind of person you want to become in order to level up in your career.
Moving into a team manager role from an expert role does come with a drawback.
Why Most Experts Suck At Managing Teams 🧛♀️
Let's be honest.
Most managers coming from an expert role -without further qualifications- suck at managing a team.
This is mostly because an expert may become a manager solely based on his/her high level of expertise in a certain channel/topic.
For example, the Facebook Ads Expert with 5 years of experience becoming the manager of the recently hired junior is considered as a natural next step.
While qualified for teaching them how to run Facebook Ads, that in itself won't qualify them for people management.
Running a team and teaching something you are really good at are not the same things.
Most experts THINK they are good at managing because they are teaching juniors skills they haven't learned before.
Therefore it is easy to see improvements in their work and connect that with their ability to teach.
Just because one is great at a skill, does not necessarily mean they'll be great at transferring said skill.
Even if they are, once the majority of the knowledge is transferred, that is when the ability to lead is put on trial.
Here are 3 key skills that become relevant:
Communication: A manager must be able to:
- effectively communicate with their team, including:
- conveying goals and expectations,
- providing feedback and coaching, and
- resolving conflicts.
They must have the ability to listen actively and understand diverse perspectives.
Leadership: A manager must have the ability to:
- lead by example,
- inspire and
- motivate their team, and provide guidance and direction.
They must also be able to make difficult decisions, delegate tasks, and build a cohesive team.
Problem-solving: A manager must have the ability to:
- analyze situations and
- make effective decisions, even under pressure.
They must be able to identify and solve problems, think strategically and anticipate challenges.
Things that have nothing to do with your core expertise.
Managing A Team Coming From An Expert Role
I still remember one particular moment of managing and growing a team.
Running Facebook ads was always my thing since this was the first thing I did during the early days of shaping my career.
- I ran my own Facebook Ads at my own companies
- I managed over 10M+ in Facebook ads for clients
I was pretty confident I knew my stuff because of my expertise and background.
Until one day.
While syncing on a Facebook Ads Campaign with a team member who started as a product marketer, and who I trained to run all our Facebook Ads.
She mentioned: "I don't think this is the right approach, I believe it would be better to implement it this way".
I took a step back...
While my first reaction was to go against the opinion, as I clearly knew what I was doing, I took a step back to understand her reasoning.
She was right.
It was at this exact moment I got mixed feelings, being both:
Scared as I now have somebody on the team who is actually surpassing my level of core expertise.
Excited as I was able to train somebody to surpass my expertise level on one particular topic.
While I was scared at first, it totally made sense.
I was spending the majority of my time managing a team of 7-9 people.
She was spending the majority of her time running Facebook Ads.
It was not a question of 'if' but rather 'when' she would become better.
My personal advice when this happens?
Enjoy the moment and understand it's all part of the process of becoming a great leader.
While it may be scary, this is one of the best moments as a manager.
2. Lessons about High Agency
How an IRS agent single-handedly unmasked the founder of a Black Market Drug Empire with a simple Google Search & other great examples of taking the lead.
3. Staying with our topic, a great read on motivation & overall performance
While this is actually a -rather short- article in the Financial Times, Dan Ariely's (one of the leaders of behavioural economics) idea of the Human Capital Factor correlates strongly with the sentiment of what being a great manager means.