Marketing masterclass: Seven tips on how to become an industry leader

There's no shortage of business and career advice out there, but what do industry-leading marketers have to say to those following in their footsteps?

Highly successful marketers have several things in common. They are usually exceptional leaders and understand the importance of lifting their heads out of the detail. This enables them to build their influence more broadly within an organisation so that the business-growth agenda is genuinely customer- focused, and not just paying lip service to the concept of customer-centricity.

Over the past 10 years, The Marketing Society’s Marketing Leaders Programme (MLP), run in association with the team at Brand Learning, has been preparing some of the UK’s brightest marketing talent for senior marketing leadership roles. And senior marketers from world-class companies acting both as guest speakers and as mentors have generously shared their experience and wisdom with delegates.

Here are some stand-out "top tips" from these speakers and mentors that really inspired MLP delegates and we feel are valuable to share:

Be yourself.

Calls for authenticity abound and there’s no doubt that the advice of being genuine and standing for something in which you believe remains key. As James Elias, marketing director of Google UK & Ireland, advises: "Start a movement – aim to create and own something and put your name on it."

Be brave.

If you explore the DNA of truly revolutionary marketers, you will find that they have generally "set an outrageous goal and gone public on it". (Andy Fennell, president and chief operating officer, Diageo Africa.)

Plan your ambition.

"You can do anything – but you can’t do everything. Make choices in your business and in your personal life." (Roisin Donnelly, corporate marketing director, Procter & Gamble UK and Ireland.) Really effective leaders know that they need to focus their energies. Choose what to do and do it well.

Build relationships. "Invest in partners and relationships."

(Kerris Bright, chief marketing officer, Ideal Standard.) You will never achieve your objectives working alone; focus on what key stakeholders expect you to deliver and take a non-hierarchical approach to encourage inclusiveness and an environment where people feel able to contribute ideas.

Take positive action. "Make decisions. It’s better to do something than nothing."

(Ian Crook, ex-marketing director, Tesco.) Don’t shy away from making tough calls. It’s this ability to make unpopular decisions that distinguishes true leaders from the rest of the pack. Don’t let your fear of not being liked hold you back from what you know is ultimately the best path for the business.

Never stop learning.

What’s relevant today might be tomorrow’s white elephant. In an environment that is constantly changing, you have to continuously examine your skill-set and make sure it’s fit for purpose and future-proofed. Adopt an attitude where you are, as Craig Inglis, director of marketing at John Lewis, describes it, "relentlessly restless".

Personal resilience.

"Understand how to react to stress." (Jill McDonald, president and chief executive, McDonald’s UK.) In this world of constant disruption, it can be easy to succumb to high pressure. Understand how you react in the face of these demands and find techniques that help you stay at the top of your game more of the time.

We believe these are powerful insights and great career guidelines – and, taken on board, they may just help secure a future listing in Marketing’s Power 100.

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