How to get promoted in Marketing (Or any job really)


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In one click, Kat secured her one month old job and pretty much cemented her future with the company.

A few years ago I was working the company WhatClinic that was growing nicely. So nicely that they decided to hire their first QA person. A low cost, low-risk junior person to see how the role worked. Enter Kat.

Super smart, super organised and wonderfully social. Kat slotted comfortably into the company team. I liked her instantly. Not being her manager I had no idea how well she was doing in the role. But that was about to change.

Within a month, Kat did something interesting. She sent an email to everyone in the company highlighting the progress and achievements of everyone else in the company. A simple email with things like “The engineering team shipped this feature. Thanks to John and Sarah”, “The sales team broke a new market and exceeded target. Thanks to Alisha and Brendan”. Even “At last we got a new fridge and microwave for our lunch. Thanks Paula”. Everyone loved it. The management loved it. Everyone knew who was working on what. Everyone felt valued and thanked. In everyone’s mind, the value of Kat just skyrocketed. It was a brilliant move. And just to be clear, I do not think this was a cynical, calculating move. Kat spotted a communication issue in a growing company and simply wanted to solve it. And in doing so cemented her position.

How to get a head in advertising. Not one of Richard E. Grants finest movies!

Getting chewed out of it!

Now let’s contrast this with me being called into my boss’s office and getting chewed out of it. Ok it might have happened more than once. It was (nearly) always my fault. But it was never because I did a bad job which was very frustrating. I would look around and see people who appeared to be doing half as much and twice as well. It was not that they were working smarter. Something else was going on. And because of Kat it clicked. It was all about communication.  Now before you yawn and think it’s one of ‘those’ articles, read on. I have some practical stuff you can actually put into practice.

I would be one of those classic introvert types. I tend to under communicate. Sure I can stand up at a conference and deliver a prepared presentation. But the next day you will not find me as I will be in some quiet corner happily reading a book and recharging. Perhaps an unusual personality trait to be in marketing but I became fascinated with the mechanics around how people communicate.

When it comes to a work environment I would thoughtfully deliver a clear report and immediately move on to the next project or task. But that is not enough.  Especially in a work environment when there is so much noise for a manager from so many different directions.

I started to notice the team members that did well at work were the ones that would over communicate. You might sometimes refer to them as the ‘talkers’ while rolling your eyes, but dismissing them this way you might miss what actually works for them.

Office Space

You see a boss or manager would never be in any doubt what these ‘talkers’ were working on and what they achieved. If the direction the team member was heading in was the wrong direction, the manager could address that early.  However while I would communicate at the start of a project and then deliver the results,  the manager was not going to remember that too clearly in the noise.

The result being that I would often be re tasked to different projects because a boss would forget what I was working on, or how important it was. And when it comes to an annual review, there was no way in hell a manager was going to remember all that I was working on or what I achieved. You can imagine how frustrating this was, for myself and the manager.

Luckily I was born with some degree of self awareness (and the objectivity that I may be wrong about that 🙂 ). Being able to see this problem in myself and others is partly what interested me in Marketing. I could see the problem, there needed to be a solution.  Ideally a framework to follow.  And there is. To succeed in your job, you need to over communicate. But how? I approached it as a technical challenge.

To succeed in your job, you need to over communicate. But how?

Early in my career I studied  how to be a better presenter I learned about a basic structure to use for a conference talk:

  1. Tell the audience what you are going to say.
  2. Say it.
  3. Tell them what you said.

Applying this to work:

  1. Tell your team what you are going to work on.
  2. Let them know you are working on it.
  3. Tell them what you worked on.
The basic structure of job success
The basic structure of job success

It seemed to work. And almost every time I failed to follow this, it bit me in the ass.

My interest in this led me to a later job working with a HR Performance management Company. Their goal was to improve the performance, engagement and retention of teams and managers with structured communication like the above. The science behind it is impressive. Increased team performance. Almost twice the revenue generated per employee. Engaged staff who stay longer and managers who find out problems earlier when there is time to fix them.

Organisations that are actively managing performance are generating more than twice the revenue per employee. – Bersin by Deloitte.

To succeed in your job you need to set aside some dedicated time to communicate or market yourself. Because no matter how hard you work, if you do not tell anyone, no one will know. Or worse if you are working on the wrong thing you will not know until it is too late.

No matter how hard you work, if you do not tell anyone, no one will know.

I am now a manager. VP of marketing at OnePageCRM and instead of my position making it easier I now have to market myself in three directions. I market down the goals to the team because the clearer they are on the goals, the easier it is for them to make the right decisions. And I market up and sideways to tell everyone what myself and the team are working on and what we have achieved.

The 3 steps to ensure job success in management
The 3 steps to ensure job success in management

While I have just said you need to market yourself, I also think it is my role as a manager to market the team as well. I have totally stole Kat’s idea. I now send a semi regular email to the entire company to tell everyone what we (all departments, not just marketing) have achieved.

I ran this post via my wife Mary and my friend Stephen and they highlighted two issues with their larger organisations that make this approach difficult but not impossible. Mary works in a University and does not have the contact details of everyone on campus who would benefit from her program. Whereas Stephen works in a well known global tech giant who are pretty strict about who you are allowed to email internally. In this case I would consider some paid advertising using Facebook and Linkedin. Both platforms will allow you to promote a post to a few thousand people for as little as $10. You can target people employed by an organisation, within a specific geographic location and a specific job role. You can even upload a list of emails and the ad can target only those specific accounts. The beauty is the more specific you become with your targeting the cheaper the cost becomes.

So to summarise:

  1. Knowledge is power, if you are the source of that knowledge in a company you become indispensable.
  2. To get ahead in marketing you need to do less, and take time to market yourself more*.

Or to summarise even further: Simply tell people what you are doing, repeatedly.

* I don’t mean you need to change job and become a marketer. That’s crazy! Plus the hours are long and everyone thinks you would sell your granny (she keeps wandering back and people get arsy looking for refunds).

Download the promotion checklist

Download and print this checklist. Put it beside your desk and ensure you never forget to let your team know what you are working on.

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