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Wanted: Marketing Managers with Techno Know-How

It seems that everyone is feeling the impact of tough economic times. This includes the professionals known as marketing managers.

"Because of the recession, many companies were forced to restructure. Marketing, like other departments, needed to become leaner, too," says Sandra Singer. She's a senior director with a marketing association. "...It is not uncommon for marketing to be seen as an expense, as its return on investment is not always clear-cut."

As a result, there have recently been layoffs in the marketing and advertising industries, and many companies have cut back on their marketing budgets. But there are still opportunities for future marketing managers, especially those with technological know-how.

Marketing managers oversee the plans and strategies that get products and services to consumers. They predict the demand for products and services and identify possible markets for them.

Marketing managers are involved in a wide variety of activities, including product design, product pricing and trend monitoring.

Many marketing managers start out in advertising. Their first job might be with an advertising agency, helping to design the ads we see, hear and read every day. But opportunities with ad agencies have not been as plentiful in the past year or two.

"We observed that agencies, in particular, that normally would bring in interns over the summer months, were less likely to do so," says Singer. "Some students eager to break into advertising were willing to work for next to nothing to gain the requisite experience."

However, even in tough economic times, there are always opportunities for hardworking, talented people. And technological savvy is always in demand.

"There is a demand for a higher level of talent," says Singer. "The youth represent digital knowledge, so they're bringing new ideas and skills to companies that can use that....

"They're looking for students to bring digital talent and ideas.... They can speak to that generation of multi-tasking, and [they know] where they're getting their information, because they're living and breathing it, so they have a lot to offer."

If technology is your thing, then you'll find opportunities with digital ad agencies -- agencies that specialize in making use of technology, especially the Internet, to reach potential markets.

"They're always looking for top talent," says Singer. "It's not just the MBAs -- it's people who understand the digital space."

Getting Started in the Career

The job of marketing manager is generally not an entry-level position. After getting out of a college or university marketing program, graduates usually start in advertising or sales positions, and then work their way up to marketing management.

"Most students will not walk into a managerial position," agrees Michelle Kunz. She's executive director of the Marketing Management Association and a marketing professor. "They may get into a training program; they may go into sales."

To be an effective marketing manager, you have to be a people person.

"I think that they have to like to work with people, they have to understand people, they have to understand consumers," says Kunz. "There's a lot of research that goes into it.

"A lot of marketing today has to do with building relationships -- you have to be able to assess what that person perceives. But to be really successful you have to be able to crunch numbers. There's a bottom line."

A lot of people think marketing and advertising are the same thing. But advertising is just the promotional aspect of marketing. Marketing is much more than that.

"Marketing looks at everything a potential customer or target market might need and what product or service we can deliver to them," says Kunz.

Also, marketing encompasses such things as product design, supply chain management, price setting, after-purchase follow up and more. "It's not just, 'Advertise it and they will come,'" says Kunz.

To get started in a career in marketing management, a bachelor's degree should suffice.

"There are a lot of people with nothing more than a bachelor's degree doing very well," says Kunz. "A bachelor's degree will give you some level of maturity to function in the industry, and to be a manager someday, that's a must."

After you've been working in advertising or marketing for a while, your company might suggest that you earn a master's degree in marketing or an MBA. Some companies will pay for you to return to school, and will let you continue working while you earn your degree.

The advantage of working for a while in the industry is that you discover the gaps in your learning. You get a sense of what you could still learn to help you move forward in your career.

"After they get out in the world, they might discover that what they studied has changed a lot," says Kunz. "Then you might determine you need more education. A lot of marketing managers have a master's degree, or maybe an MBA.

"A lot of organizations will support continued education; some do not," she adds. "It depends on the corporate culture."

If you already have experience in sales or advertising, then a certificate in marketing management may be enough to get a foothold in this career.

"All of our students are adult learners," says Jo-Anne Clarke. She's the program director for management certificate programs at a university. "[Often], in their company they've been put into a marketing role and told, 'You're in charge of marketing now.'

"Sometimes they're in sales and they're moving into marketing, so they need to learn the nuts and bolts."

Most students in the certificate program take two or three years to finish, taking evening and weekend classes. Although most of the students are adult learners, they range from those who've just graduated high school to those in their 50s. About half of the students already have a degree.

Clarke agrees with Kunz that marketing is a lot more than just advertising. "Marketing management covers a wide range of things, not just one piece like advertising," says Clarke. Marketing covers all the planning on how you're going to target your market.

Effective marketing managers are able to think strategically.

"They're able to take broad concepts and put them into actions," says Clarke. "They're creating sales strategies and event planning, understanding how all the pieces fit together.... It's really putting together the whole plan."

Young people entering the marketing field have the advantage of having grown up with the Internet and online social networking. They intuitively understand online marketing in a way that older marketers might not.

"The Internet has changed marketing completely," says Clarke. "The whole idea of social marketing... [and] through the Internet, people can access your products all over the world."

"I think any marketing manager today who doesn't embrace technology isn't a successful manager," says Kunz. "The key is leveraging it effectively and properly. Younger people don't see as many barriers, they multi-task it much better into their environment than older people do."

"There's opportunity for all kinds of people," says Singer. "It's all about what you're willing to do, what salary you're willing to take."


Internet Marketing Association
Online marketing blogs and other resources

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