Reflections - 5 Career lessons from 9+ years working in (growth) marketing
Looking back, there are big lessons that I’ve learned and have been pivotal to my professional & personal growth. I’ll like to briefly share my top 5 lessons so far.
Over the past 9+ years of my career, I have held different roles in various small to large organizations. I started as a digital project manager and a student ambassador for Google SSA, led the marketing efforts for the world’s largest youth NGO, and as a senior growth consultant and experiment designer for a growth agency. Throughout these different roles, I’ve worked on projects in growth marketing, venture validation, and product management. I always strongly felt like a marketeer at heart in all of these roles and projects.
Looking back, there are significant lessons that I’ve learned and have been pivotal to my professional & personal growth. I’ll like to share my top 5 lessons so far briefly.
1. Understand the problem first before you solve.
About eleven years ago, I was a young passionate marketer who had little marketing experience but had thousands of dollars in marketing budget to promote a new e-commerce platform. I spent all the marketing budget on various actions ranging from digital ads and flyering to direct mailing. Months after, the results were shitty, and I wasted all of the marketing budget. The results were shitty because I approached marketing from an input-output focus without first understanding what the core problem I was solving for was; both from the customer and product perspectives were more crucial.
Like the godfather of marketing, Seth Godin, said, you can’t be seen until you learn to be seen. Marketers have an essential role in making change happen in their organization, and this starts with fully embedding yourself into your customer’s shoes and understanding your product thoroughly.
Of course, throughout your journey as a marketeer, you would fail and sometimes even misjudge your marketing actions. But a strong foundation in your customer empathy and product knowledge is core to solving right with marketing.
Some of my favorite frameworks I use in understanding the problem are Value Proposition Canvas and the Buyer Persona Map I built as a growth consultant.
2. Always ask WHY?
Before I go into any engagement or project, I always like to ask, why are we/you doing this?
The main reason behind this question usually is to understand the goal & key objective(s) of the marketing action. I’ve realized that people have no idea why they want to run a marketing campaign or what they want to achieve most times. Even sometimes, there is a mismatch in the objective of the marketing action.
Following up on my first point about understanding the problem first before you solve, the 5-Why’s technique is a great way to start uncovering the purpose behind a project; when you know the WHY, then brainstorming the HOW and WHAT would be a relatively smoother process. Of course, an excellent way to concretize your why is through the smart goal technique.
Trust me, always asking WHY? is a perfect way to challenge yourself and your team and realize if the marketing actions you are pursuing make sense.
3. Legit marketers think in frameworks and processes rather than tactics and tools.
For me, Legit = Genuine + Knows his stuff!
I have been privileged to work with some legit and not-legit marketers throughout my career. One thing that differentiates them is that legit marketers approach marketing actions/briefings with a process or framework in mind and not directly jumping into what tactics or tools we should implement to solve a marketing problem.
Over the years, I have discovered and personally developed various frameworks, mental models, and processes I use to solve the marketing problems I face. Even the tiny marketing actions such as conversion rate optimization audit or digital ads optimization have a process/framework you can use to approach this. These frameworks I’ll share in the future in separate posts if I find the time, but for now, I’ll share below a simple framework I use to approach ‘Conversion Rate Optimisation Audit’ efforts.
4. Growth hacks won’t grow your business
Growth hacks are unconventional tactics used by companies to achieve explosive growth in a short amount of time. Meanwhile, most people fail to understand that growth hacking is an experiment-driven process.
Every successful organization is about creating and keeping customers, and marketing and innovation are the two most important business functions because they generate new customers. Real growth hacking is at the intersection of marketing and innovation. To grow your business, you need individuals who have the mindset of a marketer and an innovation professional – which is your ideal growth hacker.
5. Technical skills aren’t enough. Inter-personal skills are more crucial.
It’s not so much what you say but how you say it. A physician with excellent medical knowledge but poor patient examination procedure often finds that their patients prefer other doctors. It is great to have strong technical expertise as a marketer, but it’s far more critical to have and keep developing your “examination procedure” while staying true to who you are. This gives your colleagues, clients, and others confidence and trust in what you say and do.
That’s it for now. I hope you’ve found my lessons valuable, and please share big marketing lessons that you’ve learned in your career.
PS: I can’t thank you enough to my previous managers, colleagues, and clients for taking me on this audacious journey of many lifetimes. You are the real MVP.