Marketing has changed a lot in recent years, and the spectrum of different specialities and disciplines has become increasingly vast.
With so many different roles, responsibilities, skills, trends, and technologies to navigate these days, it can be overwhelming trying to carve out your ideal career path.
In this week’s episode, Mark Larwood talks in detail about all the various options available to B2B marketers today, to help you understand the best approach for you personally.
Who they are: Mark Larwood, Head of Strategic Customer Marketing and ABM at O2.
A bit of background: Mark has over 20 years of marketing experience, achieving success with small start-ups and large enterprises alike. In that time, he’s worked with global brands such as Philips, Virgin Media, Atos, and more, doing everything from demand gen to PR.
Where you can find him:
Here you’ll find some of the best advice from the podcast that you can easily digest and learn from.
Regular readers will know we’ve heard a lot recently about the differences between a specialist and a generalist in modern marketing.
However, Mark doesn’t feel that either route should have a negative impact on your long-term career. As a priority, you should focus on what you enjoy doing most.
Mark said, “I think, first and foremost, it’s really important that you find something you enjoy. An organisation that you really want to work for, where it’s that fit between yourself, your ambitions, and also finding an organisation where you buy into where that business is going. Feeling you have a purpose; that’s the most important thing.”
Of course, if you do pursue one specific aspect of B2B marketing as a speciality, you should still be making an effort to develop certain key skills along the way as well.
Mark explained, “If you go and specialise in digital marketing, or you specialise in PR, make sure you’re still getting exposure to those wider marketing techniques. Look around at what’s happening in the business, find opportunities to understand the commercial aspects and the sales aspects of it. Make sure you understand things like segmentation, positioning, messaging, and so on.”
So, it’s worth preparing yourself to be capable of taking on a more generalist role at some stage even if your short-term focus is on one specialist skill.
“I don’t think being a specialist is necessarily a bad thing at all,” added Mark. “Actually, it’s probably quite positive. But I would say to people that want to have a broader Marketing Director role at some point, get exposure to the other pieces of marketing as well, and make sure you’re getting that broadest exposure when and where you can.”
When asked what that would involve specifically, Mark suggested building core skills like:
Of course, another key decision you have to make is whether to work for a small, growing business, or a large enterprise with an established brand.
“Fundamentally, the challenges are broadly the same for both sizes of organisations,” said Mark. “But there’s a massive variance between small start-ups, to small, middling-sized organisations, to great big corporates.”
Here’s Mark’s advice for working in each environment:
“What you get in a corporate organisation is more structure, and strong brands as well. But what comes with that is politics, and not everybody necessarily moves in the same direction or the way that you want it to go. So, you’ve got to be able to balance those things.”
“I think in that big organisation, you’ve got to be pragmatic. You’ve got to be prepared to take a degree of risk sometimes and find different ways of doing things. If you were a slave to the processes and the procedures and politics in a large organisation, you’ll either get lost or you’ll get bored… or possibly both.”
“In small organisations, particularly the start-up end of it, where I’ve spent a fair amount of time, I’ve found myself working for founder CEOs. Really strong, passionate people, who really live and breathe the company. They are the company, they are the brand. But with that, as a marketer, it can be quite tricky trying to help them see that maybe their way isn’t the best way and you’ve got a slightly different approach to things.”
“Being able to go toe-to-toe with very senior stakeholders in a small business, and find your way around that to bring things together, is really, really important.”
“I feel like you can have much more of an impact as a marketer in a smaller business, in many respects. Whereas the danger in a large business is that things take a long time and you can become a cog in the wheel.”
“I’ve worked in both, and I currently work in a large company. But I feel I’ve gained a lot from working in lots of different sized organisations. There’s that entrepreneurial element you get from working in a small business, and that has some value in a large business as well. And what I take from the large businesses into the small is a little bit more structure, and a little more of a methodology to it.”
Perhaps, then, it’s important for B2B marketers to gain experience from both environments. Not only will that help you decide which you prefer based on your own experience, but it will also help you become a more well-rounded marketer overall.
As Mark added: “I’ve learned from both, and I use bits of both on each side.”
If you’re currently looking for a new B2B marketing role, Mark also had plenty of valuable advice to help you through the application process.
He said, “Hands down, the one thing I’m really looking for is impact. People can list lots of things that they’ve done, and responsibilities they’ve had, but very few seem to tell me the impact of that on their CV.”
“I want to see the campaigns somebody’s run have delivered business outcomes, and what those outcomes were. If people put percentage terms and things like that on a CV, that really helps me understand the impact that they’ve had.”
“The principal thing I’m looking for is not just what you’ve done, but what it has actually achieved for your business.”
In terms of red flags that may put hiring managers off when reviewing CVs, Mark also had some useful advice.
“Maybe if people have moved around a lot, I think that’s probably the thing that jumps out. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a red flag, but it’s something I’m wary of. Certainly, if we were pre-screening before interviewing, I’d be interested in understanding why that person may have moved around a lot.
“If somebody’s going for a permanent role, I’d be wary of people that have jumped around too much, particularly in the mid-career phase. And that should come across on the CV that there’s a progression in those moves, as opposed to just jumping ship. That’s certainly one of the things I would be cautious of, that they’re not going to come in for six months and then disappear again.”
So, if you’ve had a high turn-over of jobs in recent years, ensure that you can justify the reasons for each of those moves in an interview. It’s always important to demonstrate some form of career progression or personal development each time you change roles.
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