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Essential Soft Skills for Marketing Managers Career Success

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As a marketing manager, you’re passionate about all that is marketing. You have a lot of time invested in developing your hard skills; your education, professional development courses, and certifications. Late nights in the office are a welcomed — solemn — relief to the pressured, deadline driven, chaotic day where you’re tethered to a cubical — cloaked with personal memorabilia and empty Starbucks cups with dried foam from yesterday’s discarded lattes —all within the four walls of an understaffed marketing department. Heck, you may just be a marketing department of one — like an army of one.

The occasional — sacrificial — weekend chains you to projects or marketing campaigns that must be completed by Monday morning because if you are not done you are kindly reminded — by your sardonic boss — about the stack of resumes from past applicants all too eager to slide right into your position. Yet, you thirst for more. More challenges. More responsibility. You want to grow as a professional marketer with the aspiration of becoming a marketing director in a larger organization, a VP of marketing, or, better yet, a member of the highly coveted C-Suite — the holy grail of marketing positions — a CMO: Chief Marketing Officer. You have moxie and lots of it!

The path to the promised land — so you think — is to acquire more hard skills. You enroll in online courses — digital marketing, marketing analytics, data-driven marketing, behavioral economics, and on and on and on! You’re obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge: it’s the basis of your existence. You ruminate the idea, “the more I know, the faster I will climb! I am — after all — a marketer of one!”

It is not uncommon for marketing managers to think that the more knowledge they stuff in their cranium — about everything marketing — the easier and quicker it is for them to ascend the corporate ladder or land that next — dream — marketing job.

Unfortunately, packing on more hard skills does not — necessarily — guarantee access to the holy grail of marketing or that next job. A marketer’s hard skills are just a drop in 5-gallon bucket when in it comes to career advancement; okay — I exaggerated — it’s more like a drop in a 1-gallon bucket, but you get the idea.

Sixteen-percent of employers, according to CareerBuilder.com, believe that possessing soft skills are more important than having hard skills when it comes to employees getting hired or advancing their careers. Seventy-seven-percent say soft skills are just as important as hard skills. That leaves just a few “morsels” — 7% of employers — believing that hard skills are the only requirement for career success. That’s 93% of employers that place some or all of their value on hiring employees who have strong soft skills. This does not mean you can forego your education or training and advance your career — or be hired — on your “touchy feely” side. What it does mean is that – in addition to your hard skills — soft skills are a requirement for that dream job or career advancement. So, what exactly are soft skills? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Soft skills — as defined by the Oxford Dictionary of English — are “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.” So, if hard skills are the technical ability and factual knowledge, soft skills are the characteristics that make up our “human” — or as I call them, the touchy-feely — side such as common sense, flexibility, positive attitude, interpersonal skills, etc. The soft skills are the core competencies that can make or break a career, not to mention, keep you from ever reaching the promised land: that special seat in the C-Suite executive lounge.

The National Soft Skills Association — interestingly, there exists such an association —identifies 10 top soft skills for career success: dependability, motivation, communication, commitment, creativity, problem-solving, flexibility, teamwork, leadership, and time management. With the help of colleagues in the marketing profession, I identify an additional 13 soft skills that are essential for marketing managers serious about their career growth. Drum roll please…and they are:

Growth Mindset

The ability and desire to focus attention on self-improvement over changing or blaming others. Marketing managers with a growth mindset can look at adverse situations and learn from them versus viewing the difficult situation as a failure that leads to their defeat. Marketers are often faced with adversity and difficulty on the job. Sometimes ridiculed by peers or superiors over failed campaigns. Seeking solutions rather than blame in these situations poises the marketing manager for a growth mindset.

Self-Awareness

It’s like common sense for the self. Marketers with self-awareness understand their driving forces: what angers, motivates, inspires, embarrasses, or frustrates them. Observing yourself objectively — during difficult situations — and understanding how your perceptions of yourself, others, and the situation drive your behavior and actions.

High Emotional Intelligence
As a marketing manager, you deal with multiple personalities — daily.  Your resolve is tested with every campaign you direct. You may deal with unruly sales professionals, superiors who try and play marketing manager — giving you misguided direction — and peers who like to throw in their unsolicited ideas. All of these personalities require a high degree of emotional intelligence. That is, they require you to think clearly and objectively without reacting in an adverse manner.  This means check your ego!

Self-Confidence

Marketing managers need to believe in themselves and their abilities to accomplish marketing objectives. Nothing kills the credibility of a marketing professional — or anyone else for that matter — than a lack of confidence. Companies spend a lot of money on marketing initiatives. If your superiors do not believe you have confidence in creating effective marketing initiatives that help navigate the organization in a forward and profitable direction. Guess what? You don’t have a job.

Resilience

There are and will be plenty of disappointments in marketing. Even the most seasoned professionals encounter failure and disappointment on the job. But what sets those at the top apart from those who will never get there is resilience. You need to bounce back after a disappointing setback no matter how big or small. You need to stay focused on the mission — business objectives — and learn from your setback, continuing the journey forward.

Persistence

Maintaining consistent energy and dedication in all that you do, learn, and achieve in your day-to-day operations and your career, despite setbacks, failures, and oppositions. Persistence is about getting up day after day and working toward the mission despite the obstacle and roadblocks that try to derail your efforts.

Perceptiveness
Marketers deal with people daily. It’s part of the job. You need to pay attention to the unspoken cues, developing cognitive or empathy for other people’s situation and perspective. You will receive a lot of input on projects you did not ask for. You need to set aside your thoughts about how you feel or what you will say next and allow room to understand the actions and intentions of others around you. If you fail to understand other people’s intentions, you may encounter difficulties with them and not even know why.

Presentation Skills/Public Speaking

Marketers are considered — by many organizations — as a spokesperson for the company, especially in organizations that lack a communications director. As the marketing manager, you need to effectively present your work to organizational stakeholders. Public speaking is part of this soft skill. Even though you may have a great stage presence and speak eloquently, you will need to also present information and ideas in a way that engages and motivates your audience.

Sales Skills

It’s no secret that in many organizations sales and marketing do not get along. However, as a marketing manager, you need to possess some sales skills for two reasons: to understand the process your sales team undergoes when working with customers and because as a marketing manager you need to sell your ideas, decisions, or actions to your team or organizational peers.

Mentoring

If you are not a marketing department of one, that is the only marketing professional within the organization, chances are you were working with a team. You may be the leader within your department and keeping your minions on task is key to your success. Additionally, you need to not only act as their supervisor, but their coach, providing them with constructive wisdom, guidance, and constant feedback that helps them perform their role effectively and leads them to individual success.

Interpersonal skills

Perhaps one of the most important soft skills of the entire list is this one — interpersonal skills. This skill is effective at building trust and healthy relationships with peers, vendors, and customers. It’s the glue that binds all other soft skills on this list.

 

Now, we come to the big question, can you learn these soft skills? Yes, you can, however, some of these soft skills can prove to be a challenge, depending on your personality type.  As an example, if you are an introvert, public speaking may not be the easiest to grasp right off the bat. I suggest that you list the soft skills you need help with most and begin to tackle those first. Once you have mastered a soft skill, move on to the next one, and so forth. I also recommend that you enlist a friend, colleague, or life coach as a mentor to help gauge and support your learning. I am living proof that with effort, time, and persistence — one of the essential soft skills — you too can achieve your soft skill Bodhisattva.

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