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What Does it Take to be the Head of Marketing?

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What Does it Take to be the Head of Marketing?

Imagine this… you wake up one morning and are told that you’re running a marathon that day. You have not prepared for the marathon, but you need to head to the starting line within an hour.

Running this marathon was not your idea. You have considered running one in the past, but have never thought beyond the “conceptual” stage of the process. Before now you had no plan other than “I want to complete a marathon at some point in my life,” but now it has to happen today. 

The only thing you know, and are being told by everyone important to you, is that you must compete right now, and you need to do your best to win.

Is your heart racing yet? Can you feel the anxiety and anticipation prickling the back of your neck? How could you possibly succeed at a task that typically requires foresight, months or even years of planning and preparation, and would be a difficult, grueling affair even the BEST circumstances?

Congratulations! You’re a Head of Marketing. You are in charge of taking someone else’s idea and getting it across a finish line that is far off in the distance. You have been given a product to sell and an objective to meet, and the rest is up to you.

Once you are promoted to this position, whether it’s as a business owner, VP, marketing manager, or even a lowly intern whose new boss is blissfully unaware of the complexities of digital marketing (You can do facebook, right?), the task is similar to being told that you need to run a marathon right now.

The good news is that if you’ve been doing any form of marketing for any amount of time, you’re more prepared for this position than you think (if you have absolutely no experience, get certified now).

In our marathon example, imagine that while you haven’t been planning on running a marathon today, you’ve at least been training consistently; what you need is a strategy, advice from people who ARE prepared, and a mindset to get the job done.

The Head of Marketing position may be both challenging and demanding, but it is equally vital, rewarding, and doable with the right plan. You have been granted the opportunity to steer the direction of an entire brand, and in many circumstances, entire companies. The future is in your hands, and this article will give you the basic information you need to excel.

Need a Marketing Strategy? Start with the 1-Page Marketing Blueprint. Click here

What Does a Head of Marketing Do?

When people imagine executives, owners, and “bosses,” most don’t think about anyone actually doing anything. They picture strategy planning, meetings, and delegation to hordes of capable professionals who will do the grunt work.

That is NOT the Head of Marketing.

The Head of Marketing is a DOER. It all comes down to four core elements: Strategy, Execution, Measurement, and Optimization.

  • Define and articulate an effective strategy
  • Execute that strategy across departments
  • Accurately measure the effectiveness of that plan, and…
  • Optimize the strategy to achieve the defined goals 

A Head of Marketing could be a VP of Marketing, a Director of Marketing, or even a Marketing Manager in some companies. But unlike a Chief Marketing Officer (who focuses more on brand, communications, and budget allocations) Heads of Marketing focus on execution and results.

In other words, Heads of Marketing actually DO marketing, which is why Heads of Marketing are in such high demand.

What are the Roles & Responsibilities of the Head of Marketing?

What are the Roles & Responsibilities of the Head of Marketing?

The roles and responsibilities of the Head of Marketing relate to creating a marketing strategy, executing that strategy, measuring how effective it was, and optimizing it to achieve your goals.

While the scope of the work may sound daunting, chances are you’ve been managing each of these aspects already, just in a narrower capacity.

If you’re a media buyer, you’ve probably created and executed a paid ad campaign, measured the results through a series of A/B testing, and adjusted your strategy to achieve your desired ROI. You’ll be using a similar process as the Head of Marketing, you’ll just be expanding it to include the other methods of marketing.

What are the methods of marketing you’ll be employing? While it will really depend on your industry, business, and objectives, it will include a mix of the following:

  • Paid Traffic Management
  • Analytics & Data Management
  • Optimization & Testing Management
  • E-Commerce Management (if applicable)
  • Email Marketing Management
  • Conversion Funnel Management
  • Search (SEO) Marketing Management
  • Community Management
  • Social Media Management
  • Content Marketing Management

In some cases, as the Head of Marketing you may be responsible for strategizing, executing, measuring, and optimizing all of the above yourself. Sounds unrealistic but we’ve trained people to do so before. More likely you’ll have a team of people to help, although managing people can be just as difficult, it’s the only way you’ll be able to scale in most situations.

Either way, you need an overarching strategy to coordinate and execute everything, and unlike your subordinates, you’ll need to communicate your strategy and results to the owners of the company and your fellow executives.

How Much Do Heads of Marketing Make?

You probably want me to say something like “$250k plus bonuses… MINIMUM,” but this role doesn’t work like that.

Technically, the average Head of Marketing annual salary in the US is $114,150 and there are 4,625 positions currently available with that title.

The problem is that the role “Head of Marketing” is not necessarily a position. Like I said before, a Head of Marketing could be a VP of Marketing, a Director of Marketing, or even a Marketing Manager. The important differentiator is that the Head of Marketing is responsible for both execution and results.


“Heads of Marketing should get paid six figures because they generate seven figures. Hiring a Head of Marketing is not a cost, it’s an investment that you can absolutely ROI.”

Ryan Deiss, President of DigitalMarketer


What Kind of Experience Should a Head of Marketing Have?

What experience Heads of Marketing SHOULD have, and what they HAVE, are two wildly different things. Like I said, many small businesses will inadvertently assign this position to lowly receptionists when they put them in charge of their websites and social media presence.

Should you have as much experience as possible as a marketing professional? Yup. Should you build a company based on your ability to market goods and services? Sure. Should you work your way up through the ranks of marketers within a large corporation? That’d be great.

Is all of this experience completely necessary? Not if you you have a solid strategy, the will to execute, and ideally, some experienced Heads of Marketing to guide you.

The good news is that most of the methods you’ll use (see the Roles & Responsibilities answer above) have established best practices that can be followed. You just need an overarching strategy and management techniques to control the process.

Do You Need a Marketing Degree to Be a Head of Marketing?

Nope! Like most degrees, a marketing degree is only worth as much as you’re willing to get out of it. Can it give you some guidance in regards to basic strategy and the history of marketing in general? Yes! Is it going to show you exactly what is necessary to succeed as the Head of Marketing? Probably not.

Marketing changes every day, week, month, and year. New platforms and methods constantly shift the marketing landscape, and when combined with economic, political, and societal changes, the chances that you’ll learn something today that will apply 10 years from now is slim.

That said, the one thing that doesn’t change is the journey you need to take your potential customers on… from being totally unaware of your brand to becoming a customer to becoming a raving, long time follower and advocate. We call that journey the Customer Value Journey.

Combine that with mentorship from experienced and successful heads of marketing, and you have an advantage over almost everyone on the market.

What Was My Journey as a Head of Marketing?

I’ve been working as the Head of Marketing in some capacity for the last two decades. My experience ranges from business owner to marketing executive to content manager then back to business owner and finally back to executive. I’ve managed teams, outsourced components overseas, and built entire campaigns from scratch including brand, website, photography, videography, graphic design, and execution.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the benefit of the courses, certifications, bootcamps, and communities that DigitalMarketer facilitates. Most of the time I was so “in the weeds” that I couldn’t stop to think about the overarching strategy I was executing at any given moment.

I was simply surviving, and each success lived independently of every other success, meaning that I wasn’t building on anything.

You don’t need to work hard for 20 years to be a successful Head of Marketing. You just need some guidance… and that’s exactly what DigitalMarketer is here for.



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.



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