17 Tips for Marketing Leaders Who Want to Level Up

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tips for marketing leaders

The marketing and PR industry is constantly shifting. Good marketers stay informed about industry trends, know how to adapt to industry changes, and can develop innovative strategies. However, the best marketers know that it takes more than numbers to be successful. You need people, strong relationships, and a clear and authentic message to coincide with your marketing strategy. If you want to be a successful marketing leader, you need to be able to do both. 

Here’s Zen Media’s list of 17 tips for marketing leaders who want to level up: 

  1. Use your story—not just your analytics.

It’s been said over and over, but your brand’s story is the driving force behind building connections with your audience. Sure, the analytics you pull in from expert data collection can help tell you where your audience is and when and how they want to be communicated to, but, in the end, people are sold on emotional connections. Telling your story in a way that creates value for the consumer—and shows them you are more than just making a sale—is the way forward. 

  1. Be authentic and intentional.

According to Stackla, 88 percent of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support. Consumers—especially Millennials and Gen Z—want brands that are honest. They want to support values they believe in, and the easiest way to show them your brand aligns with their values is to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. It’s easy to say you’re investing in eco-friendly products, but it’s another thing entirely to rework your production process to cut your carbon footprint in half. 

  1. Trust your team and delegate tasks.

Marketing leaders must be able to articulate their strategy clearly. As the head of a team, you may think you need to get into the weeds on every project. “What kind of manager doesn’t have their finger on the pulse of everything?” you may think. But managers who don’t delegate get overloaded and lost. Don’t get lost in tactics—keep your eye on the big picture. Your job as a leader is to let your team execute the building blocks while you course correct and pivot as necessary to get your campaign off the ground. 

  1. Balance short-term and long-term goals. 

Similar to the tip above, balancing short- and long-term goals is imperative for marketing leaders. Yes, getting that press hit, amplifying it, and turning it into even more news is crucial, but how does that tactic fit into your long-term strategy? Are you building a rapport with journalists in your industry? Are you growing your thought leadership? Are more eyes seeing your hits? 

  1. Surround yourself with the right people.

Without all of Zen’s in-house subject matter experts, our agency couldn’t function as efficiently and effectively as it does. But hiring the right people begins with understanding what goes into the role you are hiring. So, no, you don’t have to be a PPC expert to hire one, but you should give that role a try. As a marketing leader, you need to understand how a role needs to function, the best metrics to measure, and even some initial troubleshooting before you hire someone else to fill the spot. Not only does this allow you to give an accurate representation of the role you’re hiring for to candidates, but it allows you to evaluate candidates more specifically based on the direct needs you’ve identified for your team.

  1. Treat those people with respect. 

And once you find those fantastic subject matter experts, respect them. Trust them. At Zen, we have firm commitments to DEI initiatives, remote work, and fair pay. Only 0.1% of agencies in North America are women-owned. As a woman- and BIPOC-owned company, we have a commitment to not only welcome but celebrate diversity, including the many ways people are productive team members. One of those priorities is diversity of thought. We never have one person doing the job of more than one person. (Yes, this means that your social media manager, PPC specialist, and graphic designer shouldn’t be the same person! If you’ve found a unicorn, congrats, but don’t drink their blood! We all know how that worked out for Voldemort.) 

Related reading: What It’s Like To Be a Woman-Owned PR Agency

  1. Network. Network. Network. 

Even if you aren’t hiring, surrounding yourself with the right people and treating them with respect is the name of the game. It’s just called networking. If you approach each new relationship with a service-minded attitude (i.e., “How can I help this person?” rather than “How can this person help me?”), you’re more likely to build genuine, long-lasting relationships. This is as true for business partnerships as it is for customer retention. 

But, in the realm of upskilling as a marketing leader, meeting new people and understanding how you can help solve their problems could lead to potential partnerships. Is there a swap of services you could manage for one another? Perhaps they really need to get and leverage earned media and you could use accounting support. Or maybe there’s an overlap in audiences, and you could share each other’s content with your respective audiences? 

  1. Take risks, and weather the storm. 

In times of economic uncertainty, one of the first things to get cut is often the marketing budget. But as a marketing leader, you know this is the wrong move. Pulling back on marketing in times of upheaval just leaves your brand more vulnerable. In fact, companies that invest during these times reap the benefits. While the big brands can afford to lose some visibility to save millions on ad placement, that leaves a lot of gaps for content. Good marketing leaders know how to identify opportunities in the storm, not just batten down the hatches and wait it out. 

Related reading: Prospects ghosting you? Pipeline dry? Sales cycle taking longer? Never fear-this is actually a GREAT time for you!

  1. Embrace the power of dark social. 

We’ve been talking about dark social for a while around here. But if you’re new to the term, it refers to the ubiquitous practice of sharing content privately—like Slacking your teammates, WhatsApping your college buddies, and Facebook messaging your grandma. Dark social is where decisions get made. That means that the majority of your sales funnel will be “dark” to you—you won’t be able to measure it. 

The sooner marketing leaders embrace the power of dark social rather than fighting to measure every metric, the sooner they can leverage dark social to build their community.

  1. Prioritize sales-enabled PR over traditional PR. 

One-press-hit wonders are a thing of the past. As a marketing leader, your brand needs to prioritize sales-enabled PR over traditional PR. Sales-enabled PR integrates earned media wins throughout the entire sales cycle. How can you get so many press hits? Easy. Use the longtail PR strategy by saying yes to smaller, niche press opportunities rather than prioritizing a handful of tier-one placements. Sure, Forbes, Inc., and Fast Company are great PR boosters but don’t discount the ability to build a strong brand from a groundswell.

  1. Be brand consistent. 

Brand consistency is key when it comes to building frequency bias. Frequency bias creates a sense of familiarity, which, in turn, builds trust. Trust converts prospects to customers. The more someone sees and resonates with your brand, the more they’ll believe they can rely on it to get the job done—whether that’s implementing cybersecurity measures for their new offices or hiring their next rockstar employee. 

  1. Meaningful > Measurable.

With the ever-growing number of analytics tools, it can be difficult to discern which tools are necessary and which metrics really matter. Differentiating the meaningful from the simply measurable will save your team time and money. Just because you can measure and track something doesn’t mean it is meaningful or effective knowledge for your brand. 

A perfect example? Click-through rate (CTR). A high click-through rate by no means indicates a similarly high level of meaningful engagement, but it’s incredibly easy to measure, and a high one can make a campaign look good when presented strategically. 

  1. Invest for the long haul. 

Did you know it takes five to eight impressions for someone remembers a brand name—and 27 touchpoints before a prospect converts? If you aren’t investing in your audience for the long haul, you discount potential lifelong consumers simply because they didn’t show interest as quickly or as clearly as you thought they should. 

Related reading: How PR Shortens the Sales Cycle

Investing in your audience for the long term means actively listening and responding to their questions, concerns, and ideas. Show them you are invested and interested in what they think of you; then take action and show them that you mean it. 

  1. Know how to leverage your data and reevaluate regularly.

While we caution against relying so much on your data at the expense of creativity and authenticity, knowing how to leverage the right data is imperative. But what is even more important is the commitment to reevaluating your strategies and metrics. In our rapidly changing world, the things that worked last week may not work the same today. The only way marketers can become successful—and stay successful—is by testing, adapting, and transforming. 

  1. Stay humble. 

Remember that PR and marketing aren’t outlets for bragging and patting yourself on the back—and remind your clients of this! PR and marketing are devices for you and your clients to share stories, talk about failures and how to overcome them, discuss gaps in the market and how brands can fill them, and highlight the positive impact the brand has had in their community. 

Think of it this way: If you had a megaphone and 100 strangers in front of you, you probably wouldn’t scream, “Hey! Look how great I am!” to get (and keep) their attention. Certainly, they’ll turn around, but they’ll likely be more annoyed than interested. But if you use that megaphone to talk about solutions to real-life business problems and highlight the leaders in your company who are making things happen, then you are adding value. 

  1. Know your strengths (and weaknesses).

Marketing leaders must be constant students—always learning so that they can adapt to the marketplace demands. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses also means being able to hire the right people (#5!) so you can fill the gaps where necessary. When interacting with clients, knowing your strengths and weaknesses means identifying when you shouldn’t handle something in-house. There’s no shame in outsourcing specific parts of your marketing strategy simply because you aren’t an expert in the area. If you aren’t a media relations specialist, recognize that and outsource your PR to someone who is (or hire one in-house). 

  1. Keep it zen.

Every minute something in marketing changes. An algorithm. Public opinion. Best practices. It’s easy to completely lose your mind. So, above all, keep it zen. Get comfortable in the fluctuations and you will eventually be ahead of the trend curve—if you’re paying attention!  

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