In a nutshell: Marketing is complex, and it takes serious dedication to be a savvy marketer. Think about anyone you admire in the field. It can be a peer, boss, or industry expert. They all carry the same common trait at the heart of their approach, a growth mindset.
Marketing is complex, and it takes serious dedication to be a savvy marketer. Good marketers are viewed by those they serve (either company execs or clients if you work on the agency side) as trusted partners, but the best marketers are viewed as marketing strategists and trusted advisors.
How can you achieve that status? Think about anyone you admire in the field. It can be a peer, boss, or industry expert. They all carry the same common trait at the heart of their approach, a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck, a popular American psychologist and Stanford professor, concluded that success comes from having a growth mindset, meaning the continued ability to learn and improve. You must have the right mindset to grow. It’s more important than intelligence, talent, or education. When I first heard of Carol’s research on this topic, I didn’t immediately have an epiphany that it is at the heart of great marketers. I learned that through experience and by failing along my journey.
The fundamentals of marketing don’t change. But what changes are consumer behavior, macroeconomic factors, market dynamics, competitive threats, technology, etc. The world around marketing is ever-changing. And to thrive, we can’t carry a fixed approach to how we market. Great marketers explore, push boundaries, and welcome the challenge of shifting their own thinking and that of those around them.
My three tips to foster a growth mindset are:
- Seek feedback
- Reject limitations
There are so many case studies on great ad campaigns detailing their allure, ingenious thinking, and success. But the experimentation it took to have such a great outcome is often not highlighted or evaluated in those stories.
My go-to recommendation for experimentation is to test your work. Sure, you can do small-scale testing via A/B tests in the market or by trying a new approach live in the field if you can take that kind of risk. But failing in the market can be painful. And if you have any time under your belt in marketing, you’ve failed in a real-world setting too. It’s a battle scar we all carry.
It’s quite simple to set up a test. The best approach is to leverage a quantitative method. Drop your marketing ideas into an online survey, send it out to your target audiences, and see what they think. More specifically, you should ask questions regarding the following attributes: overall reaction, visuals, understandability, believability, attention-generation ability, quality of information, and resonance. The result will output a ranking and detailed attribute scoring. It’s best practice to insert a few open-ended questions as well to get qualitative feedback by asking respondents to detail why they ranked and/or scored things a certain way.
If you’re short on time, we recommend qualitative work at a minimum. You can do this officially through online focus groups or in-depth interviews. A good rule of thumb is to talk to at least eight people that fit your key demographic. Once you get to that number, you’ll start to see patterns and get a good sense of what’s hitting the mark.
If you’re short on money, pick up the phone and talk to real customers or people who fit the customer profile. They could be a friend from college, a neighbor, or a stranger at the grocery store. Don’t overcomplicate the work. Share the creative concepts, ask what they think, and listen intently.
In closing on this tip, remember that good marketers don’t have to be the smartest folks in the room, only the most curious. Go experiment and don’t forget to have a little fun along the way.
Marketing requires a focus on continuous improvement. As is the case with anything in life, you can look in the metaphorical mirror to see what can be improved. You can also look at marketing metrics and sales reporting. But the best way to get insights on improving is to ask others in the business for feedback.
Other folks in the business will want you to succeed, as marketing helps the collective organization. So, ask them what you’re doing well and where you missed the mark. While the truth may sting, there’s no better motivation for making the necessary repairs and renovations.
Yes, let’s acknowledge that the biggest pet peeve of all marketers is that everyone is a marketer. But check your ego at the door and ask for their point of view. They might share an angle you missed or hit an industry insight you still need to hear. It would be best if you did this for work before it goes to market.
Ask others on the marketing team for their point of view, including company leadership, product, and best of all, sales. Why sales? They are on the front lines with customers and do their own form of persuasion daily. The insights they have on the market and the ideas they can share to inspire your work are invaluable.
A closing reminder for this tip: Marketing work can be stressful, filled with risk, and have a high clock speed. And deadlines and organizational pressure create more pressure for you. When things go sideways or aren’t successful, the marketing team can often be a scapegoat. If that happens, suppress emotions and leverage logic. What’s the data on the situation? What are the facts? Did we screw up? Call it out, whatever the truth, and lean into the feedback. Learn from it and grow from there.
Marketing is a team sport, but it also requires individual effort. You must effortlessly move from team mode to “I must make this happen.” And to truly thrive, you must reject all limitations that are placed in front of you and the team.
You can do this by fostering an environment that calls out biases and seeks to illuminate blind spots. You must directly acknowledge that you might have self-imposed limitations to greater success—a goal that can’t be beaten, a challenge that can’t be overcome, or a barrier you can’t move past.
It’s your job—not through the power of hope or manifestation, but through action—to reject limitations and embrace possibilities. “Take the wheel” to drive to a worthy destination like impressing your C-suite or perhaps issuing a return punch to a cocky competitor. Get out there and be optimistic about doing all you can to grow and improve. And why is optimism essential? Not only is it contagious, but it also just feels better.
To close this tip up, know that all marketing is about going from good to great. Yes, some marketing sells fear, but the vast majority sells hope. You are triggering emotion and tapping into what’s possible. If you don’t believe in your own improvement, how can you expect to sell it to others?
Remember, growth is a choice. The best marketers strive to exceed expectations, reject limitations, and inspire everyone around them to chase greatness. Thrilling, right?