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The Real Poop

You like to imagine yourself as Don Draper or Peggy Olson, wowing clients with creative advertising campaigns, burning through 60 cigarettes a day, and chugging adult beverages on the job. Your strength lies in your vision, in your ability to take a product or service and turn it into something that every consumer longs to possess. Does this sound like you? If so, you're probably marketing management material.

As a marketing manager, you'll likely be employed by a larger company at the beginning of your career, one with lots of different products, services, and/or clients, to:

  • Figure out what it is that people want to buy, and why
  • Identify markets for your company’s products and services
  • Plan marketing campaigns and build marketing strategies
  • Come up with pricing strategies so your company can rake in more money and market share than it already has
  • Monitor ongoing campaigns and tweak or kill them as needed

"Hold the phone!" you might be thinking.  "That sounds boring. What about all the creative stuff you're supposed to do in marketing?"

Well, marketing managers are creative, although not in the way you might think. You won't be the person inventing that memorable Super Bowl commercial or catchy product slogan. Instead, you’'e the one who keeps the big picture in mind, and then works with individuals from your company's product development, marketing, and sales teams to come up with the best product or service, the best product launch, and the best way to sell a service to consumers. You're a manager, remember? You hold the reins while your peons do the work.

In other words, this isn't a job for amateurs. You’re going to need a decade of experience in marketing, sales, public relations, or an affiliated field to become a marketing manager. You're also going to want a bachelor's degree (probably in marketing) and possibly an MBA.

As a marketing manager, you come to the game with a diverse skillset:

  • You’re analytical. You monitor trends and collect and evaluate data. Numbers don't scare you in the least, and that's a good thing, because loving data and analytics is what will put you over the top in this line of work.
  • You're decisive. You look at the research, and then choose the most profitable path for your company.
  • You're a good communicator. Marketing is all about getting a specific message across, and you're a master at this.
  • You're a people person. You effectively collaborate with lots of different people: your marketing underlings, sales and product development teams, and company executives. You also understand how consumers think.
  • You're well-organized. You have no problem keeping track of information, budgets, deadlines, and the tasks you've delegated to your minions.

All kinds of different industries—tech, manufacturing, insurance, and finance, to name a few—employ marketing teams and, by extension, marketing managers. Because this position requires so much in the way of experience and ability, and because the work performed often directly impacts company revenue, the median salary for marketing managers comes in at right around $120k. You can buy a whole lot of Starbucks coffee with that kind of cash. What's even better is that marketing management positions are here to stay: Companies are always going to rely on you to tell them which markets to suck dry next.

Of course, while marketing managers enjoy great pay and a stable job market, this position has its downsides, namely stress. So much stress. You’re often going to find yourself working more than 40 hours a week as you struggle to make deadlines and fit in meetings with clients.

The thing that's likely to drive you nuts, however, is that whether or not a product or service is successful, and therefore a moneymaker for your company, will often fall on your shoulders. After all, you're the person who chooses which products are desired by the public and which aren't. You’re the person who decides where the product should be sold, who the target audience is, and what the product’s price should be. You're the person who provides information and guidance that your colleagues will build their marketing and sales strategies around. And, if there's a screw-up, it could be your head on the chopping block.

Survive this marketing management baptism by fire, and there’s always the chance you'll find yourself CEO of the company someday, with a golden parachute and a Swedish lingerie model on each arm.

If you'd rather not have such a high-stakes job, however, here are some other options you could pursue:

  • Art director: For those who’d rather create distinctive visuals than manage the big picture those visuals are a part of. Also, art directors work for advertising agencies, not in corporate marketing departments.
  • Market research analyst: For those who'd prefer to provide data and analytics to marketing managers instead of making decisions based on said data and analytics
  • Sales managers: For those who are more into actually interacting with consumers and clients
  • Public relations specialist: For those who’d rather maintain a company's image than market a specific product or service to the public












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