What makes a good marketer? 6 experts share their tips

Angela Lin
Angela is a Data Science and English major at UC Berkeley who juggles interests in machine learning with short fiction. Outside of writing blog posts, she can be found painting Bay Area views or trying new recipes.

What is a marketer?

You’ll often hear that the best marketers wear many hats. At its core, marketing is making your product or brand more attractive for your target audience. This job often goes hand-in-hand with sales, product development, customer relations, and other areas. On top of that, evolving customer preferences and new technology makes marketing an ever-changing field.  

So what are employers looking for in their next marketer? After listening to our conversations with different marketing leaders, I’ve boiled it down to the 4 things that matter most. 

1. Know your customer and be an active listener

Empathy. That's what marketing teams are looking for today. They need people who can see things from the eyes of the customer to really understand their needs and wants. Here’s what that looks like for these four marketing teams.  

What functionality does our customer need?

We spoke with Chris Churilo, the VP of Marketing at Zilliz, a database company that provides AI technology to its customers. For Chris, the focus is on understanding what developers are actually building today. That way, they know how to design and market their product to target common pain points that users are experiencing.

What problem are we solving for customers?

Ben Aquillino, Director of Product Management, stresses the importance of interacting with customers and not hesitating to ask them questions. “You have to have the aptitude to actually understand the pain points, find patterns, draw conclusions and then come up with solutions,” Ben says. Although his advice is for people on the product side, the first piece about understanding what your customer is also super relevant for marketers.

What are we hearing from our users?

One way to get to know your customers is by building relationships with them.  Arpan Jhaveri, VP of Marketing at CoderPad, transitioned from Software Engineering to Product Marketing because he loved interacting with customers and understanding what they needed. His advice for succeeding on their marketing team is to be a great listener, be hyper-customer focused, and get into the weeds of defining the right problem.

What type of content will resonate?

Nikkayla Page, Head of Marketing and Comms at Thyme Care, is looking for an expert storyteller. Her team needs a marketer that can own the voice of their brand, tell their customer stories, and share their data. By telling a more defined story, Nikkayla hopes that their content will resonate more deeply with their audience and make a larger tangible impact.

Main takeaway: these conversations all focus on one common theme, the customer. And the job for marketers often starts with listening. What does our target audience need and how do we target our messaging to reach them? The rest of the skills we outline in this article really rely on understanding the customer first.  

2. Cross-functional collaboration

As we discussed in our intro, marketing is a broad role that requires collaborating with other teams to find success. Emily Kurze is the Director of Marketing at Zilliz, and she believes that a great teammate is someone who's really flexible and can pick up new skills. Regardless of job title, everyone on the team is open to helping out in different parts of the company. 

Cross-functional collaboration is also a key skill to be successful at Udemy’s Product Marketing Team. Will Lopez Flores, a Product Marketing Manager, describes how his ideal teammate is someone who can be both the voice of the customer and the voice of the product. 

3. Strategize and execute

A marketing strategy answers the “how” of how you’ll reach your goals. It defines your budget, target audience, messaging, primary channels, and success metrics. A strong marketing strategy should be adaptable and help you differentiate your brand in the market.

Marketing strategies will look different depending on where the company is and what it needs. For example, an early stage company is looking for someone who can really build something from the ground up and plan long-term and short-term strategies. 

In our conversation, Will says he’s looking for someone who can build a Go-to-market strategy. This sets helps to set your product apart from competitors and creates alignment for the whole team.

But, Nikkayla stresses the importance of not only being strategic, but also knowing how to bring that strategy to life. So while a solid marketing strategy is key, it’s also important to have the skills to put the plan into action and monitor its success. For instance, Arpan says it’s very critical for people on the Growth team to be hyper analytical in order to measure results. 

4. Be proactive and self-motivated

What character traits and personalities are hiring teams trying to recruit? Well on Thyme Care’s Marketing Team, they’re looking for what they call an athlete – someone who can be flexible, identify opportunities, and execute strategies. Nikkayla describes how their ideal marketer is thinking ahead and doesn’t necessarily need to be briefed in on something before they start. 

And this aligns perfectly with what Chris is looking for on their marketing team. Zilliz needs people that do the right thing without waiting to be told and can act on opportunities. She says this is especially important for startups, but it’s also true at any company or team. 

Final takeaways

If you want to be a successful marketer, start with these four pieces of advice: listen to your customer, work cross-functionally, strategize, and always be proactive. A strong marketing team is essential across all different types of companies and industries. I hope this helps you find your next team or thrive in your current role. 

And if things ever get too overwhelming, tune in to this wonderful career advice from Chris on how to stay grounded (because I certainly will).

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