During my coaching sessions, people often ask me what skill set they need to prepare for a CMO or VP of Marketing position. Another common question is “how to accelerate” the pace required to reach an executive position as early as possible.

To accelerate your career path, you have to be very strategic and intentional, but at the same time, it also depends on luck and timing. If someone reaches out serendipitously and you are ready mentally and emotionally with a wide array of experience in your arsenal, you can and should jump on the bandwagon. Boom, you just turbocharged your career!

Although I work with marketers on career planning, I tend to focus on a specific set of skills that people need to hone to “be ready” when opportunities strike. This is no different from how a second-string quarterback practices every day if he is called off the bench last-minute or how a dancer rehearses the choreography of different lead characters to be ready to take on the lead roles needed.

So, you need to be ready, but how?

Is there a checklist that you can review to contemplate the skill sets that you need to possess?

In general, I categorize the skills an executive needs in two ways:

  • Soft skills
  • Hard skills

Read more about the specific differences between soft and hard skills here.

It’s your responsibility to develop your soft skills continuously.

Soft skills are skills that you use to interact with others in the workplace.

These include:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Critical thinking
  • Attitude
  • Personality

Here is a complete list of soft skills for you to consider.

The best way to know the soft skills you need to develop is to get feedback from your team, peers, and managers.
Self-help books can be useful as you educate yourself, but it’s key to become aware of your specific styles, strengths, and weaknesses because no one knows you better than you do. I’ve also discovered that working with coaches helps; a bit of outside perspective is great for clarity.

Hard marketing skills you need to possess

Hard marketing skills are much more quantifiable than soft marketing skills as they focus more on things like planning and strategy. So, how do you go about determining which hard marketing skills are essential?

Kelly Ford Buckley, a general partner at Edison Partners (a VC firm), recently shared two slides that address the hard marketing skills you need.

Here’s a great profile on Kelly in Forbes from earlier this year.

She uses these two slides as a checklist to evaluate startups’ GTM (go-to-market) effectiveness. This assessment is one of the tools they utilize to help them decide which startups to invest in and how they can help startups create a solid marketing group.

I love these slides so much I’ve decided to share them with you.

Dissect marketing into seven categories

Kelly looks at marketing like a business person (which is how it should be). She talks about business strategy first, then the positioning of your products, as well as the overall marketing plan. Once you have your marketing plan, you need to hire the right talent, set up processes, and source tools and tech.

This is exactly how I envision marketing should be:

  • Start with your company’s business objectives
  • Use that as a base to craft your marketing plan (here is my two-pager template)
  • Hone in on your positioning (check out my messaging template)
  • Work as a team for processes, hiring, and building martech stack

Here are several relevant webinars you may find useful:

How Can Marketing Support Sales in A Changing Environment

How to Create a Messaging Framework that Resonates

Next-Level Marketing Strategy Guide for 2021 [Step-by-Step]

Here is the slide:

Marketing Categories Chart

Create a checklist in each category

Then, she goes on to break down essential elements in each category. When she showed the slide, I was like, OMG, this is AWESOME!

The slide below can easily be used to:

  1. Determine what you need to include in your marketing organization
  2. Circle the areas that you know well and the areas that you want to learn more about next

Check out the list!

As a consultant working with clients on various marketing plans and tactics, I’d say this is pretty comprehensive regarding what a marketing leader should retain and what needs to be covered as part of a modern marketing organization.

marketing categories detailed checklist

Plus, she puts everything into a framework that’s easy to comprehend.

I’ve talked about many of these elements in my blog posts, webinars, podcast episodes, workshops, and sessions. Check out my complete blog post and podcast titles on this knowledge page.

As a marketer, you don’t need to master all the hard skills, but you need to know how they integrate and relate to each other. You need to be able to connect the dots.

Also, select several hard skills and make sure that you know them very well so that they become your unique staple differentiators.

Listening, reading, and talking to others are all good starting points. However, the best way to learn is by doing. Immerse yourself in different marketing challenges and situations, or work with the team that does that.

To “own” your digital knowledge is to have a point of view. You can only have a point of view when you deeply (I mean deeply) understand the know-how. So take on challenges head-on to develop effective solutions. Ultimately, your failures become your knowledge. Your knowledge is indeed your superpower.

Questions for you:

Can you circle the areas you know well?
Can you check the boxes about the areas where you want to learn more?
What areas should be added to your marketing organization from this checklist?

If you need to brainstorm about marketing career skills, please book a call with me. It’s complimentary!


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