There’s always room for improvement, even at the top of the organizational food chain.

Maybe you want a bigger slice of the annual budget so you can pull off unique and creative campaigns. Perhaps you want to build your personal brand alongside that of your brand. Or you could simply be angling for a promotion.

No matter the reason, it’s clear that marketing VPs are just as driven to succeed as other members of the company. And just like everyone else, you need to demonstrate the value you deliver in your current role and the promise of success you’ll bring into your next position.

This can be done by developing several core skills that, if mastered, help you and your brand stand out from the pack.

Let’s do a quick review.

Top Skills for Marketing VPs

Research and strategy

Life at the executive level is all about information. C-suite execs cannot and should not make strategic decisions without hard data to back them up, and as a VP of marketing, it’s your job to know all of it back to front. There are several skills that help in this:

  • Strategic thinking and planning. One of your foremost responsibilities as a marketing VP is to be able to think beyond the immediate future and predict potential outcomes, trends, and opportunities based on existing information—not just for marketing, but for the organization as a whole. This ability to tie details to the bigger picture and plan accordingly is what sets you apart from line managers, who are more concerned with ground-level execution.
  • Competitive analysis. Marketing VPs cannot afford to be ignorant or dismissive of their competitors. Tracking your online marketing performance across social media, for instance, can open up opportunities for new campaigns, or expose new channels you’d not previously considered. It can also serve as a means to assess new markets without investing your own marketing dollars.
  • Data management and analytics. You need to be able to evaluate your department’s data collection, management, and analysis processes to ensure that the C-suite is acting on the right information. For example, are you tracking conversions using the single-attribution model or multi-touch attribution? If so, what kind of touch points are you tracking and what marketing automation software are you using to do it?

    When you become intimately familiar with your data and know how to present it, you’ll develop a reputation as the person with all the answers. The board will come to rely on you for every major decision, because your recommendations are based on facts and hard numbers.

Managing up

Ambitious marketing VPs have to be good at managing their superiors; especially in an environment where you’re competing with other VPs for attention and resources. You need to be more than a sycophant. You need to be an equal. This requires you to develop the skills that will help you navigate executive politics and demonstrate your value to the organization.

Skills like:

  • Presentation skills. As a VP you’re going to be called upon to do plenty of presentations in front of the C-suite, so you’d better get good at it. Practice your presentation skills and learn how to be charming, convincing and concise. Be comfortable with answering questions under pressure, and always have important information on hand if not memorized.

    One beneficial offshoot of this skill is public speaking. VPs who excel at speaking on stage can represent the company at industry conferences and trade shows, which increases your visibility both inside and outside the organization and builds up your own personal brand.

  • Negotiating. Whether it’s asking your CFO for a bigger budget or discussing an agency contract, you should be able to get the most out of an agreement without compromising your position. Just be careful not to alienate the other party. Relationships are important at this level, and you can’t afford to make too many enemies.
  • People and networking skills. Speaking of relationships, great marketing VPs are gifted at developing strong ties both inside and outside the organization. If you’re the type of person who enjoys meeting new people and catching up with old colleagues, then you probably have a strong network that can deliver value to the business.

Managing down

As trite as it sounds, VPs are only as good as the department supporting them. Without a team of competent, trained, and motivated marketers working for you, you’ll be hard-pressed to bring anything worth mentioning to the executive table. It’s essential for you to possess the skills necessary to lead a team to success.

  • Staffing and organization. It all begins with ensuring you have good people in the first place. While low-level recruitment can be handled by HR and middle management, VPs should at least be involved in—and excel at—assessing the needs of the organization and hiring with the intent toward fulfilling those goals. This includes reviewing your current org chart and restructuring or retraining the team accordingly.

    You should also be flexible and adaptable in terms of how you get the resources you need. Most marketing departments don’t have much of a hiring budget, and so have to either hire or develop people with multiple skill sets. If that’s not possible, try outsourcing as much of the work as you can to contractors or agencies.

  • Leadership and employee management. As a VP of Marketing, you will still be in close contact with many of the people on your team, and as such need to develop top-notch leadership skills. Knowing how to motivate people and bring out their best effort is just as important as knowing the right go-to-market strategy.

    Marketers thrive in an environment that encourages new ideas and tolerates failure. It’s an incubator for the best and most effective marketing campaigns, and it’s your job as a VP to nurture this kind of thinking and work ethic—as long as it’s appropriate to the business.

Products and customers

Marketers—even marketing VPs—are not required to know everything about a sales catalog. But if you want to be a superstar at the executive table, you need to know everything there is to know about your product line and the people who buy them.

  • Product marketing. How can a marketer truly develop campaigns around a product without understanding what it can do or what its appeal is? As a VP of marketing you have to keep the product up to date with your customers’ tastes and retain everything about the brand that made it such a success in the first place.
  • Customer service. In today’s wired world, customer service is marketing. A bad customer experience can explode all over social media, soiling the brand you worked so hard to develop. Stellar customer experiences are a gold mine of free publicity for the very same reason. Successful marketing VPs build a working culture that minimizes the former and capitalizes on the latter.

Of course, there’s more to the role of marketing vice president than just the items on this list. But possessing and developing all of the above skills makes you a well-rounded executive that can draw success out of anything you touch, be it a team, a campaign, a department, or a brand. Do that consistently, and you’ll quickly become the darling of the C-suite and turn your career path into a highway.

Want to learn more about today’s marketing leaders? Download your free copy of the 2017 Marketing Leadership Survey.

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