What does it take to be a ‘whole marketer’?

Becoming a fulfilled and successful marketer in today’s industry requires a holistic approach, explains Labyrinth Marketing founder Abigail Dixon.

man in jigsaw puzzle

Over the past decade, as marketers we’ve somewhat become victims of our own success. In demonstrating the value of customer-driven strategies our role has undergone a massive evolution from a support function to leading the commercial agenda.

As marketers, we are no longer defined by a set technical skills – our leadership and soft skills, collaborative strengths and ability to adapt and constantly upskill are all vital.

While this evolution has provided great opportunity for rewarding and fulfilling work it also means we’re often overstretched, overwhelmed and in danger of burnout. With the weight of this pressure it’s easy to lose sight of our own goals and values, with the result often being the eroding of confidence and self-belief. The idea that we can become the ‘Whole Marketer’ may seem daunting but it is achievable. Stepping back and honestly assessing our skills, we must also reframe and reassert what we want from our careers. Only then can we become the whole package. But where to start?

Not just another skills gap

In a recent report by recruitment firm Aquent just 37% of senior marketers said their current team had the required skills. There are certainly technical skills that are commonly lacking; understanding the role of digital platforms and using digital tools, how to utilise big data and measurement to name a few.

There are many ways we can seek to close the technical skills gap – formal and informal training, mentoring, podcasts, webinars, peer support (the list goes on). In a similar vein, marketers must also possess solid commercial awareness, storytelling and visionary leadership qualities.

In a recent episode of ‘The Whole Marketer’ podcast, I spoke with Emma Heal, former MD of Graze and now MD and partner of Lucky Saint, about Grazes’ success being built on the alignment of commercial and brand teams in their purpose. Having started in a commercial role Emma championed the need for marketers to start from a solid foundation of commercial acumen. Unfortunately these are skills that even experienced marketers are lacking. Again, it takes a concerted effort and exposure to experiences across a business to close the commercial skills gap.

While all marketers should be concerned about these gaps, it’s vital to recognise that becoming a technical or commercial whizz is just one part of the whole marketer skillset.

I’d argue that just as important as up-skilling your practical marketing capabilities is first understanding what motivates you. There is no point cultivating practical and commercial skills without having passion for the role you find yourself in!

By defining your personal and professional goals (and identifying what’s stopping you achieving those goals), you’ll find the insight and drive you need to develop the skills you need for the job you want.

Defining your vision of wholeness

In your role as a marketer you may be absolutely brilliant at communicating a business’ vision, defining its values and setting goals. Have you done the same for yourself? The value of taking a step back and focusing on your own personal vision cannot be underestimated. So many of us build careers based on a series of disconnected decisions that we may find ourselves outwardly successful but inwardly screaming at where we’ve found ourselves.

This is arguably the hardest skill to master – answering the big questions, challenging our own limiting beliefs and applying learning to create the career we want for ourselves. What do I want life to look like as a whole? What’s the role I want my work to play within that? What industries do I want to work in? What am I doing when I’m at my best? What about flexibility and remuneration?

We need to confront these criteria! Only once we understand what we want can we reach for it. Only then can you deliver for your brands and business and become fulfilled both personally and professionally. However, this next-level self-development is difficult to do alone – it takes the support of the right people. It’s time to create your circle.

Your personal Party of Five

Most marketers are terrible at asking for help. It’s a competitive industry and we tend to only reach out for support at crunch points. However, knowing who to reach out to for guidance, insight and support is one of the foundational marketing skills most lacking.

According to entrepreneur Jim Rohn we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. As a marketing trainer and coach one of the most valuable exercises I encourage my clients to take is identifying their Party of Five – five mutually beneficial relationships to create and cultivate, that will raise you up, not pull you down.

Your party might include an experienced mentor that can support you in developing a specific skill. It might be a coach who provides you with the guidance and support you need to define and reach your personal goals. Have you got an inspiring and supportive colleague whose work interests you, that can advise you. Are there people outside the discipline that can provide positive support and insight on your journey?

One of the most powerful steps we can take to become better, happier marketers is to build our own dream team, reaching out for support. This Party of Five process takes time and self reflection – you’ll only know who you need on your side once you’ve determined your ultimate goal. What is your vision of wholeness? What is your why?

Pause, reflect and embrace the whole

By understanding our ‘why’ we can follow a career path in line with our personal values and find true motivation. As marketers we have to define and build roles that inspire us to continuously learn, upskill, engage and grow.

During the coronavirus lockdown many people have taken time to evaluate what they want but are scared to voice and action that vision. I’ve been there! Taking the time out to define my vision and values, determine my ‘why’ and build my support network was the biggest game changer, both in terms of career success and personal fulfillment. I realised that becoming a whole marketer isn’t filling the tick boxes on a list of marketing competencies. It’s about getting clarity of what you want, what makes your soul come alive and reaching for it.

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