How to avoid the burn out from keeping up with being a professional marketer
Successful tenure in your marketing role requires a healthy balance of professional development and staying informed, with taking the time to switch off to avoid burn out, writes Jon Stubley.
It can be a tough gig being in marketing. The pace in which we need to work, as well as the ever-increasing role of technology in our jobs, means that we need to develop layers of expertise, both within traditional marketing competencies, and technologies and systems that have previously sat outside of the remit of the CMO and their teams.
Based on what we saw coming out of CES this year, the need for CMOs to be immersed deeply within the bleeding edge of technology is only going to become more acute in 2017. The effective use of an organisation’s first party data for marketing purposes will become even more critical for brands, but newer technologies will start to have an impact too; if you’re not playing around with virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and locational data, then you’re very likely going to be missing the boat.
In a list of 17 technology trends to watch at CES 2017 and beyond on Forbes, at least seven are directly applicable to marketers.
That is a lot of information to keep track of, much less capitalise on, and it’s easy to see the fallout from that pressure. Last year, a study found that the average tenure of CMOs fell from 48 months in 2015, to 44 in 2016.
It benefits both marketers and the brands they work with to have longer tenures, as that allows them to completely understand the value proposition of the brand and help drive its success. But for a marketer to survive, and thrive, in an environment this fast-paced, having an organised approach to maintain the edge and find inspiration is important.
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On a practical level, one of the key challenges for marketers is how to keep across all of the new and emerging practices out there, while remaining focused on executing current strategies in the here and now. I was recently speaking to Maria Wirth, the marketing manager of MNF Group, and we were joking that there’s simply not enough time to get tired in our line of work.
“I have to be across all of it,” she said. “There’s no time to be tired when I’m trying to keep up to date with all the various areas of our marketing strategy – content, communications, online – and needing to know enough to be able to guide my team.”
Wirth’s solution is that she has had to become incredibly organised in how she obtains her data. “I subscribe to a number of different newsletters and blogs. Some are in the marketing space, some are focused on technology,” she told me.
“In the morning, I set aside 15 to 20 minutes to go through them. I can often generate new ideas by seeing what good campaigns are being executed in other industries. It can inspire me to have a look with fresh eyes at what we’re doing.”
Wirth also suggests that people don’t try and absorb it all from the outset and end up overwhelmed: a mistake that younger marketers in particular make. Instead, the best approach is to narrow the expertise at first before branching out.
“Whether it’s analytics, campaigns, events, search marketing, or content marketing, pick somewhere to start, and then dive deeply into that particular topic,” Wirth said.
“Once you feel comfortable in that field, still keep up to date with it, but then add other areas of interest to widen that space and develop further expertise.”
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I also spoke with Nicole McInnes, the marketing director of eHarmony Australia. She is likewise tireless. For her, the energy comes from working on a brand that she believes in.
“Somebody is paying me to contribute to adding a significant amount of happiness to people’s lives, which is kind of inspirational, but I also draw a lot of personal satisfaction from creating positive change within companies. I am a huge believer in balancing short term success with future sustainability,” she said.
McInnes names three key factors that she believes determine the success or failure of marketing leaders today: accessibility to data in a real-time and visually contextual way; the right partners and a team that are fit for purpose in both skills and values; and, time out to understand yourself and fulfil your own needs.
“If you are not comfortable within your own skin, you will hire the wrong people, you won’t be able to clarify a vision for your team, and you will lose energy worrying about things that are not core and this could mean the difference between lasting 12 months or many years.”
She believes finding the time to understand who you are and what you believe is incredibly important, and cites work life balance mixed with past executive coaching as the two ingredients that helped to clarify her purpose.
“The corporate world is almost designed to keep you so busy you don’t have time to find out what is keeping you going, or what you want from your role, and if you don’t know that, then your team has no chance. eHarmony recently announced paid unlimited leave and for me it will mean more holidays at the beach, yoga and family time. And I know this will translate to better quality of work for my team and our customers.”
I fully concur with this. It is incredibly important to try and find the time to switch off. My personal passion is surfing and I try and get on the water as often as possible. True creativity can only occur when the brain has a chance to reset and think from outside of the day-to-day, and I have had some of my best ideas while out on the waves.
Jon Stubley is VP ANZ at GumGum.
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