woman wearing many hats
Editorial

What I Learned From Taking on New Marketing Roles

5 minute read
Dennis Shiao avatar
My career has taken a winding path, and I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. Here's what I learned from the many transitions in my marketing career.

I previously wrote about my evolution from coder to content marketer. It’s a special talent of mine to discover and implement successful career transitions. Consider the roles I’ve had:

  • Software developer
  • IT manager
  • Client services executive
  • Product marketer
  • Content marketer
  • Marketing consultant

My career has taken a winding path, and I’ve enjoyed every step of the way. Career transitions take you from one job to another. Sometimes the new job works out great and sometimes it doesn’t. In either case, you learn about yourself and you learn lessons about work and business.

When I made the move from IT to marketing, the transitions didn’t stop there. In this article, I’ll share lessons I learned from the different transitions I've made in my marketing career.

Inheriting Unexpected Responsibilities

At a B2B technology company, I was happily working as a product marketer. Due to staffing changes, my manager assigned me the role of demand generation. I was tasked with configuring a new marketing automation system: importing leads, setting up lead scoring rules, launching email nurture campaigns and more.

I took a "but this isn’t my job attitude," which didn’t score any points with my manager. Generating demand is a core mission of Marketing. So getting hands-on experience doing it was valuable.

Today, I’m out on my own as a marketing consultant and work with B2B brands on content and product marketing. In a recent project, a client asked me to help with a familiar project: setting up their marketing automation system! The project amounted to the same steps I begrudgingly completed years ago.

My “but this isn’t my job attitude” turned into a “hey, I’ve done this before” convenience. The project went very well. In that earlier job, my focus was too limited. I swam in a narrow lane when I should have tested the waters in other people’s lanes. I’m now thankful for the “burden” laid on me by that manager.

The lesson: You’ll undoubtedly inherit responsibilities that are not part of your job description. Reframe the situation from a burden to a potential learning opportunity.

Related Article: Marketing Lessons Learned: What 2020 Has Taught Us

Shifting From Product Marketing to Content Marketing

At another B2B technology company, I learned on my first day that our buyer persona had shifted from an IT user (e.g., developer) to a business user (e.g., marketer). As a product marketer, I got to work updating our web pages and product sheets to speak the language of the new buyer.

I was also expected to manage our blog. That’s where a challenge arose. While the IT buyer knew about our brand and our products, business users weren’t familiar with us. I decided that to establish awareness with these potential buyers, I had to focus on content marketing rather than product marketing. Instead of leading with our product, I had to lead with content that solved their problems.

Because we were small and nimble and I had a great manager, I didn’t ask permission. I jumped in and tried some things. I created a SlideShare account for our brand and each time we hosted a webinar, I uploaded the presenter’s slides there. In the first year, we reached the top 1% of all SlideShare accounts for presentation views.

The SlideShare team sent me an email about it. I’m sure it was an automated email, but I was thrilled nonetheless. From there, I featured influencers on our blog, collaborated with partners on joint research reports and assembled a well-oiled content marketing machine.

Learning Opportunities

A year later, “content marketing” replaced “product marketing” in my title. My move to try content marketing could have failed. The key to success was that for each small win, I fed that up the management chain, summarizing what was attempted and what were the results. As the positive momentum continued, no one questioned whether we should keep doing it.

The lesson: If you see that a new direction is needed for your role — and if your organization is inclined to allow it — don’t ask for permission. Jump right in, assess the results and adjust as needed.

Related Article: 3 Agile Practices That Knowledge Workers Need in Their Lives

Social Media Marketing

In the same content marketing role, I was responsible for our social media channels: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and (ha!) Google+. I didn’t have prior experience managing a company’s social media handles. I did, however, bring a secret weapon: my personal use of those same channels.

Because I was tweeting links to articles and sharing photos on Facebook, I was well-versed with the mechanics and logistics of each social platform. The piece I was missing was how to use social media on behalf of a brand.

I immersed myself with examples from other brands. I’d follow brands, both B2B and B2C, on Facebook and LinkedIn. As I scrolled through my feed to check news or check in on friends, I’d notice how brands were sharing fun photos and limited time offers. I also observed things like the wording they used in particular situations and how they responded to users’ comments.

Soon enough, I was ready to be my employer’s voice on social media. All of that observation helped and I also learned new things from my active involvement over the subsequent weeks and months.

The lesson: When starting something for the first time, spend time observing how others are doing it. Don’t blindly copy them, however. Decide how you’d like to go about things in your own way.

Related Article: From Broadcasting to Engagement: My Twitter Journey in 3 Phases

About the author

Dennis Shiao

Dennis is founder of B2B marketing agency Attention Retention, where he works with clients on content marketing, product marketing and social media marketing. Formerly, Dennis led the content marketing function at DNN Software.

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