Monday, August 10, 2009

So you are a first time marketing director, huh?

Just recently, I have had several students and former employees who have been offered their first marketing director gigs who have reached out to me for words of wisdom. Below are the fifteen points that I like to share with any first time marketing director.

1. When results at the box office are disappointing, one of two things are usually the culprit: the artistic product didn't live up to expectations or the marketing plan wasn't successful. When enquiring minds want to know what happened, don't point fingers unless you want fingers pointed back at you. Artistic Directors will fail, and so will Marketing Directors. The arts are inherently risky, and if you are taking risks, at some point you will fail. Get up, dust yourself off, and work to make up the loss on future productions.

2. I have worked for very large and extremely small organizations. I used to think that large organizations had the resources to do everything right. I have found that organizations are sometimes like dogs, the bigger the dog, the larger the pile of shit you have to deal with. So instead of judging the organization on size, judge it on how well you fit within it -- we all have to deal with shit, so you better love the dog.

3. If you want to be successful as a marketing director, you either have to love the product or be a masochist. You are in the arts, which means you are over worked and under paid, so make sure your commitment is worth it.

4. On hiring:
  • There is nothing more important than hiring.
  • Always be scouting for talent. You might not have a position to fill, but you will some day.
  • If I have to choose, I will always pick hunger over experience. You have to be hungry in today's market to be successful. The real key is not to have to choose between hunger and experience.
  • Know yourself before you look for others. Look for people who have strengths where you have weaknesses.

5. I don't know is an acceptable answer for questions that you don't know the answer to. Whenever you have that as a response, it is your responsibility to seek out the answer in a timely fashion.

6. When you start working for a company that didn't have a successful marketing campaign prior to your arrival, fight the urge to change everything immediately. For two reasons: 1) Most times, there are good reasons (even if outdated) for the decisions that were made, and 2) you will need some time to prioritize which things need to be addressed first.

7. If you plan on being the marketing director for more than a month, make decisions that make sense for the long term, even if they might not make sense for the immediate future.

8. As soon as you start seeing the signs that one well is starting to dry up, you better do two things: 1. address the cause for the well drying up if possible, and 2. start digging a new well. Too many marketing directors aren't on the look out for new revenue streams when we should be.

9. Offer help to your colleagues. Most likely you can help someone in a situation you have dealt with, and in turn, your colleagues can probably assist you.

10. Never forget about a patron's entire experience. You can have the greatest play on the most beautiful stage in the best section of town, and it won't matter a bit if you run out of toilet paper in the women's bathroom.

11. Be a discount ninja -- move quickly and silently if needed, but don't disturb the general public.

12. On negotiating:
  • Rule 1: When leaving the negotiation table, always make your opponent feel like he won.
  • Rule 2: Never let your opponent win. Only sign agreements that are beneficial to you.
  • Rule 3: Don't be greedy with Rule 2. You want to win, but if you win too big, you will violate Rule 1, and it will be the end of your relationship.

13. Before accepting a position, make sure you have a candid conversation about your general beliefs on marketing strategy. If the organization is looking for a technology wizard, and you just figured out "the internets" recently, probably not a good fit. Always better to have the lengthy conversations before you start than the awkward conversations after.

14. In times of trouble, often inaction can be more costly than reaction.

15. Be aware of your ego. Many times the best marketing ideas won't come from your department. When good ideas cross your desk, be humble enough to act on them and thank the source.


Unknown said...

Wisdom for some of us who've done this for years!
Well put.

R.G.A. said...

Thank you, from someone hunting.