How to develop your marketers when you’re not one

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Marketers hold two of the three pillars of your school’s intangible capital*: people strategy and brand strategy. To fully realise their potential, it is incumbent upon you to offer professional development (PD) to your marketing team. As such, it’s refreshing to consider how to do it, not just why it should be done.

School Heads unfamiliar with the marketing sector might be comforted to know that marketing is typically a non-core function for most businesses, and training modes reflect this. There is nothing inherently challenging for schools in this regard.

To effectively manage the PD process, you first need to gain clarity around which hard and soft skills your marketers need (and want) to develop.

The framework you co-create from here will pivot on the fundamentals of communication, goal-setting, measuring … and celebrating your wins.

You know why …

According to one recent study1, corporate Australia is struggling to recruit and retain talent, with most frustrations felt around marketing roles (83 percent). Topping the list of attraction strategies are greater remuneration (63 percent) and flexible working arrangements (also 63 percent); not far off the pace is expanding career development opportunities (47 percent).

You might not consider schools part of ‘corporate Australia’, and granted they are run differently, but the retention and attraction challenges are equally as complex across all sectors.

Here’s the how …

Whether it’s conferences, courses, mentorships or meet-ups; be it online, offline or a combination of both, accredited or otherwise and over whichever duration is best suited to your team’s needs; my encouragement to school Heads is, first and foremost, talk to your marketing head.

A common denominator among good marketing professionals is that they tend to have a pretty clear sense of how they want to be developed and they are used to going to their line manager with suggestions.

The marketing strategy should also be a focus point. Review this with your marketing head to understand what it is you are trying to achieve and what added skills or insights will get you there.

Go hard

A lot of marketing execution involves managing projects and deadlines. This is reflected in the training built around this job type, which is mostly centred on upskilling in technical areas – what we regularly call the ‘hard skills’. The top five hard skills are digital, customer insight, data and analytics, user experience (UX) and design.

Mid-weight marketers love hard skills development and should know which institutes and courses are worth the investment. School Heads can get a better grasp by looking into Association for Data-Driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA), the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) or the Digital Marketing Institute. The marketing industry’s trade journals, Mumbrella, B&T and AdNews are also great resources for events, seminars and courses.

Marketers also thrive under mentorships. Finding a mentor requires a more personal conversation, which is well worth having. Considering the nature of the independent school community, you may find a suitable mentor within your own parent group. Keep an open mind and explore your options.

Soft skills and thought diversity

The difference between a good marketing director and an outstanding one is not their hard skills. It’s their soft skills.

In the past decade we’ve seen growth in entities such as The Marketing Academy and the Australian Marketing Institute, which are designed to be a melting pot of strong marketing talent all learning and developing with others outside of their sector.

This ‘out-of-sector/thought diversity’ improves your marketing head’s ability to contribute to the overall business strategy. So too does the sharper commercial edge that soft skill development yields. This is needed if they are to genuinely contribute to financial discussions within the school.

Plans in action

If your starting point is talking with your marketing head and outlining a program built around hard and soft skills, then your next step is to consider your resources. With so much on offer, it’s worth shopping around.

Once wants, needs, goals and resources are matched, the developmental framework to measure and propel their development can be created. It’s up to you and your marketing head to define what success looks like, as these indicators will vary from school to school … but enthusiasm is your first giveaway.

To manage the professional development of your marketing function, you need their input and you need to regularly engage in updates. Fortunately, their professional predisposition to creative thinking in this regard will make this rewarding endeavour a straightforward process.

* Intangible capital = overall business strategy, brand and marketing strategy, people strategy.
1 2019 Global Business & Spending Outlook conducted by Institutional Investor Thought Leadership Studio.

Simon is the CEO of Compono Talent Solutions, which uniquely combines a bespoke approach to people strategy projects, with talent optimisation technology solutions. Simon sits on advisory boards for the National Basketball League (NBL), UTS’ Advanced MBA program, Task and LifeChange. compono.com

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