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What you need to know before becoming a marketer

Discover what responsibilities marketing professionals have, what type of skills they possess, and what a marketing salary might look like.
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Written by Doug Wintemute, Contributing Writer on

Marketers help generate consumer interest in an organization's products and services. As globalization increases competition, organizations need to find new marketing messages, methods, and mediums. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this has also increased the salary and demand for marketers.

Here, we explore the marketer role, becoming a marketer, and salary expectations. 

Day in the life of a marketer

Marketing professionals' daily tasks vary depending on their specific roles. For example, their days might include: 

  • Identifying client needs and goals

  • Developing a campaign, including social media, pay-per-click, and print advertising  

  • Creating branding and communications

  • Tracking progress and reach

  • Researching new markets and opportunities

Marketers may need to collaborate with clients, business managers, graphic designers, programmers, advertising agents, and sales professionals. 

In addition to marketing specialist and management positions, marketing degree jobs include market research analysts, survey researchers, and public relations specialists.

Lifestyle of a marketer

Marketers' many responsibilities and frequent tight deadlines can lead to stress. While they can often work remotely and set their own schedule, marketers may need to meet with clients and collaborators during traditional business hours. 

Marketing managers can anticipate working more than 40 hours per week. They should also expect to complete continued education regularly to develop new skills and stay abreast of industry changes. 

Interview: What's life like as a marketer?

A black woman in business wear poses in front of a brick wall.
Alanna Diggs

Alanna Diggs is a digital marketing strategist currently developing the omnichannel strategy for FarmRaise, a startup focused on connecting farmers to funding. 

She serves as a marketing advisor for CHAT, a nonprofit offering accessible speech and language therapy. As a Fulbright Scholar in Andorra, she translated marketing material from Catalan and Spanish to broaden the reach of local businesses to the English-speaking market.

She holds a BS in business administration — marketing from the University of Missouri, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her experience includes fundraising, marketing and event planning with University of Chicago, search engine optimization (SEO) at the nation's top VA loan lender, and legislative administration in the United States Senate. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

ZDNet: What type of person is successful and thrives in a marketing career? What type of person may not be the best fit?

Alanna Diggs: The beauty of marketing is that it takes infinite shapes and is molded by your creativity and analytical skills. You make it what it is. There are two ways to think about success in marketing: Reaching KPIs versus connecting people to their actual needs. And the best marketers are the ones who do both. 

Marketing as a bonafide industry is actually a newer one. Back in the day, ads were mostly just used to explain what a product could do for you. Example: "This tonic will heal your balding spots." In the mid 20th century, companies discovered that creating needs and appealing to esteem is the most profitable model. Example: "Women love a full head of hair. This tonic will give you confidence." The higher up on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the stronger the appeal to consumers.

If that sounds unethical to you, then you're probably a great marketer. At the beginning of the 21st century, our culture is shifting. We're becoming more aware of manipulation. 

So, to be a good marketer, it helps to believe in your product or service. Because my team is supportive and passionate about their service, it is very easy to market, but even if you don't find passion in the product, you can find passion in the people that the product serves. You might not feel passionate about socks, but can you find empathy for those who need diabetic socks? Can you find excitement for those who are adventurous and are searching for hiking socks? 

The best marketers can take a lemon and make a margarita. It is a fast-paced industry that requires a deep curiosity for human behavior and a drive to come up with creative solutions. 

ZDNet: What's a typical day for a marketer? 

AD: A typical day for a marketer … varies greatly. There's social media marketing, UX research, product marketing, creative asset design, SEO, paid search and many more branches of marketing besides. You don't have to choose your lane right away, but it helps to know what type of marketing that fits your goals and work style- and it's never too late to switch to a new branch of marketing.

I currently build the marketing strategy for a startup that helps farmers find funding. That means that I am integrating the teams' efforts so that we all have a uniform way of presenting ourselves. 

As a marketer, it's common to work with just about every team in the organization because part of your job is to ensure that everyone is on the same page about how the company's reputation needs to be protected and promoted.

Thankfully, I get to set my own hours because my company is remote-friendly and spread from San Diego to Spain. In 2022, the possibility of finding a remote marketing job has skyrocketed. 

If you're wanting to switch to a career in marketing, reach out to the marketers in your organization. Ask if you can shadow. Your perspective may be exactly what your marketing team needs. My teammates were not hired to be marketers, but they have marketing savvy. 

That's why I love shadowing and being shadowed by co-workers from other teams like the call center or product development. They often interact with the target audience in a way that I do not.

ZDNet: What would you recommend that students do in addition to their marketing degree program, in order to stand out to employers?

AD: Aside from excelling in your courses, look for internships that will help you grow. Yes, having a Fortune 500 company on your resume may help but it's just as, or more important that your scope of work is broad. 

My first marketing internship touched on public relations, SEO, communications, multimedia and business development. I was able to grow. In our competitive job market, you stand out by showing you can do more than one type of marketing. Nowadays, the standout candidate is someone who can not only write copy for a website but can then code it into WordPress.

If you're starting from no professional experience, use your marketing savvy to promote yourself in a creative way. Start by making an Instagram account or website. Learn about DEI strategies and how to use inclusive language. You may be surprised by how few inclusive marketers there are but how strong the need is for those who can market to marginalized groups.

It may sound cliche, but character is key. This is true across all industries. At least three times in my career, a job was created for me after I interviewed for a different position. The organizations believed that working with someone who has a strong work ethic and character was as or more important than my experience. 

So, start by finding what makes you unique and what drives you. I realize this sounds existential, but having focus and vision for yourself is palpable, and a good company will not only want to hire you because of it, but they will also want to help you grow. When you know who you are and what you are looking for, great places to work will look for you. 

I am very hopeful for the future of marketing. I hope the next generations continue this trend of genuine marketing and forego greenwashing and other ways that a company may try to appeal to consumers without regard to impact on culture, global climate and politics. 

I hope that every marketing student recognizes that they are consumers, too, and that they should appeal to their target audience with empathy and respect. 

Salary expectations as a marketer

According to the BLS, marketing managers earned median annual wages more than $142,000 in May 2020. Market research analysts, meanwhile, earned median annual wages over $65,000 during that same period. 

Industry can have a major impact on marketing salary. For example, the technical services industry paid median annual wages of $150,840, finance and insurance paid $150,280, and manufacturing paid $143,800. Additionally, job titles, education and experience levels, and location can influence wages.

Top-paying states for market research analysts and marketing specialists

State

No. of marketers employed

Annual mean wage (May 2020)

California

95,690

$83,150

New York

70,770

$85,090

Florida

43,290

$62,110

Texas

38,800

$76,840

Illinois

35,010

$68,270

If you're wondering how to negotiate salary, arming yourself with current market rates and the ability to market yourself to employers is a good place to start.

What does it take to become a marketer?

Job requirements for a marketing position depend on the role and employer. 

Typically, these careers require a bachelor's in marketing degree. Entry-level positions may accept a marketing associate degree, while certain management roles call for a marketing master's degree. In addition to marketing majors, prospective marketers may pursue business and communications training.

Employers also value practical experience. Marketing managers usually need several years of experience managing projects and handling various aspects of a marketing campaign. 

Professionals may transition to marketing careers from interdisciplinary fields, such as advertising, sales, public relations, and business management.

What skills do I need as a marketer?

Marketers' training and experience equip them with job-specific technical and hard skills, while also giving them space to hone valuable soft or people skills. 

The broader their role, the more skills marketing specialists need. The job could require strong communication, research and analysis, campaign planning and strategizing, budgeting, and project management skills. 

The following lists highlight the most relevant and important hard and soft skills for marketing professionals.

Hard skills

  • Writing

  • Data analysis

  • SEO

  • Social media marketing

  • Marketing software and applications

  • User experience design

People skills

  • Communication

  • Interpersonal

  • Organizational

  • Leadership

  • Attention to detail

  • Creativity

In conclusion

A marketing career offers professionals flexibility, diversity, and opportunity, along with perks like growth potential and a competitive marketing salary. 

With this guide, we aim to provide you with valuable details and insight to help you make an informed decision on your career and future. 

Unless otherwise noted, salary and employment data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Feb. 23, 2022.

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