Join Free AI Webinar
Webinar Masterclass on AI Tools Future of Marketing

What Skills Should Marketing Directors Have?

The following outtake, focused on breaking in to and thriving in the world of marketing, is taken from a recent exclusive recording of an MMC Moments of Truth discussion between Stephanie Leigh-Rose, education and media director at MMC Learning and Malcom Johnston, who is who is a consultant providing strategic support and coaching to businesses having become a leader in customer-centric growth through his years of experience of creating and running strategic marketing, sales, and management functions across multiple businesses.

In this extract, Stephanie and Malcom talk about the skills and qualities required to be a marketing director and how the responsibilities of the role differ from that of a marketing manager.

Watch the 13 min video below which will give you an amazing insight into the above topic.

What is the difference between a marketing director and marketing manager?

Stephanie Leigh Rose:

So now we have the question, what skills should a marketing director have?

Malcolm Johnston:

So, there is a very big difference between being a marketing director and a marketing manager. Clearly a director has a corporate responsibility, in legal terms, a responsibility for the success of the company. So, that’s the first thing.

One of the skills that a director needs to have, is to know what the legal role of a director is, because it’s the first time you are going to be hitting a clear legal definition. So, that’s one thing. And I was very lucky, I went off on a director’s course at the Institute of Directors to understand what it means to be a director, which was very helpful.

The skills you need as a marketing director are far less around marketing and much more about leadership and about people.

Your skillset in knowing how to run a blog, how to run an exhibition, how to use social media to promote your business, those fall by the wayside, because the primary skill is leadership and people motivation, because as a rule, if you train your people appropriately, once you get to the marketing director level, you should be in a position of pulling together the talents and facilitating the best examples drawing out the best efforts of all of your people who are the functional level experts.

So you should be employing people skills, and I suppose one of the skills is knowing how to meld a team together, bring together the best in field in that particular area. So you need to hire the best promotional person, you need the best product development person, you need the best channel managers and so on and so forth.

Stephanie Leigh Rose:

I like how you relate it to having a team. So you’re almost, in essence, a coach, right? You’ve come from being a player and you’re a great player and you know how to play left field- let’s say it’s baseball- but now it’s, “okay, well now I’m the coach, so I can take a step back and see the whole field and see what we need.”

Malcolm Johnston:

Yes, that’s a very good analogy. Now, are you the captain or the coach? You’re probably both, in small leagues you probably have a coach slash captain.

It is about coaching your people for success and orchestrating what they’re doing, so that’s why people skills are so important.

What qualities does a marketing director need?

Now you also have to drive, you have to make things happen, and one of those things is- and it should be endemic in a marketing director- to put together a marketing plan to build the strategy for the company and to run the process for doing so.

Now I’ve had many challenges as either a senior marketing manager or a marketing director or VP in wrestling the responsibility for strategic direction from, usually the finance department, because when you look into what they’ve been doing over the years before you arrived, it is usually, ‘start with an Excel spreadsheet and let’s add 10% and carry on as we were’, so often in a company there’s very little strategic planning process in place other than that which relates to an Excel spreadsheet.

So one of your skills is, through your personal skills, your capability in working with people, to persuade your colleagues on the board, and in particular, the managing director, to establish a proper strategic planning process led by marketing. That might be a challenge and you may not achieve it in a year, in your first year there.

Stephanie Leigh Rose:

Would you say that then you also have to have a good sense of organisation and timing, or does that fall to someone else on your team to keep everyone on track, having those check-ins, making sure you’re delivering, making sure everyone’s fulfilling their quota?

Malcolm Johnston:

No, I mean, you are responsible for all of that at the same time, but I think- to answer another part of what I think you’re asking- be careful what battles you fight. Now that’s a skill, but if the end goal is that marketing needs to be running the strategic planning process in this company- that may be your end goal- you may not want to be too overt about that end goal right at the start, it might not be the right thing to do.

Well, it will be the right thing to do, but if you’ve got in your team, a strong finance director who thinks he or she has been running a strategic planning process for years, but actually it’s an Excel spreadsheet and it’s not a business plan, it’s a financial plan with a few bits of, ‘we might have new customers’ attached to it, you are going to have a challenge wrestling it from them.

The reason that marketing should be leading the strategic planning process, if there isn’t a strategy department, is because marketing should have the ability to both understand the customers and the marketplace, so they are the leaders of pulling together and understanding, they’re in the business of ‘what do the customers want’, ‘what does the market want’. Much better for someone like that to be leading the development of a strategic planning process than an accountant who only ever drives a car looking in the rear-view mirror, because anything to do with finance has just happened.

What skills does a marketing director need?

Stephanie Leigh Rose:

A little bit of a side question for this one. So what do you think- because we talk about, on the course, the qualities of being a good leader, which you would use with being a marketing director- what do you think your greatest natural skill was as a person, which you applied as a leader while you were a marketing director and then what was the biggest skill you had to learn?

Malcolm Johnston:

Okay. Probably the biggest thing I brought was enthusiasm and positivity, that could vere into being a zealot and zealots often have a problem with diplomacy, so that answers the second part of your question!

The reason I just said that you may not get to running the strategic planning process immediately, even though you should be running it, is because I said that’s what we were going to do on day one as a new marketing director, and even though I was British, having come from America, I was considered to be a brash American, and when I came in it was all, “oh, we don’t want any of those American ideas over here, Malcolm!”

The skill of diplomacy is important because you need collaboration with your team.

A couple of other skills I want to mention, firstly numeracy. I’m mentioning that here because as it happens, my first degree is in accountancy in law, so as it happens, I’m not scared by figures, particularly statistics, which is often what a marketing person will be dealing with. So that wasn’t an issue for me, that’s why it depends where you’ve come from to get this role. Some marketers may not feel confident around, figures, budgets, CapEx, OPEX, et cetera. So you need to be numerate.

I think another skill is the ability to pull together disparate elements on the board, your emotional intelligence, because you are going to be dealing with a vast array of characters, obviously leadership, because you are now in a leadership position and maybe this is a characteristic rather than a skill, but an ability to see yourself as others see us.

Be aware that because you come from marketing, there will be a bit of ‘well I’m from sales’, and your going, ‘well I’m here to help you!’ So there’s always a bit of rivalry there, and I mean in this country in particular, as soon as you say you are a sales director or you are a salesman, the barriers go up and people have an image of a salesman that is utterly incorrect, but is so ingrained in the psyche of this country, that it’s really difficult