There are some people who simply think differently. Cary Rosenzweig is one of these people. His perspective is informed by a career path that has taken him through the functions of marketing and general management, the landscape of huge corporations and small startups, and the product lines of consumer package goods, small business software, and consumer web services. Rosenzweig is currently Chief Revenue Officer at Zuman, a small business software and services company, and serves as board member, angel investor and advisor/mentor to startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Previously, he was a CEO at IMVU (birthplace of the Lean Startup movement) and General Manager at Intuit, Clorox and First Data and began his career in marketing at Procter & Gamble.
Given his breadth of experience, Rosenzweig is well-positioned to provide insight on career management. Below are ten questions Rosenzweig suggests fledgling marketers ask themselves.
Where is my career heading? “‘Begin with the end in mind,’ as Steven Covey wrote. How does each career step move you toward your goal? You will achieve your long-term goals by having important skills that take a long time to achieve. I’m talking about a 30-year career path. I know that’s hard for someone who hasn’t yet blown out 30 candles on a birthday cake to consider this long view. Focus on developing your skills at the beginning of your career. You take these with you, and nobody can ever take them away.”
What kind of marketer do I want to be? “I suggest you consider aspiring to become a strategic, senior-level, high-octane growth marketer. Ultimately, this prepares you to become a general manager or CEO. Or at least to sit on the senior leadership team, perhaps even on a board of directors. Others with limited experience working with strategic marketers may think, “marketing” means simply “PR,” “sales support,” “consumer research,” “branding” or “growth hacking.” All of these tactical elements have a place inside broader marketing objectives and strategies, but the strategic marketer is looking more at the big picture alongside the General Manager or CEO of the business.”
What skills will I need to develop? “Generally: strategic thinking, business analysis, written and oral persuasion, situational management, team leadership, predictive interviewing, financial analysis, P&L management and more. For marketing: deep customer insight, rapid prototyping and testing, strategic planning, agency and partner management, awareness generation, trial inducement, web “funnel” development, testing and optimization of all steps and more.”
Do I know which companies provide the best marketing training? “Some company cultures are more “you’re on your own” than “we’ll help develop you.” Seek out the latter. Years ago, I drove my young family 2,400 miles from Palo Alto to Cincinnati to join Procter & Gamble. I wasn’t disappointed. P&G is extremely intentional in teaching about business generally and marketing specifically. The ratio of Brand Manager to Brand Assistants is typically 1:3 or so. Your marketing sensei is trained, evaluated and rewarded for developing you. In exchange, you work hard to make your brand and boss successful. Wax on. Wax off. Add in formal classes, company-wide “white papers” on marketing, shared-learning across brands and rotational assignments. Survive to promotion to Brand Manager, then spend a couple years driving a large brand. You will have earned a marketing black belt, well-worn with the underlying white threads showing through. Executive recruiters will love you.”
Of the companies I’m evaluating, do I know how profitable are each company’s products, especially on the margin? “Products with high marginal profits tend to have large marketing budgets. It makes sense since each marginal product sold drops big profits to the bottom line. Products with relatively low marginal profitability cannot sustain bigger marketing budgets, so they cannot attract and retain top marketing talent. So, you won’t get good experience and training. Brutal, but true. This concept applies also to specific products and brands within a larger company. Not all brands are equal. Work hard to get assigned, over time, to the products where you will develop the most.”
Of the companies I’m evaluating, do I know what the key drivers are and who drives the key drivers? “Because marketing is the key driver of acquiring customers, business to consumer (B2C) companies are more likely to be marketing-driven. Business to business (B2B) companies are more likely to be sales-driven, especially if the B2B is to big companies (“enterprise”). Some B2B companies, especially those servicing small businesses (SMBs), can be marketing-driven. Tech companies may be engineering-driven. The functions that drive the business naturally tend to get the most funding and exercise the most power. It’s hard to recommend starting a marketing career at a company that doesn’t have marketing as the primary driver. These companies may be wonderful places for you later in your career.”
Do I know what the job functions and titles really mean? “Brand Manager. Product Manager. Marketing Manager. Product Marketer. Even within the same industry, these terms may represent different responsibilities. During interviews, ask for specific meanings. Keep asking until you understand.”
Should I consider a marketing job in a startup right out of school? “Only if you’re a gambler. You’ll take a bigger risk in your career path with this choice. Eric Ries says, “a startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Steve Blank says, “a startup is a temporary organization used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” Most startups are under-capitalized, led by people without significant marketing experience and destined to fail. So, the odds are high that you’ll lose your job without learning much about marketing; however, startups can be fun, exciting and hold the allure of a potential big payoff (with odds roughly equal to buying a Lotto ticket). On the other hand, it’s impossible to learn how to do a startup while sitting on the 9th floor of your mega-corporation (no matter how “nimble” the company recruiter claims it is).”
Should I consider a marketing job at a company that has emerged from the startup phase? “Perhaps. Be careful that the startup has truly emerged, meaning that is has proven its business model and is now investing in repeatable and scalable processes and business-building tactics. Typically, this is when companies raise more funding and begin hiring experienced functional leaders, including marketers. If you’re lucky, you will work for someone trained and experienced elsewhere who is committed to your professional development.”
Am I willing to work hard? “Sometimes we win in life because we work harder than the other equally smart people. I wish it was simply a matter of “working smarter,” but it’s not. It’s often working harder, putting in more hours to hone one’s skills and achieve important results for the company. The key is to get those results through both thought leadership and people leadership, while setting an example for your teammates. And doing this while trying to be a good spouse and parent. It’s not easy. I’ll finish by quoting an influential philosopher in our own time, Oprah Winfrey, ‘you can have it all, just not all at once.’”