I think great learning can come from studying what cost your predecessor his/her job (on the assumption they weren’t promoted out of it onto greener pastures). While such matters are invariably complex (“oh, there were a lot of factors, boss relationship, objectives attainment, sales confidence, …”), if you poke around hard enough you can almost always find a high-level, simple explanation of what went wrong (“in the end, it all came down to this.”)
Studying those simple explanations can teach you a lot.
How I Got One Product Marketing Job
I remember my first day at the company. It was two weeks before my official start date, but I was invited to attend the quarterly business review, so I did. The team was great. The company was doing well. The vibe was positive.
Then the marketing guy stood up to deliver his quarterly update. The crowd turned aggressive. They hit the presenter with rapid-fire questions. He appeared off-balance, under-attack, and at times a bit deer-in-the-headlights. It wasn’t pretty to watch.
I remember thinking that no matter what happens here, I don’t want to be that guy. I never want to be in that situation. I never want to be attacked by sales, put on the defensive, and bobbing and weaving for answers. I want to be data-driven, confident, and educational. I want to inform sales of our plans, up-front, get their buy-in on the program, go execute it, and then clearly share past results and future objectives. Sales considers itself the most accountable corporate function. If I show accountability before them, they will respect me.
After the corporate lynching ended, I figured this dynamic was what caused his downfall. But when I went asking around, it wasn’t. The performance may well have been a symptom of the problem, but it turned out the last straw was simple.
We launched version 6 of the product and a month later all we still had was version 5 data sheets.
Boom. Basic execution. That’s what will get you knocked out. While you may be so busy doing 1000 things — and most marketers are — it’s not the bad article or the average presentation or the blown objective that will get you killed.
It’s the basics: if the company launches version 6 of the product and a month later marketing is still only providing version 5 content, there’s a problem. It’s black and white, de facto, proof that something is wrong. It’s like handing sales a loaded gun and daring them to fire.
The moral: prioritize your work. Use a Maslow pyramid or concentric circles to understand what is core, what is next layer, and what’s after that. And never miss on core.