What Should You Look For in a Marketing Company?
Does it provide a good training ground?
This is important especially if you are new to the marketing field. It will be very hard for you to move ahead if you do not acquire a basic marketing foundation at an early stage. Traditional packaged goods companies such as Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Kraft, and General Mills are known for their extensive and well-regarded training. New brand manager trainees spend days in branding and product positioning seminars and learn the art of media planning, advertising, market mapping, etc. You may not want to start off at such a big company (or you may not want to live in Cincinnati). If this is the case, make sure that you are going to a company that offers you the opportunity to meet mentors and offers a firm grounding in marketing.
Does it offer breadth or depth of products?
Since every product faces different business issues, it is important to investigate different product channels. For instance, if your first assignment is on hair care products, you will probably learn a lot about retail channel strategies, fashion trends, and talent sponsorship issues. If you were branding pharmaceuticals, you might have to decide how to how to create relationships with doctors and hospitals, and attempt to determine what types of people use medications and why they use them.
Keep in mind that working in different categories makes you more marketable. It's wise when choosing a company to find one that has a diverse portfolio of brands. On the other hand, a company like Clorox might have fewer brands, but sell them in a very wide variety of markets and to many different audiences.
Will you be able to experiment with different consumer targets and media vehicles?
Just as different product categories can introduce you to a variety of marketing issues, so can distinct consumer targets. For instance, you could go to a company like Coca-Cola or Nike that dominates one particular category but learn a tremendous amount because each product line targets a distinct consumer target. For instance, marketing Coca-Cola to Hispanic Americans would be very different than marketing Surge to teenage boys.
It's important for you to find a category that enables you to learn more about distinct consumer segments. It is also useful to gain broad exposure to media vehicles. Your first assignment might be working on a brand that has a small budget and a pretty focused target, so the brand only uses print advertising. Do your best. That ensures that your next assignment gives you exposure to TV, billboard, public relations, and other types of communication.
Will you have the freedom to move up the ladder at your own pace?
The bigger the company is, the more hierarchical and bureaucratic it is likely to be. Most large marketing firms require marketers to put in a set amount of time before promotion. Although it makes sense that you must master certain skills before you move up the chain of responsibility, make sure that you are evaluated on your contributions, not your tenure. Talk to others who are in the position you are thinking of accepting. If you find that for the past three years, no one has been able to move between assignments, you might want to take this into consideration.
Do you want an international assignment?
Although this may not be a priority for everyone, an international assignment can be extremely valuable to career advancement. You not only get to learn how your brand translates in different cultures, but you also learn more about the overseas operations of your particular firm. In the long run, an international assignment gives you more connections, more credibility, and more leverage. If the company you are considering has international offices, find out how quickly you would undertake an international rotation before you accept the job. You might find out that international assignments are a "carrot" that the firm rarely bestows. Conversely, you might find that the company expects you to go abroad within two years.
Will you get "hands-on" responsibility early?
Don't expect a company to let you make major strategic decisions in your first six months on the job. However, make sure that you are learning about the business, handling profit and loss issues, and are ultimately accountable for product performance. The unstated rule of management is that the bigger the brand you work on, the less involved you will be. For instance, you are more likely to have an impact on business development issues for Lemon Scent Glad Garbage Bags before you'd be able to influence the future of Mountain Dew. If you are working on a company's "baby" or the big money maker, then chances are senior management will be much more involved with all key business decisions. Although it may sound cooler to work on a well-known brand, you might be able to learn more by working on a smaller player at the start of your career. Along with early responsibility, you should also pay attention to training and mentoring opportuntites with the company. Many companies, cognizant of the importance of mentoring and training, offer formalized programs that you should investigate.
Will this lead to a bigger job down the road?
You are the only one that truly understands your long-term goals. Find a job and company that you are passionate about and will help you fulfill those goals. If you really want to be an e-commerce expert, then don't worry about the fact that rutabaga.com may not have the best training program. If you really want to establish a career in sports marketing, then push to work on a brand with sports affiliations, like Gatorade. If you want to move into a general management career, then consider working on a larger, more blue-chip brand. Work for companies and on assignments that will give you the skills you need in order to get where you want to be in the long run.