Last week I was interviewed in the Modern Marketer Podcast (that babada bupi language you hear us speaking there is Swiss German 🇨🇭, in case you were wondering).
One of Darko's questions that got me thinking was:
Marketing is moving so fast. How do we keep learning new topics and skills to stay relevant?
I've never written about my learning process before, so let me share some principles with you that have helped me tremendously along the way.
1. Learn (and refresh!) the Basics
I cannot stress this enough. Especially in marketing we love to throw around new fancy terms every couple of years that largely mean the same thing. My recommendations:
- Acquire a solid understanding of customer research, customer segmentation, customer targeting / positioning and pricing principles. That stuff is here to stay. These disciplines are a marketer’s daily bread now and for the foreseeable future. Check out Mark Ritson's Marketing Mini-MBA for example.
- Constantly and consciously work on your writing skills. You write emails, presentations, proposals, landing page copy, ad copy, blog posts, newsletters etc. As a marketer it’s an invaluable skill to have and improves most other areas of your craft with it. I started my journey with, this and this book.
- A basic understanding for marketing metrics is key, so you know how to measure the stuff that matters. The book Scaling Lean is a great start!
2. Curate your own content sources
Start following interesting people in the field you want to learn from on LinkedIn and Twitter (simply search by hashtags). Subscribe to their newsletters. Then follow the people they mention in their posts and content. You will start to accumulate your very own list of content sources and awesome people in your niche whom are not mass media or produce surface level content, listicles etc. (like Neil Patel, Forbes, HubSpot’s Blog and what not).
The last part is critical. You do not want to learn from content marketers who wrote a blog post about team leadership or building an ABM strategy. They often do not have genuine, practical experience in it, but were tasked to research and write about it because the Keywords rank well on Google.
3. Seek out and learn from people who've been there
Once you got a good grasp of a topic, start writing down questions you have and reach out to people who could answer them for you. Don't make all the beginner mistakes yourself. Learn from the practitioners who have been there.
Define the area you want to get better in, say marketing analytics or leading a B2B marketing team. Then seek out people who have demonstrated expertise in that area. Don't learn from people who just talk, but from people who get their hands dirty on a daily basis!
Once you have a short list of people, send them an email (use this tool to find their email) or a message on LinkedIn and ask them if they'd have time for a short conversation over Zoom or in person. In the email ask a nuanced question in their field of expertise that shows you have done your homework and that you could not simply find the answer to by Googling.
And as a side note: It's almost always better to learn from peers who are 2 years ahead of you than mentors who are 20 years ahead of you. Life evolves and most insights get outdated.
If you do this regularly, you will cut the time it takes you to learn a new field in half.
4. Create a Swipe File
Lastly, create a Google Doc or Trello Board with inspiration of good marketing material that you come across. Great landing page copy, ad visuals, outreach emails, eBook ideas or whatever else it is you are trying to learn more about.
So that the next time you are in creation mode and need a hint of inspiration, you can simply browse through the swipe file and get your juices flowing.
Practice, practice, practice
All of these principles obviously do not substitute for you getting your hours in and practice. If you can't do it on the job, create a side project where you can get your hands dirty and experiment. Knowledge is only useful when applied in the real world.
However, the above principles will help you get there a lot faster.