Clearly, women are attracted to marketing—and, very often, they're good at it.
The preferred major of women in graduate school was marketing/communications and the top job function sought by female graduates in 2012 was marketing/sales, according to a 2012 survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, maker of the GMAT entrance exam.
Moreover, both genders view women as successful marketers, a 2009 study by Brandweek found. Women tend to take a more holistic approach to marketing—combining experience, fact, knowledge, and opinion—that can make them very strong marketers.
So why are there so few women at senior marketing levels? Just 8% of CMOs worldwide are women, according to a study by Grant Thorton.
What goes wrong?
When researching my book Women Who Brand: How Smart Women Promote Themselves and Get Ahead, I spoke to 150 or so women, many of them senior marketing executives.
A key differentiator for those senior marketers was the ability to not only come up with effective branding programs for the company but also to build a strong personal brand.
Here are eight tips—which I learned from top woman marketers—that we can all benefit from.
1. Build your personal brand foundation on a reputation for getting results
In marketing, results matter, particularly today, when digital marketing campaigns are easily quantifiable. Make sure you own your value by being able to demonstrate a strong track record of achievement backed up by numbers and examples. That way, you're more likely to be given a crack at that bigger assignment when you ask for it.
2. The best career move is the one that offers the experience you need
Highly successful women in marketing don't leave career success to chance. They don't wait to be tapped for a new opportunity or feel that they can't toss their hat in the ring because they are missing something in their skill set.
Successful female marketers raise their hands for stretch assignments and new opportunities to expand their marketing experience.
3. Become really good at marketing 'Brand You'
Humility may be a virtue, but women especially can take it too far. Many women have what a male social scientist has branded "The Female Humility Effect"; they tend to downplay their abilities and accomplishments.
Find a way to toot your own horn in a way that's authentic and effective. Be your own best advocate.
4. Be visibility-minded
Despite things we've been told, such as "talent wins out," the reality is more like "visibility wins out."
Many women are visibility-challenged and not well known outside of a small group. Women can focus on the task at hand and neglect to nurture relationships throughout the organization, including senior executives.
Just as with the products you're marketing, the more visible and well known you are, the more opportunities will come your way.
5. Always stay on brand
As a marketer, you make sure that each brand is consistent at every touchpoint. Apply that same principle to Brand You.
Style is important, especially for women in marketing. Realize that your clothes, hairstyle, office, even your make-up convey messages to others. You want to convey the right message and your own style at every touchpoint.
6. Take a seat at the conference table
In general, women tend to speak up less than men in meetings and wait to be asked a direct question before they speak. Although that's polite behavior, it can be misinterpreted. People might think that you lack good ideas or confidence or talent.
Being a meeting wallflower is a prescription for being perennially stuck at the lower levels of the marketing business.
7. Learn how to perform well on the presentation stage
Part of your job as a marketer is to sell intangibles: ideas, campaigns, new markets, and the like. The words you use and the talks you give can be persuasive and memorable, or they can scatter like packing peanuts in a hurricane.
Your job with every talk is to connect with your audience and persuade people of something—not just give out information.
8. Cultivate advocates and sponsors
You can't do it alone. As the saying goes, the best advertising is word-of-mouth, which also true for Brand You. Smart women marketers who get ahead cultivate a strategic network of sponsors, mentors, and allies—people who hold you in high regard and who will do the touting for you. After all, if a senior executive says how good you are, it's an expert opinion.
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In short, the women who have advanced to the upper levels of marketing apply the same strategies and tactics they use when marketing brands, but they apply them to the most important product you'll ever market: Brand You.