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Professional golfer Jimmy Walker's interview after the PGA Championship about what it takes to be good at golf caught my attention. Walker expressed the importance of being proficient with every club in the bag.

That idea strikes me as being particularly relevant to marketers. Marketers, too, need to be proficient with all the marketing "clubs in our bag."

What Being Proficient Means

Being proficient as a marketer means to be thoroughly competent. It's more than being just capable. "Proficient" suggests skillful expertise.

The amount of time it takes to reach an expert level of proficiency depends on several factors.

One factor is how fast you can come up the learning curve. The length of your learning curve plays a key role in determining how fast you'll become successful when you embark on acquiring a new skill. In marketing, new skills must be learned regularly. For example, only a short time ago, we were learning about digital marketing. Now, it's a fundamental skill, a standard club in the bag.

Moreover, the focus on customer insights and performance management are forcing many marketers to learn more about data, analytics, and metrics. Those, too, have become standard clubs in the bag.

Successful people do the following to to shorten the length of their learning curve.

  • They seek out a coach. Coaches provide honest feedback, help you measure your progress, and bring proven techniques and processes to learning.
  • They know learning takes practice—a lot of practice. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus found that learning is more effective when it is spread out over time rather than jammed into one intense session.
  • Successful people hold themselves accountable. As part of being accountable, they establish objectives, set deadlines, and define measurable milestones.

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image of Laura Patterson

Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM