Promotion, Product, Place, and Price. I first learned about these four elements that make up the marketing mix during my freshman year of high school while completing a business plan for a hot dog stand in an Introduction to Business course. While I never received the capital investment to take my business plan from a B- homework assignment to a burgeoning frankfurter empire, I learned some essential building blocks for becoming a marketer.
After high school, I took two internships in professional baseball where I was able to enact these principles and obtain some pretty favorable results. Then, I graduated from college and the harsh reality hit – it was going to be exponentially harder to find a full-time job that paid me in anything other than peanuts… both literally and figuratively. It was only through leveraging the Four P’s of marketing for myself as a professional that I was able to break down the barriers to my dream marketing career.
For years, I languished working as everything from a bouncer to an academic advisor – all while looking for a dream marketing career. I’d apply on the big-box variety of job boards, seldom getting a bite for an interview and never getting the jobs when an interview did come my way. When I discovered the power of networking, where I wrote about here, I was able to maneuver myself to get a foot in the door.
My first post-collegiate marketing job was for a small non-profit organization, working 20 hours a week as a communications and social media associate. They knew nothing about my marketing acumen when I interviewed. They simply knew that I did everything possible to get in the door, made a good account of myself, and that I was hungry to work in the field. I positioned myself as someone who had the drive and basic intellectual wherewithal to complete entry-level marketing tasks.
Once I got that experience, I spiffed up my LinkedIn profile and beat down the doors for my first full-time marketing gig. From there, every meaningful project I had was showcased – both on social media and on my resume. That led to my next job where I got more meaningful experience, and entered me into a different stratosphere of competition for my next job. With that leap, I created my own online portfolio website to showcase both technical acumen and past successes on the job.
Simply put, any career movement in marketing from here I will be tasked with promoting an organization’s product or services. I believe its requisite for me to show the components that make me stand out as a candidate.
While hard work and guile got my foot in the door, my subsequent moves needed to be made based on substance. If a consumer were looking for a high-end audio solution today, they probably wouldn’t go out and buy an 8-track player… even if it had a promotional campaign that rivaled the Budweiser Frogs. Similarly, an organization looking for a competent and innovative marketer needs to know they are getting someone who can execute.
Personal product development is essential to my current state as a barely 30, mid-level professional. I’ve sought input from people in positions that I aspire to ascend to. I’ve scoured the internet for innovative ways that other marketers are approaching the profession. I’ve even had uncomfortable conversations with my bosses, past and present, to identify my weaknesses… I mean, areas for growth. Additionally, I made the personal decision to go back to school to pursue post-graduate studies relevant to my field. It’s a decision that I didn’t take lightly and that I waited until the right time in my marketing career to supplement professional experience with educational advancement.
Lastly, it’s important to be in a continuous mode of personal product development. If Ford had been content with the Model T, they’d be irrelevant in an age when Tesla is selling the Model S. I’ve aspired to be attuned to the current marketing climate to remain as relevant as possible.
When I completed my undergraduate studies, I returned to Keokuk, Iowa (pop. 10,769) in search of work. I was completely floored when I realized the job market was exceedingly sparse for professional marketers there.
After 5 months of internet job searching and my parents coming home in the evening to the sight of their college graduate son watching re-run episodes of Rocko’s Modern Life in pajamas, I knew something had to change. With no job prospects, I made a weekend trip to Chicago to drop off my resume at every place I could get into, including hotels, fast food restaurants, and anywhere else that would pay the bills until I could find a full-time job. I ended up becoming a bouncer that weekend and never looking back. After 4 months in that line of work, I found a full-time job with benefits.
Depending on your desired career field, your geographic location can make all the difference in the world. It wouldn’t have been impossible to find a marketing job in southeast Iowa, but it was certainly improbable. One of the most important things I believe I’ve done in my career was take the risk to go out into the unknown to pursue a much more vibrant job market.
I’m a firm believer that there are no free rides. Promoting one’s self, developing a personal product, and being in the right place generally all have some cost – whether it be dollars and cents or blood, sweat and tears. While the standard marketing mix refers to the price as the an amount a consumer is charged for a product, I refer to price as it pertains to my career journey as what I’m willing to pay for advancement. It’s a question that I think all aspiring professionals should ask themselves.
Is getting into a field worth packing up and leaving comfort for the unknown? I thought so.
Is making meaningful connections worth networking and doing other things that I typically found uncomfortable? After years of saying no, I eventually said yes.
Is moving up the career ladder worth the time, energy, and funds to go back to school? I’ve determined it was.
The further you advance in your career, there are likely more costs to go along with the prestige and income of a more senior title. I personally look at career advancement through an economic lens using opportunity cost as my barometer. At this stage in my career, the reward of advancing my professional standing, leading teams, and creating campaigns that exceed business goals is well worth the cost to achieve those goals.
Tom Felgar is an alumni of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.