If you ever feel like age (or lack of it) is holding you back in your career, it’s time to think again.
At just 27, Gemma Davies is Marketing Director for a leading software company. She also won CIM’s Female Fast Track Marketer of the Year for 2014/2015, sits on various industry panels and has become a strong advocate for women in business.
In fact, she’s become an advocate for marketers, full stop.
She is a perfect example of how hard work and dedication, and passion for the industry, can remove obstacles and take you where you want to be.
I managed to catch a valuable hour of her time last week to catch up and understand how she got to where she is today. Here’s what she told me…
Did you always know you wanted to go into marketing, or did you have other plans?
I’ve always been fascinated with human behavior and psychology – I originally wanted to be a cognitive psychologist. I did a degree in Consumer Behavior and Marketing, but during my studies my focus turned to marketing specifically.
I was fascinated by the power of marketing and a couple of my lecturers, who were senior marketers and research analysts, inspired me and helped me discover this was the industry for me.
Why did you choose B2B?
People who know me know I like a challenge! B2B is complex and always changing, so it keeps me on my toes. I had work experience roles in both B2B (Claranet) and B2C (G-Cap Media) environments, and while both were great, it was working with the sales team at Claranet that I loved most…. knowing that I could make a difference at each stage of the sales funnel.
I also work best in a corporate environment… but this is different for everyone. For me, it’s important to see the impact I have, and B2B allows me to do that. I can be personal and specific in my approach and see the ROI immediately. I work 121 with customers and prospects every day, and have been fortunate enough to do so in thriving B2B sales and marketing environments that push boundaries from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel. I can really see the different the team and I make every day.
What do you think are the advantages of being a younger marketer?
It is a great time to be in marketing, especially B2B. Innovation in technology means that marketing is at the forefront of any smart businesses growth strategy.
There is always so much more to learn, do and explore. I love learning from others and encourage those in my team and those who I mentor to be as curious as possible early on in their career. There is so much opportunity in marketing. It is no longer the “coloring in” department, it is the business driver. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in marketing!?
Any pitfalls/highlights that you learnt pretty early on that you would pass onto others?
Always be curious, never stop learning and failure is success in progress, it is how you deal with it that counts!
If you can, find a mentor. But first, define what ‘mentoring’ means for you and find a person who fits
the bill and can help you progress in your desired direction. I have a number of mentors for all aspects of my life and career, some may not even think of themselves as a mentor, but they’re a huge support even if they don’t know it!
It’s also so important to get to know the sales and leadership team in your business. Alignment with them and a thorough understanding of your company philosophy and goals will be your secret to success all round.
What key skills do you think are important for senior B2B marketers?
There are four key areas that I believe are vital:
- First and foremost are good communication skills. Then an understanding of the importance of how to put these to use. Communication between internal teams, such as sales and marketing to enable alignment it crucial – both departments have to be moving in the same direction to achieve a desired outcome.
- Analytical skills – the numbers are so important. Make sure you have the ability to capture and understand the metrics so you can measure the success and influence of your programmes and report these back to the business. Test, measure. Test, measure. Test…
- Patience. Rome wasn’t built overnight and neither will a fully defined marketing strategy.
- Leadership skills. As a senior marketer, it is important to be able to see and sell a vision to all stakeholders within your business. A business and the employees need to be on the same journey. They need to understand what it is like to be a prospect or customer. You all need to believe in it.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
The people. It is important to be surrounded by people who inspire you each day. I love to bounce ideas around with people across the business – we thrive off each other’s energy.
The customers. I try to spend 30% of my time with customers. They have been through the sales cycle, they work with the product every day and their insight, opinions and feedback is one of the most valuable things a marketer can access.
The complexity. Being a marketer is not easy. Things are constantly changing and we need to be at the forefront of this change to succeed.
Working with sales – I come from a sales background so I understand their pressures, frustrations and motives. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the best technology brands in B2B and with that came some of the best sales people I have ever met. I learn lots from them and they challenge me every day. The energy is great.
How do you increase your industry knowledge?
I have a great network and I read a lot, whether it be newspapers, books, magazines or Twitter! I like to keep up to date on general business movements and mergers, and ahead on industry insights. I follow specific publications and influencers – I have lists on Twitter for each key industry and get all the most relevant tweets in a single place. I also have a number of Google alerts set-up that I check each morning on the train. It is really important to have that industry knowledge and insight. I feed a lot of it into campaigns and have seen 30+% more engagement in weeks as a result.
What should B2B marketers be focusing on today?
If you are looking for a good place to start, I would say speak to the data experts. Data should be at the heart of any marketing initiative. Do you know your market, do you have a way to reach them, is your data relevant, does it allow you to segment and target, is your audience engaged? I could talk forever on data and why it is the most important thing in marketing (during and post sale).
And finally, any words of advice for other rising stars?
There are so many buzz words around, marketing methodologies to discover and learn and arguments about generalist Vs. specialist marketers. It is hard to keep up!
I highly recommend spending time both agency and client-side during your career, both will add another level to your experience and knowledge. Find out what interests you and what you enjoy, always play to your strengths. The industry is moving so fast that it can be hard to keep up with everything, so make sure that you have a good coverage of skills, you remain curious and you enjoy your job. But don’t forget to build a network of experts you can rely on for advice.
- Do something you love. It should feel like a passion, not a job.
- Be authentic and don’t be afraid to put yourself in situations that scare you.
- Be curious and look for opportunities to learn as much as you can.
- Network. Network. Network.
- It’s time to power up. Be ready to build credibility early on in your career.