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3 Essential Marketing Skills They Don’t Teach You In College

Professional Marketers collaborating

Looking to advance your career? An accomplished AMA Philadelphia member shares the marketing skills that will help you stand out.

College marketing courses, certifications, and ongoing education focus on tried-and-true strategies, best practices, and new technology. These are a critical foundation. Staying up to date on new marketing techniques and tools is important to continually improve your knowledge and marketing skills.

But there are a few talents required for marketing success they don’t always teach you in school — being a marketing detective, juggler, and negotiator.

Become a Marketing Detective

Projects or opportunities often land in your lap with little background information or details. It’s up to you to just figure it out. The ability to be resourceful and seek out the data and details you need to effectively organize a marketing strategy, tactics, and timelines require detectivelike skills.  

Become a marketing sleuth by using all the resources at your fingertips. Check out company archives of digital data on shared drives, do online research, identify colleagues with expertise on the topic, reach out and ask a lot of questions. When you hit a wall, look around the corner for additional crumbs of information.

When you’ve done all you can, make a list of what you know and don’t know. Armed with an educated and informed plan, go to your boss or whomever asked for the project and get the additional direction you need. 

Don’t expect everything to be handed to you on a silver platter. Instead, be the person who gets stuff done by figuring it out and doggedly pushing through any obstacles. Bring new ideas when thinking gets stale, offer solutions when faced with problems, and be the reliable one your boss knows she can lean on to get the job done.

Learn the Art of Juggling on the Job

Every marketing role requires excellent project management skills. It’s a rare position that has the luxury of managing one project at a time. Instead, it’s typical to have an ongoing, growing, and evolving list of things to do and projects to manage — as well as daily, unexpected additions to your list. 

It’s both an art and a requirement to keep multiple balls up in the air at once. When there are limited hours in a day, how do you do that? By learning how to keep projects moving by touching a few each day and moving them along to the next step.

First, prioritize by importance and urgency. After narrowing down those projects, determine how you can spend a dedicated amount of time on your top priority project to move it to the next step — and onto someone else’s plate. Then, you can focus on your next priority.

If you need to provide strategic recommendations or a document for approval, get it written and submitted and move on. While the approver may need a few days or more to review it, you can tackle the next project. 

Keep a list of your tasks and deliverables organized in a project management tool. You can use an online program like Trello, Monday, Excel, or even an Outlook task list. Prioritize them by importance, due date, or urgency. Use this as your guide every morning  to determine the three to five projects you can touch and keep moving.

Recognize that unexpected or unanticipated demands will hit and requests for your time will pop up. You need to remain calm, flexible, and responsive to find ways to get it all done. 

Negotiate Win-Win Solutions

Never tell anyone no. But don’t say yes to everything. How does that work?

Often, people will ask for something they believe is the exact solution to their challenge. Yet, it may or may not be the best approach. And sometimes, requests can be unreasonable and unrealistic.

You need to use investigative reporting skills — yes, rely on those detective talents here, too — to truly understand what they are trying to accomplish. Get the “why” and “when.” Ask what their objective is. Ask what they have done in the past. Then suggest any other ideas you may have to achieve their goals in a better, more effective, and efficient way.  

It’s also important to agree on realistic time frames reasonable for both of you. Sometimes you need to explain your process to support producing a quality outcome in a time frame that makes sense. Propose a deadline as close to their desired timing as possible, but avoid a rush on your part, to assure high quality and the best possible results.

For example, a sales leader once insisted we host a webinar before the end of the month. Promoting events — even if virtual — need several weeks’ advance notice to arrange speakers, plan the discussion, develop a web landing page, and recruit attendees. It was an unreasonable request.

But when we uncovered the real pain point was a lack of leads and an urgent need to close more business, we were able to recommend other options. Intent-based digital marketing campaigns supported with internal sales follow up, for example, were faster to get off the ground. They were also more targeted and impactful to meet the short-term need.

Having an alternative recommendation and sharing examples of how your approach has been successful in the past, goes a long way to boost your credibility and get support. You avoid saying ‘no’ by offering a different solution to achieve the same goal with a unique approach or compromise.

Marketing Skills Wanted!

Organizations today move at a fast pace, facing an unpredictable future. Successful companies want team members who are agile, flexible, and skilled at ‘figuring it out’ and ‘getting it done’ — while producing high-quality work on time.

When I’m hiring, these are skills I look for in candidates.  All things being equal — meeting all other experience and job requirements — I want clever detectives, skilled jugglers, and smooth negotiators! 

If you want to advance your career within your current company or secure a new job, remember to develop or refine these skills. You’ll discover more personal and professional accomplishments and increased marketing success.

Want more expert marketing advice? Check out our first interview with AMA Philadelphia President and Senior Corporate Marketing Manager at Asterix, Inc., Matthew Roberts! Click here to read now.


About Judy C. Arnold

Judy is an accomplished corporate marketing executive, strategic thinker, and high-energy team leader. Her career has been marked with significant personal achievements in the development of growth strategies, new branding concepts, integrated marketing programs, public relations, digital and social media initiatives.

With a unique blend of business-to-consumer and business-to-business expertise, she has led marketing at global, regional and local organizations including SEI Investments, Seabury & Smith (a subsidiary of Marsh, Inc.), Vitalyst, CorpU and Harte-Hanks Direct Marketing. She launched her own marketing consulting firm, JCAdvantage, in 2019 and joined start-up agency, NKST, in 2020. Currently, Judy is an Enterprise Product Marketing Manager with Sinch, a leader in cloud communications.


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