How to build your internal influence as a marketer


I think I can safely say that across many professional industries, marketing teams are an enigma to those who sit outside of them. There are a few reasons for this, the overarching reason put simply, is that the term ‘marketing’ covers such a huge range of activity, from strategic planning through to customer experience and beyond. 


Adding to the confusion, is that we are seeing more frequently that organisations are setting up their marketing teams for failure by recruiting junior level marketers and expecting them to provide high level strategy or comprehensive advisory, when the reality is, they simply don’t have the skills or experience yet. Like many industries, junior marketing roles should be purely tactical and implementation-based to start, as they need the guidance and experience of senior marketers to connect the dots, problem solve and provide direction. For those in the professional services industries, it’s the equivalent of a Graduate Engineer being expected to be a Project Director for a multi-million dollar project and wondering what went wrong when the project ends up being a disaster.


For these reasons, it’s important for marketers, no matter their specialisation or industry, to consider ways to build their internal influence within their own businesses, in addition to their external customers.   


In the last few years, I have transitioned from having significant experience as a mid-level marketer through to more senior advisory and consultancy roles. For those looking to take that same leap, I have provided a few pointers - because as Sheryl Sandberg states in Lean In, it truly is more of a jungle gym than an obvious climbing of the career ladder. 


1.    Learn to overcome objections


I believe this is the most important skill to obtain as a marketer internally, particularly as you gain seniority and become more responsible for larger projects. Whether it’s your senior leadership team, an Operations Manager, a Network Administrator or Joe Bloggs at your local coffee shop, you need other people outside of marketing to get results. 

Take an interest in the people around you, find out what makes them tick and act accordingly. You never know when you may need to call on them to help build your case. I cannot tell you the amount of times a day as a consultant I may be in total philosophical mode talking about Learning and Development in a corporate office, then converse with a more blue-collar client and start casually throwing around terms like ‘mate’. Communication skills should be your not-so-secret weapon, so use them. 


2.    Question the status quo


This is a tricky one as you do need to walk a fine line. Within all businesses there are rules, systems and intrinsic values that you will need to navigate in order to flourish, however as a marketer, you also need to be an innovator. Innovators do not say phrases like ‘but that’s how we have always done it.’ Can you imagine if incredible game changers like Nikola Tesla or The Wright Brothers spoke like that? Our lives would be quite different today. 

Find ways to question why things may be done a certain way and improve on them – it may be an area of the business that has simply been neglected and is no longer tied to a strategy at all. 


3.    Build your profile internally (and externally)


Expanding on my first point, making yourself known throughout your organisation is an important way to build influence and develop buy-in, which in turn, helps you to overcome objections. This might be regularly having lunch or coffee with team members, it may be ensuring that you attend all the company social events, it might be formal catch ups with a staff member more senior than you in another team. Find ways to connect. In almost every role I have had, I have sought out a staff member more senior than me in a different team that I respected to gain their insight and advice about the business, my own development and to seek an alternative perspective. 


4.    Understand the culture and your place within it


Marketers generally love, understand and enjoy company with a wide range of people. It’s in their DNA. It’s part of their job. Generally, as a marketer (depending on your role) you are expected to champion large projects, the brand and in many ways embody the culture of the organisation. Take the time to understand the culture and work out where marketing get to steer the ship and where your team may be purely operational.   


5.    Continuously demonstrate the results of your work


Despite the many negative misconceptions about millennials, this was something I struggled to do as I progressed throughout my career and I wish I had come to the realisation sooner. The way to build influence is to demonstrate your worth. Demonstrating your worth means showcasing your results. Even if your company does not ask this of you directly, I implore you to start and share your own reports, to present internally about your work and to find ways to communicate results frequently. Take advantage of intranets, internal newsletters and staff forums to share your results. The marketing function has a huge level of accountability and responsibility - from managing budgets, to driving sales, to helping to change people’s behaviour - and more - but not everyone understands that, so you need to tell them. 


To my fellow marketers, I hope this helps you on your journey climbing the jungle gym of today’s workplace. 


Louise Donellan is Senior Marketing Executive at Two Crowns Marketing Communications. A yoga enthusiast and lover of the power of branding, Louise likes to act as a Humble Warrior for her clients and all things marketing.