What are actually the key skills and learning needed to be a successful marketing manager?
Well they are by in large nothing to do with what you read at univeristy. However the smart amongst you will pick up many of the key skills while at university.
1) ability to argue objectively
This is pretty key. You are selling your ideas. This is however why marketeers like to use agencies -- they can communicate their ideas through a visual medium third hand. You need to be able to persuade people about concepts and understand you are taking them from where they stand now, to a place where you want them to stand or at least can live with them in that opinion/knowledege position.
At the end of the day, you need to be able to throw your ideeas in the toilet and stand back up with something new, so objectivity is important. Being huffy if the boss doesn't buy your ideas or the sales managers don't want them is just tough. Move along to the next idea.
So at uni this means maybe debating, a lot of GUU debateres used to go work at proctor and gamble, it means being a class rep or politically active.
( as a subnote I would also add to this the ability to crunch numbers and present convicing statistical arguements, objectively. This may be the one area of hard skills you learn at uni, but for many marketing jobs it is not a pre-requisite.)
2) excellent presentation skills
This doesn't go without saying. I lost a job recently partly because I lost control over the strategy for presentations and they just got messy and impossible to do well.
You need to be able to speak clearly, at a good cadence, pause appropriately adn to some extent entertain with your voice and body. Honestly! Content is a mere third fiddle to style and appearance. You need to be able to put together the best you can for your budget, and even divert budget into making presentations. You need to be a consumate improver through rehearsal.
Marketers get all tied up with content. Stuff content, go for a key message, get it signed off by the board of directors and tell em, tell you've told them it, then tell 'em again!
This is the proof-of-the-pudding for many a marketeer. Your ten minutes presenting to VIPs or sales force per month say, is worth hundreds of hours in actual desk work. "if a branch falls in a forrest and no one is there ..." , get the idea? if you are bad and nervous at presenting then you are unlikely to make it in many branches of marketing, so get good.
At uni this means taking all the opportunities to present your work and group work. Leanign from good lectureres and visiting speakers. Looking at what is good to use in speaces. Giving speaches at societies and things like Burns Nights. Using job interviews which often ask for a presentation.
3) motivational skills with people
generally this means being able to hoodwink coworkers who you may or may not have authority over into doing a good job for you. It means patronising the hell out of them and given choice, picking favourites and beggin favours on the back of choice of sweeties. You must at least have a ruling presence with your suppliers.
Often it is just having the gaul to ask someone in an expectant tone of voice to do something.
At uni this means being one of those annoying little leader type brats. But do it anyway. Leading means getting people around you who will do stuff for you, telling/showing them what to do and following them up. It means avoiding people who don't want to do stuff for you. It means out competing other would be leaders. It means finding a niche where you can organise other people to do stuff. Societies, sports clubs and event committees are ideal - even as a subordinate you should get hold of projects and ask to organise some "resources" around them. Best to begin with some big leaders ideas, build up a gang of youse homies and biaches and then keep them or find your own show to run. By all means learn-the-ropes as a subordinate but take responsibility for delegating and motivating people by sheer will power of your own when you can.
4) being highly organised and precise.
Ability to deliver on time, preciesely is more importatn than content once again. Markeign can be landed with a lot of sales conference and training and material logistiks and this means "give a big shit" attitutude to detail.
Also everything you publish can come back and bit you. Putting SOP systems in place for approval rounds and legal sign off is vital. Getting creative approved at board level early is ighly advisable!
Being a good manager means attention to detail - catching out subordinates and agencies is what gains you respect and authority. Other people's mistakes reflect on you and this can be very destructive all round. Some busy managers use the trip wire and "what I see above the water" approach. They spend a little amount of time catching people out on detail so that people get detail oriented. Or they presume what "bads" they see are only 10% of potential bads from a specific employee and either micromanage them a while, or just sideline or fire them. As a junior PM or assistant to such a "good" boss, you will need to jump and keep on impressing with ability to attend details.
It becomes second sense. The drudge of knowing you must go over things several times. That everyone who supplies you can do a better job- more for the money.
A good place would be the student papers or web sites, or a part time or summer job which involves proof reading or attention to detail in some way of orders or customer service or qaulity control. it's more an attitude than anything else. Also combining this with leading/motivating others is a great idea.
In the lazy marketers career, or the pandered first fewe jobs in a single blue chip boy, at some point you are going to be presented with an up hill struggle to get a marketing department, a campaign, a web site or CRM system back on track from a sloth pool of lack of detail, lack of planning, lack of motivation ..lack of quality in delivery. This will be very uncomfortable for the pampered poodle or the lazy-jack. You may as well learn the whole 'obsession' for detail early.