The theme of this article is ‘the marketing Swiss Army knife.’ To understand this concept better, I partnered with Nicole Elliott. Nicole is an exceptionally talented and experienced marketing professional. I met her at an AMA-Houston event.
She and I connected instantly since we had similar backgrounds and career goals. As an AMA-Houston board member, Nicole got me involved in a highly visible volunteer role that eventually helped me earn a board position with AMA-Houston. I’ve reached out to Nicole many times to get professional advice and she has helped me make some tough career decisions.
I see Nicole as a marketing professional who can run an organization’s entire marketing department by herself. Whether it’s project management, working with sales team, scheduling social media posts, writing an email blast or creating a graphic, she can do it all. Marketing Swiss Army knife is a fitting title for Nicole since she is armed with a diverse set of marketing expertise. Without further delay, I would like to share Nicole’s responses to my questions.
Can you describe your typical workday as the ‘Marketing Swiss Army Knife’ of your organization?
No two days are alike. This morning I began working on an implementation for a CRM system and moved quickly to planning a trade show appearance with the Sales team. I produced social media content to promote an in-kind training we are doing for unemployed professionals in our industry and then updated our quarterly budget.
As I was working, a product team pulled me into an impromptu meeting about a new sales initiative we need to promote next week! This role is not for the faint of heart, but it provides an incredible opportunity to stay current with marketing technology and keeps me thinking critically about all aspects of the business. Tracking the moving parts and knowing you can influence them at each turn is exhilarating.
How do you successfully balance competing priorities in your job?
It would be impossible to be in this type of role without sound judgment in what will produce results. I like to identify three “anchors” each day. These are the tasks or projects I write down each morning and come back to immediately after I’m interrupted. I use the same concept for monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. When I’m interrupted with what someone feels is the groundbreaking idea of the day, I quickly evaluate whether that idea can produce results that are consistent with those required by my long-term goals. If they are, I may pivot to incorporate them. If they are not, I may put that idea on a back burner. You must be decisive and persuasive when flying solo. People will have a lot of questions when you push back, and even with concrete answers, you have to collaborate and help them understand your reasoning. My task priorities may shift daily, but my long-term business goals are remarkably consistent.
How much do you rely on marketing automation in your current role? What are your favorite tools?
I am a technology junkie. If it’s new, electronic, and helpful, I want to know about it. There are a lot of choices out there and some are more style than substance. Find what works for you. Do your research and take advantage of free trials. The smaller your team, the more loudly you must amplify your efforts.
Automation allows me build a task once and then spend more time monitoring/adjusting it than executing it repeatedly. We just acquired Pardot to complement SalesForce and are working on migrating from our previous CRM. We’ve been using automated and drip campaigns for about a year, but I intend to build that marketing program significantly now that we have a more robust tool.
I’m also a big fan of Asana and successfully advocated to adopt it across the organization. We’re already seeing more efficient communication and greater project visibility. It’s an incredibly intuitive tool and reduces the amount of time we spend chasing things from other team members.
BizLatte would like to know a little bit about your journey to this role?
Armed with my new Music Business degree, I moved from Nebraska to Southern California where I spent many years in the music products industry and settled in music publishing. After managing Customer Service and developing a new role in Sales, I settled into marketing and that path solidified my passion for the work. From music publishing, it was a small leap to higher education publishing, and I was privileged to manage a Marketing Communications team who was executing a very robust email and direct mail program each year.
I also established outstanding performance with my product lists as an Executive Marketing Manager for Research Methods and Statistics. Watching the digital revolution happen from the front-lines of music and higher education publishing made me a lifetime student of change. When I was approached about my current role, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to build a Marketing program from the ground up to support a family-oriented company with smart, interesting, and hard-working people. I’ve gone from working with world-class composers to top academics to NASA engineers. The products change, but the core business principles don’t. I love working in new industries, as they challenge my thinking. I often find that applying a philosophy from one to another can be helpful, as industries don’t always share common tactics in their marketing.
You recently embarked on a new professional journey—‘teaching.’ How do you successfully juggle both roles?
I’m not sure I’ve figured that out yet! It’s been very challenging juggling my work, teaching, and AMA Houston responsibilities, but it is also incredibly fulfilling. I look at it this way: teaching brings me closer to sound marketing theory and keeps me grounded. It also allows me to hear a fresh perspective from some incredibly bright students. AMA Houston allows me to network and find professionals who have skill sets that compliment my own so I have a group of professionals to call on for input and with whom I can collaborate. My work allows me to put it all into action. Being on the other side to see the results is an incredible feeling! To be afforded the opportunity to prove what you think you know in a tangible ROI is incredibly satisfying.
Did you have a mentor during the course of your career? If so, how did your mentor help you with your career goals?
Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to have two mentors who were willing to take me by the hand, nurture (and temper) my ambitious and pragmatic pace. My life has been changed significantly because of them both. Although you can certainly create opportunity yourself, it will be faster, easier, and more enjoyable if you find a mentor who is willing to help you along the way. My first mentor challenged me on how I thought about marketing. He opened opportunities for me and supported me in all my pursuits for the company and in my MBA studies.
Another of my mentors challenged the way I looked at things and shared her situational expertise openly. She helped me understand how to look at people, products, and situations through a completely different lens. Both mentors served as confidants, sounding boards, coaches, and cheerleaders. They were innovative, inspiring, and always honest with me. I seek to pay that role back to others as I move through my own career. There are few things more rewarding to me that helping someone find their own voice and career path.
What was your favorite project? Can you share a link to that project?
As a Director of Marketing at Alfred Music, I worked with some of the most talented and creative people I know to create a launch for Sound Innovations, the world’s first fully customizable music lesson book for beginning students. After the instructor customized their method of learning, the music they wanted to include, and even the cover, we produced a customized book for their class, including correlated CDs/MP3s.
From focus groups and 2-way mirror observations and building the custom website, to coordinating instructor workshops and developing promotional materials, this project was incredibly complex. It has evolved significantly since the successful launch, but developing the four Ps for this groundbreaking curriculum was one of the most interesting and involved product launches I’ve been a part of.
What advice would you give to students and professionals who are looking to become successful marketing professionals?
Learn how to communicate effectively in writing and in person. Follow the brands you love and when you see a campaign that piques your interest, see if you can find the marketing manager who initiated it on social media. They’re often open to speaking about their experience. Be flexible. Marketing changes by the minute. Learn something–every day! Read trade journals, blogs, articles, take classes, join interest groups.
The hardest learning begins when you leave school because it’s no longer your daily job. Seek opportunities, think big, and find the right culture to thrive in. If you feel out of place, move. Don't wait. Get a professional network established early so you are never more than a few steps away from your next interview, should you want (or need) a change. Pay it forward, in all you do. The more you reach out to help others, the more willing they will be to reach out to help you when you need it. Embrace technology with wild abandon. Own your mistakes. The deeper you feel them, the better you’ll strive to become. Most importantly, don’t forget to savor the incredible adventures along the way.
Marketers have amazing stories and yours is still being written.
Nicole Elliott is a seasoned marketing professional with a perpetually enquiring mind and diverse interests. With extensive marketing, sales, and business development success across wide variety of industries, she currently serves as the Marketing Program Manager for Neuralog | NeuraLabel in Houston and is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing for the University of Houston–Downtown.
As the Vice President of Communications for The American Marketing Association’s largest local chapter, she works with a diverse group of volunteers to promote the chapter’s activities to more than 1,200 active members. A Nebraska native by way of Los Angeles, she now resides in Houston where she has learned how to eat crawfish and queso properly. Not necessarily in the same sitting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a marketing professional with more than 10 years’ experience. I currently work as a Design QC Specialist contractor with Chevron Creative Studio. I have worked in industries such as non-profit, healthcare, oil and gas, real estate, technology, education and consumer goods.
I recently earned my MBA from the University of Houston, BAUER School of Business with a focus in Marketing Analysis. Prior to that, I earned an Associates in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Houston and Masters in English Literature from Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India.
I was born and raised in India but now consider Houston my home. I am Membership Officer with Prospanica-Houston chapter and Director of Special Events-Marketing with American Marketing Association-Houston chapter.
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