The Difference Between a Marketing Pro and a Mediocre Marketer

If you want to be more than just an average marketer — if you’re aiming to be a marketing pro — you need to know what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.

If we’re being honest, there are too many charlatans in this world who call themselves a “marketing pro.” We’re here to suss them out and, hopefully, help prevent you from turning out like one of them!

In this post, we’re going to dive into the key distinctions between mediocre marketers and standout ones.

Yaniv Masjedi
CMO, Nextiva

Their expertise has helped Nextiva grow its brand and overall business

Become Marketing Pro

Why Being Average in Marketing Is More Dangerous Than You Think

The word “mediocre” in the marketing universe doesn’t necessarily equate to incompetence or a lack of skills. Most mediocre marketers have enough tricks up their sleeves to seem competent. They might hold impressive resumes, produce a respectable ROI and maybe even occasionally get a high-five in the office for a campaign that “worked.”

Here’s the rub: They’re often just good enough to be dangerous.

Why? Because their decent track record masks the fact that they’re missing the nuances that can turn a “good” campaign into a “great” one.

They’re the type of people who place a few good bets, but they’re not investing in a diversified portfolio of long-term strategies. They often measure success by a limited set of metrics that look good on quarterly reports but don’t build enduring brand value or customer loyalty.

For instance, let’s say a mediocre marketer focuses on driving immediate sales through PPC ads but neglects SEO and content marketing, which are long-term strategies.

While PPC might give the business a quick sales boost, the lack of attention to organic search and valuable content creation can stunt the brand’s growth in the long run. When Google changes its algorithm or some other inhibiting factor arises, the marketing strategy starts to lose its potency.

In those scenarios, the short-term gains end up being just that — short-term.

Now, of course, we’re not talking strictly about marketing specialists in a particular field. There’s plenty of credence in mastering one particular area of marketing. However, for this discussion, we’re talking about higher strategic roles in marketing. The types of roles that should have an awareness of every major marketing channel available to them, and better yet, have a fairly good handle on how each approach ought to be best utilized.

Being “just good enough” in the fast-paced arena of digital marketing isn’t a commendable feat on its own. You might not make glaring mistakes that earn you a one-way ticket out of the company, but you also won’t be the marketing pro who innovates and drives the company forward.

The danger isn’t always in doing something drastically wrong; sometimes, it’s in not doing enough of what’s decisively right.

Things to Look Out for in Your Marketing Journey

What makes someone a marketing pro isn’t just their intuition and competence. It’s also their ability to correlate all of the contents of a strategy and help independent pieces come together to form something strong that produces recurring results.

Much like a general on a battlefield, they have to be aware of all of the moving parts and be able to anticipate areas of weakness as well as opportunities for victory and then act on it communicably.

The Trap of Generic Advice

The internet is too vast and accessible for the marketers of today to think they can get away with surface-level filler answers and advice. The truth is that most marketing best practices are often situationally applicable to most SMBs. In many cases, generic strategies won’t work at all for small businesses.

Platforms like ChatGPT and Bard can provide an array of generic responses to marketing questions, which often find their way into job interviews and company strategies:

Bard interface

But relying solely on these platforms makes you a reactive marketer, hopping from one shiny object to the next without a coherent strategy. While these tools can be handy, they don’t replace human intuition and customized strategies that are pertinent to a specific brand.

Some tactics and approaches might lend themselves to a variety of verticals, but real marketing pros are able to contextualize their marketing options with the specific goals of the brand they’re working on.

Don’t Be an ABC Marketer

ABC marketers (shorthand for “Always Be Copying”) follow every new trend or tactic they stumble upon — whether in a blog post or a podcast — as gospel. This reactionary approach to marketing strategy might seem clever to some, but it’s often short-sighted and unstructured. Proactivity is the name of the game in marketing.

Standout marketers don’t just wait for a rule book, they write their own.

You may have heard people tell you not to reinvent the wheel when it comes to marketing. “Just mimic whatever worked for so-and-so.” The fact of the matter is this: You don’t want your brand to be a step behind everyone else at all times. Sure, it might be alright once in a while to follow suit with what another brand has done, but that shouldn’t be the default strategy you use for everything regarding content and advertising creatives.

At some point, you have to spearhead your brand with something innovative and identifying to your brand. Another way to look at it is striving to be the brand that others copy. Not the other way around.

Reading Is Fundamental, but Analyzing Is Crucial

In marketing, consuming content and learning from others is about as integral to being effective as it is to strategize and execute plans. That’s why reading as many commentaries, studies and reports as you can is a huge part of being a strong marketer.

But reading alone won’t get you very far. What sets a marketing pro apart is the ability to analyze. Whether it’s scrutinizing the competition, examining market trends or diving deep into analytics, the skill of critically analyzing what you read will turn raw data into actionable insights.

Data-Orientation: Your Roadmap to Success

Having a good grasp of analytics — like knowing where to find specific reports in Google Analytics — is invaluable. It helps in tweaking strategies to maximize conversions, ensuring that your efforts translate into real results. So if you’re a marketer who doesn’t even log into analytics, you should turn that behavior around STAT.

Start paying real attention to your data. Understanding your data is like the difference between shooting from the hip and aiming down the irons of a rifle. Decide on two or three metrics that are most important for your business and your current goals, and start framing all of your strategies and tactics around those KPIs.

A real marketing pro listens to their own data and acts on it. Don’t let it slip by the wayside.

The Long Game vs. the Quick Buck

Mediocre marketers often focus on the short term, scrambling to meet quarterly objectives or jumping on the latest trend. Although it’s understandable that businesses sometimes need quick wins, long-term planning shouldn’t be sacrificed for fleeting successes.

The 80-20 rule applies here. Spend about 20% of your time on short-term tactics and 80% on long-term strategies. This ensures that you’re not just planting seeds but also nurturing them for a bountiful harvest down the line.

Be Willing to Fail Forward

When it comes to a marketing career, one thing is always important to remember:

Failure is natural.

In fact, the willingness to fail is what often separates mediocre marketers from outstanding ones. If you’re not failing, you’re not experimenting. And if you’re not experimenting, you’re not learning. The more you learn, the closer you get to becoming a marketing pro.

Why did that ad campaign flop? What made your audience skip that super-important webinar? In unraveling these “whys” and “whats,” you’re doing more than just troubleshooting; you’re evolving. You’re gathering nuggets of wisdom that textbooks and online courses can’t offer.

Each failure becomes a stepping stone that propels you forward.

Wrapping Up: Be a Lifelong Learner

Marketing is anything but a static vocation, as there’s always room to grow. Not only that, but growth is the lifeblood of any good marketer worth their salt. You have to keep improving in order to stay relevant and edge out your competition.

Even with decades of experience, the journey toward excellence is never-ending. So, embrace every failure, every win and every lesson as another step on your road to becoming a marketing pro.

So, are you ready to stop being mediocre and start standing out?

Become Marketing Pro


For more insights and lessons about marketing, check out our Marketing School podcast on YouTube.

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