Alluring as it may seem the marketing profession is clearly no playground for the just anyone.
"At the end of the day, it's all about achieving strategic goals and ROI (return on investment)," says Cherry Chan, senior marketing manager, printing & solutions division, Brother International (HK) Limited, a major manufacturer and supplier of multifunctional printers and industrial and home sewing machines.
Now into her 12th year in the field, Ms Chan always keeps a cool head. "Marketing in practice can be a lengthy process that involves in-depth product analysis, brand positioning, resources planning, market analysis and a whole lot more, before you even think about marketing channels and vehicles," Ms Chan says.
A good observer with strong cognitive skills, Ms Chan's career choice was by no means coincidental. "I just felt it was right for me," she says.
However, with a good marketing qualification and an MBA to her name there was a time that she was lured by the potentially more lucrative personal investment field. "Between personal investment and marketing there are such similarities as customer behaviour, market needs and product performance," she notes.
In fact, Ms Chan joined Brother's Hong Kong team only three years ago, after nine years with two other major office automation (OAs) brands. Sizeable companies may have a marketing infrastructure consisting of sub-divisions like product marketing, corporate communications, media relations and advertising, each carrying distinctive functions. Working in a medium-sized company and now leading a team of four, Ms Chan gets to have her fingers in many pies.
She now plays a central role as a key member of the operation's strategic committee. In particular, she is responsible for the collection and distribution of resources from the company's headquarters in Japan. Naturally, her daily schedule is peppered with meetings and brainstorming sessions with the company's sales and promoter teams who give her the lowdown on the OA market. The key to maintaining a harmonious relationship with other teams is to always aim at creating a win-win situation, she emphasises.
"Don't let the wrong career crush your confidence"
"We must consider how we can best support sales," she adds. "OAs are not like luxury goods that you can show off by wearing them or carrying them around. Our customers scrutinise functions and compare prices. A strong brand is always good but brand loyalty doesn't help drive revenue."
Consciousness of kind
Even the most confident and capable manager can get lonely sometimes, Ms Chan concedes. She remarks, "You want to be a friend to your staff but at the same time maintain authority. Things can get difficult when you need to execute policies that are not the most popular."
She also points out that leadership is part of the growing up process whether it is at home or at work. “F irst of all, you must know your staff, particularly their individual strengths, and have faith in them. This makes delegation easier," she explains. "Having a stable, well-informed and capable team means you'll only have to fill them in with the details and let them carry on with their work. With a certain level of respect, accountability and responsiveness, you have a good manager."
Anyone can tap into the field but Ms Chan believes that formal training in marketing is indispensable. "Academic knowledge is the blueprint for every career," she stresses. "Every profession like engineering, legal and medical has its own thought process which is easily noticeable even in the most casual conversations and this requires knowledge."
She cautions that not everyone is suited to the job and that people who find themselves struggling should look elsewhere for opportunities as quickly as possible. "Don't just go for the fancy job title," she advises. “I f you're not cut out for the job, move on. Don't let the wrong career crush your confidence. Hopping from one marketing job to another doesn't help. You'd only find yourself pushing 30 and running out of options. Any sensible employer will examine your background and inquire how you can contribute to the company's future development. If you're no longer in your salad days, you may find the very idea of a career shift extremely intimidating."
Claiming a lack of linguistic flair, Ms Chan spent three years learning the Japanese language. A few years ago, she entered a new chapter of life by starting a family. Now, as her child reaches kindergarten age, she is ready to take things to the next level. "I'm going back to Japanese classes," she says.