Updated: Jun 29, 2020
After the recent post on consulting skills, I received a lot of messages to also pen down a similar post on marketing. These skills have been listed on the basis of my summer internship experience at Mondelez and after a thorough discussion with one of the marketing professors at IIM Ahmedabad:
Who should acquire these skills?
Anyone who is interested in the field of marketing will definitely get benefited from these skills, but the most amount of benefit will accrue to an individual, who is interested in the sales and marketing roles offered by the FMCG companies after doing an MBA from IIMs.
Top 10 Marketing Skills
So, let's begin listing them one-by-one:
1. Strategic Consumer Insights
Most FMCGs look for people who know how to be consumer-centric. Picking up consumer insights is an art that can be learned over time. The first step is to always remain observant and curious about your surroundings. Let me narrate an incident, when I noticed the first ever consumer insight of my life:
I used to help my maternal uncle with his general store. It was the Diwali season and to boost sales, I had come up with a simple idea of putting up a discount offer of 10% on certain decoration pieces. I took a marker and a white board and wrote, "10% OFF" on it. This board was kept next to the items on which the discount was being offered. I was sure that it will definitely work.
After about 15 minutes, a lady came rushing to my uncle's general store, picked up the decoration piece and asked me, "Is this for 10 rupees?" I was shocked and I explained to her that it was on a 10% discount. Surprisingly, she was not the only customer who came and asked this question.
My uncle's general store was located in a sub-rural area. Most consumers were comfortable with Hindi or Punjabi as the written language and the "10% OFF" didn't translate to "10% DISCOUNT" in their minds. Instead, they noticed the number first and assumed the item to be of Rs. 10.
So, that day I learnt that it is very important to put yourself in the shoes of your target consumers and think like them. I also learnt that numbers strike consumers' attention but their minds fill the gap.
If you want to acquire this skill, the best way is to consciously practice it. But, I also know that you'd want some ideas and suggestions to acquire this skill. Based on my experience, having knowledge of psychology, neuroscience and pricing techniques really helps.
Let me share some books and courses:
2. Market Research
It's impossible to find a marketer who doesn't know how to conduct market research. It basically involves gathering information about consumers, using it to identify problems and recommending solutions.
Now, you may not always know the problem beforehand and that is why, market research is of two types:
Exploratory Market Research - This is a qualitative research which helps in identifying the problem and defining it better. This can be done using techniques that include:
Focus Group Discussions
Secondary Literature Review
Conclusive Market Research - This is a quantitative research which helps in identifying if the hypothesis formed using the exploratory research is valid or not. This can be done using:
Simulations & Experiments
IIMs offer market research courses in both the years. It may be known by a different name at different IIMs, but at IIM Ahmedabad, that signature course in the first year is known as Business Research Methods (BRM). You need not know everything in depth, but if you want to learn, I'd recommend this short course on quantitative market research, which will come in handy.
3. Data Analytics
If you go ahead with learning the #2 skill i.e. market research, then I'd strongly recommend following it up with a data analytics course as well. That is because the two go hand-in-hand: Customer Analytics by Wharton.
This skill not only helps in FMCG roles after IIMs but even during the 2-years at IIMs. Statistics and analytics are the top skills to acquire before beginning your MBA journey.
Suggested Reading | 10 Skills to acquire before doing an MBA from IIMs
4. PPT Making
Marketing, as a function, doesn't ask for a lot of presentations but needless to say that this skill comes to use when you're required to present to the leadership team. At that time, making creative and engaging PPTs comes to your rescue. Unlike management consulting, marketing PPTs are informal and more vibrant. A good idea would be to follow the pattern of PPT-making that is used in winning case study competitions.
5. Distributor Relationships
I cannot emphasize on this skill enough. As a marketer, your first stint can be in the field i.e. a sales project in which you might need to stay in touch with the retailers, wholesalers and distributors of your company. Addressing their concerns by meeting them, listening to them and being proactive in solving their problems is a critical skill that you need to learn.
Marketers often say that this skill can only be learnt by working on-ground. But, you can develop a minuscule part of this skill by getting comfortable around the different vendors around you. For example, try striking a conversation with the shopkeeper next door or the next time you're travelling in an auto-rickshaw, see if you feel comfortable talking to the person who is driving it.
6. People Management
As an Area Sales Manager (ASM), which is a role you get post your initial training, you will be leading a team of 5-6 Sales Executives, who may further be leading salesmen. So, you'll have a large team to take care of. They all will have their territories defined and you will be in-charge of making sure there are no problems being faced by them in their respective territories.
Now, managing sales people is a tough job, I haven't done it yet but it has been stressed by several alums that "Sales is a job that makes you deal with everything else in life". So, get ready for managing people well. I'm sharing a beautiful video that I really liked. It explains 7 key ideas to keep in mind when you're a Sales Manager:
7. LinkedIn Networking
During my internship stint at Mondelez, there came a time when I was required to analyze the internal data of the company. Now, as a newbie to the internal software, it was difficult for me to learn it from scratch. So, I took help of one of my alums who worked in the same organization by texting him over LinkedIn.
He taught me how the software was to be used in less than 5 minutes, when the same thing would have taken me at least half-a-day. The point being, if you are connected with the right set of people on LinkedIn or otherwise, you can increase your learning exponentially.
If you don't have an account on LinkedIn yet, I'd suggest you create one and make sure to follow these LinkedIn profile making tips to connect with the best of the lot out there.
8. Lateral Thinking
I came across this term a couple of years ago when I picked up a book called Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. Lateral Thinking is a technique that helps improving your creativity by making you visualize things in a manner you hadn't tried earlier.
Creativity is of immense use in a marketing role, in fact that is the most important reason why I always liked marketing over other roles. Creativity can be improved by frequent application. A lot of brainstorming techniques are used to develop it, some of which I have described in the post on WAT writing tips for IIM Interviews.
9. Digital Marketing
Even if you're in a sales role, having some knowledge of digital marketing can definitely help you. For any individual, who wants to get into marketing, digital marketing is a must-take course. At IIM-A, it is compulsory for us to apply for at least three digital marketing certifications online in the second year (for those with an elective called Digital Marketing). I've shared the list of those digital marketing certifications in this post.
I tried learning SEO before getting into IIM-A as well, but in my opinion, having your own blog helps you learn it much better. The blog you're reading right now has been created by me by spending just Rs. 300 for a year. So, if you feel like learning SEO, you may spend a monthly sum of Rs. 29 and create a blog. It really helps.
10. Financial Accounting
If you're surprised or even disappointed that the last point in this list should have been in a finance post and not in a marketing post, let me share that financial accounting is a must-have skill for any MBA grad, irrespective of his/her interest or job. In fact, it is an essential skill for marketing.
Most brand managers need to be accountable for the P&L of their brands and hence having the basic knowledge of accounting, at least the financial statements, is important. An accounting fundamentals course offered by CFI should be enough to get some idea about the different types and components of financial statements.
With this we come to an end of this post. It was fairly long, so I will just leave you with some recommended posts. You can follow-up by sending me a message on the blog - Non-engineers.