Becoming a Marketing Manager

Marketing is key to the success of any organization that seeks to reach people with a product or message. Even non-profit organizations must market programs to attract supporters and donors. Marketing managers, sometimes called marketing directors, are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating marketing policies and programs for an organization or for a specific division within an organization. They identify marketing opportunities and new target markets by monitoring consumer trends, then work to gain or expand market share by working with research analysts and product developers to promote products and fulfill consumer demand.

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A large business typically has multiple marketing managers, each presiding over a particular division, product or marketing channel, and who work with sales managers, advertising managers, promotions managers and public relations managers to reach the right audience with the right message. Marketing managers responsible for managing a particular marketing channel may have more specific job titles, such as email marketing manager, online marketing manager, digital marketing manager, social media marketing manager or mobile marketing manager. In a small business, on the other hand, all or most of the marketing and sales functions may be rolled into the job description of a single sales and marketing manager.

Marketing Management and the Marketing Mix

The American Marketing Association defines marketing management as the process by which an organization sets marketing goals, develops and implements a strategic marketing campaign and then measures progress toward reaching stated goals.

The tools used by marketing managers to carry out the chosen strategy are often referred to as the marketing mix, which is traditionally made up four components known as the 4 P’s:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Place of distribution

Product: Product attributes like quality, features and design are highly variable, and will be developed based on the expectations and requirements of the target market. Marketing managers may serve as product marketing managers and influence decisions regarding product attributes during the design phase of a product based on consumer expectations as determined through market research. Product marketing managers may also make decisions about branding, packaging and labeling, as well as what product support services may be made available to consumers after purchase.

Price: A company’s marketing manager, often in collaboration with a larger management team, is responsible for developing product pricing strategies designed to attract the desired customers, while also building in the desired profit. There are complex considerations, as it isn’t always about making a product as affordable as possible. In fact, more discriminating consumers who are interested in higher-end products will be less compelled to make a purchase if they perceive the product as cheap, and their perception in this regard is often influenced by a product’s price tag. Standard factors that affect price include the cost of manufacturing the product, nature of the market or demand for the product, competitor pricing, government policies and the company’s overall marketing strategy as it relates to branding.

Promotion: The purpose of promotion is to build consumer interest in a product or service and to persuade consumers to buy it. Many tools are available for this purpose, including advertising, personal selling, publicity, and sales promotion including short-term incentives for buyers such as discounts, free gifts or samples, coupons, as well as demonstrations, and store displays.

Place of Distribution: This factor includes not only the choice of where to sell a product, whether retail stores, catalogs or online – taking into consideration the type of retail outlet, mailer or website that would best reach the target market – but also the channel of distribution. The four most common channels of distribution include the following:

  • Direct marketing and distribution in which the business or product manufacturer sells directly to the consumer
  • Single intermediary marketing and distribution in which the business or manufacturer sells to one intermediary, usually a retailer that then sells to consumers
  • Two intermediaries, which involves the business or manufacturer selling to one intermediary, usually a wholesaler, that sells to a retailer, that, in turn, ultimately sells to consumers
  • Three intermediaries, which involves the business or manufacturer selling to a wholesaler that sells to a jobber (jobbers usually sell to small retailers that wholesalers don’t serve), that then sells to a retailer who makes the product available to the buying public


The Role of the Marketing Manager

The role of marketing managers may vary depending on the company they work for and the products they sell, and on the particular position the marketing manger holds within the company. More similarities than differences exist, as the role of a marketing manager within any organization will almost always include the following:

  • Analyzing and understanding markets, which includes learning about consumers, customers, competitors and conditions within the target markets. This usually involves the help of market research analysts.
  • Planning and designing marketing programs that take advantage of opportunities to influence customers, and sometimes even competitors, within the target market.
  • Deciding which marketing programs to use. When multiple people are involved in the marketing process, each may work independently on designing specific marketing programs and events. The marketing manager in this case often decides which program to go with, or presents and recommends marketing plans, programs and events to senior executives.
  • Consulting and collaborating with others who are involved in executing marketing plans, but who don’t report to the marketing manager. This may include the sales force or an advertising agency.
  • Monitoring and evaluating marketing programs and events.



Marketing managers come from a wide range of educational backgrounds, but many employers look for a bachelor’s degree in marketing or in business with a marketing emphasis or a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with an emphasis on marketing. Marketing managers in highly technical industries like engineering or life science often have undergraduate degrees specific to their industry, along with an MBA, graduate degree or graduate certificate in marketing.

In addition to marketing courses, other useful courses to take include accounting, business law, economics, finance, management, quantitative methods and statistics. Completing an internship while in college is a big advantage. Employers look for experience, ability, and leadership skills. Many employers promote internally, drawing a marketing manager from their internal talent pool of experienced personnel.


Professional Certified Marketer

Certification in the marketing field is a fairly recent development, but is becoming increasingly common. The American Marketing Association (AMA) offers the designation of Professional Certified Marketer (PCM). Candidates for the PCM certification must have a bachelor’s degree at minimum and must pass a 210-question exam that tests knowledge of the following core marketing concepts:

  • Assessing and planning the strategic marketing process (how the business goes about competing in its chosen markets)
  • Dealing with legal, ethical, and professional issues in marketing
  • Evaluating the marketing process and other factors
  • Managing relationships, information and resources
  • Using the marketing mix

The AMA states that the knowledge required for the exam is oriented toward individuals who have two to four years of experience and either a bachelor’s degree in marketing or an MBA. The AMA provides a list of suggested reading materials to prepare for the five-hour exam, which is offered through Prometric testing centers.

Maintaining the PCM certification requires 36 hours of continuing education every three years.

Certified Marketing Executive

Sales & Marketing Executives International (SMEI) offers the Certified Marketing Executive (CME) designation. To apply for this program, an individual must currently be working as a marketing manager, executive manager or marketing educator, or be the owner-operator of a business. Accepted applicants receive a 523-page exam prep textbook.

The exam covers five areas:

  • Foundational concepts including strategic marketing concepts, marketing management and global marketing
  • Developing marketing strategies, which includes evaluating market opportunities and understanding market segmentation and positioning
  • Implementing marketing strategies, which involves developing and managing products, setting up pricing strategies, evaluating marketing strategy; and managing marketing channels, marketing communications and direct and online marketing
  • Professional skills including legal, technological and communication skills
  • Ethics

The exam is offered directly through SMEI, and must be taken within 365 days of the date of approval of the application. Renewing the certification requires a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education each year.

Other Certifications

More specialized marketing management certifications are also available, including:


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Marketing Manager Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, marketing managers earned an average, annual salary of $136,850 as of May 2019. The top-paying industries for marketing managers reveal that these high-level executives often work directly for private business and industry.

Top-paying industries, according to annual, mean salary, include:

  • Cable and subscription programming: $190,730
  • Oil and gas extraction: $190,070
  • Scientific research and development services: $188,320
  • Motion picture and video industries: $179,910
  • Aerospace industry: $177,530

The top-paying states for marketing managers include:

  • New York: $186,350
  • New Jersey: $178,300
  • Virginia: $175,970
  • Colorado: $171,970
  • California: $169,200

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