Event Marketing Careers: Exploring Three Paths to Leadership

January 4, 2023
Kishore Kothandaraman
Kishore Kothandaraman
Co-Founder at Goldcast

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It’s no secret that marketing has evolved rapidly in recent years. While the fundamentals haven’t changed, technology and marketing evolutions have created jobs that didn’t exist just a few decades ago.

Today, marketers can specialize in digital, content, social media, events, growth, and even analytics. Each area offers marketers a chance to hone their skills and pursue their passions.

However, this diversity can make it tricky for marketers to choose a path that leads to the coveted C-Suite. Event marketers, in particular, are often unsure about how to navigate growth in their careers or how to land a leadership role.

This is a common challenge we hear, and we admittedly didn’t have the answers. So, we tapped our community of marketing leaders to learn about their career journeys and how they charted their trajectories to become VPs or CMOs.

After speaking with them, we identified three of the most common career paths. Catch the full session on-demand for the details, or enjoy our quick recap below.

Path 1: Demand generation or campaign management

Growth and demand generation marketers are responsible for developing the sales pipeline for their company. They might also work on brand awareness, audience expansion, and supporting marketing as a whole in building a healthy revenue pipeline.

You can think of demand-gen marketers as people who bring together sales and marketing teams. Since this role has a broad set of requirements, it can often get demanding. Therefore, exposure to cross-channel marketing and the ability to manage complex projects are essential for growth in these roles.

Common job titles for growth and demand-gen leaders include Field Marketing Manager, Head of Growth, and VP of Global Demand Generation.

During our interviews with CMOs, we asked what skills would set demand-gen apart from the pack. Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Know your customer: It’s about understanding the many factors that drive revenue and how to optimize them.
  2. Know your objectives: Being a skilled strategist is key. The growth marketer must answer questions like, “What’s the objective,” “Who’s the target audience,” and “What do you want your audience to feel?”
  3. Know your data: Demand-gen works extensively on avenues that drive leads and pipeline, so these marketers must know what success looks like. They must zero in on the right metrics to track and know how to turn data into a compelling story.

Similarly, integrated marketing folks work on streamlining brand messaging across channels. Their focus is more on individual campaign touchpoints and audiences.

Integrated marketing managers ensure that the brand connects with ideal customers across owned, earned, and paid media. They achieve this by building a consistent narrative and messaging across all channels. This omnichannel approach allows marketers to cast a wide net, reach a broader audience, and amplify visibility.

The ability to get creative without losing sight of the strategy is critical to succeeding in this role. Common titles for campaign managers include Performance Marketing Manager, Channel Marketing Manager, and Head of Global Campaigns.

Here are three C-suite skills CMOs recommended to grow in an integrated marketing or campaign management role:

  1. Global-minded: Integrated marketing requires you to work closely with multiple stakeholders in different areas. You’d likely work with teams across product marketing, business development, sales, demand generation, and even agencies. Since you’d be serving teams in different geographies, you should be able to templatize “global” campaigns and programs that can be customized to suit local preferences.
  2. Consistency: Marketers should be consistent with their theme and messaging across all platforms, including events. This helps everyone to have a consistent and coherent conversation with the end consumer.
  3. Creativity: Creating content consistently for all platforms is a surefire route to professional burnout. Getting creative with how you repurpose content is a great way to be consistent across platforms while being consistent with content creation.

Path 2: Brand or corporate communications

Brand marketing is about elevating your brand image. It involves creating brand awareness, establishing relationships with your ideal customers, and delivering the promised value.

Another key responsibility of brand marketers is to develop a brand identity. This means working with in-house marketing, design teams, and external agencies on the logo, tagline, fonts, colors, etc. The goal of these activities is to improve brand recognition (Nike’s Swoosh logo), build credibility (HubSpot optimizing their content for inbound marketing), and cultivate customer loyalty (My Starbucks Reward Program).

Building a brand is often a long-term game and requires marketers to deeply understand their customer's behaviors and preferences. A customer-first mindset, excellent communication skills, and strong market research skills definitely help.

Brand marketers and corporate comms professionals can grow into roles of VP of Corporate Marketing and Head of Brand and Communications.

Here are three key skills that would help brand marketers grow into C-suite roles:

  1. Storytelling: Marketers must know how to tell brand stories that help them meet business goals.
  2. Mastery of communications: The most logical path to grow into a VP or CMO role is to know how to translate business goals into brand goals, develop a keen understanding of the art and science of branding, and own all facets of brand communications.
  3. Know your ideal customer profile: Being a people-focused role, knowing the ideal customer profile is business-critical for brand marketers.

Path 3: Event marketing

There’s this misconception that event marketers are event planners, but nothing could be further from the truth, at least in B2B marketing. Event planners are concerned about ticket sales, attendance, and sponsorship. In contrast, event marketers work on big-picture projects, such as nurturing relationships and using event data to make decisions.

The career path of event marketing to CMO may be less common than the first two paths. However, the required and acquired event marketing skills lend themselves perfectly to growing into a leadership role. Skills like strategic thinking, networking, data-driven decision-making, customer-centricity, and revenue-oriented become progressively vital as you become the VP of Marketing or CMO.

Working as an event marketer gives you the hands-on experience of working with prospects at every stage of the funnel, running brand-building activities, and using data to measure impact.

Our career playbook shares 10 C-suite skills for event marketing pros. Let’s take a look at three of them:

  1. Flexibility: Working on events makes marketers adept at all aspects of marketing, right from email marketing to community management. Successful event leaders also think about the full picture—the before, during, and after of an event. These two qualities set event marketers up for success in leadership roles.
  2. Data: Event marketers are keen to delve into MarTech tools to analyze the event’s performance. They know how to combine pieces from disparate sources to extract meaningful insights, an essential skill for marketing leaders.
  3. Curiosity: Sometimes, you don’t have the answer to something, especially if it's a new thing. Rather than shying away from it, successful event marketers get curious about it. They take calculated risks and see how the experiment pans out.

Onwards and upwards

A career in marketing can be lucrative and rewarding. We hope this primer has helped you get a glimpse of how you can grow in your event marketing career.

Regardless of the path you choose, it’s important to know what your next step entails and build your skill set to close the gap. Also, find mentors in your field to understand what you need to do to meet your career goals.

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