The Matrix

The number one attribute you need to be a top marketer

In The Matrix, the most notable movie of 1999, the lead character Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) is able to acquire new skills that would normally take years to learn – including martial arts – by being plugged into a computer and receiving a digital download that takes mere seconds. This sort of learning ability was an attribute that one of the best hires I have made seemed to have.

Jack (not his real name) was working on a reception desk but kept rapidly adding new skills in all the Adobe applications and in design. He didn’t actually have Neo’s rapid downloading capability, just a hunger to learn and he spent his evenings doing online learning. During quiet spots during the day, he started volunteering his skills. With passion like that, Jack deserved to be in a marketing team and I was able to make it happen for him.

Why hunger to learn accelerates your effectiveness

Hunger to learn is the most important attribute that affects if someone is going to be a top marketer. This is the case for three reasons.

Firstly, there is a body of marketing knowledge that has been built up over the past century, in areas such as copywriting, advertising and psychology that can fast-track your marketing abilities. The best copywriters are the ones who have read the classics such as books by Joseph Sugarman and Drayton Bird, which give techniques for using words to convince and sell, and read novels and poetry, which show how to use words with style. There is a huge body of knowledge out there – such as why a photo including someone’s face works better than a pretty scene – which can be learned faster by studying than through your own work. 

Secondly, the pace of change in marketing is speeding up. While you can learn plenty from personal experience, it’s much better to also learn from other people’s experience – such as by watching online videos about Photoshop, attending seminars, listening to experts on Audible or watching Ted talks. Sometimes people think that they only need to talk strategy and don’t need technical knowledge. In fact, a good level of technical knowledge is necessary to be a senior marketer. That’s why the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Professional Marketing Competencies framework, even for CIM Fellows, incorporates a Technical capabilities section.

Finally, hunger to learn advances your career because a proven commitment to continuing professional development tells a powerful story. People will see your skills are growing and give you more opportunities to work on bigger, and perhaps more interesting, projects. Most marketers underinvest in the time needed for learning, but for those who take their development seriously, it can be surprisingly easy to become a top performer.

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