I've been a lowly sales coordinator for about 18 months now. We cold call, set up appointments and generally support the enterprise salespeople. The career path is generally from sales coordinator to associate to salesperson and many at the company have done it.
The main attraction to salesperson is the super high income (usually $200k to $300k) but I find that I am more drawn to marketing. I am an English major and think my writing skills will serve me better in marketing. How can I make the jump to marketing without starting at the very bottom? What positions, specialties should I seek? And how can I acquire the skills on the side?
At your current position? Going from sales coordinator to marketing associate is a lateral move. Both are the bottom rungs of the ladder, which is fine. I know this because I started as an ad and sales coordinator and pivoted to research and marketing way back in the day. In fact, to do so, i took a step back and became the personal assistant to a CEO who was a pioneer in CRO (conversion rate optimization). The move proved to be a very smart one, where after 2 years of learning and servitude, I received a research manager opportunity and did awesome.
Marketing is so massive in what you can do and specialize in. Just go to the American Marketing Association's website and look at their navigation. Digital is just one tab of many!
So here are some quick, random thoughts for you.
If you have the choice, I am biased to anything and everything DIGITAL. That is where interest is right now, and this is where i could argue the majority of innovation and trends are at (like AI, machine learning, big data, you name it...). In all the big companies I've ever trained and have done work for (Verizon Wireless, HR Block, PR Newswire, etc), their heart and attention is in new technology. They want to be able to buy a technology and plug it in to something, and then they hope for some massive boost in [key performance indicator]. Of course its NEVER that easy... but the expectation is there.
Also, digital is trackable for the most part. You either get results or you don't. If you get results, and can claim it, it's a big credibility indicator for the future. There's a lot of marketing where you just "do" stuff. And you do do do... your describe your past positions as what you did, not necessarily what you accomplished, because you can't easily claim what you accomplished. At least with digital, you can add some numbers to it, and can in many cases prove it.
As for skillsets, start looking for the free stuff. Like Google Analytics certification, ad words certification, and any kind of mainstream marketing tech certifications (Hubspot). They won't teach you how to get results, but they will teach you how to DO the things that most great results are linked up with.
Then take some cheap udemy courses covering the top categories, like SEO, PPC, CRO, Email and Social. See which one sparks your natural interest. The LAST thing you want to do is specialize in a category that bores you. You need intrinsic motivation to survive long term in this field.
If you want a free course that gives you a basic sense of CRO, take the first half of the Donation and Landing Page Optimization course from NextAfter. I created it for nonprofits, but really, the first three to four sessions can be used by ANYONE, for profit or non profit. I know this because my specialty is actually for-profit, and has been for 10 years. Nonprofit is something i added to my knowledge base in the last year and a half, and now i understand both very well.
It is all based on actual A/B split test experiments with data measuring for statistical significance. So it's not just opinion.
The good news is that when you transition to marketing, your sales experience will be seen as a bonus by many companies. Because you have these fundamentals, the transition can be easier than starting from scratch.
Marketing takes a unique combination of business acumen, creativity, and technical skills. You can’t really “learn” creativity, although hopefully you find ways to hone it in your everyday life. But the other two factors are things you can work on.
Keep excelling in your sales position, and start making connections with people in the marketing industry - they might help you when it’s time to transition. In the meantime, start to target the kind of marketing you want to focus on, and develop your skills in that niche. Right now, having technical skills related to digital marketing is especially marketable. For example, you might learn how pay-per-click campaigns work or how to do organic SEO.
If you happen upon a small business while networking that will hire you to do some marketing on the side, give it a try. This low-stakes, real-world experience can help you see how to refine your knowledge in preparation for becoming a full-time marketer.
Make sure you target a specialty niche of the marketing world before you travel too far down your learning path. It’s impossible to do it all, and spreading your knowledge too thin will hold you back. A deep knowledge of a short list of skills is more valuable than a shallow knowledge of a long list.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be knowledgeable about all different aspects of marketing, just that you should have deep knowledge in one area, and familiarity with the rest. But one marketing skill you should always work on is how to prove ROI, or measure the success of your marketing tactics. Marketing is notoriously difficult to measure, and companies are more likely to want you if you can prove that your strategies work.
When you’re ready to find a full-time marketing job, take your sales experience to the interview with you: you’re now selling yourself as a candidate. Approach the interview like it’s a sales meeting. Tell them what you have to offer, and how your marketing skills will bring value to their company. If you’ve been able to work some marketing side gigs, bring the numbers that show how you got results. Show them how you’ll help their company grow, and you’ll have a good chance of getting hired.
If you spend some more time in sales before making your transition, don’t worry. That experience is very valuable, so you’re not wasting time! Work on getting to know your marketing department in the meantime. Let them know you’re interested in marketing (they might keep you in mind for openings). Start developing marketing skills through independent study, online trainings, and hands-on experience.
Then, when the time is right, look for positions that fit with your chosen marketing niche. Or, you can target smaller start-ups that don’t have a solid marketing approach yet, and show them how your skills will get the results they want.