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Learning Marketing as a CEO


Recently on this blog, we wrote about how difficult it is for a CEO to master all the disparate skills they’re expected to know.

Seth Birnhaum, CEO and cofounder of EverQuote agreed, “When I initially became a CEO,” he said, “I felt a lot of internal pressure to know how to be a CEO out of the box. But you shouldn’t feel that way. It requires a ton of learning.”

So how does one acquire that learning?

First we have to decide what we want to learn. (Everything? I know — me too.) The specific function of an organization you’re trying to learn will dictate the resources you need to seek out. Because of that, we thought it would be helpful to occasionally use this blog to isolate different aspects of a business, and to share some of our favorite resources on that topic.

Today we’re going to focus on the wide world of marketing, because — to be honest — there’s little more important to the health of your business. Marketing is your lifeblood. It’s the essence of how you connect to your customers.

There’s a ton out there on the subject, but these are some of our favorites — helpful to any CEO trying to build their knowledge.

Online Learning

Well all understand how digital disruption has forever changed marketing. And here is the important part: the way we reach customers is going to continue changing, so we need to keep learning. Even if you’re a marketing whiz, staying current on the strategies and tactics needed to best communicate with your customers is more important than ever.

Coursera, for example, is a leading online learning platform (founded by a pair of Stanford University professors) with more than 33 million registered users and more than 2,400 courses offered. There are 345 courses offered in marketing, ranging from classes for beginners like “Introduction to Marketing” and “Digital Marketing,” all the way to advanced topics like “Strategic Business Analytics.”

You can sign up for an entire sequence of courses for a subscription cost of $39 – $79 per month, or if you want to gain a working knowledge in a specific area, many courses are available to audit at no charge.

And while Coursera is the most well-known, it’s not alone in offering online learning opportunities in marketing. Many other specialized courses can be found on Lynda, Springboard, SkillShare, Udemy, Udacity, and General Assembly.In addition to business strategy courses, Growth Institute offers on-demand marketing-specific courses like branding, target personas, social media and more.

Videos

Are one of your favorite business leaders speaking at an event that’s a little too far away to get to? Well, videos offer us a chance to listen to — and learn tips from — some of the world’s premier marketing experts from the comfort of our home or office.

This lecture about communication techniques, for example, by Matt Abrahams of the Stanford Graduate School of Business has been viewed by 14 Million people. While he’s talking about being a good personal communicator, the principles he addresses apply more broadly to marketing, as well.

There is also plenty of great content by author and marketing expert, Seth Godin, like this classic.

TED Talks — full of short, 15-minute videos about specific topics from leaders telling inspiring stories — are another excellent resource. Here is a repository of their marketing-oriented talks. It’s the perfect way to get your brain thinking about marketing in as short a time as your commute to and from the office.

Written Content

But maybe you would prefer written content?

Obviously you can Google just about any marketing topic you’re interested in and come back with infinite results in a fraction of a second. Not bad, but how do you know you’re getting quality information?

The Content Marketing Institute has been around since 2011 and has the mission of advancing the practice of content marketing,. You’ll find tons of great writing on their homepage illuminating current trends and a host of marketing topics. Or sign up for their newsletter — which has more than 200,000 subscribers — to have their expertise delivered directly to you. 

Another popular site is MarketingProfs, which builds its content — which includes everything from articles, reports and graphics to courses, tutorials and webinars —  around the six elements they believe are essential to marketing campaigns. Marketing Week is a London-based website covering the latest marketing news, opinions, trends, jobs and challenges facing the industry. It’s a great place to see what marketing folks are talking about now — from the World Cup to the B2B branding.

Podcasts

Podcasts are surging in popularity. Six million more Americans listened to podcasts last year than they did in 2017 — up to 48million in total. And streaming services are making them easier and easier to listen to. Brushing your teeth, eating your lunch, walking your dog — podcasts make it so nearly any free moment is the perfect opportunity to learn something new.

But, just like a Google search, how do you choose from the thousands of marketing-related pods out there?

I already mentioned the Content Marketing Institute, and they also have a network of podcasts that are worth checking out.

But my favorite is the HBR Ideas Cast. It’s a weekly podcast from the Harvard Business Review, featuring leading thinkers in business and management, and — given the importance of the topic — it’s no surprise how many of the episodes are related to marketing. Check out Episode 680, for example, about how China is upending Western marketing practices.

You’re Not Alone

It’s an unrealistic expectation that any CEO can walk into that role having mastered the huge range of skills required by that job. But you’re not alone, and the constant learner in you can chip away at improving your knowledge of any aspect of your company.

Marketing is a great place to start.

Whether you prefer coursework, videos, written content or podcasts, there’s so much information from marketing experts available to you online — oftentimes for free.

All you have to do is know where to look.