Guide to a Career as an Advertising, Marketing, or Sales Manager

Advertising, Marketing, and Sales managers drive company sales and profitability through market research, strategy, branding, advertising, sales efforts, promotion, pricing, and public relations. These managers drive what the public sees of a company and having high quality individuals in these positions can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful firm.

In this career guide, we are going to teach you what a successful career in sales or marketing looks like.

Advertising, Marketing, or Sales Manager Summary

  • Keen competition is expected for these highly coveted jobs.
  • College graduates with related experience, a high level of creativity, and strong communication and computer skills should have the best job opportunities.
  • High earnings, substantial travel, and long hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.
  • Because of the importance and high visibility of their jobs, these managers often are prime candidates for advancement to the highest ranks.

Working as a Marketing or Sales Manager

Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers coordinate their companies’ market research, marketing strategy, sales, advertising, promotion, pricing, product development, and public relations activities. In small firms the owner or chief executive officer might assume all advertising, promotions, marketing, sales, and public relations responsibilities. In large firms, which may offer numerous products and services nationally or even worldwide, an executive vice president directs overall advertising, marketing, promotions, sales, and public relations policies. Executive vice presidents are covered in our Career Guide for Top Executives.

Advertising managers. Advertising managers direct a firm’s or group’s advertising and promotional campaign. They can be found in advertising agencies that put together advertising campaigns for clients, in media firms that sell advertising space or time, and in companies that advertise heavily. They work with sales staff and others to generate ideas for the campaign, oversee a creative staff that develops the advertising, and work with the finance department to prepare a budget and cost estimates for the campaign. Often, these managers serve as liaisons between the firm requiring the advertising and an advertising or promotion agency that actually develops and places the ads. In larger firms with an extensive advertising department, different advertising managers may oversee in-house accounts and creative and media services departments. The account executive manages account services departments in companies and assesses the need for advertising. In advertising agencies, account executives maintain the accounts of clients whereas the creative services department develops the subject matter and presentation of advertising. The creative director oversees the copy chief, art director, and associated staff. The media director oversees planning groups that select the communication medium—for example, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, or outdoor signs—that will disseminate the advertising.

Marketing managers. Marketing managers work with advertising and promotion managers to promote the firm’s or organization’s products and services. With the help of lower level managers, including product development managers and market research managers, marketing managers estimate the demand for products and services offered by the firm and its competitors and identify potential markets for the firm’s products. Marketing managers also develop pricing strategies to help firms maximize profits and market share while ensuring that the firms’ customers are satisfied. In collaboration with sales, product development, and other managers, they monitor trends that indicate the need for new products and services and they oversee product development.

Promotions managers. Promotions managers direct promotions programs that combine advertising with purchasing incentives to increase sales. Often, the programs are executed through the use of direct mail, inserts in newspapers, Internet advertisements, in-store displays, product endorsements, or other special events. Purchasing incentives may include discounts, samples, gifts, rebates, coupons, sweepstakes, and contests.

Public relations managers. Public relations managers plan and direct public relations programs designed to create and maintain a favorable public image for the employer or client. For example, they might write press releases or sponsor corporate events to help maintain and improve the image and identity of the company or client. They also help to clarify the organization’s point of view to their main constituency. They observe social, economic, and political trends that might ultimately affect the firm, and they make recommendations to enhance the firm’s image on the basis of those trends. Public relations managers often specialize in a specific area, such as crisis management, or in a specific industry, such as healthcare.

In large organizations, public relations managers may supervise a staff of public relations specialists.  They also work with advertising and marketing staffs to make sure that the advertising campaigns are compatible with the image the company or client is trying to portray. In addition, public relations managers may handle internal company communications, such as company newsletters, and may help financial managers produce company reports. They may assist company executives in drafting speeches, arranging interviews, and maintaining other forms of public contact; oversee company archives; and respond to requests for information. Some of these managers handle special events as well, such as the sponsorship of races, parties introducing new products, or other activities that the firm supports in order to gain public attention through the press without advertising directly.

Sales managers. Sales managers direct the distribution of the product or service to the customer. They assign sales territories, set sales goals, and establish training programs for the organization’s sales representatives. (See the Handbook statement on sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing). Sales managers advise the sales representatives on ways to improve their sales performance. In large multiproduct firms, they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs. Sales managers maintain contact with dealers and distributors, and analyze sales statistics gathered by their staffs to determine sales potential and inventory requirements and to monitor customers’ preferences. Such information is vital in the development of products and the maximization of profits.

Work environment. Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers work in offices close to those of top managers. Working under pressure is unavoidable when schedules change and problems arise, but deadlines and goals still must be met.

Substantial travel may be required in order to meet with customers and consult with others in the industry. Sales managers travel to national, regional, and local offices and to the offices of various dealers and distributors. Advertising and promotions managers may travel to meet with clients or representatives of communications media. At times, public relations managers travel to meet with special-interest groups or government officials. Job transfers between headquarters and regional offices are common, particularly among sales managers.

Long hours, including evenings and weekends are common. In 2008, over 80 percent of advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers worked 40 hours or more a week.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

A wide range of educational backgrounds is suitable for entry into advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales manager jobs, but many employers prefer college graduates with experience in related occupations.

Education and training. For marketing, sales, and promotions management positions, employers often prefer a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing. Courses in business law, management, economics, accounting, finance, mathematics, and statistics are advantageous. In addition, the completion of an internship while the candidate is in school is highly recommended. In highly technical industries, such as computer and electronics manufacturing, a bachelor’s degree in engineering or science, combined with a master’s degree in business administration, is preferred.

For advertising management positions, some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in advertising or journalism. A relevant course of study might include classes in marketing, consumer behavior, market research, sales, communication methods and technology, visual arts, art history, and photography.

For public relations management positions, some employers prefer a bachelor’s or master’s degree in public relations or journalism. The applicant’s curriculum should include courses in advertising, business administration, public affairs, public speaking, political science, and creative and technical writing.

Most advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales management positions are filled through promotions of experienced staff or related professional personnel. For example, many managers are former sales representatives; purchasing agents; buyers; or product, advertising, promotions, or public relations specialists. In small firms, in which the number of positions is limited, advancement to a management position usually comes slowly. In large firms, promotion may occur more quickly.

Other qualifications. Computer skills are necessary for recordkeeping and data management, and the ability to work in an Internet environment is becoming increasingly vital as more marketing, product promotion, and advertising is done through the Internet. Also, the ability to communicate in a foreign language may open up employment opportunities in many rapidly growing areas around the country, especially cities with large Spanish-speaking populations.

Persons interested in becoming advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers should be mature, creative, highly motivated, resistant to stress, flexible, and decisive. The ability to communicate persuasively, both orally and in writing, with other managers, staff, and the public is vital. These managers also need tact, good judgment, and exceptional ability to establish and maintain effective personal relationships with supervisory and professional staff members and client firms.

Certification and advancement. Some associations offer certification programs for these managers. Certification—an indication of competence and achievement—is particularly important in a competitive job market. Although relatively few advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers currently are certified, the number of managers who seek certification is expected to grow. Today, there are numerous management certification programs based on education and job performance. In addition, the Public Relations Society of America offers a certification program for public relations practitioners that is based on years of experience and performance on an examination.

Although experience, ability, and leadership are emphasized for promotion, advancement can be accelerated by participation in management training programs conducted by larger firms. Many firms also provide their employees with continuing education opportunities—either in-house or at local colleges and universities—and encourage employee participation in seminars and conferences, often held by professional societies. In collaboration with colleges and universities, numerous marketing and related associations sponsor national or local management training programs. Course subjects include brand and product management; international marketing; sales management evaluation; telemarketing and direct sales; interactive marketing; product promotion; marketing communication; market research; organizational communication; and data-processing systems, procedures, and management. Many firms pay all or part of the cost for employees who complete courses.

Because of the importance and high visibility of their jobs, advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers often are prime candidates for advancement to the highest ranks. Well-trained, experienced, and successful managers may be promoted to higher positions in their own or another firm; some become top executives. Managers with extensive experience and sufficient capital may open their own businesses.

Employment as a Marketing or Sales Manager

Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers held about 623,800 jobs in 2008. The following tabulation shows the distribution of jobs by occupational specialty:

Sales managers 346,900
Marketing managers 175,600
Public relations managers 56,700
Advertising and promotions managers 44,600

These managers were found in virtually every industry. Sales managers held about 56 percent of the jobs; about 62 percent of sales managers were employed in wholesale trade, retail trade, manufacturing, and the finance and insurance industries. Marketing managers held approximately 28 percent of the jobs; the professional, scientific, and technical services, and the finance and insurance industries employed around 32 percent of marketing managers. About 27 percent of advertising and promotions managers worked in the professional, scientific, and technical services industries and wholesale trade. Around 48 percent of public relations managers were employed in service-providing industries, such as professional, scientific, and technical services; public and private educational services; finance and insurance; and healthcare and social assistance.

Job Outlook

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average. As with most managerial jobs, keen competition is expected for these highly coveted positions.

Employment change. Overall employment of advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers is expected to increase by 13 percent through 2018. Job growth will be spurred by competition for a growing number of goods and services, both foreign and domestic, and the need to make one’s product or service stand out in the crowd. In addition, as the influence of traditional advertising in newspapers, radio, and network television wanes, marketing professionals are being asked to develop new and different ways to advertise and promote products and services to better reach potential customers.

Sales and marketing managers and their departments constitute some of the most important personnel in an organization and are less subject to downsizing or outsourcing than are other types of managers, except in the case of companies that are consolidating. Employment of these managers, therefore, will vary primarily on the basis of the growth or contraction in the industries that employ them. For example, if, as is expected, the number of automobile dealers declines over the next decade, these major employers of sales managers will need fewer of them. Employment of marketing managers will grow about as fast as average at 12 percent between 2008 and 2018, and that of sales managers will grow faster than average at 15 percent over the same period.

Advertising and promotions managers are expected to experience little or no change in employment from 2008 to 2018. Despite large declines in the number of advertising managers in recent years, due mainly to the sharp reduction in the number of advertising agencies and newspaper and periodical publishers, which employ the greatest numbers of these managers, advertising and promotions managers are not expected to experience similar declines in the future. Because advertising is the primary source of revenue for most media, advertising departments are less affected in a downturn. An expected increase in the number of television and radio stations and a sharp increase in the amount of advertising in digital media, such as the Internet and wireless devices will generate a need for advertising managers to oversee new and innovative advertising programs. A number of these advertising managers will be self-employed.

Public relations managers are expected to see an increase in employment of 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is about as fast as average for all occupations, as organizations increasingly emphasize community outreach and customer relations as a way to enhance their reputation and visibility. Especially among the growing number of nonprofit organizations, such as education services, business and professional associations, and hospitals, where many of these workers are employed, public relations managers will be charged with promoting the mission of the organization and encouraging membership or use of the organization’s services.

Job prospects. Most job openings for this occupation will be due to the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or retire. However, advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales manager jobs are highly coveted and are often sought by other managers or highly experienced professionals, resulting in keen competition. College graduates with related experience, a high level of creativity, and strong communication and computer skills should have the best job opportunities. In particular, employers will seek those who have the skills to conduct new types of advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales campaigns involving new media, particularly the Internet.

Projections Data

Projections data from the National Employment Matrix
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2008 Projected
Employment, 2018
Change,
2008-18
Number Percent
Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers 11-2000 623,800 704,100 80,300 13
Advertising and promotions managers 11-2011 44,600 43,900 -800 -2
Marketing and sales managers 11-2020 522,400 596,200 73,700 14
Marketing managers 11-2021 175,600 197,500 21,900 12
Sales managers 11-2022 346,900 398,700 51,800 15
Public relations managers 11-2031 56,700 64,100 7,300 13
NOTE: Data in this table are rounded.

Earnings for Marketing Managers

Median annual wages in May 2008 were $80,220 for advertising and promotions managers, $108,580 for marketing managers, $97,260 for sales managers, and $89,430 for public relations managers.

Median annual wages of advertising and promotions managers in May 2008 in the advertising, public relations, and related services industry were $105,960.

Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of marketing managers were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services $127,870
Management of companies and enterprises 115,650
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 111,130
Insurance carriers 103,210
Depository credit intermediation 98,510

Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of sales managers were as follows:

Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers $125,130
Wholesale, electronic markets, and agents and brokers 114,670
Automobile dealers 107,500
Management of companies and enterprises 106,980
Department stores 54,560

Wages vary substantially, depending upon the employee’s level of managerial responsibility, length of service, and education; the size and location of the firm; and the industry in which the firm operates. For example, manufacturing firms usually pay these managers higher salaries than nonmanufacturing firms. For sales managers, the size of their sales territory is another important determinant of salary. Many managers earn bonuses equal to 10 percent or more of their salaries.

According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salaries for marketing majors graduating in 2009 averaged $43,325.

Marketing and sales managers make up the backbone of a company’s efforts to market and sell their products. In this free career guide, you learned about a career in sales or marketing management.

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