To excel in modern marketing you need "systems thinking" says Evy Lyons, Traackr’s VP of Marketing

To excel in modern marketing you need "systems thinking" says Evy Lyons, Traackr’s VP of Marketing

Evy Lyons’ journey into marketing was unconventional. She started her career as an ecologist and she feels that changing course was initially a setback.

“I didn’t have the mentor network I would have had if I’d actually started my career in marketing,” says the Vice President of Marketing at influencer marketing platform Traackr. But she overcame this limitation, she says, by “taking risks” – essentially throwing herself into roles in which she had to learn from experience.

She started her career at charity Conservation International. Her ecologist role also involved communications and marketing and – to her surprise – she fell in love with this part of the job. So she studied a Masters in Marketing and set about making up lost ground; taking a strategic decision to spend the next 10 years working for emerging technologies.

“It was very helpful for me to take risks with smaller organisations that were growing fast with less hierarchy. I could grow faster and gain more responsibility quicker,” says Evy.

As marketing covers a gamut of areas, from positioning to pricing and distribution to sales, broad experience is vital to reaching the top. So one of her tips for anyone aiming to reach the lofty heights of marketing is to diversify and gain broad experience of its many areas – something she gained working in smaller organisations.

“I did it all – from digital marketing and SEO to content marketing and PR. Some came easier to me than others, so you need to minimize your blind spots as much as you can.”

The most vital skills

Evy’s role at US-based Tracckr, a company with around 75 people across a number of offices, is to establish the overall vision and strategy for marketing, drive brand awareness, demand generation and advocacy for the brand. She does this with five people reporting directly to her, alongside two communications agencies; one covering the US and the other Europe, and a third design and development agency.

Her budget is divided roughly: 25% on agencies, 15% on martech, 45% on digital programmes and 15% on community building through initiatives like influencer partnerships and events.

To manage all of this takes a skill she describes as “systems thinking”.

“The top skill to acquire in marketing is the ability to excel in systems thinking. Marketing is so complex because there are so many component parts that have to come together – building brand, building demand, creating advocacy, wiring together your web properties, events, in-person experiences – everything is a system,” says Evy, adding, “you have to hold all of this in your head.”

This is where the ecology came in useful; it’s all about understanding ecological systems. But the next vital skill she has developed to reach the top has nothing to do with ecology.

“Higher up in marketing, team building is a huge part of your job. How to recruit a team, help support them and know what skills to hire is very challenging. But someone who’s mastered that is truly at the top of this field.”

Gaining ground

Working for large organisations has never appealed, given her desire to acquire many skills quickly. And while throwing yourself in the deep end takes courage, she advises that fear shrinks with experience.

“The more you take risks, the more you jump off the cliff and realise you didn’t fall, the more comfortable you feel with ambiguity and it doesn’t feel as intense anymore.”

Calling out gender bias

Reaching the top in marketing is never easy. Many would argue it’s harder for women. Evy claims she was never aware of gender bias although she suspects “at some point I was probably unfairly paid and I didn’t have the skills to negotiate.”

Nonetheless, she is acutely aware of the need to ensure gender bias – conscious or unconscious – never plays a part in the culture at Traackr.

“There are definitely times when I see women apologising when they shouldn’t. I try to call it out when I see it as they don’t often realise how they are being perceived.”

That’s a setback no-one should be creating for themselves.