Tuesday, April 02, 2013

4 Pieces of Advice for Starting out in Digital Marketing

My Dad gave me 4 pieces of advice when I was young. If you know my Dad you'd know he's a bit 'special', all be it in an awesome way. They were as follows:
  • Never fall in love from behind.
  • Don't set fire to yourself.
  • Never play cards with a man who has the same first name as a city.
  • Never drop a baby boy on his head...
I rest my case.

I was thinking about this the other day, having just narrowly avoided setting fire to myself, and I thought about applying this to what I do and wondered what 4 pieces of trite advice I'd give to younger folks setting out into the work in on-line marketing. I have no offspring of my own, which is a plus for humanity, so here we go:

“The more difficult something is, the more rewarding it is in the end.”

1) Go Back to Basics
The brand is the core of everything... 90% of the old pillars of marketing still work in the digital realm, though admittedly with a twist or two. Simple branding is the core of all businesses. B2B, B2C, big, small, whatever. Just because we work in digital doesn't mean this is something we can ignore. If you want the edge in what's now a growing and competitive area, you need a proper brand strategy (more than you need air).

Your brand is your promise to your customer, and your internal and external guidelines for communication. It's what sets you apart from the competition, and it's what tells your clients what they can expect from your and why they should trust you to provide the goods and services they need in exchange for their hard earned dollars.

Every damn thing you do comes from your brand strategy. Without it you can't even identify the key messages you'll be communicating about the product or service. Your voice, your distribution channels, what images you use, your motivations, where you concentrate your efforts, how you word your content, the lot. Frankly, you can't do an effective job without having a strong foundation to build on, and that means being comfortable with how we do the basics.

2) Remember you Know Jack, and Shit (and Jack left town).
Marketing is an agile process, or should be. Looking at the figures will give you insight.

Never presume you know how the target demographic will react. Make sure everything is measurable, and keep measuring it to see if it works. If it works, why? If it doesn't work, fiddle with it or scrap it.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them when you do. Get a bit nerdy about numbers, but don't let it stifle your creativity.

3) Be Bloody Amazing
Boring is, well, boring.

The best people I know (at what we do) have a drive to learn all the time. They are a little bit obsessed, at the exclusion of a lot of other things, about using what they know and about leaning more.

They are polymaths. They have a myriad of interests, skills, and obsessions. They suck up information like a Dyson does dust bunnies. They read industry blogs and feeds. They tweet, and listen to industry influencers. They write, and force themselves to learn as they do. They experience life by going to conferences and talking to other like-minded peeps. They travel, or go to the theatre, they go on courses or to conferences, or love cinema, or create in virtual worlds. They produce video, or audio, or write, or mentor. They seek the opinion of others and amalgamate ideas into something greater than the sum of it's parts.

Truly dynamic people, who stimulate debate, and action, and put IN to the Internet (we still spell that with a capital 'I', right?) have the ideas - and for many of us this doesn't come naturally. These are the people who are more than just consumers of other peoples data. They pro-actively contribute, and learn in the process. You have to work at it at first, but once you start the ball carries on rolling.

4) Get Sign-off From the Client
I've worked in agencies, or for organisations with multiple stakeholders, for most of my working life. I've learnt this one from my own folly and from watching the folly of others. I'm serious here.

Get them to sign the initial contract. The design doc. The brand messaging doc. The keyword research. The marketing plan. Every damn thing where a decision is involved that will impact the final result. Most importantly, get them to sign to say the work is finished (based on the original brief they signed to commit to a pre-defined conclusion). No surprises, for all parties.

If it's all signed off it doesn't come back and bite you in the ass, and also avoids feature creep. Remember: If it's signed-off, feature creep turns into up-sell.

Trust me on this last one. In fact, get it as a tattoo.


So there you go. I've been working with a few bright sparks from Agency Life at Manchester Uni. recently, who might find this amusing. Yes, it's all pretty obvious and pretty basic, but so was my dads original advice (which has always stood me in good stead).

Oh, and find a really bloody good accountant...
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