There’s a lot I wish I knew, but here are 10 of the main ones from my time in marketing.
None of these are regrets, but they are definitely lessons I have had to learn the hard way.
Some of them you’ll probably need to learn for yourself (or already have!), but here are some of the main things I wish I had known when I first started off as a fresh faced marketing intern.
This almost seems like a “well, duh” statement. Naively or otherwise, I went into marketing thinking that people had some sort of grasp on what their business needed.
Turns out most clients barely know who their target audience is, let alone how to reach them or sell to them.
However, most of them think they do know all of that.
It’s partly your job to educate the people you are working for (business owners, clients etc.) by showing them data which supports your strategy.
Try finding industry data from reputable sources to back you up. Also, go and find first party data from Google Analytics on demographics and devices.
If you have access to a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), have a look in there for data on existing customers and leads.
Package it up in bitesize, easy to understand chunks and feed it to the people doubting your strategy.
This is a classic.
The ongoing feud between marketing and sales makes the Montagues and Capulets look like angry toddlers. That’s Romeo and Juliet’s respective families, for those who didn’t have to do an English Degree 🥲.
Thing is, marketing needs sales. Sales need marketing. We’re all one, big, dysfunctional family.
If you end up working in an agency, this is when you’ll really feel this.
Salespeople need to sell. It’s what they are judged on and it’s what their job is secured by.
This often means salespeople can get a little enthusiastic when selling marketing services to clients.
The result is that marketers end up with either too much work, or literally impossible demands.
Good sales teams work with marketing from the moment a lead comes through the door. This means expectations are set early and the client is sold the right services.
Now, this isn’t all on sales. Marketers need to be proactive in getting in on the ground floor and educating both clients and salespeople as to the right services for their needs.
Just remember, we’re all here to do our jobs. Communication is the backbone of harmonious companies, and you’re just as responsible for that as anyone in any other department.
Working in marketing is a game of attrition.
What I mean is that there are LOADS of marketing executives and consultants out there. Probably millions (feel special now, don’t ya?).
There are significantly fewer team leaders. Even fewer Heads of Marketing.
The pay level up to consultant is generally pretty meh. In the UK at least, you can reach the national average salary at a push, but you’ll need a few years under your belt and some good negotiation skills.
Either that, or you’re willing to hop jobs frequently 🤷.
As such, I know a lot of people who cruise along at this level and either stay there for good, or get disillusioned and quit that career path.
However, there is a very clear artificial salary ceiling in marketing.
Once you hit team leader status, you start snowballing. Good team leaders are in demand, and jumping up to the next job title is generally easier.
If you can wangle Head of Dept, you’re into the big bucks. The pay scale in the UK for a Head of Digital Marketing can go north of £100k.
If you can make it to CMO level, you’re talking possibly millions per year.
My point here isn’t to make you feel bad. It’s to show you that if you stick it out and put your neck on the line for senior job titles, you’ll actually see a massive salary jump.
Thing is, once you’ve made it to team leader, you’ve already opened up the door to those high paying jobs. This is because of my initial point that there are significantly fewer senior marketers in the job market.
Executives and consultants are everywhere and considered quite replaceable. Senior marketers are in demand and actually have the bargaining power.
If it’s quite obvious you aren’t going to be internally promoted, try applying elsewhere. Window shopping never hurts and you will be surprised at the opportunities.
Every man, woman and their respective dogs can write content. Equally, social media is easy to pick up (hard to master!).
Do they all write good content and great social media? Nah, of course not. But to their employers, it rarely matters. The job title is the same, regardless.
The real money in marketing is in the skills which you can’t bluff.
I’m talking technical SEO, web development, search advertising and social media advertising.
You can’t just blag those things. Either you can do it, or you can’t.
And guess what? That’s why the best paying jobs outside of management sit in those fields.
If you have a chance, pick the one that interests you the most and start reading about it. Use the tools, figure out the best practice and specialise if you want.
You’ll find the job market tips in your favour and you can start naming your price.
At some point in your career you’ll join a brilliant company.
Maybe the leadership is on point. Perhaps you have a legendary team. Maybe it’s just the general vibe and ethos.
I’ve been there, and I’ve also had it all fall to bits in the space of a few weeks.
All it takes is someone at the top to start chasing the dolla, and an amazing workplace can rapidly become a hellhole.
Terrible middle management hires, tightened processes, militant time tracking, the list goes on.
There’s not much you can do to prevent this, but take this as a heads up to be vigilant.
If you start feeling like the vibe you joined for has gone and the pressure is way up – time to leave.
Trust me, get out of the sinking ship for pastures new 😉.
This is the life of a marketer.
Not every campaign you run is going to be a success. Sometimes you can burn through budget for months before catching a break.
It’s the reality of what we do. We have to test, experiment, adapt. All of that takes money.
The key to this? It’s to spin it as a learning opportunity.
Ultimately, every penny you spend is giving you data. That data can tell you what works, but it can also tell you what doesn’t work.
There’s value in both.
This nicely leads me to the next point.
This is has been one of the most valuable learnings from my career.
Ultimately, people can see through your bullshit.
Doesn’t matter how good you are, most (most) people running businesses aren’t idiots. They know when something isn’t right.
Sometimes they’ll call you out on it (fun meeting time!). Often, they’ll just bitch about it behind your back, then eventually hand in their notice or fire you.
You can stop that happening by just being upfront.
I have never lied to a client.
If stuff is going badly, I just tell them.
“Yeah, this campaign just hasn’t turned out the way I wanted. We got a lot of data though, and it’s basically saying that this channel isn’t right for your audience. As such, we’ll try a different channel – here’s my strategy”.
Be honest and you’ll get respect.
Another “obvious” one, but often forgotten.
Being human is somehow something that we’ve lost. Many of us go into “business mode” at work.
“Business mode” is when we get all serious and talk about “pipelines” and “strategies” and “supercharging”.
It’s boring business jargon and nobody actually likes it.
If you take a different approach and actually ask your clients how their life is going and show an interest, they’ll loosen up.
That leads to better conversations and a human connection.
Once a client sees you as a person, rather than a marketing robot 🤖, it gets a lot easier to give them bad news or to upsell them.
Everyone knows how to write a marketing strategy and implement it.
That’s what it feels like sometimes, at least.
Clients, business owners, managing directors, the head of sales. They’ll all give you “advice” on marketing.
Your job is to have the backbone to politely decline that advice (unless you think it’s good advice).
Alternatively, let them know that by doing what they say, they take responsibility if it doesn’t work. 🤷
You’ll find the advice dries up and you can focus on what you do best.
This applies over pretty much every aspect of life, but I’m talking specifically about clients.
This is more of a freelance and agency thing, so less relevant for those working in house.
Agencies and freelancers go through a very distinct growth pattern. It starts with scrounging for any clients. Literally anybody.
And lowballing your prices to get them over the line.
You now have lots of clients, at rock bottom prices.
Eventually, you manage to bring one some new clients worth more revenue. Enough to actually justify having them as clients.
However, you’re also left with loads of low paying, loss-making clients. They’re also just as needy as your high-paying clients.
Offloading clients like that can be challenging, but they will eat away at the bottom line every month.
The solution? Charge what you are worth and have fewer, higher-paying clients.
This is especially true if you are freelancing!
Here’s hoping something from that list was helpful for you!
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Founder of Latent Clarity and author of the Clarity newsletter.
I help new and solo marketers be the best they can with practical, actionable, (and sometimes funny) advice.