When we all start out in our professional life, things can looks pretty hard. No connections, no experience and not a clue what’s the best thing to do.
In this post I share 11 lessons I learned the hard way in my past 3-4 marketing years, full of 12-15 hours workdays and I wish I could share with my younger self. Hopefully, it will help at least one junior and ambitious marketer.
1) Be promiscuous with marketing
Boy, this is a big one…
One of the big lessons in marketing that no one is talking about, is that a true marketer shouldn’t worship any tactic/channel.
Every one of us starts somewhere, practicing a specific tactic, be it content marketing, Facebook ads or whatever. The problem arises when you become *emotionally* vested to a tactic and you try to make it work regardless of the signs that it won’t or when you try to apply it in every business you work with/at.
It feels like our reputation is on the line and if it won’t work what does that mean? Were we wrong all this time, or even incompetent?
The answer is no, or at least not necessarily. Different channels are better suited for different industries, needs and businesses. The specifics are learned with experience and effort. The variables are too many to list. And there is always the X factor, meaning that something might not work for unknown reasons.
God, I still remember my frustration when I was doing lots of Facebook ads, both for me and clients and I was trying to make them work for B2B…
“Experts” were telling me that no matter which my target audience is, it’s on Facebook. What they forgot to tell us is that although B2B decision makers are on Facebook, their *frame of mind* is different there!
They are on Facebook to relax, look at cool stuff, cat videos and their friends’ photos and updates.
It’s like walking up to them at their family dinner time and pitching them about your offer. It might be interesting but the timing is not right.
Facebook is rarely profitable for B2B, remember that.
To wrap it up:
Are you skillful in Facebook ads? Has email sponsorship always worked for you? Google ads?
None of this matter. Try all, love none and cut the non-performers without a sign of hesitation.
2) Get a job before you do your own thing
Entrepreneurship has been very hyped the past years and everyone wants to do their own thing, fresh out of college, just like I wanted to.
Truth is, very few people have the DNA to be successful entrepreneurs in their life. For the rest of us, in order to pull any kind of success we need to work at a job first and get experience.
The best way to get experience is to go work for a small company or a startup, ideally under someone with a couple great qualities (I learned my work ethic from my very first job in an agency and it has been tremendously helpful).
So, in essence you are getting paid to learn. Most business ventures need some money and now you can fund them, while honing your skills. Can’t get any better than that…
Whatever you read online is much harder to go and do it by yourself if you have never been in the trenches.
Get a job; the right job and stop wasting time.
3) Look at the big picture
This is something I learned from our cofounder at my current job. In the early days he was telling me “Look at the big picture” and I was trying, but I couldn’t quite grasp what he meant.
Or rather I couldn’t see it…
I can’t tell you exactly how to see the big picture, but I will try to elaborate through an example I learned from our conversation with Demetrius Michael, the growth hacker at Shopify:
If your company’s goal is to grow 10x times a year (that’s 10,000%) what actions can you do to make it happen? You might have a good growth idea, but if it doesn’t have such a big potential it has to be killed for something better that you haven’t yet thought about.
Why? Because there is opportunity cost and it might put extensive workload on other parts of the company.
In essence, truly fast paced and explosive growth startups need to focus only on minimum effort, maximum results actions, thus killing moderate growth ideas.
When you experience it, you will see how frustrating that is, but apparently that’s what it takes.
P.S. You will always be short on resources, no matter how big your company is
4) What separates seniors from juniors
By definition what separates them is years of experience. But, from what I have seen and discussed, it’s rarely enough.
Someone with less experience, leadership skills, who is reliable and with better work ethic can outperform a senior one.
Being just very good at your craft won’t get you very far, but in my opinion it is needed to advance, either in the company’s hierarchy or as an entrepreneur.
Good seniors and good managers, tend to help their team grow, see the big picture and align actions with the company’s or startup’s long term goal.
Of course a lot of this depends on the company’s culture and the heads of said company.
Anyway, to sum it up, seniors should have the technical skills to do the job of their juniors, be able to look at the big picture and have people skills.
5) Specialize in either B2C or B2B
At least early on. Another lesson that took me quite some time to learn.
B2B and B2C are fundamentally different. The marketing channels, models, philosophies and strategies are all different.
Start with the one you are a bigger consumer of. Check your past 12 months’ purchases and if you spent more for business tools and resources than consumer goods, you should probably get into B2B.
Once you have a lot of experience in it, you can then venture out and explore the other domain too.
6) Choose an industry and stick with it until you master it
B2B and B2C are 2 very broad spectrums. In each there are specific industries and niches within those industries.
Start working in a niche (for example at a B2B SaaS targeting small and medium ecommerce owners), learn the ins and outs and then start expanding by helping friends, working with clients on the side or changing jobs.
If you have mastered for example growth hacking for most B2B SaaS, you can stick with it and make wonders. If you want to explore other industries for fun and personal growth do it with no more than 20% of your time.
7) There is B2B, B2C and a third domain
Everyone knows about B2B and B2C, but in my mind there is a 3rd domain as well, an intersection of those two so to speak.
It’s neither totally consumer targeted nor strictly business/corporate…
Examples would be targeting professionals or very small businesses.
An example of such a business, targeting this intersection, is Canva. It’s not Photoshop, yet it won’t target a strictly consumer demographic.
In my mind, it’s very useful being aware of this intersection/third domain.
8) Don’t get fooled by online bold claims and gurus
When I was junior, naive and less experienced I used to be blown away by the “case study of the week”. Case study of the week, is a hyped case study that is rather a sales pitch for their services/product.
This hyping phenomenon is especially rampant in the conversion optimization space. In many cases the moto has become: “Change a color for a day among 100 visitors and share your mind-blowing results”.
I don’t know if they intentionally hype such case studies and articles, or they are just naive, but it doesn’t matter. The result is that young, inexperienced marketers are being overwhelmed with the tactic of the week (or day) and most of them are flawed, because they are taking the exception and making it the rule.
The only measure you can take to counter this is to get as much marketing experience as soon as possible so you can filter this info.
Lastly, evaluate any tactic based on your overall strategy before thinking about implementation…
9) Bet on your strengths. Heavily
This is something I mainly learned from Gary Vaynerchuk’s videos and from observing small business owners.
I used to try to fix every weakness of mine, like I had to do everything myself. That’s what small business owners also try to do and I believe it’s part of the reason they remain small.
Let’s say your skills in Photoshop are a 2. Investing time in making yourself a 6 usually isn’t time well spent.
As you get experience, you will see that making small changes in images is a mandatory marketing skill, but creating special images on Photoshop isn’t very important when there is Fiverr. So, it might be better to stay at 2 and invest your time elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you notice to have a knack and a strength for example in paid acquisition, it’s far more important to put as much time as possible into that and become a top 5% or even a top 1%.
A jack of all trades is good at none…
10) Get out there and make magic happen
Digital marketing, growth hacking, it’s all good, but offline can also be very important. Real, face to face communication and introductions, trump everything, but they are not scalable and might become expensive.
That’s part of the reason webinars work so well. They help build trust with your audience, because your audience gets to know the real people behind a company, hears your voice and gets more personal. We are social creatures after all.
Location, conferences, real-time introductions all can be great accelerators.
Use them wisely as soon as possible and don’t spend your whole day behind a computer screen.
11) Master one form of selling
Selling is the most important skill one can have. Try to master at least one form.
Forms include: phone sales, Skype sales, face to face sales, cold outreach, affiliate marketing and direct mails.
All of these are different, usually ideal for different products and for different target customers. Mastering at least one can prove very beneficial.
Just because phone sales is more grinding and usually harder doesn’t matter it’s what you should do.
That was a long post. I wish I had read that when I was starting out and hopefully it helped at least one junior and ambitious marketer. Just by reading it doesn’t mean you won’t make those mistakes, the intent of this post is to help you get past those phases as fast as possible!
Do you know a young marketer who could benefit from this?
Please forward it to them, you will be doing them a favor.
This was the last post for 2015 I will be back with a new post the second week of 2016 and hopefully with 1-2 advanced guides, so subscribe to get them if you haven’t done this yet!
I want to wish you all, happy Christmas and a prosperous 2016!
See you in the trenches!