As happens a few times during one’s professional career – if you’re lucky – I recently had the chance to stop working, step back, and conduct a purposeful job search. While it was an emotional rollercoaster, I also learned a ton. Oddly, much of it can be applied to driving digital marketing success. Here are a few key insights.
1. Start With Broad Discovery
For many of us, we tend to find new opportunities while currently employed and they tend to be either driven by the need to move on – personal – or because an opportunity arises that can’t be passed up. Sometimes these opportunities are great and align to our passions and ambitions beautifully. Other times we feel like we’re just taking what’s given and regret not being able to be as thoughtful or exploratory as we’d like. I’ve been able to do both in my career and both approaches have their advantages and challenges.
I’ve been a digital marketer for my entire career – more than 18 years now – and I’ve purposely chosen opportunities where I could apply my skills immediately but also where I’d be pushed out of my comfort zone and would learn a lot. I’ve consistently chosen to look at digital from wholly different perspectives so I can understand both how fundamentals apply but also what’s unique. I’m a deep generalist and it’s served me well. I’ve built digital start-ups, I’ve been inside global consumer brands and e-commerce organizations, I’ve managed clients within global digital agencies, and I’ve run marketing for digital marketing technology companies.
During this “purposeful pause” I went very broad and reached out to almost every person I know in digital. They then lead me to their broader networks and so on. Getting to talk to all sorts of people working on all sorts of digital and business challenges was amazing and enlightening and enabled me to connect a whole bunch of dots that usually don’t get connected.
When planning digital programs, there are always many different options for reaching key consumers, engaging them, and driving brand and business outcomes. But to get out of your comfort zone takes courage. Do your initial planning and research then reach out to trusted advisors across disciplines under the guise of learning. Come prepared with the key questions you need answered and really listen. What’s common across approaches? What’s unique about each discipline? How can you capitalize on both?
2. Narrow Down to Just Your Best Options
After taking a few weeks to pursue and conduct meetings, I had a significant amount to think about. Did I want to work at a start-up, for a big brand, or an agency? Where could I be most successful? Who did I like the most? It’s odd to think of it this way, but I had been gathering data while I was building relationships. What emerged was a series of key criteria that could each be given a score for each opportunity.
Benefits | Travel | Culture | Commute…
As we build our marketing programs and consider channels and tactics, a similar matrix emerges.
Reach | Cost | Objectives Met | Creative Required…
If you want to get really geeky – and I do – you can build weighting into your scoring. Maybe cost is more important than reach, so multiply the cost score by 1.5. Once you’ve filled-in your scores and adjusted weighting, you should start to see your top opportunities emerge. Again, keep an open mind – if you trust the process and are honest with your scores you might be surprised about what rises to the top.
3. Negotiate the Best Deals
In job searches there’s a fine balance between you needing a job and employers needing to fill the role. After you’ve passed the initial screens and have shown yourself worthy of consideration or an offer, the scales tip in your favor. While you don’t want to jeopardize the opportunity, you are able to negotiate on a few fronts. Think holistically about your commute, your workstation, your needs when working away from the office, etc. and ask for appropriate perks.
When developing marketing plans, the same dynamics and opportunities apply. Don’t take anything at face value; there’s always room to move. Once you’ve built a relationship with a vendor or agency, they’re very interested in closing the deal. If considering social advertising, for example, push to work with an account person and see if they can help with building key segments or can provide guidance on getting CPMs down. If working with a vendor, ask about having a dedicated account person (explicitly ask for their best resource) to help with implementation and ensure success. And here’s a special secret – if you can offer a public case study, they’ll bend over backwards to make you successful.
4. Leap With Both Feet
At the end of this search, I was lucky enough to have a few options. Making a final decision wasn’t easy, but once I did, I was all in. No matter how much research and questioning you do during the search process, it’s impossible to know for sure if it will be the right fit for you and your new employer. But it’s really important to enter every new opportunity full of passion, energy, and openness to learning.
The same is true of marketing campaigns. No matter how much work you do up front, how much planning and creative development effort you and your team put forth, you never really know how it will perform until it’s running. Approach every launch with excitement and an openness to learn. You can usually quickly adjust and try new things. Marketing, too, takes courage, but when you plan right and thoroughly consider and weigh your options, the risks can be greatly reduced.
Have Lunch With Smart People at Least Every Month
Seriously. This was the biggest thing I learned. Meeting with interesting people informally is invaluable and it provides insights while building relationships, what’s better than that?
Publish While You Search
No matter how long you plan to be out of work, it’s essential that you stay fresh and involved. If you don’t have a blog or a Twitter account, make them and start publishing and curating. If you’re courageous, you can even try pitching article ideas to publishers in your space – do it.
Consult While You Search
You have skills and people will pay you for them. As you meet with potential employers, offer your services as a consultant during your search. It will enable you to make a little money and show folks what you’re capable of.
Volunteer or Mentor While You Search
Are there any start-up incubators or university business classes in your area? Can you offer your time to help mentor students or young entrepreneurs? Helping others succeed is not only rewarding, but it’ll help you hone your skills and expand your network.
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