Thinking of getting into marketing? Find that you have a passion for the work but aren’t sure how to get started carving out your space in the industry? With digital marketing especially, you need to make a name for yourself; clients wouldn’t be busting down the door to work with someone who entered the field and sunk into the background. But everyone needs some advice to get things started and, after all my years in the marketing scene, I’m not short on wisdom to impart to newcomers.
The following are not tips that you’re going to find elsewhere, not because they’re especially unique, but because they require real effort to pull off. Most articles like this will give you pat advice like “get on social media!” or “make connections!” Yes, those are indeed things you should do, but before you can be proactive about starting your business, you should be internal, and ask yourself the big questions: Is it the right time? Am I good at this? How will I know when I’ve made it? These things don’t feel like work, but your business will flounder if you haven’t laid out a foundation for why and how you’re going to pursue a career in marketing.
There are no cheats or easy ways of doing this job. You want to make it in marketing? You’ll have to put in the work.
Understand the “why”
Before you make a plan or put down any money, ask yourself “why?” Why do you want to enter into this business? Why do you think you have the skills to become successful? You should have answers to these questions. Now, the point of this is not to have you curling up in the fetal position and asking “oh God, why did I ever think I could do this?” The point is to make sure you understand what you want out of this endeavor. Do you have the kind of personality and work structure that will make you successful as a marketer? Will this job make you feel fulfilled, not just financially. If you ask yourself why and struggle to find an answer, well, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have what it takes, but it might be a sign that this business isn’t for you.
Define what you can do
Know your skill before going into this industry, and have a thing that you do well. There isn’t a lot of room for innovation, but there is room for expertise. If you are really good at creating videos, make the thrust of your business about videos. If you have a command over social media platforms, advertise how good you are at that. Being a Jack of all trades usually means that you can do ten things decently, which is not very impressive. Instead have three things that you do better than anyone else, and build your client base around people who need the services you’re best at providing.
Know what success looks like
Three letters: KPI. Key performance indicators. Have a metric for what success looks like before you set up shop. You need to know your goal before you can reach it. Are high sales numbers important to you, or getting lots of sign-ups for your client’s service? Or maybe you care most about having a diverse range of clients. There’s no wrong answer to what success looks like for you, but you should have an answer.
Think about money
And not just “how am I going to make money?”, though that is also important. Think about how much you’re investing, the value of your time, how much you can charge with your experience level, how much your clients can reasonably pay you. Do an opportunity cost analysis. If you’re going to be spending more to get started than you stand to gain, don’t make the career move right now. Never put yourself in a position where you’re relying on clients to pay the bills.
Stake out the competition
Find out what the other businesses in your industry are doing. If they’ve been around awhile, try to figure out what makes them successful. If you’re cocky enough to walk into the marketing scene and think you’re going to reinvent the wheel right off the bat, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. Keep the pace with your competition and establish yourself as part of the club first, innovate later. However, just note that keeping an eye on the competition does not mean being predatory or hostile. The ability to network is important.
Find a good “how-to” resource
Do not assume you know all the answers. Find a good resource to bounce questions off of, whether it’s a friend in the industry, a mentor, or even a blog written by a marketing guru. Something that will give you actual, tangible answers to all of your marketing questions. There are a lot of bright minds in the industry, but if I might take a moment to self-promote, The Go! Agency’s Blog is full of comprehensive articles about all aspects of digital marketing.
Manage your time wisely
If you don’t have good time management skills, learn them. No one is going to hold you accountable except yourself, and your clients are going to demand results whether you’ve managed your time wisely or not.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful; truthfully, these are all things I wish somebody had been nice enough to tell me when I started out. For more sage advice from a veteran of the marketing industry, check out the other entries in this blog.