Monday, 30 January 2012

What new marketers need to know

Following a request from a colleague, I thought I'd turn this into a post.  Five questions (with my answers) aimed at newly graduated marketers:

  1. How did you discover the world of Online Marketing?
  2. I was an expert in music before finding gainful employment in the internet and was recruited as Director of Content & E-Commerce to a start-up selling CDs and other music-related products online. They needed someone who knew their ABBA from their Zappa and could segment music lovers from medieval madrigals through to garage and grime.  My role naturally included all non-music related content and marketing too and expanded to include all areas of digital.  The slow death of the music industry helped me decide to focus more on digital in the future than music.

  3. What are 3 common mistakes that marketers make?
    1. They forget who the competition is.  Marketers often only focus on the brand competitors, and ignore the other things that compete for the customer’s attention and wallet.

    2. They forget who the customer is and what they want. Marketers often focus on showing how great their brand is and how different and special it is compared to the rest – when in many cases the customer simply wants something reliable and to know they have made a sensible purchase.  This all comes down, clearly, to buyer behaviours and psychographic segmentation.

    3. They forget about the marketing mix (on a basic level, Product, Place, Promotion, Price) and focus only on the Promotion or advertising side.   Zara is an example of a highly successful global brand that has had minimal advertising, but has been extremely effective using other elements of the mix, by paying a premium for core locations of their stores, competitive pricing and ensuring the client base know that their products are fashionable and also only available for a limited time before a new collection arrives.

  4. What advice would you give to young marketers after they graduate?
  5. Image: Stuart Miles /
    1. Don’t set your sights too high at the beginning;
    2. Get experience in as wide a variety of roles and jobs as you can; and
    3. Only think about specialising after a few years.

    The reason for this is that if you start work in an agency you might find it very hard after a few years to get work on the ‘client side’ where the demands are different (you might have to do a lot more stakeholder management inside the organisation).  

    Equally, if you are only ‘client side’ within an organisation, you might find it very hard to make the jump to agency.  Equally, if your role is more offline or broadcast media, then you might find it difficult to convince a future (or existing) employer that you are also capable at the digital side, and vice versa.  

    The analytical side of SEO, PPC and so on can be less attractive to some than, for example, being on the creative side. But having those analytical skills is essential and will grow in importance as more data becomes available through the use of mobile devices by larger sections of the population.

  6. Google has recently introduced a new social media platform, Google+. Do you think that one day it can take over Facebook and Twitter?
  7. Can it? Yes. Could it? Yes. Will it? No idea. Remember that 5 years ago MySpace was the all dominant social network, and 5 years before that it was sites like ‘Friendster’ or ‘Friends Reunited’.  It looks like Facebook has achieved now a global domination that makes it harder for  others to overtake, but there are still more people not using the platform than are.

    And many people choose not to have a social life on social networks and only use them for business connections or as productivity tools. So there is still scope for someone (it might be Google, it might not) to produce a platform that adequately deals with all those other uses.  All the social networks are currently limited and, for me, frustrating. Twitter, equally, is a very limited tool and there is no reason why another tool cannot topple it.  

    Remember in the 90s Yahoo! was all-dominant, everyone had a Hotmail account and there were dozens of search engines available that people would use according nothing more than aesthetics (they all worked equally badly).  Any firm that thinks it is unbeatable is setting itself up for a big fall.

  8. Do you believe that Facebook’s $100B IPO is setting a precedent among all the social media competitors? 
Is it setting a precedent where the social media competitors believe now that the market is ready to understand they have a future?


Is it setting a precedent where good business models in the social media world can have successful IPOs?


Is it suggesting that all social media organisations are worth tens of billions?

No. Like everything, it depends.  

Some large organisations might get equally high billing, but it all comes down, unsurprisingly, to the business model.  How do they make their money? If they rely on advertising (as Facebook does) is there enough revenue to sustain it? Is it profitable now? Is it likely to be profitable?

There are companies that have great ideas, as many did in the dot-com boom of the nineties, that haven’t properly thought about how to make a business out of the idea.  Any organisation that successfully bridges that gap should feel confident about being able to have a successful IPO… but it is unlikely that they will get close to Facebook’s evaluation.

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