I remember when I spent my days doing endless research, packing swag boxes, and various projects that were thrown my way. Just kidding, that’s still what I do. I graduated in December 2019 from the University of Tennessee and joined Speak as a Marketing and Business Development Coordinator shortly after.
If you are in a marketing coordinator or entry-level role, you might find yourself googling all the things that you don't know to keep your head above water. I felt like this for my first few months and quickly realized there aren’t many resources out there for people in this role. You aren't the decision-maker, but you're also not looking to read Marketing for Dummies. So here are a few things that I've learned in my first year that I hope will be helpful to share. But don't worry, we’re committing to creating more content for the coordinators out there.
Here are the 8 things I’ve learned that are important reminders for those of us sitting in a marketing support role (I’d love to hear what you’ve learned too!)
1. You’re going to mess up
It’s cliche, but true. I never knew how many times I’d make mistakes, both big and small until I took this job. Sure, I had messed up in plenty of ways in school and life, but I have a few moments from when I first started that are laughable. Can you say sending a really important package and forgetting to get the tracking number? What about adding 100,000 (yes, 100k) new web pages to a website at once? It’s a right of passage at this point for folks starting entry-level (or any level!) jobs in a new environment.
It’s tempting in your first job to think that the more you can get done is reflective of how valuable you are, but it's actually the quality of your work and attitude that adds value to the team. Having to go back and do a task again because you were too scared to ask a simple question the first time doesn’t add value and wastes everyone’s time. Now, I have learned (the hard way) to move slowly, think two steps ahead, and always clarify if I’m unsure — all things I did before but hadn’t established as a habit yet. One key part of moving slowly? Asking for what you need. That leads me to tip #2.
2. Ask for help early and often
So messing up is inevitable, no matter how detail-oriented you may be. But what do we do to prepare for these mistakes or build the skills to get it right the first time? Asking for help. Just ask the Director of Agency Marketing here at Speak, Jessica, about how many questions I ask her every week.
Asking clarifying questions throughout your task is a game-changer. My sister is a therapist, and one thing she talks about is how it’s important for couples to communicate what they’re hearing from their partner when in conflict. Use this exercise at work too. When you talk through an assignment or task, repeat back to that person what you think your plan of action and expectations are based on your perception of the conversation. A more casual approach would be to follow up by saying, "so to make sure I heard you correctly, I’m going to...." to make sure you’re getting the information correctly. It’s better to ask a “stupid” question or two early on than ask for big help later because you’ve missed the mark or didn’t achieve your goal.
Now, if you find yourself asking the same questions over and over, that’s a great time to actually write stuff down in a Google doc or good old-fashioned notebook. Another pro tip: think strategically about who in your company you can ask for help that may not necessarily be on your team or be one of your usual suspects. Most people remember what it’s like to be new at a job, and hopefully, you’re surrounded by friendly folks willing to help when you ask.
3. A well-established brand presence sets your team up for success
Okay, so here’s where I really get into the marketing stuff that’s specific to our field: brand and style guidelines. It's essentially your rule book on how to communicate with your brand’s voice, tone, and visual identity. Either you have them tucked away somewhere and need to familiarize yourself with them or you have no idea what I’m even talking about. Your brand guidelines are essential to brand consistency. If you're always using the oxford comma and your boss is always editing it out, reference your style guide. Perimeters like this actually make your job easier, not harder.
If your organization doesn’t have a well-established set of rules, consider introducing this need to your team. It would show great initiative if you spearhead the efforts to unify the voice and visual identity of your organization.
Curious how to get started on creating your brand guidelines? Check out this resource with more information on what should and shouldn’t go in your brand guidelines. Shameless plug: if you think your branding needs some TLC, you know who to call.
4. Google Calendar is your friend
I always considered myself a person who has to physically write something down to remember it. But I quickly learned how effective Google Calendar can be in any job. When you’re doing a team stand-up, performance review, or simply asking yourself “where did all my time go this week?”, I’ve found it helpful to parse out your day in your calendar. Yes, this even includes after the fact. If a meeting went over or I had an unexpected conversation, I’ll log that to have better data later on when I need to know what I spent my time on. You can also subscribe to your personal calendar to keep everything in one place, without it appearing for all of your coworkers.
Using your calendar to accurately track your time also helps you address your bandwidth and availability much better than you can in your head. Sometimes you might think a task takes an hour, but with complications and technical problems, it takes three. If you’re doing a similar task a few months later, you’ve got that record to look back on to avoid backing yourself into a corner with too tight of a schedule. The next time someone asks you if you can complete a task, you’ll be able to give them an honest and accurate deadline backed by data. This is especially helpful if you're working in-house and not required to track your time, or even if you're at an agency that doesn't track time.
A life hack I love is the Calendars app for the iPhone. It automatically integrates with your Apple/Google calendar and shows your monthly/weekly/daily view items written out, instead of just showing those pesky black dots that the iCal app displays. I mean seriously, we just sent a spacecraft to Mars but we can’t get a month at a glance on the default iPhone calendar app.
5. Research, Research, Research
Your opinion matters but getting data to back you up is always a good idea. It surprised me how impressed people on my team were when I took the time to do market research to inform and provide context on my recommendation. It’s not that my team doesn’t respect my opinion, it’s just that I didn’t have a ton of experience or street cred to stand on quite yet. Show that you've done your homework and that you're willing to go the extra mile. If your organization acts upon feeling and opinion too often, this could make all the difference on your team, too.
If one of your researching job duties includes gathering data on potential clients or organizations, I highly recommend looking into LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn has gotten smart over the years by hiding a lot of the information about people and businesses that we actually need. Looking at potential clients or need more information about who works with one of your prospects? It’s all hidden under the free LinkedIn plan. But with Sales Navigator, you can see all the information available about a person or company, as well as save searches and create lists of contact information. It’s super helpful and a big time saver if you assist with outbound marketing.
While Sales Navigator has been a good tool for me when I am trying to do research on prospects, even just taking the time to get a pulse on other agency blogs or industry publications, in general, has helped me feel more informed about these topics that come across my desk or Zoom screen every day.
6. There’s a better way to CMS
Regardless of your knowledge or experience coming into your coordinator role, there are probably things about your Content Management System (CMS) that frustrate you. Sometimes you learn that it’s not you, it's them. Previously, I’ve had frustrations in not being able to achieve the look or function for a website with the tools I have to work with. That’s especially hard if you’re in a seat where people are looking at you asking "well aren't you supposed to be our resident website guru?"
If you’re stressed out by Wix, Shopify, or Squarespace, know you’re not alone. Also, know that there are solutions out there that can handle the type of work that your organization does. For many of our clients here at Speak, we use SiteWrench. It’s our own CMS that solves a lot of those pesky problems you might be running into when trying to update your site. The best part? Our team at Speak is the one answering your questions and walking you through how to get what you want out of your website. I wish I had known about SiteWrench in my previous roles because I definitely would’ve suggested it earlier. Seriously, I know I might be biased, but I also know the pain and confusion of running a website that comes with these one-size-fits-all programs, and I’ve seen the simplicity and beauty of real people behind the support tickets and tutorials.
7. What are SEO, PPC, and all these acronyms anyway?
If you went to school for marketing, you probably have a general understanding of marketing terms (and some buzzwords) that allow you to follow an in-depth conversation about them in your company. But the reality is Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms are changing all the time. Just when you’ve nailed down your strategy for your next ad campaign on Facebook, they’ve added a new rule that you’ll have to work around to say what you wanted. Enter: a digital marketing agency’s blog. Chances are they’ve got at least some insight into the day-to-day trends and updates within the marketing world. Maybe one called Speak Creative? We cover topics such as Writing for Robots or Why You’re Not Seeing Your Google Ads every week on our blog. Keep up with us on social too, because we’re always letting our experts have the mic to give some insight into these topics that can be really tricky to navigate.
If your job requires you to be the expert on too many things, it’s probably time to hire an agency. Without it being your passion or on your daily task list, it’s easy to get behind on the newest updates to things like paid search. That’s why at Speak, we place an expert in every seat. Umari is our incredible paid search queen who lives and breathes Google Ads and David is our SEO powerhouse who knows his stuff like the back of his hand. We get into “all that niche marketing stuff” all day every day for our clients to let them get back to doing what they do best.
8. Allow Yourself To Be Inspired
What might sound like a Disneyworld punchline has actually become a mantra that I cling to working in the marketing space. Folks in marketing need outside inspiration just like a designer or creative team member. Since it’s your job to consistently bring fresh ideas to the table, don’t be afraid to find inspiration off the clock. Is there a billboard on your commute home or a band poster on your Saturday walk that creatively inspires you? Did you get a really well-worded Instagram ad that made you want to click on their product? Take a photo. Jot it down. Set a reminder for Monday morning.
One of my personal favorite ways to stay creatively minded is through Instagram. I have a private saved collection for posts I see that might inspire me or be a good resource for work. It’s as simple as clicking on the bookmark button on any post or IGTV and then saving it to a specific “collection." So the next time I’m pressed for a blog topic or social post idea, I head over to that folder on my phone. You can do this with Pinterest, a folder of screenshots on your phone, or even a scrap sheet of paper. Even the smallest things that catch your eye as a consumer on a Saturday are worth noting when you’re the one doing the marketing for your business that Monday morning with writer’s block.
There are tons of resources on Google aimed at helping you write better content or design cooler collateral, you just have to commit to being intentional about looking for it. Don’t underestimate the power of sites like Pinterest, Dribble, Awwwards, Medium, Behance, and Muzli to help drive your creativity. While you’re at it, take a peek into how our designers seek inspiration on our blog.
Want to know more?
My second tip was to ask for help early and often. Sometimes an agency is exactly the help your organization needs to stay a cut above the competition or really make a difference in your community. I hope you’ve learned a little something, because this is what I hope will be the first of many pieces of content that I’ll create alongside our experts at Speak that specifically speak to fellow marketing coordinators. I’d love to know your thoughts, so shoot me an email.
If you feel like your organization could benefit from a reliable digital marketing partner, let's chat.
Get In Touch