I was asked to speak tonight at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University about how to succeed in business. It does not feel like long ago that I was a student at Brock attending a similar talk, with business professionals telling us how they built their career and what we would need to do to succeed after graduation.
I remember feeling overwhelmed at the time thinking of the long road ahead to find a career that inspired and fulfilled me. I remember that I wanted it to just start now! I now reflect on how lucky I was to have carved out a career that truly excites me and inspires me every day, and what I might tell this group tonight about my story that will help them.
I was asked to outline what I do (sometimes still figuring that out), and how it was that I got this point with my business.
Digital marketing has evolved since I graduated University in 1998, in fact, “digital” was not even part of the marketing mix according to my textbooks. All of my training in marketing online has been on the job, and real world trial and error. Online usage has exploded over the past decade, and access to WIFI and mobile devices have completely changed consumer buying behaviour.
I wonder now how the world will change over the next decade for the group I am speaking to tonight?
My experience in building websites and marketing online began when I was hired as a Marketing assistant for the Marriott Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I worked for the ownership group, and became the Director of Marketing Communications over an 8-year time period. I was empowered throughout my time there to try new things, and so I did.
Hotel chains did not want us developing our own websites, and at the time hotels were relying heavily on the brands and the intermediaries to sell rooms online for them. Direct to consumer digital marketing through tactics such as paid search and organic search engine distribution was so new and foreign, and quite frankly there was no place to get formal training.
My experience in digital marketing began in understanding search engines, and how to ensure that a website could be found by target consumers. Equally important was to understand how a website would lead to online conversions as consumer usage of the internet, as a means to research and buy online.
Marketers must now understand concepts such as; Social media marketing, mobile marketing, web analytics and measurement, consumer user behaviour – as well as search engine optimization, and web usability in researching and buying online.
The marketing mix has never been as complicated and more fragmented.
We have always been known for our focus on education and training for marketers both senior and junior, who need to understand this new and complex media mix. Our conference, Online Revealed now in its 8th year, has become the leading conference in the Canadian tourism industry for travel and tourism professionals to learn about digital marketing trends and best practices bringing together industry professionals from leading Canadian hotels, hotel groups, destinations, attractions and other travel suppliers, along with experts from industry giants such as Facebook, Google, Tripadvisor and Expedia to bring marketing professionals hands on knowledge and training.
How did I get here?
Throughout my career I have continuously learned about my industry, engaged in debate and conversation with my colleagues, attended conferences, and read about digital marketing and people doing innovative things. Today we have access to learning all around us with social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, and Blogs written by real people with real experiences.
The key is to understand consumers, keep a few steps ahead of consumer trends, understand why they buy, and most importantly what makes them buy. That is one thing that has never changed for marketers.
In addition, learn from the experiences of others. This is key.
What is also key is people. Especially in this age of texting, emailing and social media. I am one of the most digitally connected person there is, and yet I still pick up the phone, go to lunch, and travel to visit clients and colleagues. Face to face communication and relationships are more important than ever.
I think that I might focus my advice tonight around a few things in particular that have helped me get here.
1. Hard work and commitment.
Sounds passé, but the hard work and commitment continues throughout your career.
2. Relationships are key.
It is all about the people you work with and do business with.
3. Continuous learning.
You are never really done learning, and if you think you are, then you are wrong. Read, talk to colleagues, attend seminars and talks that inspire you. It is not all about degrees, diplomas or certifications (although these don’t hurt either), it’s about a commitment to continued learning.
It’s not about finding “the next big thing” it’s about finding “your thing.”