6 Marketing Lessons from My First Ascendiversary

By Zofia Antonow on Feb 12th, 2018
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Oh, what a wildly wonderful year it’s been.

When I first started working at Ascend just over a year ago...

I knew just 3 things:

  1. I’m a marketer of the digital sort (that’s not vague at all, right?)

  2. I just landed the perfect job for my love of writing

  3. I had a whole lot of learning ahead of me

Looking back, a lot has changed in just a single year, especially regarding my skills and role as a solo marketing strategist in a small and fairly new business.

There’s been a whole lot of professional growth, even more words written (over 150,000 so far), and overall steady online traction gained for Ascend from my tireless efforts.

And yet, there’s so much more to accomplish!

Because marketing is an ever-growing beast, it’s impossible to learn “all the things” and then comfortably recline and rake in the success.

As a marketer, you’re not only a brand strategist, digital proficianado, SEO ninja, wordsmith, and continually striving to fill every role in between, but you’re also a lifelong learner.

Because of this, I’m happy to share my top lessons from my first year of “Ascending” with you so that you too can become a better marketer with the right tools, time, and practice.


Lesson #1: hone in on your expertise, then ceaselessly work on the rest

woman training with ropes

So I knew I was a digital marketer going into the gig, but what I didn’t realize is that there are so very many components to digital marketing that every marketer ends up finding their niche skill that they excel in.

Mine happens to be content marketing—I can write up a storm all day and be in my happy place.

In fact, the very reason I’m here at Ascend is because I wrote an article (for free!) that knocked my now-boss’s socks off, and, well, the rest is history.

However, I quickly found that, while social media came naturally to me from personal experience (I’m a true millennial, through and through), coming up with catchy taglines was like a fun game, and the blog was my go-to hangout spot, I suffered in an area of marketing that was complementary and essential to the content’s success: the big-picture marketing strategy.

Instead of deeming me unqualified to continue, however, my boss and Ascend’s CEO, Chad, provided me with the tools and environment to strengthen this skill, including meeting with me once a week to teach me his ways.

Not only did I have the opportunity to improve handed to me, but I also recognized that it’s important to work on my weaknesses on the job rather than putting them off until it’s too late and someone better is taking my place.

Nobody knows everything; that’s both impossible and preposterous.

But...the difference between a savvy marketer and a stuck one is that the savviest of marketers know three things:

  1. There’s always room to improve.

  2. Lack of skill does not equate to lack of intelligence.

  3. None of us are too good to ask for help.

Lesson #2: routine is your best friend when flying solo

woman holding clipboard with calendar

When you’re a one-woman (or man!) show, you don’t have an army of minions to help you coordinate all the moving parts that formulate a marketing strategy, but that’s okay.

What you do have is the power of organization.

One of my first tasks upon embarking on my journey at Ascend was to come up with a content schedule and increase blog posts from, say, once a quarter to at least once a week.

At first, I must admit that I was quite intimidated.

Some initial thoughts ran— nay, stampeded—through my head:

Who, me? How do I know what’s on-brand or not? What if my judgment is off? How do I go from 0-100 on social media without any hiccups? What if I fail? Why are they entrusting this random new person with so much power??

In the end, it wasn’t so bad.

My first week resulted in a lot of questions, asking for approval on certain posts that I had my doubts about, and a whole lot of water-testing of new content types.

What I learned was that I would accomplish a lot more as an individual if I stuck to a routine: on Monday, I would curate articles and spread them across the week based on our audience’s tune-in times per platform, then on Tuesday, I would team up with our designer, Katie, and make my graphics requests for the week, Wednesdays were for getting the go-ahead on next week’s article topics from Chad, and so on.

I stuck to the routine for dear life in order to create the larger-than-life online presence that I thought Ascend needed in order to tap into the local market and become known as an authority in the industry.

Here, I must admit that I got a little ahead of myself, which is a lesson in and of itself: I was cranking out so much content on social media that engagement went down, and I realized to my horror that I was bombarding our audience, not catering to their preferences.

I then toned it down to a manageable amount of content per platform per week and found that I could successfully stay present and active on behalf of Ascend without making it apparent that it was only me pulling on the puppet strings behind the curtain.

Speaking of getting ahead of myself...


Lesson #3: don’t bite off more than you can chew

kid hiding under blanket

Marketing strategies are scalable, but you can only scale as large as your marketing department’s capacity will let you.

Boy, did I learn that the hard way.

In a desperate attempt to A) impress my new bosses and B) convince the public that we had an army of marketers behind the scenes cranking out content, I stacked too much onto my plate...until the top of the pile started to precariously tip over.

What I mean by this is that I was spending so much time and energy trying to accomplish more than was possible that the overall quality of my content and marketing efforts started to dip.

I was writing two articles a week, yes, but they were less in-depth and not as polished as my usual perfectionist self allowed.

On top of that, our online engagement was dipping as our messaging felt more rushed and ingenuine, though the volume of content was higher than ever all the while.

Worse yet, I would leave work with cramping fingers and such mental exhaustion that answering the simplest of questions with a “yes” or “no” felt like I had to source the greatest powers of the universe to get my lips to utter a single word before receding once again into silence.

This was not good, and I knew it.

Something had to be done, but I was too distracted to even step back and assess the situation.

Until...

I sat down with my bosses and proposed a solution for this conundrum I had dug myself into: we assessed our current strategy, evaluated our audience’s reception to all of our content, found areas of low performance, and dropped the least-effective tactics to make room for improving our best ones.

Since then, my sanity has been restored, I’m chattier than ever at home, and I’m able to truly hone in on the quality and effectiveness of my marketing efforts instead of rushing through the motions.

Don’t overwork yourself; know your limits. Focus on quality over quantity, and don’t be afraid to ask for backup where needed.


Lesson #4: leverage tools as much as possible

curvy wrench

If there are tools out there that make something easier to do (while preserving quality of course), you absolutely should leverage them.

Besides, there are so many great online marketing tools and resources that it would be a waste to opt for doing all the busywork yourself anyway.

Free tools are even better, too: you save time, effort, and money while accomplishing everything you need to.

Think of your marketing toolbox as your tiny, virtual interns that do the little tasks for you so that you can focus on the bigger picture.

Yes, you still need to write that article all on your own, but you don’t even have to drill into the grammar while editing if you don’t want to, saving you at least an hour per article for more important things.

I lean on a lot of tools while on the job; it’s amazing how much help you can find out there if you really look, too.

Here are 10 of my favorite free ones:

  • Buffer: for scheduling content in advance—the free plan is sufficient for solo marketers

  • Trello: task manager and an overall great way to get all your ducks in a pretty row

  • Audiense: for most everything Twitter-related

In the spirit of expanding knowledge amongst fellow marketers, I’d love to hear what other awesome tools are out there and that you consider a must-use.

Comment your favorites below this post!


Lesson #5: find your community

flock of seagulls in the snow

Sometimes, you just can’t do some things alone, and that’s okay.

In my position at Ascend, I’m fortunate to have Chad available when I need help, but not everyone has a marketing expert at their disposal.

Except...they (sort of) do!

Though not in person, there are plenty of digital communities that marketers could join that are chock-full of niche experts willing to give a helping hand.

Of course, you can’t just take, take, take; be prepared to join a community with something to offer to others to help foster the true spirit of such a gathering place.

Some great places to start looking for your marketing hub is on Meetup, Slack (i.e. Online Geniuses), Quora, Reddit, Facebook groups, Twitter chats, Google+ communities, and other sites where marketers gather.

All you need is a quick Google search to locate them and enough industry knowledge to be a positive contribution to the common good of the group, and you’re in.

If you’re a face-to-face learner, join a club, attend local marketing events, or even host your own group of marketing experts at a local happy hour.

If you need help or want to expand your marketing knowledge, it’s up to you to reach out and find your folks.

Trust me when I say it’s worth it—I have helped others with my specific knowledge and received answers to questions that seemed impossible all because of reaching out and banding together with others.

Hey, you may even make some good friends along the way, too.

The benefits of joining a community are endless!


Lesson #6: fight your inner perfectionist

girl throwing a punch

Nothing is perfect; perfection is impossible.

I tell myself these things, and yet…

It’s far too easy to get hung up on the tiny details or fall down a deep well of self-disappointment from the smallest failure.

It’s natural to want to dwell and work on a task until it’s pristine, but that’s neither realistic nor efficient.

I tend to call myself a crippling perfectionist, often nonchalantly telling people “it’s a gift and a curse”—and if you ask either of my bosses, they would immediately agree.

We can all take a tip from Facebook’s former motto here: move fast and break things.

While you don’t want to do a shoddy job every time, it’s also important to call things “good enough” and move on as, oftentimes, marketing is about keeping up with the pace and not about having the absolute best quality imaginable.

This is especially important in the little tasks. Writing the right headline for a post isn’t a one-shot kind of deal; you can A/B test multiple variations to find the perfect one without having to conjure it on your first try.

I’ve come a long way from my early Ascend days of spending over 15 hours on a single article in order to get it “just right,” and it’s because I’ve learned to get to a certain level of quality and then walk away.

I’ve found that, oddly enough (at least in perfectionists’ minds), the world won’t even notice that tiny imperfection—only you will.

Of course, if you totally screw something major up, like posting the completely wrong link in a tweet, people will notice—and it’s your job to fix it as soon as possible.

Otherwise, however, it’s important to choose your battles and not get bogged down with the details.

One year down, many more to go!

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2018 as Ascend grows and matures, and I’m even more excited to be along for the ride. :)

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6 Marketing Lessons from My First Ascendiversary
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