17 min read

Survival Tips for the Solo Marketer

Being a solo marketer at a technical company can be lonely and challenging. Hear tips for gaining influence, working efficiently, and how to stay sane wearing all those hats.

cme podcast episode 41

If you are a solo marketer, Julia Fellows has walked in your shoes. In her former role at an engineering company before joining TREW Marketing, Julia was responsible for all things marketing....all by herself.

It was a big learning experience, and there were many upsides -- she gained the trust of the executive team and had autonomy to determine where to direct her efforts. Bringing on HubSpot helped her measure (and prove) what was working, and aided her to work more efficiently. There were struggles too. With no marketing colleagues to learn from and collaborate with, her educational opportunities were limited and she felt isolated. Working with an agency helped her to overcome this hurdle and provided more validation for marketing investments.

Julia's biggest piece of advice is to find allies within your company, and build positive relationships with subject-matter experts to make sure content development runs smoothly.

Resources

Transcript

 

Wendy

If you are a solo marketing person at your company, it could be a pretty lonely and challenging position at times. So today we'll be talking about how to stay motivated, where to find resources and other ways to help you further along your marketing education and handle some of the different demands that are flying at you as this solo marketer. Let's do this.

 

Intro Host

Welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. Your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here's your host, Wendy Covey.

 

Wendy

Hi and welcome to Content Marketing, Engineered. On each episode, I'll break down an industry trend challenge or best practice in marketing to technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues and industry friends of mine who will stop by to tell you their stories. And my goal is that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a quick shout out to TREW Marketing.

 

Wendy

TREW is a content marketing agency based in beautiful Austin, Texas and serves companies focused in technical industries. For more information, visit TREW marketing dot com. And now on with our podcast.

 

Wendy

Well, today I'm joined by Julia Fellows. She's an inbound marketing specialist with TREW Marketing. Hey, Julia.

 

Julia

Hey, how are you?

 

Wendy

I'm good.

 

Julia

I'm excited to be here.

 

Wendy

Oh, I'm so excited to have you, too.

 

Wendy

I know you're coming from someplace a little cooler than Austin, Texas.

 

Wendy

Where where are you right now?

 

Julia

I'm in Detroit and we had snow yesterday.

 

Wendy

No way. Already snow.

 

Julia

Yeah. And it's not even Thanksgiving yet.

 

Wendy

Okay, well, yeah, I don't know. I don't think it'll be that kind of year down in Austin.

 

Wendy

But sometimes. Probably not this year. Yeah yeah, sometimes it happens.

 

Wendy

Well, I'm super excited to talk to you today about your experience that you've had as a one person marketing member of an engineering company. So just to provide some context for our conversation today, just describe your career journey and where you've worked and what you've done.

 

Julia

Yeah. Yeah. So I received my bachelor's from Michigan State University in professional writing. And the way that the major was organized, they had a couple of different tracks.

 

Julia

And the track that I chose was actually editing and publishing. So I actually wanted to work on books.

 

Julia

I wanted to be a book editor and when I graduated from school of book editing was already on its decline a little bit, and especially with a lot of self publishing. And so it was really hard for me to find a job. I actually ended up joining a engineering firm that my dad actually worked at and the at that firm, I did a lot of different jobs. I kind of, you know, first I was like an assistant program manager and then they had me working with the sales team.

 

Julia

And then I started writing proposals for the sales team. But then after the company went through a merger and acquisition, there were two brands that we were kind of representing. And so after a little while of trying to figure out what that was going to look like, I was asked to help rebrand the company from two brands into one brand and kind of establish a whole new marketing plan and a marketing strategy to get us noticed. Well, they just threw you into it, huh?

 

Wendy

I figured out your stuff.

 

Wendy

Was there any marketing people at the other company that you merged with?

 

Julia

No. So neither either company had any sort of I occasionally in in my previous roles, I occasionally would help make brochures and data sheets, but no active marketing.

 

Wendy

So you were you were definitely thrown into the deep end there. Did you have any executive sponsorship or maybe the opposite? Lots of different leaders that had different opinions on it together?

 

Julia

Well, we we got a new CEO shortly before we jumped into marketing. And he had worked at a few different companies previously where marketing was had a much bigger presence and was much more important. So he had that that background of, OK, this is important.

 

Julia

We it's worth spending time and money on, you know, to a good perspective.

 

Wendy

Yeah. That that is very important for you. Yes, definitely so. So when you think about all of your experiences during that time, what were some of the best parts about being a solo marketer?

 

Julia

You know, I always enjoyed the freedom and the flexibility. I really you know, I had to work the same hours as everybody else, but I really got to decide how I spent my time. And that was really awesome and a little bit more autonomy in the decision making process. I liked that I got to be kind of the brand cheerleader, you know, I just kind of fell into that role previously.

 

Julia

But now I was like, OK, well, now I get paid to be the brand cheerleader.

 

Wendy

That is when you find an aspect of your job that you absolutely love and say, wow, someone's paying me to do this.

 

Julia

Yeah, it's awesome. That's my first job. I was an events coordinator and but the way my young brain interpreted that was, wait, they're going to pay me to play in parties for the company, like, OK, there's a set of trade shows stuff.

 

Wendy

But basically parties is perfect, right?

 

Wendy

Well, I can see that the economy is nice, but also very challenging when you're early in your career and you're not sure what all you're supposed to be doing. And it can be kind of daunting as well.

 

Julia

Yeah, yeah. And you know, the sheer volume of tasks that you have to tackle as a solo marketer is, you know, you don't have the option to delegate it to other people, really.

 

Julia

You know, it's it's up to you to finish it and you might get help here and there. But ultimately, you're the one who's accountable. You and it was also a challenge that when I had questions, there was nobody within the company that I could ask, you know, so I I had to find my own answers. And that was challenging sometimes.

 

Wendy

I mean, did the company culture have tolerance for failure, meaning kind of that failed forward. Try things and see what works?

 

Julia

You know, I think I think going into this rebranding, we we knew that we were going to get everything right the first time.

 

Julia

And so that helped a little bit. But I, I will say, I had I have been there for a number of years and a number of different roles. So I think that kind of had built me a little bit of first security bubble that that helped me to you know, people knew that, OK, if I can accomplish these things, I can probably accomplish this, too.

 

Wendy

Yeah. A lot of trust. Yeah. Yes, exactly. You of course, you know, you were proven entity and trust.

 

Wendy

And so I just love that they. OK, sure. I'll tackle this. Yeah, I got this.

 

Wendy

So how did you figure it out. So when it came to things then you didn't exactly know what you were doing where there's some resources you turn to or have to do it.

 

Julia

Well, I watched a lot of YouTube videos and I will say I still watch a lot of YouTube videos.

 

Wendy

Hey, is that your go to do? You go straight to YouTube versus Google when you Google something and I'll look at the video results.

 

Julia

So that's a good place to look.

 

Julia

If you have access to any sort of marketing consulting, like an agency like TREW, that's always super helpful because they have they have experience. And a lot of times you'll just have one question and they can answer one question pretty easily. You know, in your relationship, I think taking any sort of ongoing learning courses are super useful. You know, HubSpot Academy has a lot of different courses that are not just about the HubSpot tool, but there are also about how how to approach inbound marketing, which have been super useful.

 

Julia

And then, of course, there is content marketing engineered academy. I am kicking myself. I wish it was around when I was a solo marketer because that would have been incredibly, incredibly valuable and useful.

 

Wendy

Did you attend any conferences as well or was it mainly looking at blog posts and videos? Of course, yeah.

 

Julia

Yeah, lots of blog posts, videos and e-books and all of the gaited content as well. Yeah. Yeah. And everyone's mailing list. Yeah, exactly. I was on everyone's mailing list. I have attended inbound before and I thought that was incredibly useful. You know, it kind of gives you an opportunity to see the mind hive and to talk to other marketers and see how they're handling things. And just it's a good opportunity to network, but it's also a good opportunity to just learn new things.

 

Wendy

Yeah, yeah. Well, now you're on the other side of things and now you're in an agency where you're part of a team. And so, of course, at TREW Marketing, we have people that have different expertise, areas that you can tap into. So you're not having to wear as many hats. And how is that then?

 

Wendy

How is it been better or worse or. Gosh, I hope it's been good, but, you know, just maybe contrast those two experiences for me. Yeah.

 

Julia

I guess, you know, as as a solo marketer, you have to wear all the. You know, I I'm trying to remember which Dr. Seuss book there's one of the six where they're wearing like 10 different hats and that's what it feels like to be a solo marketer.

 

Julia

You know, at at a marketing agency. You have different people with different expertise. But from one client project to the next, that expertise might vary.

 

Julia

So, you know, on one client project, I have more of a writer role, another and another client project. I might have more of a strategy role or even sometimes a designer role. So I still get to wear hats, but it kind of varies from client to client rather than wearing all the hats for one big project.

 

Wendy

Mm hmm. Makes sense, though. And and, you know, there was this time frame in between where you were a solo marketer working with TREW marketing. So working with an agency and and you know how to just maybe describe what that engagement was like and how we worked together. Yeah.

 

Julia

So working with TREW as a solo marketer was very helpful for me because TREW became that person that I could turn to when I had questions because it while I was a solo marketer, before I had TREW as as a resource, it was only YouTube videos that I could look at. But once I had developed that relationship and I, I was working with TREW, you know, they helped me to as a solo marketer, you kind of have all these ideas and you don't know where to start and and how to tackle it.

 

Julia

And TREW kind of helped me narrow that down and be a lot more strategic about my marketing and really, really building our marketing from the ground up. We started with brand positioning and messaging to really understand, know, OK, who are we and how do we differ from our competitors? Why, why should you buy from us instead of from our competitors?

 

Julia

And taking that messaging and using it throughout all of our marketing collateral and all of our marketing activities to really reinforce who we are so that when people hear our name, they they kind of have that feeling about who who we are and how to trust us.

 

Wendy

Yeah. and I'm glad you brought up that specific type of project because that's a definite skill set to use to extract that level of information from your customers and from the company itself and weigh that against competitors. It definitely takes a certain skill, not one that I have personally, but I'm very unique.And all of those that do. Yeah, it's a neat service.

 

Wendy

Yeah, well, if you you know, I'm obviously we have some solo marketers that are listening to us right now. And as you know, I do a lot of our business development for TREW marketing.

 

Wendy

And so I'm often on the phone with the solar marketers and I hear a lot of frustration where that person understands that content marketing and email marketing and how to get it done, but they can't get buy in from leadership. And so they're banging their heads against the wall. They're not working in a very strategic way. Everything's kind of a list of activities on a spreadsheet. And so what advice do you have for that solo marketer that's in that frustrating situation of trying to convince leadership to invest in inbound marketing and, you know, approach things differently?

 

Wendy

So how can they have, I guess, a bigger voice within the organization?

 

Julia

Yeah, I think one way is to back it up with research. I know TREW is not the only one, but I know that TREW does an annual study of how engineers in particular consume, you know, marketing and how they do their research to make their buying decisions. And there's, you know, most most of their their buyer's journey is happens online before they even talk to a salesperson. Having that research to back you up is also really helpful.

 

Julia

And then also just showing that you've done your own research, showing that you do little test runs on different pieces of content and see how is that impacting your business.

 

Wendy

Yeah, you so use the data to sway opinion. Yeah. And I love those statistics. Yes. Measurement. Guess when you started where you so you mentioned HubSpot earlier. Were you actually on HubSpot when or I guess obviously if you were the only marketing person, did you bring that in to the company.

 

Julia

Yeah, we brought HubSpot in our old website was on WordPress and there are use cases for WordPress, but. I personally find this to be a little bit clunky, a little bit overwhelming, it's not as user-friendly as other tools in HubSpot was really appealing to us because we could use it as a CMS to manage our website and to house all of our our website data. But we could also use the marketing hub to for all of our marketing automation tasks, things like landing pages and our social media and our blog.

 

Julia

And it just kind of seeing all of it in one spot and having those metrics that we could just pull from at any given time was incredibly valuable.

 

Wendy

Yet before HubSpot, how would you measure progress? You mentioned testing and all of that. We are able to do that through other tools.

 

Wendy

Or what of that process look like we did it? Yeah, I wondered because it is difficult, right, when we did have a Google analytics account.

 

Julia

But, you know, unless you know how to use Google Analytics and, you know, there's so much valuable information in Google Analytics, but if you don't take the time to learn how to use that information, it's kind of just a number that you give every month.

 

Wendy

Yeah, I gotcha. And then you probably had like a MailChimp or something like that that had a little bit of metrics over here.

 

Julia

And we didn't even have that. We had in that our marketing emails were, you know, an email that our sales directors would send out.

 

Wendy

So well, you know, everybody has to start somewhere. It's OK.

 

Wendy

When when we first started TREW marketing, there were years where we had, you know, our CRM was Excel and you know that that's just where companies start and then learn from their how it is to bring in some of these tools. Yes.

 

Wendy

Yes. But it's not impossible. You can do it. There you go.

 

Wendy

Well, any parting advice for this solo marketer?

 

Julia

I guess, you know, don't give up. You know, find your allies within the company and outside the company. Definitely. I definitely want to stress finding your allies within the company. You know, find other people who can help champion marketing for you, you know, develop good relationships with your subject matter experts so that working together to to build content is not a chore, but becomes, you know, a pleasant experience and something that everyone is proud of.

 

Wendy

Great advice.

 

Wendy

Well, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us today, Julia.

 

Julia

Yes. Thank you so much for having me.

 

Wendy

Visit TREW marketing dot com podcast, four notes and resource links from today's episode. While you're there, learn other ways to grow your business with content marketing from educational resources such as self-paced training to hands on services by the expert TREW marketing team. You can also order my book, also named Content Marketing, Engineered. Thanks and have a great day.