Interview with Lisa Williams: Read. A lot.
This summer we talked to several experts about education, to find out what their background was when it comes to education, where did they get their knowledge. Today we are giving you an ‘encore’ by talking to Lisa Williams, Digital marketing strategist, speaker and author.
What type of education did you have?
I went to Journalism School at the University of Oregon.
Is your education related to what you do now?
Yes. Writing, interviewing and communication skills are very important to the marketing toolbox, but it certainly wasn’t enough.
How did you get into digital marketing?
I started out as a reporter, I did my internship at Pacific Northwest Magazine, worked for the Statesman Journal (in Salem, Oregon) and did some freelance writing. After being a stay-at-home mom for 6 1/2 years I worked for a small software internet company called Surplus Direct in 1996. They were purchased by Egghead Software. Egghead closed all of their 86 brick and mortar stores (a very aggressive move for the time) and moved everything online. We were one of the first auctions online and grew very quickly. I was a content developer/writer, I wrote everything from product content to emails to banner ads to print ads. I trained several other writers and developed a copy guide and other guidelines for the content team. In 1998 I started my own consulting business.
In the beginning it was kind of the school of hard knocks. In my first consulting gig I managed 3 sports-related web sites and corresponding catalogs (my friend John Mitchell helped me find the opportunity on DM News). It was a big gig for my first project out, but I was lucky to have a manager that threw me in the deep end of the pool and let me splash around until I needed a lifesaver. It was the perfect combination of being tested, trusted and taught. We merged with G.I. Joe’s, a very old and trusted (now defunct) Pacific Northwest sporting goods chain. It was a great lesson and experience in old ways (traditional marketing) merging with new ways (digital marketing).
In 1999 I started reading Search Engine Watch which Danny Sullivan wrote and managed at the time. I attended conferences (my first was called Web Attack, old school;) I went to my first Search Engine Strategies conference in 2001 which was amazing, I learned a lot at the show but I also learned from the other attendees.
My first gig with a Fortune 500 company was with Avery Dennison. I didn’t get the contract on my first attempt because the new head of eCommerce asked me to name the 4 P’s of traditional marketing and I could only name 3. Avery was a great experience because I was indoctrinated into corporate processes and infrastructure; project management with trained PM’s, detailed budgets, mixed-media modeling, Six Sigma leadership. I learned a lot and was lucky to get to work with them and several of their partners over the years.
My most important extra schooling comes from attending and speaking at conferences and from my participation with SEMpdx (Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland, Oregon). I strongly urge anyone in the space to find and join a local organization. It’s a powerful way to get involved in the industry and to learn from people with diverse subject matter expertise. Plus it’s a lot of fun;)
How do you think the state of education in marketing is these days? Do marketers learn what they need to learn?
There’s a huge disconnect between the necessity of education needed and the reality of what’s available to be a good digital marketer. The industry moves so quickly it’s difficult to create course curriculum that reflects what’s really happening in the industry.
What’s also missing is leadership training for marketers. The ability to guide and encourage a team to greatness is difficult. The balance between providing role clarity and giving ownership is a tough balance. If you’re leading or want to lead Simon Sinek’s books, “Start with Why” and “Leaders Eat Last” are amazing. I love the philosophy that leaders are in service to those they lead and not the other way around. Also Popforms is great, you can choose a leadership topic/series then get weekly emails to keep you on track with your learning, they include great worksheets to help you align your learnings with your actions.
How do you feel about online training courses?
I would definitely recommend Market Motive, interaction with your peers and teachers is crucial so it’s great to embark on online courses with a friend. Another often overlooked opportunity is training that comes with analytics platforms. Google Analytics, Site Catalyst, Linkdex, SearchMetrics, BrightEdge, Marin all come with great training that will help you learn not just in theory but in application.
What is your tip for those that want to learn more?
Read. A lot. Many marketing professionals read an hour or two a day, it’s necessary to keep up with the changing landscape. Don’t work in a vacuum. Share your thoughts with your co-workers or mates. Debate and learn from each other. My favorite learning axiom is from Avinash Kaushik: test, learn and suck less every time. If you wait for someone to give you the perfect answer you’ll miss the boat. Be a voracious learner and know that the learning process for marketing is never over. I guess that’s 7 tips;)
What resources are best to learn marketing?
I love the Moz blog. Check out their “T-Shaped Marketer” model. They note all the moving parts of digital marketing; paid media, SEO, local, mobile, social, content development, analytics, UX, etc. Then they share it’s important to have a top-level understanding of all the elements of digital marketing and to have deep expertise in one or two areas. That’s wise council. It’s impossible to own all of it. The most successful people in the space pick an area to explore and dig deep into understanding and executing against it. State of Digital does a great job of covering industry topics because the content is written by people who’ve been indoctrinated into the industry with time and hard work. The context that is added to the stories is enormously helpful. Joe Pulizzi’s Content Marketing Institute does an outstanding job of helping practitioners and brands understand the complexities of content including the difference between content marketing (the who and the what) and content strategy (the how). Their Plan/Audience/Story/Channel/Conversation/Process/Measurement methodology is brilliant. They also share great case studies of integration across multiple strategies, channels and disciplines. Marketing Land and Search Engine Land are staples. Most importantly learn from the smart people who are doing great things in the industry. If you want to learn about mobile or social or conversion optimization, research the best and the brightest, set up Twitter streams, join Google+ communities to distill and curate the best learnings. Learn to leverage technology to shut out the noise and listen to the music.
What’s the last lesson in marketing you learned?
If you want to learn about the space, write a book! Hope it’s okay to give a shout out, I’ve authored my first book, “Sustainable Online Marketing: When Everybody Clicks” which is launching in September of this year. It’s a painful, thrilling, deeply rewarding learning process.