When you’re in marketing, especially when technology and social media grow and expand with the speed of Jack’s beanstalk on a regular basis, it can feel like a constant battle to learn, absorb and keep track of trends. Personally, my main experience has focused on the Disposable Dinnerware industry. In this market, we work with distributors, caterers, event planners, hotels, and anywhere else someone will be eating. 

I’ve found in my years of experience, that there are a few key topics and resources I wish that I had known about that would have made my life much easier, and my work flow more efficient. 

Possibly, many of you modern marketing graduates are aware of most of these things, but I was a Graphics Designer who then tumbled into Marketing with a company that was very new to its industry by several years, so it was a lot of learning by doing. This post is here to, hopefully, give you a bit of an insider tip list of some things that might make your work a bit more pleasant. I have spoken with my fellow marketing friends for their input, and here’s what we wish we knew when we started.

Work Smarter Not Harder. Learn it. Love it.

There are… a LOT of things that can make your life a LOT easier and efficient. When I started in my position in the marketing department, I did a lot of things manually… that took hours… and hours… and drained my brain in ways I can’t describe. This was just because it was all I knew. I was given a project, and my brain told me to get it done, no matter how time-consuming or involved.

I had the “hard work is the only work” mentality, and I was making the mistake of tying my value as an employee to steep grades of effort. A lot of these projects were in areas that I had not learned in school, or through my own freelancing, so it never occurred to me that someone else might have developed a software that could streamline these mind-numbing projects.

Later on, after a friend and Marketing master (who had many more years in the business than I did) joined our team, and she showed me that things that I had always just done manually… could have all been automated and saved too many hours to count. 

In my particular profession, we worked a LOT with product data, I had spent so many days hand-typing and updating thousands and thousands of unique products that we sell that I’m, quite frankly, an encyclopedia at this point.

All of this meant that my relationship with Excel was intimate and extensive (which I was grateful for, because it taught me a lot), but it was mentally exhausting. One of our main projects was in creating Sell Flyers for customers. Customers who sold our products would give us a list of the items that they wanted us to include in a flyer for any given event/sales meeting/season, and I would then manually draft the flyer’s design and input the data. 

Now, obviously, we’re humans, so trying to make sure all of these tiny sku#s and product details were 100% accurate was stressful, and my marketing manager would normally see things I might have missed with his fresh pair of eyes, and I would always beat myself up about it. 

I had come up with a few methods to make this task more efficient and accurate over the years, still annoyingly time-consuming, and a lot of hours stressing about something not being perfect… but when the incredibly talented marketing friend I mentioned above joined our team, she almost immediately introduced us to a script runner that automatically input all of that pesky data neatly into our predetermined format, in the design program of our choice.

No copy and pasting… no hours spent compiling a list and triple checking that list… just a simple activation of a script that pulled from an accurate list of data we had on file, and all that needed to be worried about was the fun part… the actual designing! 

The point of this story? Do NOT be afraid to look into things that might make your tasks easier and more efficient. If you have certain projects that you work on regularly, and you notice that some of the labor seems really draining and frustrating, take to Google and see if someone has already solved your problem in the form of an application, a script, or a program! 

Don’t be afraid to bring these to your Team Leads because you think they might question your ability/work ethic (part of my problem). They won’t. Your go-getter attitude is a huge asset, and you don’t deserve to subject yourself to hours of frustration just because ‘that’s the way things were always done’ maybe before you got there. A fresh perspective and fresh ideas are extremely valuable to a company that’s always looking to grow and stay relevant and competitive.

Know Your (Usage) Rights

A lot of Marketers also dabble in Graphic Design, and sometimes you need need an image to help your design pop. You may not have access to a team of fantastic photographers who can provide you with that special image you need. That being said, it means that sometimes you need to hoof it to Google for the image or vector you’re looking for. The biggest stress-inducer in that adventure… is worrying about whether the photos you find are available for free use.

Copyright infringement is a VERY BIG DEAL and should be taken VERY SERIOUSLY. There are several different types of usage rights, and even if something might be fine to use for personal work, it may not be legal to use it in commercial work! Therefore, if you are delving through google looking for images, it can be intimidating trying to find that special image without infringing on someone else’s property. Here are a few resources that you should know about:

There are actually several sites such as Shutterstock and Pixabay that are either a host for free/royalty free stock images; or allow you to pay a subscription fee and have access to hundreds of thousands of images available for commercial use. There’s a high chance the company you are working for might already have a subscription to one of these sites.

However, if you happen to start your career in a smaller company that might be relying on your guidance as far as marketing and design, these sites are worth discussing and investing in.

Pro Tip: never be afraid to try and get creative. If you’re really concerned about fair use, then see if it’s feasible to take the photo yourself! More times than not, my team would use one another as models to get certain shots (mostly product shots, in our case) with our smartphones. Honestly, with technology as advanced as it is now, you’d be amazed at the quality photos you can achieve with a smartphone (and you can always touch up the photo later if you think it needs some edits!)

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone:

LEARN HOW TO USE MACS AND PCs

Not all companies are using Macs. I know almost all of us are trained during our college years on Macs, but your company may be PC-Based. Don’t fret too much, there aren’t a lot of differences, but it does take some getting used to. If you take the time to look up the difference on your own time, you’ll be a step ahead, and avoid unnecessary frustration if you take a few minutes to get comfortable with the hot keys. 

Everyone Uses The Internet. Marketers Learn How To Optimize It.

LEARN EVERYTHING YOU CAN ABOUT SEO & OPTIMIZATION

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is learning how to articulate your online content, and assure that if a customer is searching something relevant to your business, your website/content is found by google.

As an example, pending on how well optimized your blog content is, could mean the difference between ending up on the first page of google search results… or the 75th page. The better optimized your content, the easier it will be for clients and potential customers to find your company… which means more traffic… which means more business- which could mean a nice raise for you! (raises not guaranteed).

How do you know your content is as SEO-friendly as possible? Well, there are several resources to assist you in figuring that out! A very cool SEO helper I learned about through researching online is ahrefs.com. This remarkable online resource helps you optimize your keywords, your headlines, your meta descriptions, analytics and so much more. It does require payment, but, again: if your company is serious about making an impact and staying relevant in our digital age, be sure to introduce these types of online references, and their benefits, in the next meeting! 

The Hard Part

DEALING WITH CONFIDENCE

Don’t let rejection drag you down. Any profession in the creative field will have rejection. There will be dozens of projects that you will pour your heart and soul into, work that you might feel is your ‘best yet’, and your manager/client may respond with little enthusiasm and dozens of changes. Changes that might even be the antithesis of your original work. Let it roll off.

People all have different tastes, and even if your work is technically perfect… it just might not mesh with your manager/client’s vision. This can feel discouraging- like, REALLY discouraging. You might start to question your own abilities, but don’t. Sometimes, as designers, you will encounter difficult clients, and their lack of agreement for your design choices doesn’t mean that your choices are bad.

A large aspect of a design career, is learning people will like what they like, and sometimes that’s all you need to accomplish regardless of all of these technical things that were drilled into our heads during college.

Sometimes you just have to grin, bear it, and make the changes. And more changes after that… and even some after that.

On that line of thinking: Don’t be afraid to ask your client – before you start the job -what kind of vision they might have. A lot of times you might get: 

Oh, I don’t know, just come up with something. I’m not an artist, so I trust you.” 

Most creative people will tell you that this is nowhere near as liberating as it sounds. Many clients think they’re being helpful by giving you “creative freedom”, however, people will always have things that they don’t like, and it’s way better to try and take the time, before you start your first draft, to get as much detail as possible so that you can avoid as many of those bumps as possible.

If you run into a client that doesn’t seem to have any clear idea of what they’re looking for yet, then what you can do is start asking them about things they do and don’t like.

For example:

  • Are there any colors you like/don’t like?
  • What type of clients are you trying to appeal to with this design?
  • Do you like a more modern or whimsical design styles?
  • Do you want to stick to a similar color scheme/style as your logo?
  • Is this for a special holiday promotion?
  • And anything else you can think of that might help you

Once you’ve got as many of these questions answered as you can, look up their company’s website (if possible) to try and get an idea of what kind of designs they have approved in the past. This bit of investigatory work will give you a HUGE step ahead, and spare you a headache.

Do as little detail as possible in your first draft(s). Your initial intention might be to do an AMAZING JOB and make your client say “WOW!”, you’ll want them to take your abilities seriously. All of this is understandable, but it will bite you in the long run.

You’re much better off with a ‘less is more’ mentality (honestly, that’s a great mentality to keep throughout the process of design, in general).

So, after having your initial brainstorm session with the client, get the base composition established, throw some of your color concepts in, and then let the customer review. Give them 2 or 3 drafts to choose from (the fewer the better, sometimes a lot of choices are not helpful to you or your client).  Let them pick the one they like best, and fine tune the details from there.

Double, triple, and quadruple check that any included data is accurate; and, even then, don’t be afraid to have someone else look it over. A fresh pair of eyes is an invaluable asset. 

Having this approved blueprint already established with your client will make all of your work thereafter a great deal easier, rewarding, and efficient. It will also give your clients peace of mind, as they will have an idea of where you’re going with their project, and they got to be involved in its process! 

All that being said, my friend who I have been bragging about throughout this post sums up all of the above into a wonderful full mindset, perfectly:

… trust your knowledge of trends and what is going on in social marketing and design. Everyone has a different eye for things and that’s what makes your own style.

– Danielle Christiano, Marketing since (look up on Linkdin)

In Summary

You will always find your own way. You’re creative, and part of creativity is resourcefulness. Your greatest strength will be your confidence. Develop it, harness and train it with as much passion and attention as your technical skill.

This short article is comprised of just personal opinions and personal experiences, and every situation and company will be different. However, I hope that these tips and concepts will give you a bit of a leg up, and make the transition into this very rewarding field, where your right and left brain truly learn to work together in a beautiful symphony of creativity and analytics, a little less stressful. 

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