Over the last 12 months, I’ve developed my Apprentice, Katie, into a brilliant Marketer. But it wasn't easy and I made mistakes along the way.
For most small businesses, their first marketing hire is usually a graduate, junior marketer or Apprentice.
It’s a logical choice for a first marketing hire because much of the work that a small business CEO wants to hand over is marketing admin. For a business under £1m turnover, it doesn’t make financial sense to hire a highly experienced marketing professional when most of the work will involve updating a website, collecting data, writing emails, and creating social media posts.
But a Marketing Apprentice is unlikely to have any real marketing experience or knowledge - they’re learning, which is why they’re on an Apprenticeship - and it will take time for them to develop the skills to start leading your marketing activities. Here's what I learnt about how to get the most out of a Marketing Apprentice in a small business.
1. Have a clear marketing strategy and plan in place in your business and involve them in its creation
It’s unfair to expect an Apprentice or Junior Marketer to be able to create a strategic plan themselves, but they need to understand how you created the plan they’ll be implementing.
If they don’t understand the full context of your strategy, and why you’ve chosen the marketing activities you’ve chosen, it’ll be impossible for them to make good suggestions for improvements and look out for opportunities.
Take the time to go through it with your Apprentice because they’ll be the one implementing it. Make sure they understand who your ideal customer is, your value proposition, and the journey your customers take from unaware to buying from you.
2. Set clear and realistic marketing goals and objectives/KPIs for your Apprentice
Most people work best with a clear goal to work towards. It’s important your Apprentice’s goals align with your own, but they must be independently achievable. It’d be unfair to give my Apprentice a turnover or sales goal, since she doesn’t control much of the sales process.
Instead, Katie’s goals focus on the things she can influence: number of leads generated through our marketing channels; content creation; campaign delivery and results. Katie’s goals align with our tactical objectives, and support our strategic objectives.
For that reason, we’re careful about setting goals about marketing indicators such as social media followers, since lots of followers doesn’t necessarily mean lots of sales.
Make sure they’re SMART and that they will directly support your sales and marketing outcomes.
3. Test and Measure - consistently!
The only way you can both know how effective a marketing activity has been is to consistently test and measure so that you can incrementally improve to get the best results. I have to admit that the “consistency” part is the bit I struggle with sometimes. It always starts off well when I’m enthused about a new 90-day plan but seems to dwindle off around weeks 5 and 6 when the honeymoon period has worn off.
If you’ve recently taken on a marketing hire, though, it's so important that both you and they measure the results of their current activities. Start with one or two key metrics (or however many you think you can measure without getting overwhelmed) and build up from there.
It’s also important to focus on conversion, rather than the numbers themselves. For example, if you have a page on your website with a call to action on it (e.g. “Enter your email address to receive my free guide”) measure the number of people who visit the page and the number of people who sign up. With these two numbers you can calculate the percentage of people who sign up.
If your apprentice is working on improving the content of the page, you should see those improvements reflected in the conversion rate. Whenever they make changes, they can see whether that has increased or decreased the conversion rate of the page, even if the number of people visiting is fluctuating.
If you’re new to marketing measurement, here’s a link to our “Starting to measure” spreadsheet template to help get you started!
4. Carry out regular strategic review and planning sessions
I recommend small businesses review their strategy and plan every 90 days.
These planning sessions shouldn't just be about creating a marketing plan. Take this time to reflect on what’s worked, what hasn't and the reasons why. This isn’t a blame game: it’s about learning. You want your Apprentice to be able to identify the reasons behind why a marketing activity hasn’t been successful as much as why one has been so that they can deliver good results for your business.
Ask questions like, “Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?” And “If we do this again, what would you change next time to get a better result?”
By going through this process with them, your Apprentice will become confident in planning and analysing marketing success and will be happier taking on more responsibilities like this further down the road.
5. Ensure they have a professional support network outside of your business
Around 6 months into her apprenticeship, I had Katie go out networking and meeting other business owners. Networking isn’t just about generating potential leads, it's also about building a network of supportive associates and advisors.
Through her networking, Katie is meeting and learning from graphic designers, website developers, copywriters, business coaches, social media experts, and many others. If she gets stuck on something, she can go out to her network for help and advice. This kind of informal mentoring is invaluable. And if we, as a business, need to bring in outside support, she can use her connections to find someone good.
When someone feels supported in their role and can see the impact their work is having, they’ll be more confident in contributing ideas and suggestions that are likely to get results. By including them in the planning and strategy process, these suggestions will be far more informed and will get you a much greater return on your investment.
If you need support to develop your junior marketing person into your Head of Marketing, find out more about the strategic training, coaching and mentoring we can provide.
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