Lessons from a marketer

Marketing can be a tricky thing. It’s often viewed as ‘fluffy’ or low priority, but the fact of the matter is, people won’t buy what you’re selling if they don’t believe in the product, or feel like they’re part of something bigger.


Rebecca Smith, CEO of the New Zealand Story, shares her tips and tricks from a marketer to ensure you get (and keep!) everyone on board as you travel through your creative journey. Whether you’re reading this with a board, creative director, customer (or anyone in between) in mind, the simple lessons are the same.

Know your leader

As creative people, we can often get wooed by the opportunity without thinking about what else is happening around it. Before you jump head first into that heavenly opportunity, take a moment to get to know the people you’re working with and how to get them on board.

Learn how they tick, what they love or hate, what they think about marketing and design. Will they be with you on this creative journey, or will it be met with a fight?

It’s important to dig deep and ask these questions straight away before you get locked into a tough, soul-sucking fight with management. On the plus side, a successful collaboration is a great learning journey for you both. Gain a mentor, and learn from every moment.

Trust = Respect

We’re all guilty of using phrases like “it’s time to pitch my idea’, “we have to get this through”, “pushing for a hard sell”, and “I hope they buy it”. To be trusted in the creative industries, you need to back yourself.

Treat your campaigns as a creative journey with the people you’re engaging with and change the way you approach your elevator pitch. A positive attitude and going into meetings with the intention of a ‘conversation’ as opposed to a ‘show and tell’ will prove you’re ready and willing to do this together.

While you’re going through the motions, it’s important to read situation at hand and gauge their reactions. Are they on board and engaged, or have you lost their trust and respect? Are they ‘meddling’ or are they trying to help? If you’ve lost your audience, re-evaluate and work hard to earn their trust back. It will make for a much smoother journey in the long run.

Listen. Really listen.

This is hard. It’s always hard. But it’s one of the most important lessons in the creative industries. ‘Why oh why do they not understand my idea!?’ Yes, perhaps they’re questioning your concept — but maybe they actually have something valuable to add. The quicker you learn this isn’t a personal attack, the quicker you will learn and grow. And if they’re right (and sometimes they are!), deal with it straight away so it doesn’t come back to bite you in the ass later.

Do your research then educate, educate, educate

This viewpoint held close to our hearts here at Locus. Our world isn’t their world – they don’t live and breathe creativity like we do. Take the time to research, gather facts and figures, and educate them in a way that they will understand. This will mean fewer questions, and more yeses. We can’t stress enough how important research is across so many aspects of so many fields.

Only see the board /client/management every so often? Put the strategy and aim at the top of your documentation, and don’t let them forget why you’re doing what you’re doing! Don’t leave any gap for people to pick at. They’ll see your love and passion, and more often than not, leave you to it.

Simplify. Then do it again

As creative people, we tend to write a lot. Heck, we talk a lot too! It shows we are pumped and excited about the opportunity! But it often makes the message more complicated than it needs to be.

Once you’ve got everything down on the page, put it aside and start again. Simplify. Explain it to your colleague, your son, your dog! Then get them to repeat it back to you. It is obvious? Great. If not, try again.

Ironically, my fellow designer and proof-reader-extraordinaire got me to simplify this very article. Practice makes perfect huh?

Find your numbers

Now you’ve got your elevator pitch, you need to find your numbers. Boards and CFO’s don’t see and think the way we do, so you need to speak their language. Often brand work can be seen as ‘fluffy and unimportant’,  so what can you do to prove your point? Help them believe in what you’re doing. Do the research, share the insight and tackle it head on.

Be the show pony

Those who present rule the world. You are the best advocate for your ideas and projects, so practice speaking in front of people! It sets you apart from the rest. Be clear, have presence, put yourself out there, and keep it simple! Practice makes perfect on this one — no short cuts.

Recruit fast and do it well

You need help. You’re only making your job harder if you think you can do your job alone. Take the time to find strong people for your team — don’t cut corners here! Working well together means getting shit done. It’s that simple.

Your best bet is to do your research, and reach out to those who have successfully implemented similar tactics and/or work styles. You will learn a tonne, gain an incredibly valuable contact, and have another voice to convince. It’s a win-win.

Everything starts with values

It’s not the logo. It’s not the icons. It’s the values — don’t underestimate the power of this! Sit down with your team and brainstorm what’s important — what do you want the brand’s legacy to be? Then print them out and display them for all to see.

When you instill brand values, it gives you a benchmark to work towards. It gives you integrity. It also means you’ll get an authentic following, who believe in what you are doing. When something questionable comes across your desk, you can fight the cause when it goes against the company values — it also means you have a powerful ammo for concepts that align perfectly.

It’s a pilot

Design and marketing is always shifting. A good tactic is to test, tweak and repeat! And the best way to frame this is to call it a pilot. You’re asking your client to take a leap of faith, so allow them to go on the journey with you!

Try it, get feedback and adjust as necessary. It means you can be nimble and act as your customer influences. It also means you won’t be tipping huge money down the drain in unsuccessful campaigns.

Ticking boxes will only get you so far in this industry. You need to always be learning, adapting and striving for better. Pushing boundaries will get you noticed, and draw in those amazing opportunities. And remember, fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

The art of war stakeholders

There will always be people who are neutral, or don’t like what you’re doing — so you need to get them on board fast. Whether it’s a customer or a board member, your best tactic is to get them on the phone and ask why, then resolve the problem. These people often end up as some of your biggest advocates!

Don’t underestimate the value of New Zealand

As kiwis, we tend to sweep our origin under the rug to contest with the big players. What we don’t realise, is how powerful our country is. Rebecca did a lot of research (see, it’s important) on how people perceive our country, and the people in it. They see us as honest, trustworthy, hardworking and incredibly innovative in every sense of the word. So don’t be afraid to shout from the rooftops! It might just be the best thing you ever do.

Want to read more on creativity, design, product development and innovation? Go to our Six Lenses Blog.



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