Why I Became a Digital Marketing Consultant

Hey, everyone! I have a few blog posts coming along that I think you should really keep your eye out for! I'll be writing on some common misconceptions that really hurt businesses' ability to grow.

But I wanted to start my blog explaining why I do this. Is it better money? Do I just want to not have a boss? I hope by explaining my story, you can begin to understand my vision, passion, and enthusiasm for growing brands. Bon appetit!

The Early Years

So like any good narrative, this all needs to start from the beginning. You see, when a man and woman love each other very, very... what? That's too early? Okay, let's skip ahead a bit. 

From a very young age - at least by the time I was 10 - I possessed a fondness for TV commercials. Now, you may be wondering what crazy fool loves TV commercials. Well, the kind of crazy that leads to a marketing career is apparently the answer. After all, you have to be slightly crazy to pursue a profession where people might trust you more than a cars salesman, if you're lucky.

My mother, a very brave woman to have raised me - not to mention my other siblings! - will even avow that I could often be found critiquing commercials. I would wonder why the use of a certain promotion, the messaging choice, or the use of engaging emotive responses rather than practicality on certain purchases (Hello, car commercials!) was chosen. All that to say, I was curious about marketing strategies even as a child. Frankly, having your mother note something positive about you can obviously be a source of satisfaction and consequently pushed me to a place where I began enjoying the critique of commercials, radio ads, and billboards more and more.

To you young whippersnappers who wonder why I'm not mentioning online ads, Facebook, or Snapchat as places brands engaged, then I'm guessing you don't know what a dial-up tone sounded like when you got on to talk to your friends on AOL Instant Messenger. It was a different world, but the marketing principles have remained strikingly similar and so my progression has developed into the digital world. 

My parents definitely had an effect on this progression as they always encouraged critical thinking on subjects even from an early age. While my mother noted and seem intrigued by my interest, my father was an exhibit in the value of reading and thoughtful contemplation towards deeper understanding of issues.

And while I can safely say that I had the capacity to laze about with an apathy to do any child proud, these seeds of my childhood would nurture me to be come someone who challenges basic assertions to wonder if a better way to do something might exist.

As an aside, if you're familiar with Meyer's Briggs Indicator Types, it is not a complete surprise that I am generally classified by the ENTP type. Known as The Innovator, The Debater, The Visionary, and The Knowledge Seeker, I certainly exhibit many of those characteristics. 

All of these things were relatively passive things in relation to pursuing my current career, but college was a time of extremely positive change in launching me towards my current trajectory. 

Let's take a look at...

The College Years

My college years began with unbridled enthusiasm and endless opportunity. Most of this revolved around the fact that I absolutely loved my club ultimate frisbee team. It was one of the first group of friends I ever came to trust on a much deeper level, I was President of the team and developed administrative skills, and loved that it helped keep me in shape and gave me a competitive outlet.

On a more serious note about my team, I learned very early on that I was passionate about building programs. Part of the reason I eventually became President of the club was not because I have the most natural administrative skills, but because I cared about the guys, cared about the program, and had a vision for what it could be. 

With that in mind, I learned that having a large vision is important, but also learned that if you expect that growth to happen overnight you often leave frustrated. Enjoying small victories, celebrating the small steps, and developing the consistency even in the midst of trying games is what turned our club ultimate frisbee team from a team that went 4-18 my Freshman year to a perennial D-III Nationals powerhouse that has national name recognition now!

The key there to hold on to is that I learned that building something with people I love matters a whole lot to me. But you go to school to get an education, right? So what was has happening there? 

Well, to be honest, the first few years were kind of nondescript except for one memorable encounter that happened my Freshman year. A suitemate of mine, Matt Brooker, encouraged me to not only major in Business Administration, but also to add on a Marketing major as well. This was great advice, and some of the most impactful words that probably got spoken to me in my time at John Brown University. 

I will admit that I didn't recognize the pivotal nature of those words, as we humans are so capable of overlooking powerful advice in the business of the moment. But they did stick with me and I pursued them simply for the practicality of them. The education at JBU is expensive, and I wanted to get the most out of it. Thank God, I did!

This leads me past my few years of unimpressive first years and into my Junior Spring. That is when I took my Marketing capstone class, Marketing Strategies, and got involved in the Collegiate Effies program. The brand we worked with? MINI, which is now one of my favorite brands! 

Two things stood out to me about this experience that revolutionized my education from simply a normative experience to a passionate thirst for knowledge at my desired crafte. 

One, I learned that brands could speak and had their own unique voices, and I learned that I loved those voices. MINI, for example, was fun, quirky, off-the-wall, and energetic. It cared about its cars, it loved racing, and it wanted to share in the joy of driving a MINI with those who also drove and enjoyed MINI. This might not appeal to everyone, but to the people who shared those values? You can bet that a large part of the reason they buy their cars is brand affinity. 

This is an age old idea. "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care" is an old adage that I have heard from many sources. It even can be traced back to sources such as the Bible when it says "If you speak in the tongues of angels, but have not love, you are a resounding gong." 

You can have the coolest product and employ the coolest people, but if that's not channeled into a brand that communicates every aspect of your existence into a meaningful experience for someone, they just won't care. 

I love that thrill of getting to know a brand and making it relevant to people so that an emotional as well as cognitive happens between consumer and company.

Two, I learned that I love the evolution of a project. We had to do surveys, focus groups, test drive a MINI, and much more to really understand the pain points around this brand and its barriers to growing more devoted fans. I appreciated so much that we got to develop the key insights, because it made the rest of our plan so. much. easier. My team and I won the entire Effies competition not because we were smarter or sexier than anyone else, although those things don't hurt. 

We won because we developed crucial insights and got to implement that into brand messaging, social tactics, guerilla marketing, and other fun ideas that MINI could use to grow their customer base!

I like to take this to mental framework to work. Let's get some data, let's get some understanding, and then let's build everything off of a few critical insights. It makes work simpler, more fun, and more productive for everyone involved! This project taught me a lot of that value that I still take into work today. 

Now, another key lesson was learned my Junior year and this was back on the ultimate frisbee field. It revolves around the idea that people respect and care about your opinion when you demonstrate a passion about your craft. Martin Luther, when talking about Christians once, said that a great cobbler was someone who made great shoes, not someone who made inferior shoes with little crosses on it.

That's important there! Let's dig in on that a little bit. 

We are called to be excellent at our craft. To care about it. To innovate it. To impact people's lives through it. How did I learn this playing ultimate frisbee? Fair question. 

It came in the fact that, as Christians playing on the field, we attempted to embody our faith through fair calls - we were self-officiated in almost all games. We also tried to possess positive attitudes and starting meaningful dialogues on sidelines and after games. 

People practically laughed at us. Want to know why? Because we were going 4-18. We were losing games 5-13... or worse. 

In short, we were a gimmick. We were chumps!

But something happened our Junior year. We invested in the game - in playing the right way! We got pretty good. We started beating people. And people started to listen. No longer did we get brushed off by teams who had just embarrassed us in a game. 

They knew we were good and they knew we cared about the same sport they loved. So they stopped and listened. They stopped and listened, because they knew we were good at what we did. I want you to read those words again, because they're imperative to how good business gets done.

If you want to succeed, and I would love to help you succeed, people better not end up on your website and think it looks ugly. They better not show up to a sales call with you and see unprepared slide decks. 

If you do that, I don't care if you're selling the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam. Nobody is buying. Because they think you're a joke or a fraud or a poor investment.

So aside from wanting to make data-driven decisions, I also want to make passionate and finely crafted decisions. 

All these things were learned in college. I had a great set of principles but no experience. So how could I become someone would listen to? I only had to get laid off twice.

That brings us to... 

The "Young Professional" Years

Yeah, you read that right. 

I essentially got laid off twice. Now, it's not quite what you think. Both times were actually not performance related, but I did have some takeaways and I have been fortunate enough to get immense training in those jobs that I now use on behalf of the companies I do consulting work for. 

First, a brief overview of my work experience since college.

Coming out of John Brown University, I was privileged enough to get inducted into the Arkansas Fellowship, a prestigious group of Fellows who are top graduates at their school and have an entrepreneurial bent to them. This allowed me to meet some amazing people, such as Jeff Amerine at Startup Junkie, who really helped me learn that startup world and come to care about its development. 

It also provided me with a job out of college. I landed at Acumen Brands working on the Country Outfitter brand. After a few brief stops with different teams, I made a connection with the Growth Hacking team, essentially running PPC campaigns and working closely with the Email Marketing team to acquire emails for long-term revenue plays.

Eventually, this fell through after about 8-9 months when a large portion of the company got laid off. This led me to another great situation though, where I ended up at Field Agent. A B2B company that was really bent on mastering Content Marketing to drive leads rather than the retail heavy paid media campaigns. I learned a ton here and also did reporting as well as handled CRM integrations. A lot of handy skills to have! 

But alas, Field Agent wanted to restructure some of their company as they were struggling to fully realize some of their projections. Internal moves were made to clean up the ship and tighten up for long-term sustainability on some of their teams. A savvy move by their leadership, but it left me in a place where the role I currently held at Field Agent was moving in such a way that it was no longer a good fit for me or the company. So we amicably parted ways and I began searching for my next venture. 

Now, at this point it is important to stop and notice a few things:

  1. Marketing is the first thing that tends to get cut when a small business or startup struggles because it is a cost center for the business.
  2. Startups want growth and plan for growth, but it is unpredictable and scary to plan around.

So what was I, a marketer passionate about startups and small business growth, supposed to do? Was I doomed to wonder Fayetteville, roaming from one job to the next? Let it be not so!

The despair overtook me for 6 decades as I the despondency of my situation took hold.

Wait, that's a fantasy book I just read... sorry. 

No! I'm an optimist and with the encouragement of the aforementioned Jeff Amerine, I was convinced that a few job opportunities would make more sense as my first clients. So I talked to them and, sure enough, they seemed excited about working with me in that sense!

Since then I've gone on to learn how to do many things like run webinars, create landing pages, develop email nurture campaigns, even some social media strategies for those pesky Millennials everyone seems to have written a blog post.

In the process I've been affirmed in what I learned being President of the ultimate frisbee team. I love watching things grow. In particular, I'm not super passionate about my name, my brand, or my story. Those things are peripheral in terms of producing me joy. I get joy being able to step in and help a struggling, thriving, or a business in any state scale up to the next level. 

On the plus side, now I'm free to be there when you want. So those tight times where money isn't coming in? That's great! I'll do some other work and stay afloat. And when you have cash flow again? That's great, too! Let's see if we can use it to drive even more!

You get peace and security, and I get the privilege to be a part of your story. So let's recap some of the values and ideals that define me: 

  • I'm passionate about you and your story, and I helping that succeed makes me excited!
  • I love brands, what they sound like, and how they interact. What is yours like? Do you know?
  • I believe in value-oriented vs. sales-oriented marketing. If you promote sales and products, you may make some money for a bit. But eventually that will fail you, and people won't care when it does if you've only focused on sales. Valuing people can help keep you afloat when things get tough. It's what separates the surviving businesses vs. the hundreds that fail. 
  • I believe in making data-oriented decisions. Don't even have data? Let's get that set up before you even start trying to pay me or someone like me to grow your business. Anything else is madness. 
  • I want to be a help, not a burden to businesses. I'll be there when you need me, and not a second more so you don't stress about a marketing salary!
  • That's it - I love people, I love brands, and I love the thrill of the chase. What do you love? Can you make others love it, too? I'd love to find out with you. 

So, now you know a bit - or a lot! - about me and why I do what I do. So, I'd be willing to bet that if you're reading this you have an idea, or had an idea, or have already started your idea and want to make your idea big. It's a great idea. Genuinely, most people have amazing ideas! You just need a bit of help to develop it into an idea that people are passionate about with you. 

Let's get on a phone call, get coffee, or discuss over email how I can help. I'll do a preliminary consulationat/meet and greet for free just so we can see what the options are. What do you have to lose?

I'll talk to you in a bit. Best of wishes, 

Jacob out.