Kenny Soto Logo 2020
What I Wish I Knew When I Began My Digital Marketing Career – Episode #100

It’s finally here…episode 100. For this episode, there are no guests. Just me, sharing lessons learned from more than 7 years of being a marketer.

“Fun translates into good performance.”

The four things every marketer should know before starting their career:

  1. Find a skill (channel) that is the most fun to do. Then specialize. Specialization brings money. Specialization solves hard problems that matter. You take this even further by also specializing in a specific industry (e.g. I specialize in marketing for fintech and insurance orgs at the moment).
  2. Understand the business you’re marketing. Do your best to think like the CEO.
  3. Find an excuse to meet other experts. Personal branding is the easiest way to grow your network of mentors.
  4. Create a swipe file. This is not a new or novel suggestion, just one that works. There’s a reason other marketing experts do this!

Key moments from marketing experts included as clips:

  • Mark Stouse, Episode #93 – Link
  • Steve Toth, Episode #99 – Link
  • Jacob Warwick #91 – Link
  • Maya Grossman, Episode #84 – Link
  • Sara Pion, Episode #86 – Link
  • Lea Pica, Episode #81 – Link

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto  00:00

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people of digital marketing podcast with your host, Kenny Soto. If you’re listening to this, this is episode 100 of the podcast. And that marks a two and a half year point in this journey that I have of trying to create one of the best resources for marketers, whether they’re new to their career in the middle of it, where they want to become just a little bit better, I didn’t have a guest for the show. 

And the reason being is because I wanted this episode to be more of looking back in the rearview mirror, where I’m just sharing what I think, is the best advice I can impart on my past self, the Kenny that had just started his career back in 2014, with the hopes that at least one of the career advice, tips, tidbits, etc, that I share in this episode is useful to any listener out there who’s just getting started, or who needs just some fresh perspective. Before I even go into that I wanted to start off by giving more context into my career and how I got started as a digital marketer. 

When I began, I actually was a music theory major back in college, this was around 2014, I was seeing that a lot of the people who were graduating before me, who also had a degree in music, weren’t getting jobs. And if they were they weren’t the jobs that they were expecting to get from their studies. And I quickly saw, luckily enough, and it was all pure luck, that if I had continued down the same road, I’d end up in the same destination. Now, after freaking out a little bit, I’ll be honest, fraternity brother of mine told me just randomly, Hey, I saw this flyer for this entrepreneurship workshop. That happens every week, I think you should check it out. So I went. 

And through that experience, I was lucky enough able to meet my mentor who is still my mentor to this day. His name is Maurice Bradfield. And he introduced me to both the world of startups and more importantly, the world of digital marketing. 

After that experience in that entrepreneurship workshop, he reached out to me and asked if I can be an intern at a nonprofit. And I said, Yeah, and during that experience was able to dip my toes, if you will, into a variety of things from website development, to SEO, to media buying to content creation, to website design, you name it. And I think it helped me in two ways one, instead of learning about marketing through a communications class, I was given assignments by real clients, small business owners in this case, who had real challenges. And that helped me realize, one, this career is actually really, really fun. There’s a lot of fun work to do and to. 

There are so many things to do in marketing, that if you don’t enjoy doing one thing, in particular, there’s more than enough skills more than enough channels, etc. that you can explore. So, for anyone in particular, who’s new to marketing, and only been in the career for one to two years, who may feel crestfallen, or I guess that’s the best word to use, from the industry, especially with any layoffs that may have happened this year. 

Know that there’s more than enough opportunity out there, even if it doesn’t seem like it is like their excuse me. And, more importantly, if you, for example, are in media buying or if you are working at an agency, or if you’re trying to build your own business, but it may seem like there aren’t any other options out there. Trust me. If you stick to the world of marketing in general, you will find what you’re good at and the intersection of what you’re good at and what is fun for you to do. 

So that’s where I wanted to start. I wanted to start by just saying that there are many career choices, many career options paths out there. And I’m certainly biased but I do think marketing in and of itself is one of the best options someone can choose mainly because at the end of the day, every single business every single organization, whether for profit, nonprofit, etc. needs to get attention To achieve some kind of outcome, which means they need a marketing team, they need you. 

Now, what does it mean, to be a good marketer, I’m going to start sharing some of the career advice I wish I knew. Back in 2015, when I had just started my career with the hope that at least one of these things will help you out. So the first thing is, you need to find a skill, you need to have a specialization. If you’ve listened to past episodes, you would have noticed that in the past, especially just two years ago, give or take, when I created this podcast, I had a bias towards generalizing, having multiple skills, always having feelers out there for new channels, etc. 

I thought I needed to be good at both tick tock SEO, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, copywriting, design, website development, and coding, etc. And it was only really in 2022, when I picked one skill, that Bing search engine optimization, that I started to realize the importance of specialization, one of the most famous people in tech, and in Silicon Valley, Paul Graham, wrote in one of his old blog posts, specialization leads to money. Now that I might be private paraphrasing that quote, but it’s true not only in marketing, but in general, the more you specialize in solving a very specific and difficult problem, the more you’ll get paid. 

Because when you are solving a very specific and difficult problem, in most cases, there’s a correlation to how much impact that solution will have on a business. Now, that doesn’t mean that as a marketer, you shouldn’t have a holistic understanding of how a marketing team functions and how all of the channels interplay and interweave with each other. But what it does mean is cliche of being a T shaped marketer. 

The top of the T, the horizontal line, being a general understanding of many channels, and then the vertical line of the tea being very specialized, specific knowledge on one channel. So the question comes to mind, what channel should you specialize in? I’m of the opinion that that channel should be something that is fun to create, in. Think of it as a playground. 

Tiktok is a playground Facebook is a playground, Instagram is a playground, programmatic advertising is a playground, find what’s most fun for you to work in. Because fun, in my opinion, translates to good performance. The more fun work is, to a certain extent, the more you’ll want to learn about how to be the best in that domain of expertise. 

The challenge here would just be when is the right time to specialize. It took me about seven, seven half years, to find the right channel to specialize in. Because one I love writing, but two, I love editing more and doing research. So SEO is kind of like the best intersection of that. At the same time, my horizontal line of my T shaped marketer analogy is focused on content marketing as a whole. So I always keep a pulse on what’s happening in social media, for example, because it’s kind of parallel to efforts that are done in SEO. 

Second, if you want to be a good marketer, you have to understand the business that you’re marketing. Personally, I would have never learned this piece of career advice if it wasn’t for this podcast. One of my goals in the future is to become a chief marketing officer. And I know that it’s going to take me another 10 years to do that maybe 11 or 12.

Granted, I feel very grateful to know this one particular piece of advice. I repeat it to be a good marketer, you have to understand the business that you’re marketing. In another way of saying this, you have to think like the CEO, you have to think as if you are a part owner of the organization that you’re promoting. 

At a certain threshold of management, you’ll find that you’ll start off with he There is a set of tactics that you are in charge of executing on, that’s when you’re a generalist. When you specialize, you will be given a channel to own and that channel has to grow revenue, or eight and sales enablement or both. If your channel is not growing revenue, it’s a waste of the business’s time is my opinion. 

And then after that, you’ll be in charge of a team of individual contributors or channel experts. And as your team expands, the assumption would be from senior leadership, that you understand how your expanding team is impacting the business, which requires that you have as much knowledge on how the business is supposed to grow as humanly possible.

Marketing. And in this case, marketing leaders are conduits of a business story, a business narrative. And part of that IT requirements and part of that role, if you will, is that marketing in and of itself needs to translate what sales is doing, what customer care is doing, what product and tech are doing, and most importantly, what the CEO is trying to accomplish into one cohesive narrative that convinces customers to buy the means you need to understand what the business is, whether you’re in E commerce, selling pottery, it could be something as simple as that, or you’re an enterprise SaaS, you have to understand how marketing impacts the business and how the business works. 

Overall, if you wanted a tactical piece of advice, to go along with this, learn how to read financial statements learn how to get a pulse on a business’s health. 

That’s a great way to start. And just from looking at the numbers, the questions will arise on how marketing can help the business overall, and more specifically, how marketing can help individual departments. The next piece of advice I have. Now, this one is kind of optional, you need to find any and every excuse you can to meet other experts. Finding a mentor today, especially in a remote work world, is very, very difficult. And if you find one, for the most part, they’re very busy. 

So you, if you’re lucky, get probably 30 minutes of their time a week maximum, depending on how passionate they are about your own growth. So you need to find a way to meet as many experts as possible throughout your career, especially when you’re starting. I’ve found that the perfect excuse is crafting a personal brand. That leads to some kind of show now the people digital marketing was my answer to this question of how do I meet experts? What’s the best excuse to meet experts, people love to brag about what they know people love to share and give back to communities. 

So a podcast, whether big or small, like this one, for example, is a great excuse for meeting other experts. But it can also just be something as simple as, hey, I’m writing a blog post on this topic. And I see that you’re an expert in this field. What are your thoughts on X, Y, and Z? Here are some questions that I’m trying to get answers on. Can I quote you, if you’re introverted and don’t want to do a podcast or YouTube show, do an interview series through written content. 

It’s also a great excuse to get experts to give you crafted unique material and cough cough, give it to other websites for guest posts, spread your name out there. But in general, you have to find an excuse to meet people smarter than you. So you in turn, become smarter. And then my last piece of advice, which is also something that I started doing not this year, but last year, it took me six years to get here to know that this is important. You have to create a swipe file. 

Now, managing a swipe file in and of itself could be a lot of work depending on how organized it is over time. But if you don’t want to create a swipe file, which is basically a compendium or an archive of cool ideas, tools, campaigns that you’ve discovered that you’d like or don’t like, and you’re archiving your thoughts.

If you don’t want to do all that work. An alternative would just be you need to follow the experts where they are sharing their advice and in most cases, it would be newsletters. I can go through a whole list of newsletters that I use to make my life easier as a marketer. But instead of just saying it out loud. I’ll just have that in the show notes. 

There’ll be a list of my favorite newsletters that I use to have more of a holistic understanding of what’s happening in the world of marketing. And, more specifically, if you’re interested in SEO, I’ll have some SEO specific newsletters that I use to keep in, quote, unquote, ongoing swipe file. Again, the importance of a swipe file would just be having a resource on hand that you can look back at to one, get inspiration, get new ideas, and to know what does and doesn’t work in the world of marketing. A swipe file shouldn’t just have great campaigns, it should also have examples of bad marketing.

When you’re able to identify bad marketing out there in the world, you’re able to identify it in your own work. And that’s it. Those are the four pieces of career advice I would give to myself. When I started back in 2014, find a skill specialize in something, understand the business that you’re marketing, find an excuse to meet other experts, and create a swipe file for personal use. I don’t want to end the episode here. What I’m going to do is provide some clips from past episodes. You’ll hear clips from Mark Stouse, Steve Toth, Jacob Warwick, Maya Grossman, Sara Pion, and Lea Pica.

Again, I appreciate anyone who’s listened up to episode 100. And, yeah, let’s listen to some career advice from the experts that we’ve had in the past.


Kenny Soto  31:17

Hey, if you’ve gotten this far in the podcast, I really appreciate it. Thanks again for listening to Episode 100. And guess what? The podcast is not over yet. Because next week, we’ll have episode 101. My next guest will be Patrick ward. Patrick is the VP of Marketing for route scrap, a custom software development consultancy that digitally transforms companies like masterclass and Google, along with a list celebrities like Tony Robbins and Snoop Dogg, a writer by trade Patrick’s international brand and b2b marketing experience has been featured in The New York Times at age Fast Company and more. If you’re interested in hearing from Him, you will learn what it takes to be a leader of a marketing team. What should you be doing during any one on one with your manager? How our side hustles a company’s key to successful marketing and more. So if you haven’t done so already, please subscribe to this podcast and rate us. This is Kenny Soto signing off.

Related Episodes