What I Learned In My First Year As Head of Digital

I recently left my job as Clinova to head up digital marketing at Natterbox. As I move into my new role, I want to reflect on what I learned, and where I got it right and not in my first year as the man with the plan.
When I joined Clinova, I was mainly an SEO guy with good content writing skills. I had some previous experience with social media ads, but I pretty much had to start training myself in all channels, as I was now suddenly managing four brand websites on my own. I not only had to set up all tracking and build all necessary infrastructure but also start exploring how to set up Adwords, Merchant Centre, SEMrush, Hootsuite, Amazon tools, Amazon ads and much more. Oh, and I was also responsible for all SEO and creating content for four brand websites. In other words, a piece of cake.
As a natural instinct for someone coming from an SEO focused role, I set out to start tracking keyword ranking and potential keywords we could start to target. A couple of weeks in, my manager calls me and asks where are those “things, those ads, at the top of Google” and why we don’t have them. This is when it really sunk in that I’m no longer just an SEO guy, I’m a hands on head of digital who has to either do stuff myself or hire someone else to get it done, and I mean everything. Solution? A friend of mine is a PPC expert, and it cost me a couple of beers, but the next day I had a crash course and got some help setting up our first text ads.


Over the next couple of weeks, I taught myself scripts, keyword adjustments, and setting up Google Shopping,  retargeting and display ads. To this day, because of SEO being my main entry point into digital, I feel like I’m cheating when I’m setting up PPC ads. Rankings have to be earned, paying for them feels dirty. But hey, you have to change with the times.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you have some experience in digital. How would you feel if somebody asked you if you could be so kind as to manage 12 social media channels in addition to four websites, SEO/PPC, content and day-to-day upkeep and set up tracking?
I’m sure you would be thrilled; so was I.
Four brand website, each with a seperate Instagram/Facebook/Twitter account. Oh, and add the fact that the logins to the different accounts were all over the place among different people in the company who at various times had needed access to post some random status update. Mission impossible 2: Get all logins, get all profiles updated to a professional standard, and start learning how everything works in all these channels. Plus ads, of course. More studying.
Within four to six weeks after joining the company, I had all channels up and running, a centralised password system, a facebook business account and an actual content plan – plus an army of Upwork freelancers ready to work for me.
Finally, three months into the role, I could start to do some actual marketing. I set up a comprehensive funnel for how I wanted to work with traffic acquisition, email capturing, abandoned cart emails and so on. Then I started building the funnel, for all four brands, step-by-step.
One of the first challenges we experienced when we got to working on getting everything right was the fact that we had four brand websites for four vastly different over the counter pharmaceutical products. Still, managers wanted all brand websites to funnel into one eCommerce website. So we set up a Shopify website and sent everyone who clicked on the buy button on one of the brand websites to this external eCommerce site.
After a while, we realised that management’s hope of cross-selling across the brands on the unified webshop didn’t work. People were interested in the brand they had searched for, and we also realised that directing the user to a second website was confusing and reduced trust. Slowly we started using the “export buy button” function from Shopify on the individual brand website, effectively solving the problem.
From here on in it was all about getting the right strategies in place for the different brands. SEO, PPC, Social Media Marketing, Affiliate Marketing. You name it, I had to find a way to get it done across all brands. The solution was simply to hire an army of interns and give them intense training in digital. This turned out to be a decent strategy for increasing capabilities in managing digital channels. It’s remarkable how easy it is to get an interested student from beginner to intermediate level in any channel, and I found it quite rewarding helping graduates build their skill sets within the digital world.
Slowly but surely revenue grew a few percent per month in each channel. All basics were built, the team was set up, and the processes were working. At that point, I got a very interesting offer from a new company, and I was happy to pass the project over to my new colleague and venture off to a new challenge, B2B digital marketing in the tech/telephony sector.
My first year as ‘the man with the plan’ was more challenging psychologically than stress-wise because it was about changing my mentality from following a list of tasks that others had given to me to having to both plan the list myself, long-term and short-term, PLUS actually execute it (or train others to do it). I also had to get used to managing other people, both delegating work and evaluating outputs. Would I do it again? Yes. I feel this experience has also given me an understanding of what is required should I ever get involved in a start-up in the future.
All in all, I’m very happy with the experience, and I would recommend anyone taking on a job that feels too big to just jump in and see what they’re made of.

Author: pwaagbo

Marketing Geek. Passionate about strategy, digital marketing, social media marketing, SEO and everything business.

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