Brand managers vs. entrepreneurs: what I learned from highjacking course presentations I am not meant to take

I am a young professional in advertising and I spent the first 2 years and a half of my career at a desk, trying to find communication solutions for business needs someone else pinpointed in a brief or in a list of delivreables. Most of our clients were big top 500 companies, more precisely their brand managers, who sometimes have vanity KPIs I found difficult to correlate with the business needs per say. This weekend I left my desk and met some business owners whose sole KPI seems to be the survival and growth of their business.

I went to a local event here in Bucharest held by Inside Coach Academy, an organization trying to connect small business owners or creative professionals with coaches who can help them gain the skills needed to make their business thrive. The event was practically a sales pitch created to promote the courses these coaches deliver. Theoretically I had no business being there.

However, it proved insightful, not necessarily because of the presentations themselves, but because of the dynamic between the coaches and the audience. The presentation I was most keen on listening to was scheduled last and it was dedicated to digital marketing and social media, with ad men from iLeo (Publicis local digital agency) as coaches. The most vocal among the audience were the small business owners, they raised questions and demanded no bullshit answers.

I recognized the ad men pitch, the structure and step by step approach> ok, we need the overall strategy for our digital brand, then the distribution channels of our message and then we evaluate the performance of all our efforts. Of course, with some variation and intermediary steps. All common sense in ad world, nice and clearly structured. And then the questions poured in: what about site design? and digital analytics? tracking conversion rate, improving site UX and UI? what is the ROI of social media? Would the course also focus on local case studies or just big brands with big bucks to invest in digital marketing? Who should take this course — the business owner or the marketing and communication specialists?

It was amazing, I am telling you. I was smiling all through the Q&A session — all these questions were so down to earth, specific and well informed on how digital marketing can help support a business, not just a brand manager’s status quo. These people are focused on how to make things work and bring in more business. Of course, they do need structure and guidance to understand the bigger picture of how digital marketing can help support their business (proper research and strategy are, I think, big pain point for beginner entrepreneurs), but their drive for relevant results and thirst for understanding how they can use digital marketing to help their business grow are important.

Should entrepreneurs take responsibility for the digital marketing? It depends on the industry profile and size. If you own an online bookstore, you’d better understand online publishing, for example. My honest advice for all of them is to make sure they have an overall understanding of how digital marketing can or cannot help their business before turning in all the effort to a dedicated specialist. They will first of all know who to recruit and how to evaluate their work. Just to make sure they do not end up working with brand managers who thrive on vanity KPIs, not business results.

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