In September 2006, I started freelancing for Precision Marketing Group.
Let me set the stage: A person still needed a college email address to sign up for Facebook. Twitter was only six months old, and HubSpot barely ninety days. People had no concept of "Netflix and chill." The iPhone was more than a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye, but the rest of us wouldn't get to experience one for another year. Amazon hadn't released the Kindle yet (which upended traditional publishing and my own career as a novelist along with it).
On the personal front, I was living back home with my parents. I'd just started graduate school, and I'd been officially "in business" for four years, a topsy-turvy time filled with plenty of networking, many interesting (and odd) writing gigs, and some teaching to help make ends meet.
I'd met PMG owners Maureen Condon and Susan LaPlante-Dube a few years earlier through networking and immediately connected with their energy and vision. In a word, they were good folks, something I knew in my core. So when the opportunity to work for them came up, I jumped.
A lot has happened over the last decade—to me (MFA, two novels, my own place); to the world around us (fill in your own blanks); and to this humble organization I'm proud to call my virtual work-home (HubSpot partner, kick-ass team of employees, plenty of shenanigans that you'll simply need to wonder about).
And, of course, much has changed in marketing land (hello, inbound!), yet some things remain very much the same. (Was "content marketing" even a thing in 2006?)
So here's a nostalgic post from a content marketer, a reflective missive from someone who admittedly spends (too) much time in her own head, and perhaps an appropriate ode to share during a month that's all about giving thanks.
1. Content marketing is still very much about creating a connection.
There will always be new ways to do things (and bright-and-shiny tools to help), but at the end of the day, content marketing is about creating a connection with another human being. When you think of it this way, it makes all the writing and messaging so much easier. (Trust me.)
2. The best content marketers are autodidacts.
An autodidact is a self-taught person. Embracing your inner autodidact is essential if you want to be an effective content marketer. I was a communication major in college, and I earned my MFA in Creative Writing, but everything I've learned about modern marketing (think inbound, think lead nurturing, think social media), I've taught myself. Same goes for my colleagues. We're constantly reading, learning, and teaching others in an effort to teach ourselves.
3. The best content marketers learn about more than just marketing and writing.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point, and I'll admit that I still struggle with this from time to time. See, I always think of myself as a writer first. Why should I do deep dives into learning HTML code or design theory, for example? Well, for one thing, the days of the silo mentality are long gone. Yes, writing is my specialty, but that doesn't mean I can't have solid working knowledge about related, relevant topics.
4. Little adjustments can have huge effects.
Changing the word on a CTA button from "Download" to "Get." Adding a blog opt-in on all forms. Adjusting the colors on a home page. I'm still amazed at the huge impact that little adjustments can have on user experiences and conversions. The biggest marketing takeaway I've learned is probably this: Assume nothing. Test everything. (And this advice extends to life in general.)
5. Backups are your friend.
In other words, save your work. No, seriously. SAVE YOUR WORK. Create quadruple redundancies. Pay attention to when mercury goes retrograde.
If you're a writer, I recommend having two computers. I have my desktop and my laptop. They're mirror images of each other, so if one goes down (and this HAS happened), I just pivot and use the other one without missing a beat (and while uttering only a few choice expletives).
In addition, I save everything to the cloud, and I have external back-up drives for both computers. And when I'm feeling particularly twitchy, I'll email myself a copy of whatever blog post, white paper, Great American Novel I'm working on.
6. Inbox Zero is a smart, stress-free way to live.
I'm a big believer that writers need to figure out processes that work for them. For example, some people are morning writers, while others love burning the midnight oil. But after being an email hoarder for the first five years of my copywriting career, I quickly became an Inbox Zero convert after going through the process once.
OK, so I don't get my inbox down to zero emails, but I do get it down to under 30—and, ideally 20—messages every night. My strategy when reading email: respond and file, respond and delete, or save for later. Try it. It might just change your life. (And colleagues and clients alike are always amazed at how quickly I can put my fingers on emails; it's all about the filing system, kids.)
7. Sitting too long will kill you.
We've all heard the statistics about our sedentary lifestyles and the adverse effects these lifestyles are having on our collective health. This is especially true for writers who tend to sit on their butts for hours and hours on end.
So get up. Move around. Take breaks every thirty minutes or one hour, if possible. Do some jumping jacks or burpees or run in place. Take the dog for a walk. Galumph down the stairs to get the mail. Rinse, lather, and repeat until the habit of moving around throughout your workday becomes a thing you no longer need to think about.
8. Working with people you like and respect is essential.
Have I liked every writing project that I've worked on over the last ten years? Nope. But I can honestly say I've liked every single one of my colleagues. Susan and Maureen have done a fantastic job of assembling a talented group of genuinely nice people who are a pleasure to work with. And this has made all the difference in the world.
9. Words matter. They always have. They always will.
At Precision Marketing Group, we take the "precision" part of our name to heart in everything we do. As a writer, I consider precision to be of the utmost importance when it comes to choosing the right word to convey the message I'm trying to get across. This hasn't changed in ten years. And I doubt it ever will.
10. I am lucky.
I'm lucky to work with words—my passion—every day. I'm lucky to work for such a cool company like PMG and with people who are as dignified and gracious as they are talented. I'm lucky that PMG has such awesome clients who appreciate the work we do. I'm lucky that I got involved with HubSpot when I did, and I'm lucky that I get to work from home in my jammies…or at the local Panera when the mood strikes. I'm lucky, period.
I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a big shout-out of THANKS to Susan and Maureen, our fabulous team, our wonderful clients, and to readers like you who made it to the end of this little love-letter blog post.
Here's to the next decade!