Variety is the spice of life
We caught up with North East Marketer, Jo Lennon, who shares her very varied career in marketing and discusses how running her own business has been a huge learning curve.
How did I know marketing was for me?
As a child I always jumped between aspirations of different career paths without ever really settling on anything. Even in the run up to completing school there wasn’t a definitive career path, discussions from counsellors always took the mainstream approach with little thought to the more creative industries.
After completing a degree in English (with classical music and drama thrown into the mix) I left education still unclear on what the future held. I was lucky to start working in admin for a Local Enterprise Agency (Entrust) on various funded programmes with start-up businesses, businesses looking for investments and graduate recruitment initiatives. During these projects I’d work closely with the Marketing Manager to promote various aspects of the initiatives and when she left I was asked if I wanted to take on the role and I jumped at the chance. Marketing was that creative, exciting field of work that I’d been looking for.
As a business rooted in training and support Entrust kindly offered to pay for my CIM qualifications, as well as giving me time to work alongside some great industry experts who helped me understand the real-world application. I spent time working with some great marketing businesses in PR, design and strategy who really fostered my growth in the industry.
Life doesn’t always have to be pre-planned - sometimes the best careers are the ones you fall into.
My Marketing Career
After working as Marketing Manager with Entrust for a number of years I decided the time was right to move onto bigger campaigns and joined FTSE 100 Fintech company Sage UK as a Marketing Campaigns Manager. My background and knowledge of the SME and start-up world made it an easy transition to applying it to growing Sage’s SME accounting software base. I quickly progressed from this initial role to managing the Small Business Marketing team, bringing more events experience under my belt with introduction of the popular Sage World events.
From a start in the small business division I progressed to taking on a broader strategy role specifically looking at bringing Sage’s divisions together to focus on Product Development and Go to Market Strategy for the UK.
As with many women in every industry, when I left for maternity leave priorities changed. While it was possible to keeping throwing myself into the role that I loved it became difficult to juggle. Whilst on maternity leave my early experiences in business development and start-ups pulled me to embark on an exploration of setting up my own business and Mellie Green Organic was born (alongside my daughter Annabel).
Running your own business is a huge learning curve, but one which is hugely rewarding. Although I’d add that it’s so much easier working on marketing strategies for other businesses than it is your own – you question every decision you make and every penny spent on activities. It’s really helpful to see the process from the other side, it certainly makes you appreciate why businesses owners are results driven when it comes to marketing.
At the same time as running Mellie Green Organic I spent time supporting agency-side for a design agency who were working with Sage and again saw a very different side of the industry; one which is hugely creative, but fast-paced and client driven. It’s a rewarding role but the teams are under phenomenal pressure to deliver.
After working in the agency I started to offer my own freelance marketing strategy support as Jo Lennon Marketing and I was asked to return to Sage working with their in-house agency on Global Marketing Campaigns. I now specialise in working with small businesses who don’t have the budget or capacity to bring in Marketing Strategy support and I’m excited to work with such a variety of businesses from engineers to architects and fashion designers.
This year we’re also taking my organic children’s wear business forward; launching our own British made clothing brand – so more learning curves to come!
Is Marketing Undervalued?
I don’t think that Marketing is undervalued as such, I think it’s misunderstood. It’s really easy to see the marketing costs on a budget but tying it back to money coming into a business isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds. Seeing it from the side of being a business owner, when you’re juggling so many business costs it can be difficult to trust the process.
Marketing is a long-term game and too many businesses switch between activities or turn them on and off as budgets are changed or cut. It’s a gradual process of awareness, education and persuasion bringing potential customers to you, building trust and converting that into sales and it doesn’t happen overnight.
I talk to my clients a lot about sustainable marketing activities and business development, for me it’s about having a consistent brand and strong foundations to build from. The value of marketing can be seen when you have a long-term strategy rather than a temporary flourish of activity.
When I talk to other marketers I always advise them to make time each week to touch-up their skills. There are so many good paid and also free resources out there. CIM for instance recently introduced over 80 live-virtual courses spanning things like: brand, strategy, digital, leadership, planning, communications, copy writing, content, product, proposition development, which can be undertaken from home, when the time suits you. There is also a host of free webinars, reports, guides available on the CIM site.