What marketing experts wish they'd known when they started


If someone says, “I work in marketing”, this will mean different things to different people. To some, it will be digital marketing that pops into their head. For others, it will be print or out of door campaigns. And let’s face it, some will confuse it with direct sales.

The truth is, marketing is a giant area, and there are a lot of different roads and options for careers. Today (8 August) is exam result day in Scotland, and we at CIM Scotland want to showcase that. We asked a range of marketers in different industries and different roles the one thing they wish they’d known when they’d started their career.


The comms and PR expert: Confidence is key

Craig McGill was originally a journalist before he made the switch to PR and communications marketing. With over 15 years of experience, he now works as EMEA Communications Lead at 8x8.

Craig said: “Things I wish I knew before coming from journalism to marketing/PR? Be confident, be connected and be able to say no to people/work.

“Confidence. Journalists don’t need to exude lots of confidence, but marketeers - regardless of being in PR, digital, events - do. Look at Craig Campbell the SEO operator. Scott Douglas at Holyrood PR, Gordon Campbell at ClickBoost the PPC company, the team at Lux Events or Kev and Gillian O’Neill at 29 Studios. People approach them looking for solutions and they need to be able to reassure businesses that their money (and businesses) are in good hands. You can only do that if you come across as confident in what you are doing.

“How you find that confidence is up to you. Some get it through training, some fake it til they make it, for some it comes from knowing they are good at what they do; for others it comes from other people telling them that they are good at what they do and that brings me to the other key thing I wish I’d known more of: network and network with everyone. And if you’re an introvert, build up relationships online before you meet them in the physical world. That removes so much stress and anxiety over talking to people. If you network, people can then see what you’re good at, which is a big help if you suffer from imposter syndrome. You may not think you are great, but the people who see you will know exactly what you’re good at. Which leads nicely to the last point: play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. This can take time to work out and it can be really hard to say ‘no’ to people and work, but developing that ability will remove so much stress from your life.”


The agency founder: Get as much experience as you can

Denise Davies has over 20 years’ experience in marketing, and has worked both client side and agency side throughout her career. In 2020, she founded her own marketing agency, dsquared, based in Aberdeen.

Denise said: “The first decision I had to make when I started out in marking over 20 years ago was whether to go agency or client side. I chose agency-side, and I am so glad that I did, as it gave me a foundation for the next 20 years of my career.

“If I could go back and talk to twenty-something Denise, I would say that every client you work with, every project you work on, and every personality you encounter adds to your portfolio of experience. The good and the bad, the exciting and the challenging – it all counts, and you will likely draw on it later.

“Hard work does pay off. Trust your intuition. Get as much experience as you can. And enjoy the journey!”


The freelance photographer: Show your personality and trust your gut

Lucy Knott began working in ‘traditional’ marketing, before she pivoted to photography. As a freelance photographer, she works with businesses to create visual marketing content. So far, she has worked with whisky brands, hotel chains and more.

Lucy said: “Going freelance was a massive step in the right direction for my career! I followed my gut and was soon capturing lots of beautiful interior spaces, real people at work and brands lifestyle imagery.  To get there, I introduced and pitched to companies I’d love to work with and to business who would benefit from updated photography.

“It’s important to remember that although you’re active online doesn’t mean the right people see you. Go directly to clients, make yourself known and build interest and relationships with dream clients! There are a lot of photographers in Scotland but there is plenty of work for everyone! Nobody is your competition and always be each other’s cheerleaders! 

“Don’t forget you are the only one with your own unique style, the way you do business helps connect with people. And remember, show your personality too! People buy from people!”

The fresh face: Broad experience is invaluable

Adam Dickson was winner of CIM’s The Pitch as an undergraduate in 2020. Having graduated, he worked at an agency before moving client side to Baillie Gifford.

Adam said: “Becoming a specialist is a tempting path. Who doesn't love homing their skills, right? But I encourage gaining diverse marketing experience first. In doing so, you get a good grasp of the entire marketing mix and spectrum of marketing tactics.

“This really helped when I got involved more in the strategic elements of marketing campaigns. For example, skills such as knowing how to best target your chosen segments, to deploying your budget most effectively. If overly focused on a niche, you could miss the bigger picture. I almost fell into the specialist route early on, which would've hindered my growth. So explore, learn broadly, then choose if you want to specialise. After all, ‘You don’t know, what you don’t know.’”

You can read more of Adam’s tips in his blog on four things he wish he knew when he started marketing.


We hope these four points of view help to show you that there is no one path to get into marketing: whether you decide to study it at university, to coming into it down the line…or even if you pivot away into a different angle.


No matter what your exam results are, what stage of your career path you are at, or what you want to do, there is no wrong path. And if you ever want to discuss your marketing career, do feel free to drop a line to anyone on the CIM Scotland marketing committee.