The most important thing to remember for content is that you are a human selling to other humans, no matter what your service or product is.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Wendy Margolin.
Wendy Margolin helps healthcare providers grow their practices and stand out online with content marketing. As the owner of Sparkr Marketing, she provides boutique content marketing services, one-on-one coaching, and group courses. When she’s not working, she’s busy with four kids, two dogs, and running and biking through Chicago.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve made so many mistakes along the way because that’s the nature of creating massive amounts of content in a fast-paced industry. The good news is that much of digital marketing can be edited in real-time, so I try not to get caught up in the pressure. Done is always better than perfect.
By far my funniest marketing incident was renting a rickshaw for a private school marketing video. It was around the time that the James Cordon Carpool Karaoke videos were popular, and this school used music to change classes instead of bells. I managed to convince the principal to let us make a video of a prospective student touring their new building in a rickshaw.
Turns out steering those massive bikes is harder than it looks, and mistakes were made. We managed to leave our mark on the admissions campaign and on the walls. The best part, though, was when I had to drive the rickshaw down busy streets to reach a nearby park where the cross country team was competing.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
A big breakthrough for my freelance business was when I got to manage all the social media for one of the world’s largest insurance brokers. I spent a year and a half with that company, planning, implementing, and managing all their content and ads.
I learned a massive amount working with that account, and more importantly, it gave me the confidence to leave my day job and launch my business full time.
My key takeaways from that experience are:
- Say yes first and figure it out later.
- You usually know more than you think.
- Don’t ever work incorporate. They have too many meetings.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Marketing has changed rapidly over the last decade, and it can be overwhelming. Just when we think we’ve mastered a platform or have a new strategy, everything changes.
Instead of seeing this as a challenge, I see it as an opportunity to continue learning. I left my first writing job because it was too monotonous, so I know firsthand that learning, growing, and striving for better results are key to a satisfying career.
If you find yourself feeling burnt out, tackle something new. Take one of the thousands of outstanding online courses, listen to a new podcast, or challenge yourself to learn something new on the fly — like launching your own podcast.
Finally, one of my favorite ways to get motivated for a challenge is to look back at some leading marketers to see where they were a few years prior. Scroll back on some of your favorite Influencers’ accounts or listen to one of their early podcasts. It’s probably pretty mediocre or even bad. Then scroll forward on your life and where you are headed. Picture it and then go for it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My boss at the nonprofit where I previously worked as a marketing director was a key mentor in my life and career. He gave me the support I needed to learn digital marketing as it was developing and rapidly changing, whether it was an opportunity to tackle something new or bring on a coach to teach me a new skill. He also gave me a lot of autonomy.
Finally, he took a keen interest in my growth as a person, giving me books about self-development and even providing parenting advice. He continues to be someone I turn to for advice. I realize then and now that this is unusual and exceptional, and I hope to emulate this kind of leadership for the women on my team.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
The most important thing to remember for content is that you are a human selling to other humans, no matter what your service or product is. Even my B2B software client is made up of humans selling SAAS to humans.
The best content features images and videos that look natural on social media channels. Highly produced videos and stock photos don’t perform nearly as well. The text of posts, emails and blogs should also be as conversational as possible for your industry. This is true for organic content as well as for ads.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Set up a routine.
It’s no joke that we entrepreneurs are the hardest bosses some of us ever have. Everyone says setting up a routine is essential, and this is true for me as well. I attribute sticking to my routine to the reason I’m still sane after months of running a business with my kids home during the quarantine.
My routine starts with getting up early, around 5:30. The earlier I get up, the more productive the day. It also means I go to bed early.
There’s a nagging temptation to never stop when it comes to my business–a sentiment I’ve heard from a lot of entrepreneurs. And while hard work is necessary to get something off the ground, setting boundaries is as well. I’m still working on switching gears when my family is home. I’m also committed to pursuing other interests, like running and guitar, no matter how packed my day.
- Set aside time to focus on building your own business.
So often I hear small business owners say they don’t have time to focus on marketing or building the structure of their businesses. I get it. It’s tempting to work all day on what pays today’s bills, but if you don’t schedule a time to focus on building your own business, you won’t continue to have a business.
The work I do today to build Sparkr is what will ensure my business grows in the future. I schedule at least five hours into my week when I focus only on Sparkr.
- You never lose by giving away free information.
A lot of what I teach in my marketing coaching, I give away for free on this blog, my podcast, and in my weekly Facebook Live sessions. I’ve yet to question giving away free advice. I feel grateful for what I’ve learned, and I’m so happy to help others. I have a tendency to give away so much advice during a prospect call, that the recipient ends up implementing some of it even before we work together. And if they don’t end up working with me? That’s okay too.
I’m pretty confident that the more support you offer for free, the more that will come back to you. Call it karma or kindness, but at the end of the day, you want people to realize that if you give away this much information for free, how much more value is in your paid services?!
- Start with a great virtual assistant.
I heeded the advice of other entrepreneurs and hired an awesome VA early on in my business. This felt a little premature at first, but by having a VA, I was able to think of how I needed help. Now I get more done each month than I could do on my own. I recommend starting small, and then each month come up with new ways to work together.
Now before I start a task, I think first about whether I need to be the one doing it. If the answer is yes, I think about how I can make that task part of a system that someone else can eventually implement.
- Take action and change it later.
Indecision is an enemy of progress. There are so many parts of my business that have changed in my first year. Just scroll down my Instagram and you’ll see all the versions of Canva templates I went through one year ago until I found something I like better. I even changed WordPress templates in the middle of the year because the one I picked to launch the site was no longer working the way I wanted. I find it’s better to go with what I have and improve it later. Done is always better than perfect.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
There are so many experts who I count among my teachers. I cycle through podcasts such as Amy Porterfield, Stu McLaren, Rick Mulready, Duct Tape Marketing, StoryBrand, and Passion Economy. Podcasts have been my friend on a lot of lonesome COVID runs.
I love the books by Donald Miller, Marketing Made Simple and Building a Story Brand. Ann Handley’s book, Everybody Writes, is my favorite current book on writing. Finally, Donald Miller’s Business Made Simple course is essential to anyone in the business. Are you seeing a pattern here?
One more question! You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The most inspiring movement I know is one I already support. The movement is called Momentum, a program to inspire Jewish women to live their most meaningful lives. Thousands of women around the world join a 10-day trip to Israel and then follow that up with a year of learning and growth. Once a woman is inspired among a community of friends, she can bring that back to her family and community. I’ve been a group leader on this program three times, and every year is powerful and life-changing. If this movement continues to grow and if other faith and minority communities can replicate it, then we would all reap the abundance of good that would come from it.
Thank you so much for sharing so much value with us!