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How I learned all this digital marketing Shizzle?

Yesterday a colleague asked me where I learned all of this digital stuff.

What I studied, the courses I took or what I read? It made me think. There is no simple answer.

So I started writing it down.

This is my journey. Not saying you should take the same.

Without further ado… This is how I learned all this digital marketing Shizzle:

BASIC DIGITAL MARKETING

Finished the Postgraduate Digital Marketing at Ehsal Management school Brussels.

Basic is the important word here.

It got me a job. That was nice. Move on.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS 

Custom Google Analytics Report - Sessions by hour of the day

I learned by doing it. Every day. Literally EVERY DAY for the first 2 years of my career. 

No course can give you that. This is something you need to learn by doing. The GA individual Qualification or online courses are worthless if you cannot translate business objectives into decent reporting or gather insights from your data.

Ask business questions, then figure out how to find the answers in Google Analytics.

Biggest business impacting stuff I learned from Avinash. Go subscribe on his newsletter.

GOOGLE TAG MANAGER

Logical next step after Google Analytics.

At first I tried it myself, but found myself stuck too often. It became frustrating. Online I either found too basic knowledge (from Google themselves) or too advanced (such as Simo Ahava).

So in this Jasper Schenk from Happy leads showed me the ropes in workshop. I still highly recommend this guy.

Tag management can be quite complex/frustrating/time consuming so unless it’s part of your day-to-day job, I don’t recommend going further then understanding the basics. If you know what is possible and you can brief it correctly you should be fine.

SEO 

Aaaaaaahhh SEO. My heart and Soul. My Ying and Yang. My Netflix and Chill.

Most of the stuff I learned at Eastpak.

I noticed a huge missed opportunity for SEO. So I made a business case and was able to launch a small SEO project.

“Holly mother of GOD, Xaveer, those SEO results are through the roof. Can you do it for my brand as well?”

— Some Manager

The results were pretty good, so we scaled the project. I started studying even more and an external agency helped out on some very technical topics.

After this first project I read every word and watched every video on MOZ.

(I don’t care what they say, I Still love you Rand Fishkin)

Some happy years of SEO followed.

Nowadays I’m finding it hard to keep track of SEO because it consumes so much time to stay updated on all aspects of SEO.

GOOGLE ADS

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I learned a bit about Adwords (as we used to call it) at school.

No wait. Let me rephrase that.

Knowledge from school was worthless. Rubbish. Zero Business oriented. No real cases.

Google Ads is like poker, you need to play with real money to truly learn.

So I started spending real money at Thomas Cook.

Our PPC agency at the time had some really good people and we had a dedicated team: Raf & Benoit. They probably thought I was stupid, because I kept asking questions. They kindly answered every question. I got less stupid. The Ads account performed better. Nice.

Later on Dries and Mathieu learned me how to setup and run Google Ads campaign. Accounts got bigger, stakes higher. Fun.

Now I’m learning on my own (have my own account) and from the different google account managers I’m in touch with on several projects.

(Hi to my friends at Google 🙂 )

MARKETING AUTOMATION

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I literally knew square nothing about this topic at my job interview.

They hired me anyway. Them Fools 🙂

Jonas and Tom pushed me into the Marketing Automation ocean, to set sail for a first project in week 2.

It was hard. It was a lot. It was a steep learning curve. 

I was in a lot of meetings where I was the dumbest person in the room. Learned by listening, reading, taking notes in my moleskine, and started contributing gradually.

What helped a ton, is the fact that we had our own Marketing Automation tool (Hubspot) available to test, learn and play around.

WEBDEVELOPMENT

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Built my own website from scratch ( the one you are on right now: xaveer.com).

Spent countless hours figuring out how/where to get a domain, set up hosting, make the layout nice, mess with the templates, tweaks css, fiddle with speed performance.

Got hacked once. Fixed that.

Set up Hotjar, Google Analytics, Mautic Marketing Automation, pop-up banners, Mailchimp, writing blogposts…

It’s time spent alone, focused, making mistakes and wins without anybody seeing it.

It’s kinda lonely.

BUT it’s high learning, low risk work. I highly, HIGHLY recommend any digital marketeer to set up your own website.

5 years after I launched my own website, I launched a paid one for a client.

At that time, I already made all the rookie mistakes. I was ready.

DIGITAL STRATEGY

Learned at Thomas Cook and working at an Agency.

The best way to learn about strategy, is seeing how it’s created.

At Thomas Cook Belgium (and Condor) I got my first glimpse of what true strategy is. It’s bigger then what we are and do today.

Honestly it breaks my heart to see Thomas Cook go bankrupt. I worked with some of the brightest people around in digital and saw a strategy come to life. Maybe too little, too late.

Changing the company you work for, or even better, work at an agency/consulting business is also amazing to learn strategy.

Generally you don’t do these strategic exercises a lot. In an agency however you get to be part of it way more. Also Tom and Antony (invisible puppy) pushed me to think beyond the tactics. 

E-COMMERCE

Eastpak European E-commerce website

My motto the first 3 years of my career:

“Make mistakes and then fix them. “

I f*cked up plenty of times (I’m sure Celine and Steven remember). And every time we fixed it.

I was young, unafraid, daring to make mistakes. I invested a lot of time to really understand why/what happened. I learned A LOT.

Also.

I worked till the security guard closed the office and continued at night at home.

Working 12 hours a day, almost every day, I killed my social life.

I remember HR called me in for a meeting. They asked me why I was working so many hours.

Why?

  • A] There was a ridiculous amount of work to be done
  • B] I f*cked up and was fixing my mistakes.
  • C] I was dedicated to the brand and wanted everything to be perfect

E-commerce is way more complex than you would think.

I learned about the amazing benefits and possibilities but also the price that comes with it.

I saw both sides of the business, by being a part of it.

Nevertheless I learned so much by being in such a competitive environment, working with real pros, pushing to be the best you can. Eastpak, Kipling and VF will be in my heart forever.

CHATBOT (NLP)

When everybody is talking about some new technology, quiet often, very few people are actually doing it. I am one of them.

Instead of waiting for a paid project I started building one for fun using free tools (dialogflow). Low risk. No cost.

I created the Douchebot. Just wanted to know how this works & what is possible. It’s not perfect, that was never the purpose. It is up and running and I learned. Win.

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Next up I want to dig into a little Machine Learning and maybe AI.

BOOKS & PODCASTS

I read books. I listen podcasts. For knowledge. For inspiration. For fun.

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CONCLUSION

I didn’t get here by joyfully riding a pink pony through rainbows.

It was a bumpy, messy ride. Yet highly entertaining, very rewarding.

The best way to learn (for me), is be around people who know more than you about a certain topic. Then implement it in a low risk manner. Either build it yourself or start with small projects where you are allowed to make mistakes.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

That’s what I keep telling myself. That’s how I will continue my ride.

Enjoy your ride. Enjoy your story.

All the best,

Xaveer

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