How I became an engineer-turned-marketer + tips and resources to be a 10x marketer

A mediocre product can be passed off as interesting with the right marketing techniques.

I can tell this from my experience of watching 10 seasons of Shark Tank. (Someone sold a pimple popping simulation to the sharks, FGS.)

But this wasn’t what I always thought of marketing. What follows is a familiar story for many engineers…at least in India. 

I studied to be an engineer but moved into business and marketing functions slowly. 

Before I became one, I thought that marketing in all forms and shapes was dishonest and awesome products didn’t need any marketing. 

The product will sell itself, I thought.

When I joined the marketing department of a company in the capacity of a content marketer, I thought it to be a writing job. Oh sure, I could write. I always prided myself on being a good writer. One fine day, my manager told me that I needed to focus a bit on the marketing bit of content marketing too.  

(I wasn’t even adding CTA at that point, which now makes me go pink in the face. Hindsight is always 20/20.)

So what is marketing?

If you’re reading this post, then you are interested in marketing and are inclined to grow your knowledge in this field. But here are some pointers I wish someone had told me when I was in the thick of a career change. 

  • Career does not have to take a linear path. I’m so glad mine didn’t turn out how I expected it to when I was 20.
  • Done is better than perfect.
  • Update yourself constantly. Don’t draw your knowledge from one place or source.
  • Despite the infamous backlash, engineers make good marketers, especially tech marketers, because they are trained to develop an analytical and process-oriented mindset.

How I became a marketer

Disclaimer: I did all these in addition to parenting and working full-time, which is to say that this list by no means is exhaustive. 

  1. Find and emulate

Find out who you want to become like and follow their work. For me, I wanted to be a good marketing writer. I dug deeper, going so far as the 2nd page on Google. 

Copyhackers has a ton of resources for new marketers. Their work is not just limited to copywriting, but they also cover techniques that go behind good copy like the psychology of selling, CRO, etc. Copyhackers’ Tutorial Tuesdays seemed to have answers for every single question of mine. I took notes diligently by hand. I found myself implementing the tips I took notes of. It’s true what they say-  writing anything down makes you recall it better. 

I created a Twitter list of famous people in marketing and read the resources they shared. Other places to stop by are CXL, The Copywriter Club, Hubspot, MarketingProfs, Growth Hackers, etc.

2. Create a swipe file

Every email, article, headline, ad copy that I liked and wanted to reference later, I stowed in a swipe file. I wasn’t sure about the viability of the pen and paper model for this, so while I wrote in a book, I took pictures and stuck them in Google Drive.

My swipe file is where I go for inspiration. It has works of my peers and some of the best brands. A repository like this helps when you’re stuck with writer’s block or are hung out to dry for inspiration.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel— take a great idea someone has already created and put your creative spin on it. Now don’t just swipe the whole thing, that’s clearly plagiarizing. 

3. Learn Google Analytics

Because data= moolah. Any good marketer worth her salt will tell you the importance of measuring things to improve them. Luckily, my coworkers in the team were more than happy to answer any questions about Google Analytics metrics. If you’re thinking why a content or social media marketer needs to learn about numbers, here’s why:

  • There’s no guesswork— your content strategy is backed by data.
  • Your visitors’ behavior becomes apparent. Are they even spending time to read the landing page you painstakingly created?
  • SEO won’t be a stab in the dark anymore. You can optimize pages that are doing well already.
  • It’s easy to understand which social channel works for your business and focus resources on that. 

I can go on, but you get my drift. Once you understand what data matters to you and how to track it to take advantage of the data and improve the performance.

4. Be a T-shaped marketer

A T shaped marketer has the knowledge of the entire marketing spectrum like branding, copywriting, data & analytics, design & UX, customer experience, etc. with vested specialization in one of these areas. Buffer’s T shaped marketing framework got me intrigued. I figured that if I loved marketing, it wouldn’t hurt to dabble a little more in the field. 

How to Become a T-Shaped Marketer

I also had to understand what my teammates worked on to perform better myself. The thing is, I worked with a bunch of smart folks in their early 20s, who were up-to-date with app recommendations and marketing know-how. I started to Google marketing terms that came up in meetings. I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, but I had the curiosity to learn new things and Google was my best friend. 

5. Learn to write

Marketing leaders are increasingly emphasizing the importance of writing good copy as a top skill in marketing.

A marketer must be able to write, at least to market themselves. Many companies are forced to work remotely owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Team dynamics change when you’re no longer in the same room. You’ve to put in the extra effort to market yourself within the team— judiciously picked words and communication become key. 

Pick any or all of the following and get started

  • Seth Godin

If not anything, I admire the man for his consistency. He’s shipped a marketing newsletter/ blog post every day for years. His book ‘This is Marketing’ is a good starting point. Seth Godin also offers online courses.

Hubspot invented the term inbound marketing. They have ground-level information and certification courses in the ambit of inbound marketing.

For starter or refresher courses on digital marketing and SEO. 

  • And of course, there are Skillshare, Udemy, Coursera, Upgrad where you can choose to dive deep into a specific topic within marketing. 

There are enough and then some more free courses online. Unless it’s a deep specialization, I don’t see the need to buy a course. Here’s a hot tip: follow marketers you admire on Twitter and ask for help when you feel like you could use some real-world advice during the jump.

The marketing community on Twitter is pretty active and quick to help but kindly refrain from ‘asks’ until you’ve contributed to or struck up a conversation.

Wrapping up

It is never easy to move away completely from something you’ve spent significant time on. But I can assure you that it will not go to waste. The experience counts, right? 

I wrote this blog post to make the transition easy for anyone who’s looking to change gears and make a career in marketing. 

Do you feel like you could do with some direction in your career shift? You can tweet to me or comment below for help!

If the world were to end tomorrow, would you still send a boring email?

Every year, I read an “email is dead” article without fail. Is it really?

Email has been around from even before the time I’ve been around on the internet, which is a really long time. I’ve been using the internet since I was 9. I am 30 years old now. Yeeaaah.

Social media will get you noticed. But it is also the ‘come and go’ communication, especially with the unpredictable algorithms that the corporations dangle as and how they like. 

With synchronous communication tools like Slack, email gets a stiff competition, but when was the last time you muted your email or got annoyed by it huh? Email stays on, because it is personal and gets the job done.

It’s going to be 2020 soon, there will be more noise, and email is the only way to get heard. Now that I’ve said it enough times to convince or scare you about email, let’s talk… email. Here are my learnings from writing corporate, startup, nurture, hihello– all kinds of emails. 

The subject line

This is where it all starts, right? Ditch the subject line generators. While we are at it, ditch the headline generators as well. 

I’d say, write the subject line at the end. Do Not Use Title Case in the Subject Line. It screams non-personalized. 

If you have a large sample size, you can A/B test the subject lines with emojis, shorter subject line, etc.

Just checking in

Please don’t ever start your follow up email with ‘just checking in.’ You need to drop the ‘just’, especially if you’re a woman

Always open with the context– “I sent you tips on growing your subscriber base in my last email. I know you’re busy, but I hope you had the time to check it out.” 

With most emails “just checking in”, “circling back”, or “moving to the top of the inbox”, maintaining a connection is always worthwhile.

It doesn’t have to go viral

We’re all here to solve problems. No one cares about epic, viral emails. 

Remember what problem you’re solving and write to that one person about it in the most conversational way possible. 

I’m sure you don’t talk “can I revert to you about not boiling the ocean on this topic?” Or do you?

Use a different preview text

Katie is smart. Be like Katie.

Most of us do not capitalize on what could be a wonderful opportunity to make readers open the email. Instead of the same preview text as the first few lines of the email body, you can write something attention grabbing to make them open the email.

Check for mobile compatibility

More than 70% of us check email from our phones

Always check how emails read on a mobile phone, especially if you’re inserting images and want to check for alignment. If you’re using a longer subject line, it cuts off the latter few words on a mobile phone. 

Double check for [placeholders]

Every so often, I receive emails that read “Hey [first name], are you ready to slay this year with [company name]?” 

Mistakes happen to the best of us. The only way to redeem and minimize the impact is to send an honest apology. 

Establish your brand identity

It could be your opening/ sign off signature, it could be a funny PS line that you include in your emails. 

Mine would be food references, The Office, calm tonality (I cannot do the excited, exaggerating, jumpy personality.), sappy lyrics, etc.  

Make the email all about you

The ‘you’ here is not you, but your reader. While establishing your identity is important, aren’t we forgetting something visceral? 

Forget about appealing to the reader’s ego, why would anyone want to read an email that is all about *your* business offering? Rather, talk about their problems and how your offering can help solve them. 

Have a well-defined CTA

Lastly, tell the reader clearly what they need to do after reading the email. Or they’re going to close it and forget that you even sent an email. 

If the intention of the email is to stay at the top of your reader’s minds but you do not have an offering as yet, encourage them to talk by asking questions. Your CTA could be as basic as “What’s the one (your business offering) problem you want solved, like now?” 

So now

The thing with clients who’ve been writing corporate emails for so long is that it is difficult to make them look past the rigid “Dear Sir/Ma’am” framework. 

Their hurtful actions may or may not have been prompted this blog post. These tips are super simple to implement and attract open rates like flies.

If you are still wondering if email is a worthy investment, YES! Time to hire that email copywriter and stay at the top of your email game.

5 Tell-Tale Signs Content Marketing is Not Working for You

Content is king. (This phrase is done to death, but humor me this one time.) I’m not going to add statistics to prove my point, because we all know content marketing is an integral part of a successful marketing team.

In the last decade, content marketing has yielded wonderfully for many businesses. In fact, many marketing teams now focus solely on content marketing to generate leads. But not all brands see the same shiny results. There can be a number of reasons why your content is not performing effectively. Here are a few signs that your content marketing isn’t working and suggestions on how to fix it.

No shares or retweets for your content

Check the numbers on your analytics dashboard and compare them with the best performing months. Has it flat-lined? Yup, your content marketing definitely needs a makeover. 

How to fix it: Refine your content strategy. Tie every piece of content to a tangible KPI. The ultimate goal of any marketing effort is to increase ROI. However, depending on the stage of your business growth, content marketing can be used: to increase traffic, for brand awareness, talent branding etc. Content creation is one thing, but promotion is everything. Create a content promotion calendar, much like an editorial calendar and be sure to use different captions tailored to suit different sharing platforms. 

Your content does not provide value to the reader

With so many trends in marketing, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re creating content to enable your audience. The best content is defined by how relevant and useful it is to the people consuming it. This problem is apparent when the content marketing function is outsourced to an agency.

How to fix it: Do not outsource content ideation to an agency. This is the job of your marketing team. Create buyer personas, ideate content for every step of the buyer journey, and pass on this information to the agency. Try different formats— case studies, long form blogging, white paper, research report, slides etc. Hop on to Quora and Reddit to understand what questions your target audience is asking. Do not create content because your boss asked you to or because your competitor is doing it. 

Your site receives healthy traffic but not paying customers

Or the wrong people are signing up for a trial account. This is the #1 problem the sales team complains all the time about. A business needs qualified leads that convert. 

How to fix it: Step back, shift gears, and create content for engagement and not lead generation. It makes a world of difference when you’re not forcing the conversions. Have fun with the process. If you’re boring yourself, it is likely that you’re also boring your reader. Use review mining to understand what words and sentences your customers use to describe a problem and mirror it to them on the sales page.

 Customers have unrealistic asks from your brand

This might seem silly, but is a sure shot way of knowing your content strategy isn’t working. Did anyone sign up for your product lately and asked for ‘X’ feature that is completely irrelevant to what you do?

How to fix it: This is bound to happen when you diversify your content too much. If you’re selling cloud communications platform, it’s smart not to do a roundup of the best CRMs in 2019. This results in reader confusion and also sets impractical expectations from your brand.

Your content is not valued internally

You can create the best content there is, but if it is of no use to the Sales or the Customer Success teams to share with the customers, then there’s no point in churning one white paper after another. Marketers spend a huge amount of time in ideation, creation and distribution, they often overlook an important factor: internal support.

How to fix it: Content does not come from the content team or the SEO team alone. Brainstorm with the customer facing teams and write about what customers want to hear or are talking about. Share the content you create with other teams, put it in a hub where teams can pick it up, localize and repurpose as required. 

These are merely 5 of the many signs that content might not be working out for you. Content marketing is not a sprint, there is no finish line either. Carry on with the hygiene checks, be consistent with your content, have fun creating it, and take risks every now and then.