February 22, 2023

How to Break into Marketing with No Degree or Experience with James Stewart (DF#85)

How to Break into Marketing with No Degree or Experience | The No Experience Marketing Blueprint

No Degree, Or Experience Needed To Land a Marketing Job!

In today’s competitive job market, it can be challenging to stand out and secure your dream marketing job, especially if you don’t have a degree or experience.

But don’t let that discourage you! In this episode, we share valuable tips and insights on how to get a marketing job without a degree or experience.

Our guest, James Stewart, is a marketing expert with over a decade of experience in the field. He worked his way up working for startups, eventually landing a job at Adobe and then now working as a Head of Data & Analytics at GoHunt.

He shares practical advice on how to build your marketing skills, gain experience from scratch and land a marketing job!

Whether you’re a recent graduate looking to break into the marketing industry or someone looking to make a career change, this episode is a must-listen. Tune in and discover actionable tips and advice on how to land your dream marketing job without a degree or experience.

Enjoy the episode!

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Links and Notes from the Episode

Episode Transcript
Please enjoy this transcript or our episode!

Please note the transcript may have a few errors. We're human. It can be hard to catch all the errors from a full length conversation. Enjoy!

Ryan: Aloha folks, and welcome back to Degree Free, where we teach you how to get the work you want without a college degree. I'm your host, Ryan Maruyama. Before we get into today's episode, connect with me on LinkedIn. We hear it all the time. I don't have a network. I don't know where to start. So start with me.

Ryan: Connect me there, and if you're listening to this podcast, let me know what you like about it, and then more importantly, let me know some things that you don't like. Let me know some things that I could improve on. Secondly, if you wanna know everything about degree free and how to get a job without a college degree and how to make that career transition that you've been thinking about.

Ryan: Go to degreefree.co/newsletter and sign up for a free weekly newsletter today our guest is James Stewart, head of acquisition marketing data and analytics at GOHUNT. I just got done recording this episode with James and I am pumped. It is full of actionable advice. If you've been thinking about getting into the marketing space, if you're thinking about making a career transition into the marketing space, this episode is for you.

Ryan: I am really, really excited for you to listen to this one. I will say right now, at the beginning, it takes a little bit before we get going. The first few minutes might be a little bit slow but hang in there. We get into everything that you need to know. It is jam packed with actionable advice. If you'd like to say hi to James, you can go to LinkedIn and follow him there.

Ryan: As usual links to everything that we talk about will be at our show notes to degreefree.co/podcast. I'm super excited for you guys to hear this episode and I would love your feedback on it. So like I said, connect with me at LinkedIn and let me know what you think of this episode. And without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with James.

Ryan: Aloha folks, and welcome back to Degree Free. I am super excited to have my guest on this week, James Stewart. 

Ryan: James, thank you so much for taking the time. 

James: Of course, Ryan. Happy to be here. 

Ryan: James, I kind of wanted to start off with currently what you do for work and what your job role is on your LinkedIn.

Ryan: On the headline, it says, head of Acquisition, marketing data and analytics, and before you give your very good definition of what your job is. I kind of wanted to take a stab at what this is for myself, like as a layperson, cuz I have no idea. So I'm just going to take a shot in the dark. I think head of acquisitioning, of acquisition marketing, and data and analytics, I'm guessing your job is to see how to acquire more customers and using data to do that, whether it's Facebook ads or whether it's, trying to see, what type of marketing is performing in what segments of the population, different segmentation, things like that. I am wondering.

Ryan: Also after you finish that up, how much actual data analysis goes into, or like how much math goes into your job. 

James: Definitely. So you're not wrong, but you're also not right. The acquisition marketing part is about a third of the pillar of what I'm responsible for right now. Currently I'm in more of a startup environment, so we're wearing multiple hats and that was the area that needed the most focus up front. So you're exactly right. It's very much. Looking across Google, Bing, Facebook, we've got some connected television through Mountain. The whole Ryan Reynolds project that he does, we're using his tech and figuring out what the actual return per dollar spent and the marginal, incremental return for the next dollar spent. That's really the math that's involved, which once you understand three or four basic functions, marketing analytics is pretty straightforward, right? Incrementality meaning like how much is this actual value to business? It says that it delivered a hundred things for me, but Google's always gonna tell me more.

James: What are the actual incremental customers delivered from this channel? So I have that 120 of them were actually driven by that paid advertising and 80 would've showed up anyway, type of thing and that's just a lot of, AB testing with geographies. If you can split the country or your region into two areas and then measure them against each other, honestly, a lot of it's run through calculated functions.

James: Like I'm not sitting there doing hand drawn math for all of it. It's designing the experiment and feeding it into computer learning. and it comes back with an answer. And the statist, once you hit statistical significance, it tells you which one won. Right. And by how much? Right? It's not a ton. So that, that's one of the key elements that you're looking at. 

Ryan: I wanted to start there and it seems like a really heavy way to start the interview. Like, man, we're gonna get into math right after the beginning. I wanted to get there because I know that when people are gonna listen to this podcast and you're gonna say data and analytics, they're gonna be like, man, I have to be a math whiz.

Ryan: And like, I gotta know a lot of math and. I just wanted to kind of get it out upfront of whether I'm personally, I have no idea data, I have no idea analytics, so I have no idea how much math is involved in it, but I kind of wanted to get it out for the listener about how much, if they're thinking about going down the data and analytics path, how much math has to be, you know, in their background and that you use on a daily basis.

James: Honestly, if you've done the stats 100 series. , you're probably, I mean, that's the biggest gotcha that a lot of people have in, in all of data and analytics, honestly, is they have like three data points against five data points and they call a winner. And it's like, well, one more data point to either one of those and you have a tie, right?

James: So if you can get through intro to stats and understand what makes a good sample size and what doesn. , all the rest is mathematics versus arithmetic, right? You start learning what math to apply. You don't execute the math anymore in this era, right? So you learn like, oh, this should be a parallel trends analysis, let me pull this Python library down and plug in the data set and it spits back the answer. So it's more about knowing what functions to use, what macros to apply, then it is about actually adding three plus seven ever. I literally use Excel for my addition and subtraction. I have it open on the other screen.

Ryan: You were talking about return per dollar spent and then you were thinking, talking about like the next dollar spent and whether or not you would get that same return. I wouldn't mind if we could just double click on that a little bit and kind of explain that a little bit more for maybe those people that don't know what that even means.

James: So when a business is looking at their marketing dollars, they're gonna. Hey, you have money to spend, but you know it's business. They want something back for their money. So we go to Facebook and we spend a hundred dollars, and then we measure like, okay, that a hundred dollars spent drove X number of users who did Y number of actions and we have a value either per user or per action that we're looking at. So in this case, we're a subscription business. 

James: Our MAP service costs 50 bucks for all 50 states. Well, if it's costing us a hundred dollars on Facebook to get one person to sign up for our maps service, we either have to say, Hey, we're okay with a two year return on investment on that dollar spent, or, fix your optimization, fix your targeting, spend less so that we can actually break even on the dollars we're giving you.

James: And you just, you do that channel by channel, campaign by campaign.

Ryan: Now, we kind of talked about. What it is that you do now with the data and analytics, but for a lot of the people listening, for everybody listening, they're trying to make big career transitions or a lot of them are coming right outta high school and have never went to college.

Ryan: Some are just coming fresh out of college. They didn't know what they're gonna do. I was wondering if we could back up to kind of the beginning of how you got into this role. You did send me, when we were first messaging on LinkedIn, you kind of sent me a little bit of your bio. I'm definitely gonna get into some.

Ryan: Later on and I'm, for those listening, I will post With your permission, I will post that what you sent me also, because it's really nice and concise of your overview of what you've done in your career. But for those that don't want to go there, degree free.co/podcast. For the show notes. I was wondering if you can kind of start at the beginning, how did you end up getting into this industry? 

James: A little bit on accident and in doing so, I found a couple of, if you will, hacks to get around that, that first entry. So I, I was a college student. I was paying my way through community college. I was inspired a little bit from Justin Long's movie accepted on the whole, why am I taking art classes or these other classes when I'm just trying to like grind through.

James: So I focused very heavily in the year and a half that I was in community college on math, writing a little bit of philosophy. and statistics, right? So I just tried to get those, like that base layer of understanding and how to learn on some of those harder topics. Once I had a toe hold in with, I think I got to calculus, first round calculus in college and statistics 101 and 102, like we're talking, you could do what I did in five or six courses and you got that foundation but family friend had a small business and they had a remote office in my town, so the main office is down towards Seattle. I'm up in like Mount Vernon, Washington, tiny little Podunk place, and they said, Hey, we could use a college intern to just be a data gremlin to literally like move files from one place to the next or I remember I was sitting there early in my job and they're like, run this program with a stopwatch and tell me how long it takes to run. I'm like, okay, cool. I am. Totally respected here, but like it was a toe hold like everyone else was a PhD. I was literally just the guy who got coffee and sat there with a stopwatch.

James: But then 2008 happened and the company I was working for was very much like contract basis, making algorithms for people all over the world. Crazy cool stuff. And I got to like sit and observe it from a distance and then our contracts dried up and they started firing people and laying people off. And we went from like 18 PhDs, an office manager myself and like two were let go at the end of the contract tour, let go. At the end of the contract, I'm sitting there like anxious is like all get out. Like, oh my God, they're not gonna cut me. They can't afford anyone. And I had this realization halfway through that, oh, I'm cheaper than the monthly coffee bill, right?

James: I'm a college like. These PhDs are being paid well over the six figure mark for the work they're doing. I'm making 10 bucks an hour right now, and we pulled all the way back and started bootstrapping. as we're bootstrapping. They had this tool they'd started to build and they said, Hey, we're doing Google advertising optimization, but we need someone who can actually do the Google advertising in the account, build the campaigns, actually change the settings.

James: Like we can't all just be sitting programming things all day. We have to actually like do the manual version to figure out how to automate what we're doing. So I became a manual algorithm. I was a human algorithm in Google ads where I'd go and they're like, we wanted to see what happens if we change bids every 30 minutes throughout the entire day.

James: So I'd go through and literally for some campaigns, be changing, making these micro changes by hand and then documenting the changes I was making and then meeting with the developers and being like, these are the changes I made. This is the pattern of behavior we saw and that was that beginning of that data and analytics to begin doing the Google advertising though.

James: My boss was, go past the Google certification quiz. No, you can't access our Google account and actually see anything practical. Go literally read through everything and pass it blind. Okay? And I did, I buckled down for two weeks and did nothing but read Google ads, education documentation. I passed the test by like five percentage more than I needed, and they unlocked the accounts for me.

James: And if I was gonna give anyone who's looking at marketing or data, a first hack, go to Google. Get Google certified, it's free now. I had to pay 200 bucks back in 2007 to get CERT certified. It's free and you can get Google certified on Google ads and Google Analytics display advertising, YouTube, and those certs, one, are gonna teach you some basic foundations on marketing, and they're gonna teach you some basic foundations on analytics, and it cost you nothing but time. And honestly, it's applicable to 20% of all digital work. 

James: You're gonna do as far as Google ads when you were. So you got the certification and now they unlocked it for you.

Ryan: What were you doing at that point?

James: I was going through the process of like building campaigns and setting all the settings and launching ads and then updating the bids. That was the biggest function that I was doing is changing bids. Most of that's automated now because of work, like what my team had been doing at the time, one of the tools that I was doing was we built an iframe.

James: They built an iframe for me and I literally had to sit and display advertising is when an ad goes out and is on a website. Well, I'm sure you've noticed that sometimes an ad and a website don't have great context with each other because computers are only so smart. So I was actually going through and I was reviewing page by page giving a human grade and grading Google's ability. And if I gave it a thumbs up, we had targeted on purpose and if I gave it a thumbs down, we'd exclude it. And if I gave it a neutral score, we wouldn't do either. Just stay out in the wild. And so there was just a lot of very manual processes of like ads to campaign builds to keywords targeting to the placement targeting, and every one of those things would make our client's advertising dollar a little bit more effective. Going back to that thing I'm still doing now, which is that return on ad spend, these people were putting a hundred bucks in and getting 20 bucks out when we started. And then through all of those refinements of better targeting, better audiences, better keywords, we get to break even or profitable return, and then they'd give us a lot more money to spend.

James: And the business model in that world is a percent to spend. So if I perform well, they spend more. I get a better pay day at the end of the day. 

Ryan: So why did your boss say that you were already kind of doing, you already had the experience with the Google ads, right? I mean, you were kind of already tweaking it and then they said that you have to go get Google certified.

Ryan: Why was that? Was that something in the contract?

James: Order of operations. They said go get Google certified and then we'll let you into our Google account. I see. So I hadn't been in the Google account prior to that. Prior to that, I'd just been doing gremlin like data gremlin work, literally moving files around and the stopwatch stuff.

James: The reason for that was they'd had their own advertising account that literally the CEO ran himself, small company, 20 people. He's particularly about the dollars, and so he had been running it himself, but he needed and very rudimentary doing so he needed someone else to take over the actual hands on keyboard part but before he gave me the keys to the account, I had to go through and jump through. That was the exchange was you can have the keys to the kingdom and I'm gonna, and he did. He stepped back completely and said, you go run this now. But he's like, but before I do that it's tit for tat you go past this test, I'll hand the keys to the car.

Ryan: When people are thinking about getting into this marketing space. And then, and learning more about the data side and especially about ads. Like one of the biggest decisions that people, when they're first doing their research that they run into is they kind of look and should I go and get like Google ads certified or should I go and get like Facebook certified? Should I learn how to do Facebook ads? In your opinion, which one is better, which one is easier? Just your general thoughts on either one. 

James: Oh, I have strong opinions on this, start with Google. Google is last touch and it does search, display video and it's harder, right? Not a lot harder, but Google is gonna force you to learn some of the functions.

James: So if you do Google first, Your discipline with ads is gonna be higher than when you go into Facebook. Facebook is a much easier fast follow. There's nothing that Facebook does that Google doesn't. Facebook has audiences display ads, video ads, right? So it's a little bit lighter weight platform but the other thing is Facebook also really tries to do things for you. Right? 

James: So if you start with Facebook, they're gonna be just due to the way the platform's set up, encouraging you to use their automation, and there's a bit more that's done inside of a black box for you and so if you go from Facebook to Google, you're having to open up that black box and learn new things to be able to do what feels like the same function.

James: So in my opinion, the order of operation is definitely Google first, Bing second since Bing. Literally just copy and paste everything that Google does. It's like a 5% lift for a whole other channel and then Facebook and Instagram after that and then once you have that foundation, everything else in digital marketing outside of programmatic and television is a derivative, right?

James: Programmatic and television are their own thing, and that's becoming more and more. A mess every day. I love it. I hate it. It is what it is. 

Ryan: Do you deal 

Ryan: with it with any of that tv, radio, terrestrial stuff? 

James: At my last job, I did a lot of it. It was a significant portion of the marketing budget and getting TV measurement in place and aligned upon was probably the largest part of a two year challenge, when I was there. 

Ryan: When people are thinking about making their transitions here, it seems like the stars kind of aligned for you. Like I'll speak for myself if I was listening to this, that's exactly what I would say. I was like, you know, just so happened that James was in the right spot at the right time to get this opportunity but I'm trying to get into data and analytics, or I'm trying to get into Google ads or Facebook ads and I don't have the opportunity to make the stars align. 

Ryan: For you, what is the best way to kind of make that first transition for people? 

James: Get yourself certified.

James: Look for your local SCMPO organization. It's a search engine marketers professional organization. They do meetups. That's your first, like on the ground networking and third, offer up, right? Once you're Google certified and you have even the most basic beginning of a network going. Offer up has a bunch of little companies looking for people to get in, you're not gonna make a ton of money on your first, like 10 that you land, but you'll get into live accounts for some mom pops that are looking for like, I've got a hundred bucks to spend for someone to set up my Google account.

James: It's like, cool. I'm gonna take your a hundred bucks and learn how to do this thing in practical terms that I've only ever read about, right? That's that like value exchange of what you're looking at there. It's an absolute great way to get those first few. And then once you've set up a few accounts and done a few things practically for clients, well, now you've got a resume, you've got a certification, you've got the beginning of a local network and you say, Hey, I've managed and done X, Y, and Z.

James: Now you're a marketable marketer. To start pushing for entry level discussions at a company that's looking for full-time, like junior digital marketing member. 

Ryan: So you go to offer up, you get these, some smaller jobs, and you start building your resume as you said. What are the some of the key metrics that you need to be concerned about here?

Ryan: Like, and then also, As a advertiser or as a marketer, do you need to be building a portfolio? Like should you be building a portfolio of this specific ad copy that you've been writing or is that not, in your contract or something like that?

James: That that depends on which direction you're going. The cornerstone that I hate about the industry, but is forever used as a yardstick is dollars manage.

James: right? That, that, that's always the measuring contest between people of like, well, I managed a budget of 10,000 a month. I managed this corporation's 25 million a year. Like honestly, once you're past a certain threshold, more money doesn't actually mean more complexity. So I hate that, that's the thing.

James: But that is the thing to be like putting down is how many accounts, total dollars managed. Now, if you're going into the creative side, that's where ads created, ad copy, et cetera. Being held into a portfolio helps you candidly. I love my creative team. I could not do my job without them. I am not the site sound emotion guy, so I'm so happy that I've got people doing the copywriting and creative work for me.

James: For the actual account management, it's that total accounts managed, depending on the type of account you can talk about. Total keywords under management or total campaigns, but that dollar spent at least up front is gonna be that one. So if you're doing offer up and you're like, I built, like if you're doing the build work, I built five accounts and I managed in my largest month, a $10,000 spend in a month, right?

James: That would be what you put to get that, that going for you and then the last part is about optimization, right? So that's where the analytics part goes. So you've got creative. Account management and then the analytics is, I started with an account that was doing a one-to-one roi, and through my optimization and updates, I got that account up to a two-to-one roi.

James: That's gonna be the sexiest thing to sell on right there is if you can do the optimization work and take an account that exists and make it better, that is the most marketable, but that middle. account management, that's probably the easiest one to break in on. And so there, there's kind of a delineation there.

James: And those two are transferrable back and forth, right? If you can get into account management, you can get into account optimization, and if you can do account optimization, you'll get account management jobs. They're tightly intertwined. 

Ryan: And I know it sounds, we're getting kind of into the weeds for people, but this, this is what really helps people.

Ryan: And as far as, so you're, you're going up on offer up and you're taking these mom. Shops that are doing a hundred dollars ads, spend a month or whatever. And then you said like, you know, you are not the creative person, but when they have such little budget, when you're first starting out, are you kind of the creative person?

Ryan: I mean, do you have to be or you have to be?

James: The good news is that's where a lot of the tools, whether it's Google, Facebook or other, they now have it to where you can be like, I don't know what to write for an ad headline. This one ad has 15 different headlines I could put in and it will autos select whichever one works best.

James: Right. So there's some functions where you can come at it from a data point of view of like they're trying to sell widgets and hodgetts. Well, I'm gonna try. We have widgets and Ts and we have ts and widgets, and I don't know which order of those is gonna be more compelling. put both in and it will auto optimize the headlines for you.

James: And there's little things like that then let the data drive and again, that's where like data versus math kind of comes into play. I understand how to leverage the tool to get the data to do what I want to then go and review later, versus 12 years ago you actually had to do the math on those two headlines side by side and it's infinitely easier than it once was. 

Ryan: One of the things when you're talking about like ad spend and you're talking about like data sets and everything like that, you, there's such a debate I guess when you're first learning about, it's like, how much do you need, like how much money or how much ad spend do you need to put out there to get a significant data set, like in order to start making actionable optimizations, is it $5 a day?

Ryan: Is it $20 a day? Like, how much do you have to spend in to start to see that.

James: That's a hundred percent dependent on the industry's cost per unit. So, as a keyword costs you like 25 to $50 per click, where delivering a run of network display ad you can get like 8 cents per click, right? So instead of thinking, and this is why I don't like the dollar spent so much as a function, because it kind of obfuscate some of what's actually going on. What you really need is a certain number of actions a day to get to a threshold of believability. Right? When we're, we were building tools to do it, we needed a minimum threshold of 10 actions a day. That's really like you're bouncing on the floor and actions, I'm using that word distinctly because that could be 10 clicks a day.

James: If you want to improve your click through rate and your cost per click or 10 signups a day if you want to improve your conversion rate and your cost per signup, or 10 sales a day if you want to, right? Like, so whatever action you're trying to measure, you need 10 of those a day is really that threshold of like, okay.

James: I'm not gonna have such wild swings day over day that if I make an adjustment, I can't believe it. 

Ryan: When you were first starting out with Google Ads and you just got certified and you were first tweaking these campaigns and you were optimizing everything, doing the account management, how much marketing did you know? Like cuz when you're talking a peer about, when you're talking here about like actions, some people might use the word conversions, whatever. Whatever it is that you're trying to convert on, whether exactly what you're saying, whether it's a page view or email sign up, or just a click or just a time on page or something like that.

Ryan: For people listening to this that are just getting into market. A lot of people, they're gonna hear this and like, what are you talking about? So just from your own personal experience when you first got into it, like how much marketing did you know? 

James: Literally zero. That's, I mean, opening that Google certification test for the first time in 2007 was the first time I'd ever learned anything about marketing.

James: What is a CPC or a CTR? Why is there so much alphabet soup in this industry? And that's not calmed down at all. . You will be killed by acronyms and that will just become part of your soul. But I knew nothing. Impressions, clicks and the funny thing is there's what, fewer than 10 metrics that still matter no matter what you're doing.

James: Impressions, clicks, cost, conversion actions, and then some engagement metrics. Bounce rate time on site sessions per user. You can get looser and looser here, but everything else is a derivative of those, right? Like if I have impressions and clicks, I don't need you to tell me the clickthrough rate, cuz clicks divided by impressions equals clickrate.

James: If I have cost and clicks, cost divided by clicks is my cp. Everything is just a derivative of itself after the first like six metrics and once I had that fully understood, then it's just about figuring out how to make actionable decisions off of those six metrics and then applying additional layers and views and audiences and geos.

James: But it really isn't at its core as complicated. as you think, but I compare it more to chemistry than physics, right? Physics is very much, here are the rules, everything is black and white, and chemistry is, here are the rules. They don't matter. Learn all the exceptions to the rules. Those are the things that you have to memorize, right?

James: And in digital marketing, it's really more about those exceptions to the rule. Like something can look really good. Like one of my favorite examples of this is a lot of early marketers will get out there and they're gonna. I'm looking at the data and the data says if I spend money on the word GOHUNT, I have a really good cost per conversion.

James: But then you have to take that exception into it and be like, okay, you're being data driven, not data informed. Right. You're purely blindly following the numbers instead of thinking about it. Why would the word GOHUNT as a Google search term do really well? Well, it's because they're literally looking for us.

James: So we cut that keyword out of all of our search marketing and we lost a half a percent of our traffic and saved 22% of our budget. That's that incrementality. What is the actual incremental impact of what I'm doing? And that's where you start getting into these exceptions. So you build that foundation of understanding and then you start going and you learn about branded terms, incrementality and marginal return as that second layer.

James: And that's where it gets nuanced and interesting. That's also where the greatest impact starts to come from. But that's really, that your 201 course level, if you will, of what you're doing.

Ryan: And I kind of wanted to just see if I could summarize that data driven versus the data inform that example that you give for the listeners.

Ryan: And when you said that you guys were paying for GOHUNT and you saw that your cost per click was super low, that's just because people were already searching for it and you guys with the ad, you guys were already top of the search engine ranking page, the cerp, and they were gonna click it anyway, but the ad ended up being on top of it. 

Ryan: And because the ad was on top of it, they clicked and you paid money for that. They were gonna end up clicking it anyway. And so now you guys stop spending money on that and because you stopped spending the money on that, you could then use it for stuff like hunting gear or binoculars or something like that.

James: Absolutely. 

Ryan: And it seems like for the listeners, it seems like this show is much more in the weeds than we normally get, but that's actually why I wanted to have you on is because data and the marketing, it's so convoluted and when you're first looking at it, your eyes literally just glaze over and I've heard it a million times.

Ryan: People are just like, I don't know where to start and so this is a perfect actionable playbook for people that are thinking about getting into this and the ad spend and marketing is such a useful skill cuz exactly what you were talking about. I mean, return on ad spend. If you could spend a dollar and make $2, you'll just do that all day till the cows come home and then you're just all, you have to, if you could do that for the rest of your life, now your business is just worried about the operational scaling.

Ryan: They figured you, you figured out how to acquire customers and you just have to figure out. How can you service these customers now? And so you've made yourself extremely valuable. 

James: No, exactly. And kind of taking that point and extrapolating it further, right? If you shouldn't pay for traffic, you're already winning.

James: Like you said, if we're, they're searching GOHUNT, and we're showing up organically, why pay for a thing we're getting for free but the other function then there goes with, and this is kinda that 201 layer of what to do. What is the value of a new user versus a return. right? So in digital marketing, audiences are the next big thing that we're gonna talk about here, right?

James: Who am I targeting and why? Well, a lot of times people think audiences. It's like, well, in market, or we're a hunting company, let's target hunters. And , that's more of a like demographic psycho, psychographic target, age, gender interest but then even within that, there's that first party split of people who've never been to my website before.

James: People who've never taken an action and transacted on my website before, and people who are already members. So let's use Facebook as an example here. Facebook's a great channel for reaching out to people and you can retarget your members with a sale. Well, how many of those members are already gonna come to your site and transact on that sale versus that ad actually being the thing that drove them versus using targeting to exclude anyone who's ever been to your website and promote a sale.

James: those people have never transacted with you before. So are the value of these two things the same? The answer is inherently no. So for us, we've actually set a modifier on that return on ad spend, which says we're targeting users. Reduce them by like 30% on their value because some percentage of them would've come through email or direct anyway.

James: And first time users increase their value. That's actually attributed by like 1.3x because. They wouldn't have, and future actions can be taken. We have an e-commerce store, right? So if you take your first transaction, a hundred percent of peoples, who become second time shoppers were first time shoppers.

James: It's a silly metric that I love throwing out there, but it's exactly that. Like you can't have repeat purchases without that first purchase and so that's that next layer of that whole incrementality topic of don't pay for things that you're already getting for free and. Think about your audience journey and value acquiring new users into your system more than getting people who've already transacted to transact again.

Ryan: And I think for those listening too, I think if I could add a little bit on that, pulling that back a little bit. I guess for the paid ad side, it makes sense because for those people that are already transacted with you, they already have a relationship with you. So you can, you know, you have their you know that they're gonna buy from you.

Ryan: There's that saying that like, your best customers like your previous customer or, you know, whatever that saying is. And that's pretty much what you're talking about here, where if we can lower ad spend on the people that have already bought from us and make other people buy from us, then we can target them in more cost efficient ways.

James: Exactly. Right. It's all about that concept and the thing that you hear people talk about in marketing as. The marketing funnel, right? So you have to balance that funnel and the way to balance that funnel is through an understanding of the lifetime of the different stages, right? Again, if you're gonna hear me say it a few times, data-driven versus data informed.

James: If you're purely data-driven, you'll always spend less on acquiring new customers, cuz it's more expensive to acquire new customer. but if you spend less or spend nothing on acquiring new customers, it's the difference between fishing in a pond versus fishing in a river, right? If you're fishing in a pond and you just keep hitting that pond of return users, eventually you'll pull all the fish out.

James: You'll be trying to squeeze blood from a stone versus fishing in a river where you have a full funnel and you're feeding new users in constantly. New fish keep coming in and it never dries out, right? And what I mean by like data driven versus data informed. So far in my career, I've met a lot of people who are, what I call, purely data driven, and it means they chase the numbers and forget about context, right?

James: Where data informed is much more what I'd like to see the world evolve to, which is they get the data, they look at the data, and they take a moment and apply business context and understanding to the data to inform a decision instead of blindly driving the decision and that it's a subtle nuance between those two things.

James: For a lot of companies, but it can be a world of difference to the impact.

Ryan: And that was, that's a perfect segue into what I was gonna ask about next, which is, what is kind of a typical stepping stones of career titles and job responsibilities? Cuz for me, as a layman, thinking about it. Yeah, you, so once you get to your account management experience with your mom and pop, you're managing thousand dollars a month or whatever it is, and then now you can go and apply to different companies. My guess as somebody that, that isn't in this industry is that your job would be mainly to. Compile the data and to put it into reports so that other people can make those data informed decisions.

Ryan: I'm kind of wondering, is that true? Am I totally off the mark? What are the steps? What do they look like?

James: So I'm gonna split that into two questions. That entry level data date, you're pretty right, right? It's a lot of compiling data, delivering it to the stakeholders, whoever those may be but then there's a second part of that is then the stakeholders make a decision about what we're doing. Increasing budgets on campaigns, decreasing budgets, whatever. And then that entry level account manager goes back with those decisions and hands on keyboard executes them. So that's that infinite loop cycle of the entry level position is compile data, take it to the larger stakeholders, decide on what to do based off the data, and then go back and execute it.

James: And the next level up is the, doing more strategic decisions on like, where are we spending the budget and why? And what's the new campaign? What initiatives are we driving? Right? Like that sort of thing. So that's one side. The other side is career progression. Career progression has two very distinct starting points, and they're very different from each other.

James: They both have pros and cons. The first is getting on with an agency and the other is getting on with a brand. So let's talk about the agency world first. Agencies are a great place to build breadth of knowledge, right? You're gonna be thrown right into the meat grinder. The hours are gonna be what they're gonna be.

James: The clients need supersede your own for the first two years of your life. It is everything you would expect. The agency world, there's a lot of drinking in the agency culture. Just gonna put that one out there. A lot of whining and dining and a lot of reacting. But in the agency world, you're gonna be working on 5, 8, 12 different accounts of different types and touching them all throughout the month.

James: So you're gonna learn about e-com versus subscription versus real estate versus all these things, but you're never gonna have time to go deep. Brand side, getting on with a brand, you're gonna have a single company. You worry about 40 hours, 45 hours every week. All you do is eat and breathe that one brand.

James: You're not gonna learn a lot about different industries and different optimization types. You're gonna go real deep on that one brand, and you're gonna, you're gonna have a. There, your breadth is gonna be like, at our company, our entry level marketing guy, he's now hands on keyboard in Google, Bing, apple search ads and Facebook, right?

James: So in an agency you might be hired just to do Google ads across state clients. At a brand you might be brought in to do every one of the digital marketing platforms for one client. And that's kind of that like difference of breadth. And then the depth then is in an agency, you're gonna learn a lot of nuance about that one channel.

James: And in the brand, you're gonna learn a lot about optimization for that one industry, right? And those are that two basic entry points. Now from there, going back and forth between those two worlds is possible, right? Going from brand side to agency or agency side to brand is possible. Now, I would say, Agency work is going to accelerate your early career faster, but it's gonna be more brutal, more competitive, and it's a little bit harder to go from agency to brand side.

James: In my opinion. The brand side is gonna be a little bit slower for your career. You're not gonna be able to like, TC hop as the blinders like to call it, as easily on the brand side, you're gonna have to commit three to five years to be taken seriously on the next spot. In the agency world, you can be jumping every year and a half, two years, and people aren't gonna flinch like it.

James: It's a brutal meat grinder, and people expect that. On the brand side, if I'm seeing people move from the brand side more than every two to three years at the minimum, I start getting a little nervous about like what they're doing and I think that's something that I think more people need to be talking about on these resumes that people are building long term of.

James: I do see people's resumes come across my desk that are jumping every one to two years, and no matter what, if I see more than three or four of those, especially in a row, yellow flagged immediately. Like, what is your motivation? I know everyone's motivation is to get paid. Yeah. But what is your motivation like for a lot of the work?

James: It's gonna take a minimum of two months to get you fully ramped and onboarded onto what we're doing. The six month mark is the point where you're fully independent and not costing resources to like. Double check, train and maintain. Six months to a year is the first time you develop any value just paying back the debt of investment on those first six months.

James: And year one to two is the beginning of actually doing anything meaningful for the company on the brand side, right? So that's why that like, okay, if you're not making it past at least the two year mark, you're not putting in enough time per stop to pay back. Upfront investment on onboarding. Right? Like that's my point of view as a hiring manager on that.

James: Where one of the things that I also really like is the young and hungry, right? Part of what we've been hiring recently is a couple of people, like my junior analyst was six months short of finishing his W G U degree on the side while working full-time in produce. He's 10 years out of high school and we hired him before his degree was because he was young and hungry and wanted to learn. And we put some built in pay increases on years one and two so that we could bring him in for cheap. And it's like first year we're gonna teach you how to like work in a professional environment, but you're gonna do some stuff that honestly, the Jupyter works and Python work he does for me is fantastic and worth a penny.

James: Right? Or like that junior market we brought in, he'd been working on the brand side for a berry company in southwest Washington, right? Like he'd been doing as much work moving flats in the warehouse as he was marketing. But again, young and hungry like that, that there's a lot of companies that are looking for exactly that, of like you've had that first job or you're just that threshold.

James: And knowing how to spin the value of that janese quad, that X factor of like, I'm young and hungry and I'm here to learn. It's really starting to beyond myself with my own bias. I'm seeing it resonate. With people at my company and other companies, that's more valuable.

Ryan: That is something that is happening industry-wide.

Ryan: In multiple industries here, like you're seeing it is companies are starting to hire people right outta high school or you know, sometimes right outta college or out of a. Job. Maybe they're a little bit more along in their life and in their careers. Maybe they're 25, 26, 27 and they've had a little bit of professional experience, but they don't have any in whatever the domain is that, that they're getting hired for.

Ryan: And I think that is something that's happening more and more because companies don't wanna hire people with bad habits. They. Be able to hire somebody, train them up how they want it to be trained, and then execute how you want them to execute and there's a lot to be said for exactly what you were saying, which is just being hungry and showing that, like in the interview, in the resume, if you get the interview, just showing people like everybody.

Ryan: Well, everybody wants experience. I don't have experience. What do I do? Well, you just tell them that you don't have any experience, but you're hungry and you want to learn like you're moldable and you don't have, because I don't have any experience, I don't have any bad habits. And so you can teach me, I'm a blank slate.

James: And that's also where the certs come into play, right? That junior analyst that we hired, he wasn't done with his college degree. He had the paper ceiling hitting him. Um, he told the co-founders, well, I'm gonna be doing marketing analytics. How about I get Google? and he showed them in 10 days turnaround during the interview process between beginning and end of his interviews, which took, you know, we're a startup.

James: We got around to it when we could three weeks time from beginning to end, not cause we were dragging it out, just over the course of six interviews, three weeks to a week type of thing, between the beginning and the end. He sat down, buckled down, and got certified and then showed that to the co-founders.

James: Right. And that was a big tipping point with or without the degree like, we're talking about having to do marketing analytics. You went and did a thing to show us that you can learn and add value to that thing. That's that genesic, that X factor that you can't fake, right? Like again, talking about yellow flags, red flags.

James: When I get especially at my last job, I would get resumes where people would say, I've worked with Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, core metrics, and they'd list seven analytics systems in their expertise. I'd sit in an interview with them and I'd be like, cool. Tell me about your experience with Adobe Analytics.

James: Oh, I sat on an RFP once that involved it, request for proposal. They'd literally never been into the system, but were listing it cuz they touched it once and to that point of good habits, bad habit. You know, I would much rather have someone say, Hey, I've never touched that tool. Between now and the end of my interview cycle, I'm gonna go learn everything I can about that tool and show you that like I'll be coming in with a foundation of knowledge, just you watch me.

James: I will take that person that knows nothing, owns it and comes back two weeks later with knowledge over someone who's claiming knowledge because they once looked at the logo on a spreadsheet, with coworkers, right? Every time. 

Ryan: I kind of wanted to switch gears here and I kind of wanted to read off of that, LinkedIn message that we first connected on and kind of talk about networking.

Ryan: And so I'll just read what you wrote in one of the paragraphs. Like I said, for people, you can go to degreefree.co/podcast and get this there. There was a full overturn of the C-Suite and I saw the politics starting. throats getting slit. Reached out to my network and found a startup that would give me the entire data and bi department promotion, but would be a 35% pay up, but I could move back home to a low cost of living location.

Ryan: What I wanted to focus on there was reached out to my network and I wanted to talk about. What did that look like? How did you build a network? Because like so many people listening to this, and we've talked about this so many times on this podcast, but so many people don't know how to begin networking and they don't even know when they are in a crunch, and then when they do need to leave a company, they don't even know how.

Ryan: Like what do you say when you're looking for work?

James: Another one of those hacks that I would say when it comes to networking is things like SCMPO and your coworkers, all of that si good salespeople. Salespeople are natural networkers. Now, I'm never gonna be a salesperson. That's not gonna be my life.

James: Making friends with the sales departments at your companies as you go along. They're the ones who know, who's buying what, who's about to make what move, et cetera, et cetera. So when I was at the company and this was all going down, and like I said, two weeks after I got there, the CEO was fired, left. No one in the publicly traded company will ever say they were fired.

James: They left and I saw three CEOs, a new cmo, a new cto, like every member of the C-suite rolling over, and I started seeing the bloodbath between VPs and I'd made some waves by calling out some certain inefficiencies and highlighting the fact that they were spending twice as much on television as they should have, you know, little things that could look bad on the P&L. and I could feel the pressure was mounting. I literally reached out to salespeople from my last company, and I stayed in touch with him. Like one of my friends, he hates the word networking, right? He feels like it's such a dirty word, and I said, well, don't think of it that way. Just think of it as naturally maintaining friendships, right?

James: I'm still, what I would call friends with half a dozen, a dozen of the salespeople at the company from, for me, two companies ago, and I talk with them, I shoot them messages from time to time. I update them on life events. I check it. I've had them call me and be like, Hey, I'm dealing with this situation, with this company, and I just, I need someone to talk to about how to go through it and ensure like just that little bit of information or network exchange is all it takes to maintain some healthy relationships.

James: And that's what I did is I reached out to, a couple of sales guys and said, Hey, do you know of anyone in market for someone like me? And of the, I got lucky. Of the three I reached out to, one of 'em was like, we would love to take the Adobe Sasquatch and put 'em in this hunting company. Why is that?

James: Adobe? They referred to me as the Northwest. I'm bearded, I'm heavier. I would show up in plaid shirts and jeans from a place unknown and then disappear again, and just magical things happened. It was a whole thing. I loved it. But the sales guy, he referred to me as Adobe Sass watch, and he is like, oh yeah, yeah.

James: They're a hunting company and you know, with your background, Of falling trees and eating your brother's pigs, you'll fit in perfectly. And I'm like, it's felling trees you, city slicker. But yeah, and I'm not that rough and tumble compared to people in, like my brother-in-law's a firefighter.

James: He rented a mini excavator and had, him and his friends had three chainsaws running, taking down trees in their backyard. Like I, I can run a still if I need to, but those guys are freaking lumberjacks. Lumberjack adjacent, but compared to like city, it's something they're never used to. So he immediately is like, oh yeah, these guys, and I'm not a hunter.

James: I'll go out fishing. I love crabbing, right? Drop a pot, drink a beer, pull a pot. That's my speed. But even having an understanding of the hunting culture and sportsmanship at all, plus my background that I built over 12 years. Marketing and analytics and consulting put me in a unique position with them.

James: And I went from a high cost of living place, the Bay Area for a year back to a low cost of living spot but in taking this move, I decreased my stress by like 80%. I decreased the red tape by like almost a hundred percent. Going from a 1600 person company down to a hundred person company, increased my responsibility a little. and I think I wrote it. I took a 35% pay cut, but between everything else, honestly, I would do it again and again. Like that was the right move for me. I could forward to give it up going. I mean, going from Santa Clara to Mount Vernon, Washington, I think I still came out ahead if you do the dollars and cents on it, right?

James: So, yeah.

Ryan: What I love about that is how you've identified maybe. And I don't want, I guess I don't wanna call you a bad networker cuz obviously you're good, but you're not maybe extroverted or maybe you just don't get out there and meet all these people but you knew that meeting the people and make, getting relationships and making relationships with the people that do meet all of these people would benefit you in the long term.

Ryan: And, that's brilliant. I think what's also brilliant about that too is that because they're in sales and you are in marketing, there's not really a crossover. There's no competition there. And so while maybe the, the marketing industry in general might be experiencing, especially even if you're in a more niche of a, of an audience, like say you're just doing e-commerce.

Ryan: You know, whatever ladies brand or whatever, and that's the only thing that you do. And now you're only reaching out to other, you know, e-commerce people that also do ladies brands and now you guys are all fighting for the same jobs instead but if you make your network larger and in an industry adjacent to yours, cuz sales and marketing are, very, very close, then there's no competition.

Ryan: I think that's brilliant. Brilliant. You can't be understated.

James: And networking with the networkers, right? Again. I can maintain five to 10 relationships, professional relationships that are just friends. These guys maintain hundreds and I don't want their job and they don't want mine but it also ties in like that right there ties also larger to, so I've got a couple rules of business survival that I've written for myself.

James: I have four rules of business that I've lived. Pretty much my entire career, I developed these very early on and, they've done me very well. The first rule is rule number one, don't be a liability, right?

James: It's not anything else. Don't be a liability, because whenever a company is assessing risk, the first thing for removal are liabilities. Two, as often as possible within your work life balance, be an asset. Rule number three, as often as is natural and comfortable. Engage your coworkers socially, both inside and outside of work.

James: And rule number four, avoid escalating interpersonal conflict. Interpersonal conflict, especially escalating conflict is a liability and if there truly is a problem, document everything. And eventually the problem will resolve itself. Right? And so for me, I always just go down that list whenever I'm thinking about surviving and navigating, and I've had to.

James: Have a very strict set of rules to survive some of the environments I'm in. Don't be a liability as often as possible. Be an asset as often as natural. Be social and avoid direct conflict, document everything. And if I could leave anyone with something like that would be it top to bottom. 

Ryan: I love that because especially for the first to, don't be a liability, be an asset when we are telling people transition their careers and where to go.

Ryan: Like everybody's worried about where can I be the most secure? Like where is the most job security down the line? And for a lot of people it's a huge jump, right? Like, we're currently helping, we help so many people. We help a crane operator trying to get into, behind the desk and people that are servers getting off their feet, nurses that wanna get off their feet, all of that.

Ryan: And Usually what we say is you kind of want to be, if you're really worried about job security, you should be looking at profit centers, like going into where the company makes money. And for a lot of people, that's sales, that's marketing. Anything that brings in dollars operationally as well.

Ryan: Like whatever it is that you're, that your company does, if it's, you know, Service. Maybe you wanna be doing that service and optimizing on that service but I like the way that you framed it here because I just thought about it. Even if you are in a cost center, you, there are still a lot of ways that you could not be a liability and you could still be an asset.

Ryan: Like the first thing that comes to mind that, where I think of cost centers, I think of like HR and I think of like recruiters and the. Cost them company money and it's their job to get talent, right? And obviously the talent. You need talent in order to build companies and build amazing products and services and everything like that.

Ryan: But when you start to look at the P&L, you're just like, where can we cut a little bit of this? And you start looking maybe at the HR department, maybe at accounting, things like that. But within your specific job, if you're not a liability and you're an asset instead, you might not be on the chopping block.

Ryan: If you're a recruiter that is able to, maybe hammer down people on, like maybe you're able to sell the other extracurriculars or the fringe benefits of the company and the mission of the company, instead of selling them on total compensation, maybe that you're an asset to the company and on that as well.

James: I've dealt with a lot of engineers in my life and they seem to skip rule number one a lot,. They're like, I can be an antisocial, angry grmp who yells at people and makes people cry because I'm such an asset, I can be a liability. And I'm noticing more and more every year that those people who are, whether it's a cost or social liability, put themselves on that chopping block first.

James: No, like don't be a liability. Just don't. If you're not a liability, then you don't have to do a value to impact assessment on yourself when you end up in those situations. 

Ryan: James, I am jacked up by this conversation. I love it and I, we had a few things that we were gonna talk about. I don't think I got into any of my questions that I wanted to ask you.

Ryan: This episode was, Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time, really and sharing your knowledge. A couple of questions before you go. If people wanted to follow along with what you're doing and kind of follow your career journey or say hi, where should people go? 

James: LinkedIn is really the only social network I'm truly active on, and, it just James MD Stewart, pretty standard LinkedIn profile and I will put that in the show notes for everybody so you can just click it there and, James, last question before we go, and I would definitely, if you're up to it sometime in the future, I have so many more questions.

Ryan: If you're up for a round two, that would be awesome. But to wrap up this round one, do you have any last thoughts or anything that you'd like to closing statements that you'd like to make to the audience? 

James: Just, that I'm stoked that this exists. I've been hitting the paper ceiling myself. I told you, I've applied and I get auto filtered on HR systems, all the time and I'm just happy that there's more people out there having these conversations about how we can expand the field. It's nothing but good. 

Ryan: All right. Thank you so much, James. Till next time.

James: Cheers.

Ryan: Hope you guys like that episode. Once again, if you'd like to say hi to James, you can find 'em on LinkedIn.

Ryan: Links to everything that we talked about will be in our show notes, degreefree.co/podcast and once again, before you leave, connect with me on LinkedIn. Let me know what you like about this show. Let me know what you don't like. Ryan Maruyama, and then sign up front newsletter. It's free degreefree.co/newsletter, sign up.

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