Lessons Learned From My Time at The Squad

Several weeks ago I was forced to make a really important decision that would not only affect me and my career, but also The Marketing Squad and its team. In short, I was presented with a new opportunity and I decided to pursue it. I'll save the details of that for another day. This post is not intended to be a talking point about where I'm going, but instead, I'd like to focus on where I've been and the lessons I've learned over the last five and a half years at The Squad. And oh, are there many!

I'm forever thankful to Bryce for giving me an opportunity to be his first employee. Back in 2011, TCS was a brand new thing and, a lot of the time, we learned as we went. For those who don't know, Bryce and I met on Twitter. What started as an innocent grammar correction sparked a conversation, which eventually led to a meeting, which then became a new job opportunity! It's been such a fun and interesting ride. So many memories and even more laughs, this company has certainly set the bar high. If you're lucky enough to be an employee or become one in the future, always work hard and do your part to continue to make this company great.

TCS, as it will go down in my history books, has been my home away from home for many years. It was my first exposure to digital marketing and web development and, as it turns out, I'm leaving with quite a few lessons that I've picked up along the journey. Life lessons, career tips... it's hard to categorize some of these and most can be applied no matter what stage of life you're in. Nonetheless, I hope something here inspires you to always work hard, pursue your dreams, and appreciate the journey you're on.

Lessons Learned From My Time at The Squad

  • The easier you can roll with the punches the better off you'll be. Working for a small, growing agency meant that change was around every corner. Usually, these changes were for the best and they taught me to roll with the punches and trust the vision the owners had for the company. My advice: Don't sweat the small stuff. Do your job to the best of your ability and you've got nothing to worry about.
  • You have to be resourceful in order to be successful. When I joined TCS as its first (and only) employee, I knew my title wasn't all that important. What helped me be successful in my role was learning to wear many hats, taking initiative, figuring things out and buckling down to get stuff done. My advice: Dive in and do your job, but don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  • Find someone smarter than you and soak it all in. Learning from someone who's been there, done that truly is priceless. While I learned from everyone while working at TCS, Wayne was the one person who seemed most wise, level-headed, and honest. I like the way he handles conversations with clients and keeps the office upbeat. My advice: Find yourself a Wayne and start learning all you can.
  • Laughter is appropriate in almost any situation. Bryce can hear a song lyric, common phrase, or totally random thought and instantly think of a YouTube video that relates (or doesn't) to the situation. It's truly a gift! These random rabbit holes are good for morale. My advice: Learn how to balance the fun with the professional. Laughter is good for the soul.
  • If you have a strong leadership team supporting you, you can't lose. In the early TCS days, we worked with clients from all over the spectrum. No matter the situation, Jay always encouraged the team. He had our backs and helped us see the bigger picture. My advice: Be a leader or employee who helps and builds up. It will make your team stronger and help them grow together.
  • Seinfeld references never get old... no description needed...
  • Love your neighbor. Kindness sure does go a long way. I've been lucky to have been able to work alongside Joel for the better part of my time here. He's been my office roomie but also a person who sees something good in everyone. While his ability to over-strategize left my head spinning more often than not, he's a crusader for people and believes in everyone. My advice: Always be kind and encourage others.
  • Work hard and put forth your best effort. No matter what position you're in, seek to make something better, faster, newer, or greater. Don't waste your days away being unproductive. My advice: Respect and work hard for the clients and company that puts food on your table.
  • You never know where your next opportunity will come from. Be it a sales lead, potential employee, or your next new gig, an opportunity can arise from almost any situation. My advice: Establish your values and know what you want. Don't be afraid to go for it, or say no when something doesn't feel right.

Thanks, TCS, for a great five years. And in the words of Vivian Ward... stay cool!

If there's one thing I've learned from my time at The Squad, it's that the key to consistent blogging begins with developing a plan; no blogging strategy has ever worked by winging it. When we start working with a client ongoing, one of the first meetings we have with them is an editorial meeting where we discuss areas of the business they want to grow, talk about, and share with the world. The discoveries that come from that meeting are what we use to develop their editorial calendar, typically for three months at a time. The editorial calendar is a tried and true plan we've used for years to help guide our content creation process.

The thought of an editorial calendar is intimidating to some because it's uncharted territory. Doing something for the first time or doing something entirely new leaves a lot of people feeling timid, but trust me when I say that no blogging or content plan can be developed and stay on track without the help of an editorial calendar.

Below are a few tips for creating an editorial calendar, including how you and your team can begin filling it up with content ideas.

How to Create an Editorial Calendar

  • Start one month at a time. Don't boil the ocean when you're just starting out. Instead, focus on what content makes sense one month at a time.
  • Discover your blogging frequency. Most of our clients blog an average of twice a week. If that's too ambitious or realistic for you, start with once a week and try increasing that after a few months.
  • Identify writers. Who will primarily be writing content for your company? Make sure to coordinate the topic and frequency of posts with their work schedule and availability.
  • Start with a template. Your calendar can be pretty basic. If you don't like any of the templates I linked up, create your own in Excel. I recommend including the following information in your calendar: blog title, author, publish date, and category the topic falls under.

Topic Ideas to Fill out Your Editorial Calendar

A variety of things will influence topic ideas and what your focus will be. Here are a few suggestions that should get you headed down the right path of brainstorming ideas:

  • What areas of the business are a key focus? Write about these different areas and be sure to work in your core keywords.
  • Piggyback on industry news. If you read an article online or in print that relates to your business or is big news for your industry, piggyback off of that content and create your own spin on it. Just be sure to cite any sources you use and link back to the original article when appropriate.
  • Think about company events or trade shows happening that month. Will your team be attending conferences or meetings? If so, write about the event a few weeks before it's scheduled and then write a follow-up post about your experience there. Make sure attendees get pictures while there to go along with the follow-up post.
  • Are there any big holidays that month that would be worthy of a blog?
  • Spotlight an employee or customer once a month. Believe it or not, some of our most high performing blogs are ones where we announce a new hire or spotlight an existing employee. People love to see the behind-the-scenes things that are happening in a business.
  • Create a good mix of sales posts, internal news or happenings, and industry topics.

Learn From the Best

Still not feeling confident in your blogging ability? My advice is to just do it. You can get better and revise your process over time. Or, learn from those who came before you. (i.e. check out some business blogs in your industry that are doing the whole content marketing thing really well) Here are a few of my favorites from the marketing industry:

Need help or a consult to get you moving in the right direction? Reach out to The Marketing Squad. We'll be happy to help you set up a manageable content marketing plan.

Twice a year in the spring and fall, our team takes a day off of our normal work routine to get out of the office and focus on getting better and working together. In the past, our retreats were held at various locations in and around Louisville including an art gallery in LaGrange, a YMCA camp in Meade County, and UofL's Shelby campus. This year's spring retreat was unlike anything we've done before. In fact, the details of it were kept top secret until we met in the office on Friday morning.

The Marketing Squad Spring Retreat 2016

 

If you follow us on Instagram, you might have noticed a stream of insanely interesting photos posted on Friday. That's because our spring retreat this year took us on a scavenger hunt around Louisville. Using the hashtag #squadvillehunt, we were broken up into three teams and handed a set of clues that would take us to various landmarks and tourist attractions in downtown and Old Louisville. The goal of the hunt was to solve the clue, find the location, snap a photo of the landmark, and upload the photo to Instagram. The team to find the most clues was the winner!

The Marketing Squad Spring Retreat 2016_2

 

So where in Louisville did the scavenger hunt take us? Here are just some of the locations we found and Instagrammed along the way. As you can see, we had a really busy day.

The Benefits of Having a Team Retreat

When you're in the grind each and every day, it's easy to lose sight of the overall goal and how important what you're contributing is to the bigger picture. Each job performed, no matter how small it may be, is helping the company reach its overarching goal. This is an important thing to remember. Retreats are a great time to show appreciation for employees, review progress, discuss hits and misses, and present goals for the company's future growth. It does wonders for employee morale and gives people a chance to connect outside of a normal office atmosphere. We've also found that retreats help employees recharge and get excited about their role and the company's overall goals. Sure, you're missing a full day of production, but in the long run, employees are typically more productive after being allowed to get away for a day and have some fun.

The Marketing Squad Spring Retreat 2016_3

If you don't already, we encourage you to follow us on Instagram to get a behind the scenes look at the culture we've created here at The Squad. It'll help you get to know our true brand better. And we'd love to hear your thoughts on company-wide retreats. Does your company offer retreats for employees? Have you found them to be beneficial? Leave us your comments below.

If you're looking for a digital marketing job in Louisville, we're looking for you! The Marketing Squad is currently hiring for the position of Inbound Marketing Agent. (That's our fancy title for Digital Marketing Specialist.) If you have 1-2 years experience in a digital marketing role (agency experience would be helpful), check out the job description and consider applying.

We think our culture, the people who work here, and the owners who lead the way are all pretty awesome. Here are few of the cool things about The Squad that we think you should know:

  1. Fun environment—But not so fun that we don't get stuff done. We are serious about our work and delivering quality results that delight our clients.
  2. Learning opportunities—There's always something new happening in our industry and we're lucky enough to stay on top of the latest trends in the digital marketing and website design spaces.
  3. Small business with family atmosphere—Bring your spouse or kids in to meet the team. We also see the occasional dog roaming the halls.
  4. Benefits—Health, dental, and vision for full-time employees.
  5. Paid holidays—Also paid vacation time and personal days.
  6. Free food—We keep a stocked break room full of a variety of drinks and snacks. We also have free lunch ordered in on Mondays.
  7. Creative, collaborative environment—Find us working as a group around one of the conference tables, or relaxing on the couch with MacBook in lap.
  8. Express your ideas—We all learn from each other and welcome everyone's opinion. Speak your mind, but be kind!
  9. Great clients—We're lucky enough to work for some of the nicest clients in Louisville. We also have clients outside of Kentucky. It's always an adventure!
  10. Flexibility—We offer an optional remote working day one day a week. This allows employees enjoy a work/life balance, take care of appointments needed at home, and still collaborate and work a full day.

If what you've just read sounds like a good fit for you, we'd love to meet you. Apply online and Sarah will follow up with you.

The Content Squad is hiring for the position of Inbound Marketing Agent. Candidates for this position will be best filled by someone who likes to consume a lot of digital content. This person knows their way around social media and search engines and is comfortable with written communication on the web.

The following attributes are what we are looking for in a successful candidate.

  • Candidate needs to know and use social media. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn use is a must. Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+ is also helpful.
  • Candidate needs to be familiar with using search engines (primarily Google) to locate products, services, and reference material.
  • Candidate needs good communication skills, especially written.
  • Candidate needs good solid skills on web-based project management software. We use TeamworkPM for team and client communications.
  • Candidate needs good skills in the Microsoft Office suite of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
  • Knowledge of WordPress of HubSpot software is a major bonus, but not necessary.

We are looking for someone who is a self-starter with a desire to learn a new industry from the ground up. This is a great position for recent graduates or those making a career change. There is opportunity for advancement within a growing agency. Read more about the position and submit your resume to apply online today!

As a small business owner, what would you say is your biggest marketing challenge? Some challenges small business owners face when it comes to marketing might include:

  • not enough resources to effectively implement and carry out a marketing plan
  • budgetary constraints to hire the right team members
  • not sure what direction you need to go or even how to begin
  • not enough time to do the marketing tasks you’d like to do

Unlike ten years ago, a business can stay competitive in its industry without a large marketing budget. Thanks to the Internet and social media, getting your messages spread across the radio or on a television commercial isn’t as critical as it once was. You can—for free, mind you—now spread your message to your audience in a more effective, non-interruptive way using free tools like social media and blogging platforms. Because this method of marketing is what a lot of companies are still getting used to, our job is to partner, teach, and help small businesses better understand how to do it.

Here are some marketing tips we suggest for small business owners:

  • Budget for a website design (or re-design) that will allow you to capture leads online. A one-time investment in a well-designed content management system will pay off for you over and over again. Your website should be one that allows for easy updates, has a built-in blog, allows you to easily capture leads.
  • Start using social media. Is this easier said than done for you? Then it’s time to start researching. See what your competitors are doing and how they’re using social media. Use it as a way to talk to people and start building their trust.
  • Blog everyday. One of the most effective ways to improve your search engine ranking is to produce fresh content on a daily basis. Content that will solve a problem in your industry, provide value to those reading it, and share knowledge about industry news and topics you already know so well.

Want more info? Contact us and we’d be happy to provide a consultation.

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