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Jackie Hole: State of Digital Summer School, Learning from the Experts @JackieHole

This summer we have been taking you back to school! We have been focussing on education in Digital Marketing: what is the best education, what background is important? Questions you have seen answered throughout the summer by those you can learn from the best: the experts. Those that already earned their stripes and are now willing to share with you how they got there and what you should do to get that far as well.

It is now time to close the series, since the summer is officially over. But not before we have just a few more insights from the experts closest to us: our editorial team!

Today it’s time for Jackie Hole, Independent internet marketing consultant, Global SEM Manager for Autobutler Aps and a long running member of our editorial team.

More about Jackie here.

Summer School

What type of education did you have?

jackie-holeMixed! I actually didn’t make it to University first time round as I too spent most of my 6th form years learning how to drink and work in bars… I had been working in restaurants for years so while my friends went off to start their new lives – I travelled round Spain, worked my way up and ended up being head chef in a 4 star hotel in Gibraltar.

I actually decided to give it all up and go become a musician as for my sins I have always been able to sing pretty well, but I had no music grades so I took some time out to take the grades and decided that I should probably learn how to use a computer. Prince had just created the first interactive music CD and I wanted to make one so I joined the first interactive media course of its kind in the UK at Huddersfield University.

It was a pretty exciting time in the industry as multimedia was in it’s infancy – Dreamweaver and Flash had not been invented yet and we learned interface design and HCI using Director – needless to say my mind was blown and I became obsessed with software, Graphics, 3D and spent all waking hours in the lab installing Photoshop from floppy discs and creating chrome effect filters from scratch.

This did not go unnoticed and my tutor at the time (Ashley Clough – I will be eternally grateful) said to me “anyone that can be bothered to spend 3 weeks creating an animation by hand deserves a job” and the rest as they say is history…

Is your education related to what you do now?

I think that my entire path has contributed to what I do now – transferable skills etc – I would not have learned how to network if I hadn’t spent years making people feel welcome and perfecting smalltalk in the hospitality industry, I would not have had such broad shoulders or be as resilient as I am to people being frosty until they get to know you if I hadn’t been a musician, and I am well rounded due to my grounding in early web dev, flash scripting, interface design and interactivity before heading to affiliates, SEO, PPC and internet marketing.

It has come full circle though as I am now working once again with clients I started out with (Autobutler’s initial investor was Jesper Buch from Just Eat where I cut my PPC and affiliate teeth!), I am regularly performing again as a musician and have a food blog I set up for fun to keep my hand in 🙂

How did you get into digital marketing?

Whilst taking the course in Huddersfield, it was becoming clear that when Dreamweaver was invented many graphic design agencies started getting in to the web and I thought ‘everyone will be able to do this so I need to think ahead’. Coincidentally, I also had created a website that accidentally got a shed load of traffic from a misspelling of the band hearsay at the time (popstars ITV). I remember thinking that if I knew how this worked I could have made some money out of it – and so off I went into the world of search, and affiliates – then later PPC and haven’t looked back.

How do you think the state of education in marketing is these days? Do marketers learn what they need to learn?

Given that there were no qualifications before to teach people internet marketing and I’m a bit old school, I actually think people will still learn more working with great people and working their way up than they ever will on a college course. So although courses are great to teach you the basics and give you a brilliant overview of what is possible – I have yet to see one that teaches you to a standard that you could be 100% trusted to run client accounts (hello social media interns!)

So instead of picking a generalist course that promises to offer you a diploma in awesome by Tuesday – I would choose individual courses in each specialism so that you can really get to the bottom of the industry online and offline.

I also think that one can’t be too hard on the industry with regards to degree courses, as it changes constantly – by the time you finish year 1, year 2 may no longer be applicable!

I am not sure there will ever be a complete degree in winning the internet as it just doesn’t work like that. Like any subject – the participants that go above and beyond to make their own discoveries are more likely to succeed in their chosen area. Many of my colleagues don’t trust people that state they don’t like music or don’t like food – I don’t fully trust an internet marketer that does not have their own website or has never had a go at anything other than a course project!

How do you feel about online training courses?

Just as there are different types of web user, there are different types of learners – if you respond well to online courses, are disciplined and know who to ask the right questions to, online training courses can be superb. It all depends on what your agenda is and what you want out of it.

I personally like to be in a room learning and in a room teaching but I have also partaken in and delivered online sessions successfully. Online learning is an essential part of normal learning these days so I think it’s way too late to be a Luddite about it or you can fall behind.

What is your tip for those that want to learn more?

Read – everything, everywhere, talk to people, go to conferences, take training (on and offline)– some things can’t be taught like an intuitive way of thinking about creating content, earning links or anything considered outside the box, but the more you hang around those that do great things, it is only a matter of time before it rubs off – you and your aspirations are the company you keep in all areas of life and business – get yourself a mentor and a ‘mastermind’ group.

What resources are best to learn marketing?

As above – read everything in the industry – search through pages and pages of SERPS and don’t be afraid to waste time on tangents. You can learn a lot from where that may lead you (especially for content ideas and gap finding). Find out who all the top people are in the industry, get involved, ask questions and remember – we all had to start somewhere. There is no fast track to experience but the more you can actually work on and the more people you can work with – the more you are going to learn.

Don’t sell yourself short, but sometimes helping out on an amazing project for free can teach you more than getting paid to work on things less interesting.

Having said all of that – if you think you know everything or are not ‘teachable’, you’re making life so much harder for yourself!

What’s the last lesson in marketing you learned?

I learn the same lessons over and over which is a good thing to be reminded of – as we all have off days, get distracted and forget to be normal in this industry bubble! They are the same things I was told when I asked my friends dad advice on business decades ago.

  1. Always try to be the nicer person – it will come back and haunt you
  2. The higher up the tree you climb – the more you show your arse 🙂
  3. Be prepared to walk away from the table
  4. Be bold and great forces will come to your aid
  5. Invest your own money online – it’s easy to spend other people’s and not understand why it matters to spend client money in the right areas
  6. People don’t like change so instead of telling people what is wrong with everything they are doing – offer solutions to help as well or it ends up just being taken as constant criticism – I forget that not everyone had a grounding being shouted at by head chefs 🙂
  7. …and HT to Richard Kershaw who taught me that everything is negotiable! (thanks Rich!)

UKSA-2014-Shortlisted-pink-(2)The most recent thing I learned and the more confident I get is that you should not be intimidated by industry peers – you may know something they don’t! This has been confirmed again this week as I have been shortlisted for ‘Best PPC Campaign’ in the UK Search Awards – an accolade usually reserved for agencies and big brands (or so I and many others think!.)

See rule 4 above 🙂 let’s face it, the worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get shortlisted but still get your work in front of industry movers and shakers which is no bad thing!



Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.