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When clients ask me what kind of industries my agency usually works in, I rarely give them the answer they want to hear. And yet, nine times out of ten, I secure their business anyway. What’s my secret?
I’m industry agnostic.
If you were looking at a candidate’s resume, it makes sense that you would want to see several years of experience similar to the position you’re hiring for. But similar experience only tells you that the candidate has previously worked in organizations where the tasks were similar. It says nothing about their mastery of a subject or, more importantly, their ability to adapt. If anything, having years of experience in a single subject makes one’s resume narrower, not more impressive.
So when it comes to the kind of clients my agency handles, I don’t want “experience” as some employers define it. I’m industry agnostic — and you should be too.
Expanding your repertoire
My agency used to handle healthcare marketing. Sticking to just one industry, as you probably can imagine, was not the most fulfilling work. It was incredibly repetitive, my team and I were getting burnt out and I wasn’t making connections that satisfied me.
It was time for a change. As we started taking on clients from different industries, I began to finally find what had been missing: a challenge.
I’m a solutions-driven person and I try to cultivate a team that matches that energy. As we expanded out into different industries, we were faced with different marketing requirements. We’d mastered a lot of niche techniques when we focused on the healthcare field, but much of it wasn’t transferable. You couldn’t market an educational software brand with the same approach as you would a nursing home. We had to learn new ways of doing things — in the process, both my team and I vastly expanded our skillset.
A lot of marketers that work strictly within a certain field will bill themselves as the experts in said industry. They’re not being honest. I don’t believe in “experts”— it implies you’ve learned all you can. Even after 10 years of healthcare marketing, I wasn’t an expert; I was constantly adapting to emerging methods. I believe in specialists.
Handling clients from a wide variety of industries has allowed me and my team to become specialists in specific areas. From our clients who use more niche platforms, members of my team have taken that experience and excelled at implementing it in current campaigns. I am a strategy specialist. I’ve gained the ability from the broad spectrum of unique clients I’ve taken on to mix and match approaches I’ve implemented before, which is something I’d have never been able to do by staying just in the healthcare field.
Being a better strategist
People often ask me, “How can I get better at being a strategist?” And then I have to tell them the answer that nobody wants to hear: experience and exposure.
You can read a hundred books on how to become more strategically minded, and they’re no doubt full of useful advice, but if you never get the chase to apply what you learn in them, you’re never going to master the skills they’re teaching. Simply reading about how to become a good public speaker isn’t enough to make you one — you need to do the hard work and deliver some speeches if you’re committed to getting good.
The same people who ask me that question are also shocked to learn this: Years ago, when I was in their position, I wasn’t a master strategist either (I’d argue I’m still not, as there is always more about strategy to learn.) I got where I am by taking the leap and broadening the scope of my company out of my comfort zone. I started challenging myself and my team. I started doing research and applying what I found to the campaigns I was running. And most importantly, I accepted and learned from failure.
If you can excel in marketing for a single industry and you find fulfillment in that, I applaud you. The world needs niche specialists and often, as I learned working in healthcare marketing for as long as I did, industries come with industry-specific problems.
However, I would encourage all marketing talent to venture outside of the career they’ve made for themselves and take on a project that interests and challenges them, regardless of industry. I speak from first-hand experience when I say that it could be the beginning of a path to a career you’ll find a lot more interesting.