Dan Starmer, Digital Marketing Executive

Dan Starmer, digital marketing apprentice

Dan was working part-time in social media while finishing his journalism degree. He and his boss wanted to make the role full-time, but he didn't know enough about other areas of digital marketing like email marketing, websites and SEO. A few months into the Academy and Dan had taken over the website, was supporting the sales team and "falling a little bit in love with SEO". We ask him about his digital marketing apprenticeship experience.

Now everything I do, I'm doing with the next step in mind

How did you get into digital marketing?

I wanted to go into journalism from 16 and I got a journalism degree. I enjoyed parts of it, but I found the social media side so much more interesting - you get the interesting part of journalism plus the creative side.

What made you decide to join the Digital Marketing Academy?

I was doing part-time social media, part-time education work for an education-based company. The frustration from both sides was, my specialism is in social media, we're only getting a snippet of what I can provide, how can I turn the role into a full-time role?

And obviously within recruitment, marketing is massive. Our directors think so as well, but there was no way of turning me into a marketer when I had literally no idea what a CRM was, I had no idea what anything to do email marketing was or websites. 

Doing the apprenticeship worked hand-in-hand because now it was full-time and as the sole marketer I had so many facets to cover rather than just social media. I was able to cover a lot of ground, things like supporting our sales team. They know sales from purely a sales call and MailChimp perspective rather than website and all the other elements. 

I liked the intensity of the programme, it covers everything in a year span. We used to say at every monthly meeting with my marketing coach Sarah, me and and my manager Chris had always put in our notes how much of a difference it's made. I don't think you realise whilst you’re going through it, but then when you look back it's ridiculous.

What was it like having a marketing coach?

When you start the programme you hear about the monthly masterclasses and surgeries and how much it'll benefit you working with different marketers, but actually, having a marketing coach was the best part for me. 

It’s a small company where I'm the only marketer and it's very difficult to go to a director or go to a salesperson and try and bounce ideas off them. With the Academy I have someone who will reply to me within an hour or two and get me 15 resources that I can trust. From Sarah's experience I know they're going to be good and I know they're going to make a difference - and they always have. 

What impact has the Academy had on your work?

We had an external website designer when I first started. I'd only been on the course a few months, and me and my director had a conversation about me effectively taking over the design and the maintenance of the website. That was a turning point because I thought, I’m turning a whole spanner of marketing around on my own now. I'm in control of everything, I've got the reins on everything. And it'd come from me being able to prove that I could make a difference. 

Also the way we were using LinkedIn, I could only use it in a very basic sense. I was effectively promoting a scheme we were doing by posting a graphic and giving it a nice description, but where's that leading into? All it's doing is making someone aware of who we are rather than what we could provide. 

Now everything I do, I'm doing it with the next step in mind. I’ll do something knowing I've already done the step ahead. It’s about working backwards from the big thing.

How has the website changed since you took it over?

It was a few things that ravelled into one: website, the SEO, even the CRM to an extent. They all played a part in how I was designing and maintaining the website. Even basic things like the SSL certificate and making sure the website could function quickly and effectively, and mobile optimisation. 

It’s been a six-month process. Everything went into changing around the website, it started with those modules in November and we ended up completing the website properly for launch in May.

Being able to speak to Sarah along the way has been really helpful. I’ve nagged her with emails like “I don't know what I'm doing here. Please help! Send me some resources!” And she does. 

What role did your manager play in your apprenticeship?

Chris was deeply invested in it as much as I was. We'd have the surgery and the masterclass on the Thursday and Chris would be in the office on the Friday morning having a chat about what I've learnt, how it can make a difference to the business. Chris will always tell people how much I've grown and how much it's made a difference.

What were the trainers like?

All of the trainers made a real difference to be fair, but there were ones that stood out. Jules is brilliant, Sam too, they both stood out and obviously Sarah, but Sarah's a little bit different because I spend a lot of time with her as my marketing coach as well.

Sam and Jules stood out because of their enthusiasm for marketing, that made a massive difference. Especially Jules, she was one of the first masterclasses we had and she was genuinely brilliant. It made a difference knowing how enthusiastic someone can be about marketing. Even with things that she probably wasn't a specialist in, she'd be able to give good advice and make it fun and different for everyone. It was brilliant.

What was it like learning in a small group?

We had around 10 marketers in my cohort and I've really got on with everyone. I've got a couple of people on social media now that I speak to fairly regularly. We know each other more than peers now, which is brilliant.

That's a big part of the experience. A lot of us are similar ages and have had similar experiences, but then to mix it up with people coming from different backgrounds was great. One of the people that I got closest to hadn't gone to uni for example.

We had a different background coming into the same area, which is brilliant. It makes a massive difference because when you go into the breakout rooms to work on something during masterclasses, there's so many different opinions and we'd go back in and none of them would be specifically wrong - there's different angles and ways of looking at things and it is an eye-opener.

What was it like doing an apprenticeship after your degree?

In a technical sense the Academy is a lower qualification than a degree, but the experience you get in marketing is as important as the qualification itself. I would recommend it to people even just for the pure sake of developing yourself with other marketers. 

If you don't work with other marketers, you'll never get that development because you can't listen to different ideas and take different ideas on board. That's been the biggest difference maker to me, not the idea that it's another qualification.

What impact has Storybrand had on your work?

The biggest difference was understanding that we shouldn’t be at the forefront of my marketing. Storybrand gives you a different perspective on advertising especially. Placing the customer at the forefront rather than the business is something that I hadn't got my head around when I first started the apprenticeship. I saw marketing as how can I promote us rather than how can I attract the customer to us. I think a lot of people do that! 

Storybrand gives you a structure to work from. A lot of the creative side of marketing isn't that structured and I like things to be in an order, giving that creativity an order to work off. 

When I first started, I was probably aiming my marketing at my directors and other colleagues, you know, “Look how good this is!”, but it should be explained to our customers as how we can help them. 

That’s the Storybrand part I liked the most, putting the customer at the forefront, and showing how much of a difference we can make to them. Then we see how much of a difference that makes statistically. 

We have grown massively statistically since I took Storybrand on board, especially with SEO and social media interaction. In the four months following the SEO masterclass, 50% of our new users came from organic search, up from 35.3%.

How do you feel 12 months on?

I didn’t know which direction it would take me in when I started. I think being able to do 12 modules, you don't know what's going to stand out to you. It's a bit like doing my degree, I didn't know what side I'd want to go into. 

I ended up picking social media then with the Digital Marketing Academy, I ended up falling a little bit in love with SEO. I couldn't have told you that SEO would be the specialism I'd go into because I literally didn't know what SEO meant 12 months ago.

That's the best part of it really, you're going into it a little bit in the dark and you come out considering yourself at least a pretty intermediate to decent marketer, which in 12 months is ridiculous. You get probably as much experience as someone who’s worked in the industry for four or five years.

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