According to my Mother, I was the ‘Why?’ child and ‘born curious’. I was an early talker and I haven’t shut up since.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve been training for this job my entire life, I just didn’t know it until recently. Following the year we have all had, I suspect many of us have gone through a period of reflection, after all, we have had plenty of time to think, to assess our lives, our choices, our path up until this point. Many of us will have felt self-doubt creeping in, and indeed questioned, where do I want to go from here? 

This was me a few months ago, still on maternity leave and feeling at a bit of a crossroads, like so many other mothers contemplating going back to work.

I’d had a particularly difficult year. My newborn son was ill in hospital for the first four months of his life, and partly in a hospital miles away from home. Within a matter of weeks of him coming out of hospital, lockdown hit. Fast forward almost a year and, unsurprisingly, I felt a little lost.

I started to reflect on my journey to this point and it soon became evident how I got here.

An avid reader as a child.

I had always excelled at English Literature at school, and so it was no surprise that I chose this as a degree. I spent three years analysing words to the nth degree, trying to eek out every last bit of meaning. I often had to write a 3,000 word analysis of a poem less than half a page long. A worst nightmare to some, but I loved it.

A degree and trek around Thailand later, I landed my first job at an agency in Manchester. I had zero experience in marketing but I was enthusiastic and told them I would work hard and learn fast. Little did I know, I was about to be thrown in at the deep end, working on accounts for Dyson and ODEON Cinemas, learning PPC from scratch and introduced to a whole new world of terms I'd never expected to meet on a daily basis - impressions, CTR, CPC, ROI, conversion rate.

The first few years were a blur...

As I got to grips with this fast-paced, challenging world of digital marketing. It was a steep learning curve and when you are spending hundreds of pounds of someone else's money by the minute, you soon learn you need to make every last penny count.

The big numbers that were invariably produced by these large-scale campaigns were mind-blowing to me at the start of my career. I couldn't get my head around launching a campaign one minute and seeing that an hour later, hundreds of people had clicked on my ad. It was thrilling and scary as hell, but it was exciting. The buzz of planning and creating a campaign that people engaged with and resulted in these ‘big numbers’, which then earned praise from the client was somewhat addictive.

It was so easy to get blindsided though, and so when I came to write my first big report, I started talking about the hundreds of thousands of impressions and clicks the campaign had delivered and the high click-through rates. They sounded really impressive to me. Then something brilliant happened, something that has always stuck with me. My boss read the report, turned to me and said, “So what?”.

This question has underpinned everything I’ve done at work since. Just like the way I repeat things my mother said to me when I was little to my own children now, I have repeated the “So what?” question to numerous colleagues and clients over the years. This isn’t said in a rude, obnoxious way, but rather as a thought-provoker, a way to encourage people to step back and think about what it really is we are trying to achieve. Because, believe me, I’ve been there, and it is so easy to lose sight of this when you are caught up in the day-to-day.

For example:

If you used the sentence ‘The campaign has driven a CTR of 18.6%’ it would be the equivalent of me saying: ‘The lady wore a red dress’. So what? On its own it means nothing and would spark very little interest or add any value in a client meeting. Instead, if we said: ‘Having run these two different creatives on your Facebook campaign, ad 1 has driven a 30% higher CTR than ad 2, cost 12 pence less per click and achieved a 20% higher lead conversion rate’, we then suddenly have a conversation starter and a strategy to discuss to capitalise on it.

This is what makes me tick.

Understanding, in-depth, what makes customers convert, and in order to try and make sense of that, it means being obsessed with data. It’s not just about finding the data that happens to be there. I purposefully plan campaigns in a way that allows us to extract meaningful, interesting and, most importantly, valuable data at the end. Otherwise, what is the point? As the classic saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’, and without all of this, my job would be very boring indeed.

So, after a bit of soul searching, I realised I am still the ‘Why?’ child.

Someone who is as curious as ever and most definitely in the right career. I did, however, decide to find a new job, moving to DigitalKOG earlier this year, and I'm happy to say their ethos very much aligns with mine. As cheesy as it sounds, I love helping clients plan their campaigns, get excited about their journey, and do everything I can to change their business for the better. That buzz I felt 12 years ago when seeing a campaign succeed, an idea realised, a lead generated, is still with me now, and it is what drives me forward, every single day.

Author Emily Bonner

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