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The best marketers never stop learning

We’re a diverse bunch here at Stryve, with a mixture of different backgrounds and skillsets. In fact, half of us hold degrees in subjects outside of marketing, myself included. Despite this, there’s one important thing we all have in common: a serious snack addiction a dedication to lifelong learning.

Digital marketing is constantly evolving. Trends, tactics, and technology change quickly, and as marketers, we need to change with them. Heck, it seems like every time I log in to AdRoll things have been moved, added, or deleted.

Learning is extraordinarily important at Stryve. It’s so important, we’re each given $1,000 per year to put towards it. Last month, a couple of us braved the winter roads and headed to Toronto for a Google Tag Manager course, opting to spend two days in the classroom instead of the office.

In the age of online tutorials, webinars, and interactive demos, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to learning. So, why did we choose the in-person experience over a virtual one? Well, it fell in line with my overall approach to learning.

It’s Not All About Degrees

I used to have a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t go to school for marketing. Early in my career, when people threw around marketing buzzwords, I’d just smile and nod. But, as I’ve progressed, I’ve come to understand that your desire to learn and improve is far more important than a glossary of terms. A marketing degree doesn’t make you a great marketer. Frankly, college and university marketing curriculums are so far behind the tactics and practices we use at Stryve, they’re almost irrelevant.

Taking formal education out of the equation, I think the three most relevant ways of learning are self-directed, live structured courses, and hands-on experience.

Everyone learns a little bit differently, but here’s how I like to approach my quest for continuous learning:

Self-Directed Learning

This is my favourite place to start. It’s low-commitment, often free, and there’s a vast amount of excellent marketing content and courses available online; both free and paid. And, unlike college or university courses, the material is relevant and fresh. Think podcasts, blogs, and videos.

There’s a lot to like about a self-directed approach to learning. The main thing? It’s self-directed, giving you the freedom to choose your own adventure. Pick your subjects, your sources, when to get tangential and when to stay the course. What principles do you want a deeper understanding of? What ones can you bypass? Self-directed learning allows you to create your own curriculum and learn at your own pace, whether that be fast or slow.

On the negative side, it’s self-directed. There’s no teacher to look to when 1+1=5. There’s no one to answer those specific, granular questions only a deep thinker like you would have. At times, there’s no substitute for a knowledgeable human being with experience.

Structured Learning (online, or in a classroom)

Self-directed learning is great, but you need to be honest with yourself in admitting when you’ve hit a wall. If you’ve exhausted the blogs and videos and still aren’t understanding things, you need to try something new. A structured class with the guidance of an instructor is a great next step.

More traditional setups like this are a great way to build off what you’ve taught yourself. These courses help fill the gaps and provide further explanation of unclear concepts. Remember those specific, granular questions only a deep thinker like you would have? This is where you get your answers.

During my GTM course, I got my money’s worth by asking the instructor specific questions relating to my work at Stryve. Together, we nerded out on conceptualizing different campaign setups and strategies. As a GTM expert with years of focused experience, his one-on-one coaching was far more beneficial than anything I’d find online.

Now before you go signing up for some course, consider the drawbacks. Not all companies are willing to financially back their employee’s desire to learn. These courses can get expensive and may not always be worth their price tag. Braving the 401 in the middle of winter is always a gamble and never convenient, neither is missing a full two days of work. Course quality aside, you may find yourself in an award-winning class for beginners only to realize that you’re operating at an intermediate level. Hope you enjoy rehashing the basics!

Both self-directed and structured approaches to learning have their strengths, but to fully demonstrate your knowledge, sometimes there ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.

Hands-on Learning

I kept this one last for a reason. Hands-on learning can be the most effective path to developing a strong understanding, but if you go into it with no foundational knowledge, you’ll quickly be overwhelmed and outmatched. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know, and learning something solo is a great way to develop bad habits and get lost.

While it shouldn’t be your first option, hands-on learning is key to developing familiarity and muscle memory with subjects and processes. Read about ad campaigns all you want, nothing will compare to clicking through an interface to upload ads yourself. Consider it practice before the game.

The keyword there is practice. Hands-on learning should never involve real clients or budgets. Instead, use a dummy account as your personal playground for making mistakes and learning from them. Once you get a lay of the land, consider taking a stab at replicating a past campaign to really go through the motions.

Put them all together

When it comes to learning, everyone has their own preferred method. It’s my opinion, though, that the greatest level of understanding comes from a mixture of these three approaches. Use the free available resources you find online and build off that knowledge with an accreditable course to go deeper. From there, practice what you’ve learned until it sinks in completely.

As I said, I didn’t want to face rush-hour traffic and miss two days of work, but I did it in the name of learning. I took GTM as far as I could on my own, then sought out expert guidance to take my understanding to the next level. Now, I’m able to demonstrate that knowledge to the benefit of my clients. And when these new tactics get exhausted, I’ll start the process over again and stay dedicated to learning, because that’s what marketers do.

Kaleigh Bulford

Account Manager

Kaleigh is passionate about all things creative; from photography to copywriting to illustration. She also really loves video games. Like, a lot. Maybe too much.

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