My Journey as a Marketing Professional

Tracy Carlton, Director of Marketing and Business Development, started with Services For Education in January 2018 and has quickly become an indispensable member of the team.

An award-winning, senior marketing professional with a wide range of strategic experience, Tracy has had repeated success throughout her career.

We’re lucky to have her on board!

Recently, Tracy was approached by Zariance to take part in an interview about her experience in the education sector, so we thought we’d share that with you today.

Your Journey as a Marketing Professional.

It would be good to report that my career path to date has been mapped out, followed a set path and progressed in a way that my career advisor of years gone by would have recommended.

But life is not always like that. You have to experiment; grasp opportunities and follow your instincts – so where I am now (in a senior marketing role in a charity that supports education) is not where I necessarily expected to be when I started my working life.

The reality is that I ended up in marketing unintentionally.

After completing a neuroscience Ph.D. I started work for The Open University (OU) in the UK as a Project Manager for an educational CD on the inner workings of the brain. Remember CDs?

It was a time when digital media for educational purposes was in its infancy – and an exciting time at that. Whist on this temporary contract a newly created post of Science Marketing Manager was advertised.

So, without even knowing what marketing was about, I applied and got the role. It was a time when, within the University sector, marketing and the internet were still in their infancy. It was the start of my journey as a marketing professional.

To increase my marketing knowledge, I took the Chartered Institute of Marketing courses where I was able to learn alongside and share experiences with marketers from other sectors.

My marketing knowledge and experiences have really echoed the growth of marketing digital channels. My time at the OU exposed me to many aspects of marketing, like creating what was probably the first product development team within the UK education sector.

This was really targeting the heart of academia, so for me, it was a steep learning curve – technically understanding product development and market research tools and techniques as well as having to develop my emotional intelligence skills to ensure that we were able to work as a single team across marketing and academics. All these skills have been invaluable as I have embraced more senior roles.

In 2013, I left the OU and entered into director-level marketing roles, the latest of which is Director of Marketing and Business Development for an educational charity – Services For Education. It’s a fantastic but incredibly diverse organization – which poses challenges in its own right.

The organization emerged from Birmingham City Council in 2012. Today, we employ some 250 people and are part-funded by the Arts Council, England. We include the Music Service (delivering music education to some 38,000 school children) and the School Support Service (that delivers a comprehensive program of professional development and school improvement for teaching and support staff, middle and senior leaders, and governors in schools in Birmingham and beyond).

In short, we use the power of learning and music to create and build confidence amongst children, young people, adults, and communities. Its aim is, quite simply, to bring music and learning to live.

Of all the positions I have occupied, this is the one that has enabled me to deploy all my marketing skills to the full. I have also taken on additional responsibility for IT and fundraising, so even now I am still learning on the job!

What are the primary marketing channels you have worked on? What will be your advice to young marketers on each of these channels?

I have worked across the marketing mix. Even in my first role, we were using websites and online gaming coupled with traditional channels. Today the focus has definitely shifted towards digital channels (PPC, retargeting, SEO and Social Media) but my advice would be don’t forget the traditional routes.

These can be as powerful as digital for the right audiences, so remember to do your research and always ensure that your campaigns are integrated across all the channels you decide to use.

Once live, make sure that the campaigns and channels are monitored closely, especially in the PPC environment, where changing keywords and/or imagery of an advert can make all the difference to its performance. If you have the opportunity, it is always good practice to implement A/B testing – that will give you further insights into your audience preferences and therefore help improve campaign performance.

Whether digital or traditional, however, the most important factor in any campaign is to have appealing content. Bill Gates’ quote, of over two decades ago, “Content is King” still holds true. Make sure your content is credible and of relevance to your audience which makes them want to engage further with your company.

What are some of the important marketing software that you have used and found to be really useful for your company?

In the paid for space, I would say the key tools are:

Adobe Creative Suite especially Photoshop and Illustrator for design needs.

For managing Social Media it would be Hootsuite, it just makes posted across platforms and tracking results so much easier.

WordPress is my go-to website development tool; if it hasn’t got the functionality built in you can usually find a plug-in that will have.

There are also some great free tools like Canva for creating promotional materials, social media posts, infographics through to leaflets. It’s always worth doing an online search for free tools.

From my experience, every bit as important as the software is the way that the tools are used. You can have all the latest technology but it is no use if you don’t have the skills and experiences to use them.

When choosing software I would recommend that you start with understanding what the business requirements are, rather than starting with the software system and then trying fit your business needs to its capabilities.

Your 2 line advice to people entering in the marketing domain.

If you decide to specialize within a particular area of marketing, ensure that you still get an understanding across the whole marketing discipline. This will help you understand how your chosen area fits into the bigger marketing picture and also will help as you progress your career.

Make sure your marketing is evidence-based; never stop asking questions – and always seek new ways to do things.

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