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10 Lessons Learned at DirectiveGroup in a Decade

by | Nov 12, 2018 | Business Strategy & Process, Digital Marketing


“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.” Tony Hseih


10 years and going strong. Congratulations DirectiveGroup team members. What a milestone! As I age and look back, 10 years doesn’t seem very long. BUT… OMG… when I look at the past 10 years through the lenses of digital marketing, the reality of the rollercoaster becomes apparent. Digital marketing truly moves at warp speed which provides countless opportunities for learning.

Going back through time – the year, 2008 – On a scorching hot, Saturday afternoon, in Phoenix, I proudly walked up to the graduation podium to take possession of the master’s degree in marketing for which I sacrificed many hours of sleep to earn. Little did I know then, that 10 years later most everything I learned about marketing would be obsolete. However, there are always lessons that will stand true through the test of time.

As I reflect on the top 10 lessons I’ve learned over the past 10 years, I will share them with you.

  1. Figure Out What You Love About It.

Having a passion for what you do is vital. There is no point spending 7+ hours a day, five days a week, doing something that you could take or leave. However, this does not mean you have to love every aspect of digital marketing. I am happy to admit that I don’t love everything related to digital marketing, but I always love helping my clients grow their business and solving complicated challenges. I have acquired the skills to do somethings great and get positive results doing it. That is enough for me.

  1. No Shortcuts. Work For It.

Over the years I have seen a lot of agencies come and go. Of course, there are many reasons behind who survives and who doesn’t. But one thing the survivors often have in common is a commitment to quality over shortcuts. Many agencies fill clients’ heads with this belief that they can somehow press a button and make a million pounds for them overnight. These marketers spend a lot of time looking for shortcuts, that untapped magic traffic source or the infamous secret to page one Google rankings.

Instead of looking for an easy win that probably doesn’t exist, you should be prepared to do what it takes to build or work for a solid business. This means committing to creating a quality service offering, building an experienced team and delivering great results. If more marketers and agency owners committed to this goal, then we would have a higher average agency lifespan and an industry that isn’t blighted by shysters and misconceptions.

  1. Manage Client Expectations.

On that theme of shortcuts, a very important lesson I have learned about managing clients is the necessity to manage their expectations. This is an important and unavoidable element to get right for every business or individual working in the digital marketing sector (or any sector). On a daily basis you will be interacting with clients and communicating various aspects of a project from turnaround times to results. Every time you do this you are setting the scene for how you work and what kind of business you are.

  1. Technology Changes, But People & Principles Remain the Same

Although my marketing degree modules taught me very little about digital marketing, they did include a lot of the principles behind human buying behavior. In the last 10 years, technology has advanced beyond anything I would have thought possible. There are a plethora of new advertising channels, countless new tools and tracking /attribution abilities, artificial intelligence, just to name a few. But what has remained the same is human’s basic wants, needs and desires. These dictate how we behave and how we interact with marketing and advertising media.

If you can learn to understand human behavior and response, you will be miles ahead of your competitors who are often focusing on the technical tactics. Combine what new technology has to offer with time-tested marketing messages and you will have a winning formula for sure.

  1. Sometimes Clients Should Be Fired.

Whether you run a 100-person agency or are a freelancer, clients are imperative for you to make money and be sustainable. However, at times, agencies, are guilty of taking on clients who are clearly going to cause problems for them. Of course, not doing so has to be weighed with the impact on business growth. But that doesn’t mean at times we must stand for what we believe, at our own expense, and I would rather build long-term client relationships with clients than make a quick buck on projects that are ultimately doomed to failure.

  1. Money Does Not Equal Happiness

Yes, it is true that money makes the world go around and certainly makes businesses function, but I think more people need to take happiness from achieving something sustainable, than looking for the next bigger bucks. Over the years, I have learned that money does not guarantee happiness and that, for me, deeper satisfaction is not related to a bank balance. It comes from the satisfaction of knowing that day in and day out, I am part of something bigger than myself in an environment where I am constantly challenged and growing.

  1. Work Smart, Not Hard

Success in any business, including digital marketing, is not about working harder. For me, a great business (agency or otherwise) is based upon a set of defined, tried and tested systems or processes. And, arguably, even more important, is having a true understanding of myself – when I’m most productive/least productive, etc. This insight makes my life easier and makes me consistently more productive. Tried and tested processes are vital to the development of a person or business. Don’t be one of those people who wait for their health to suffer before learning this important lesson!

  1. Give the “Steak and the Sizzle”

In other words, go the extra mile. Yes, I know it’s just another cliché. But this lesson applies to every aspect of a digital agency, whether it’s report results, strategy phone calls, or even communication. Yes – the presentation of communication with clients can send a very profound message. It’s not about working yourself into the ground; it’s about those little things that improve something for others and in-turn improve our professional lives. Put that extra bit of thought into a client’s campaign. Help out a colleague struggling to meet a deadline. Customize your client’s reports to make it more personal, even

  1. Culture is Important for Everyone

I believe that a company’s culture it is one of the most impactful assets a business has. Culture is the glue that holds successful companies together. DirectiveGroup, for example, strives to run an approachable business that puts transparency and integrity above all. While it may start with the leadership, every single person in an organization makes an important contribution to the culture. Working with people and in teams that share what you value is fantastic and effects not only the team’s output but also your job satisfaction.

  1. The 80:20 Rule

(It wouldn’t be a digital marketing related post without some percentages!) The Pareto Principle says that you actually get 80% of your results from 20% of your activities. I have found that this rule pops up time and again.

It’s important to understand that this rule is not a magic trick. It’s a principle and not some inviolable law of the universe. More precisely, it’s a trend and something that happens most of the time. The Pareto principle can be extremely powerful and demonstrates that power can come from realizing that your data is telling you a story and that it is actionable. Focus on finding the 20% in what you do and liberating it’s potential.

I would love to hear your lessons from working in the digital marketing industry. Pop them in the comments below or contact DirectiveGroup to learn how we can help transform your business.


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