Thursday, May 26, 2011

Observations from the marketing desk...

Last October I landed a job as a receptionist/admin. assistant in an accounting firm. A week later I was moved from the front desk to support the director of marketing and client service. After 7 months of working in marketing, I have a couple observations.

Before, when I worked for an engineering firm and call centres would call to update their databases, I would help but would often get irritated. To be fair, all of our staff information (except job titles) was available on our website – name, email and phone number, plus the company’s mailing address. It wouldn’t have taken them long to find that information if they searched on their own. Besides, when you work in an office of 40 people across 3 departments and someone calls to update their database and wants to update everyone in their database (either a whole department or management team, or sometimes the whole office!), it can get annoying, especially when you’re the only one answering the phones and you have to serve incoming clients and type reports and like any secretary knows, juggle more tasks than a professional juggler! However, I often obliged, especially if the person on the other line was polite and understanding (i.e. I might have to put them on hold for a moment while I deal with an incoming client, a far higher priority in our mind!)

Now, I AM that caller.

The accounting firm I work for currently serves nearly 4,000 clients and we specialize in 14 industries. Those 14 industries each have an independent mailing list, separate from our highly integrated contact management system that contains the nearly 9,000 records of clients, bookkeepers, marketing contacts and business affiliates.

You can imagine how much work it takes to keep 14 independent databases up-to-date, along with the one used daily by staff.

Part of our job in marketing is to retain new clients. In order to retain new clients you must be in contact with them, putting your name out there, communicating with (not just at) them and making sure that your name is at the forefront of their mind when they are choosing a new (fill in the blank), in our case, accountant.

Much of my job of late has been directed at updating those databases. It seems that as soon as I have one right where I want it, I’m given a new angle to include, a new region to cover, or a new sector to investigate. It’s keeping me busy, that’s for certain.

The biggest challenge I have faced thus far is that the woman who previously held my position only worked for the marketing director about 30% of the time, the rest of her time was split among files and other administrative duties that supported the rest of the staff. Of that 30%, it appeared she did not have a lot of time to invest into making this job ‘her own’, as there are no notes and everything is a bit of a mess. It’s definite job security for me for the next couple years...I suppose.

My thoughts on marketing before I started this job:
• People in that field are annoying, lazy and kind of sleazy (always in it for themselves)
• They’re strictly overhead for a firm, they do nothing of value
• It’s a necessary evil (emphasis on evil)
• If they really tried, they could get the information they needed without hassling receptionists
• It’s a competitive market, so it makes sense they have to market themselves
• Some companies are really creative (Apple and Telus come to mind)

My thoughts on marketing now that I’m IN this job:
• Not all marketing people are annoying
• Marketing assistants, for the most part, aren’t lazy, they’re just trying to do their job
• There are still sleazy marketers out there
• Overhead is a part of business – although I do often feel guilty that I don’t contribute in a more tangible way
• It IS necessary (the evil part has waned)
• Websites that have staff contact information are a lifesaver!
• All companies should have websites and the should be current with all necessary contact information
• Some website designers should not be in business (the flash animation at comes to mind)
• Receptionists should be required to be friendly

This job is hard work and I have a new respect for people who maintain accurate databases. I no longer sigh when mail comes addressed to the wrong person, or the wrong suite number; instead, I actually call the company and let them know so they can update their database. People tend to complain about poorly kept records, but no one does anything to help. If we all worked together, this world would be full of beautiful databases and happy marketing assistants.

A few weeks ago we sent out an announcement to our contacts (clients, prospects and affiliates) and as a result, some of them have been coming back with the Canada Post “return to sender” yellow sticker affixed – these are for those affiliates who we have in our database but have not contacted in 5, 10 or 20 years (yeah...we have some of those! Note: I did research all 560 before we sent it out and did delete all the ones I was able to update). The best return was one from a bank in which they stamped “Contact no longer at this office, please remove from mailing lists”. Is it lame to report that I nearly did a jig when that one came back? I wish EVERY office had a stamp like that and returned it! (well, I don’t wish that EVERY office returns their cards, that’d be a waste in time, effort and money in postage and printing)

This job is not one that is futile or pointless. I have already seen fruits of our labour and it’s a beautiful thing! In fact, we have a seminar we’re hosting for our clients next month and we have a number of clients registered who have never attended previously. Our hope is that with our continued efforts to promote our firm that our name will continue to be at the forefront of others’ minds and that we will continue to see successful growth.

(when did I turn into such a marketer?!)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, office jobs have changed in the 22 years since I worked in them! For the better in many ways, I think - computer were quite cumbersome then, and making simple changes were very difficult. I'm constantly amazed at Word and Excel now and lament how much easier my days would have gone had I had them back then!