Travel Tips For Marketing Professionals (Long Post)

Jul. 21

If you’re a digital marketing professional, it’s likely you have opportunities to travel. A few years back, I wrote a post about how PPC Jobs Are great For Travel. Fast forward a few more years, and I’ve learned a lot more about travel, tips which I’m thrilled to share in today’s post. Today’s post is a long one, with lots of tips, grab a cup of coffee and read on!

Tip 1: Take Advantage of Travel Loyalty Programs

Business Travel

In the world of business travel, it’s all about frequent flyer miles and hotel points. Make sure you sign up for airline and hotel loyalty programs. If you’re going to be traveling anyway, why not accumulate some miles and points? You’d be surprised: I’ve been super inconsistent about this in the past. There are certain trips where I wasn’t diligent to enter my loyalty program ids, and those points are lost forever! That said, going forward, I’m all about the points. (Side note: If you have good records/receipts, you may be able to get credited points and miles for trips taken in the last year, even if you didn’t enter your loyalty program id at the time of the trip. I recently did this with Marriott, for example, and they made it super easy.)

Most of us will not travel enough to qualify for the top tiers of these loyalty programs ("status"), that is unless you are a global client services professional, an agency professional that works with a geo-diversified portfolio of clients, or on the sales/business development side of things. That said, most of us manage to attend at least a few conferences/events each year. Don’t worry about having more miles and points than others. It’s not a race! Just focus on yourself. Don’t avoid signing up because you think your points are inconsequential.

Some of my favorite loyalty programs:

You’d be surprised how they add up over the years. As long as you remain loyal to a focused portfolio of airlines and hotels, your points will add up over time. Case in point: I recently leveraged 15,000 United MileagePlus award miles to upgrade to first class on a business trip from SFO (San Francisco) to ORD (Chicago). I was only able to upgrade on the way there, and not the way back. However, I didn’t really care about the way back, because at that point (pun intended) my presentation was done. I cared about sleeping, eating well, and preparing for my presentation on the way there. First class upgrades, in my opinion, drive great business results for someone who has a big presentation or business deal on the line.

Some helpful tips:

  • Sign up for the loyalty programs now. It’s never too late, even if you missed out in the past like me.
  • When booking your travel, always enter your ids. If someone else is booking your travel, share your ids with them ahead of time. You can log into your loyalty accounts to see your upcoming trips, that’s a super way to confirm everything has been entered correctly.
  • Keep great records of your travel (receipts and tickets), in case you need to retroactively add those to your frequent flyer and hotel accounts later.
  • Make sure you keep your points active, so they don’t expire. Check out these posts about Airline Miles Expiration and Hotel Points Expiration on Million Mile Secrets, one of my favorite travel hacking blogs. You can keep your points active, even if you aren’t traveling!
  • Remember that it doesn’t matter how many points and miles you accumulate. I want to underscore this tip for digital marketing professionals especially since we won’t be the most traveled business professionals. That said, you aren’t in a race. Even the infrequent traveler should take advantage of these programs because points add up fast!

Tip 2: Open Airline and Hotel Credit Cards

If you’re a customer acquisition marketing professional, it’s likely you’ve got some bills each month. If you’re like me (living the SF Bay Area), the cost of living can be high. Also, if you’re a successful business professional, odds are you have good (and probably excellent) credit. Take advantage of these dynamics to open and leverage airline and hotel credit cards. Leverage your credit to get the cards, and leverage your expenses to earn free miles and points. That said, make sure you don’t spend more than you would have anyway. It’s all about getting value for what you’re already doing, but not changing your existing spending habits to earn more points (that is a losing proposition).

Very important tips when it comes to these credit cards:

  • Only open the cards if you’re going to get a big miles/points bonus for opening. These deals change by the month, but I have been very lucky following the deals and earning some sizable sign-on bonuses. Example: Chase Sapphire is now offering 40,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for opening a card. These points are super valuable and can be used for many purposes, including transferring in a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United.
  • Only open cards if you can actually hit the amount of spend required to get the sign-on bonus. Don’t spend extra. Be realistic and don’t alter your normal expenses just to get the bonus.
  • Use the right card in the right place. For example, you’ve got the Starwood card, make sure to use it to pay for your Starwood hotel stays. You can earn up to 5x points in those scenarios, depending on your level of status (most of us infrequent business travelers will receive 4x points). If you’ve got Chase Sapphire, leverage it when dining out for 2x points (and 3x points on the first Friday of every month). That said, break these rules when trying to hit spend for sign-on bonuses. Just use the same card for most/all of your expenses regardless of situation if that’s what you’ve got to do to hit the sign-on threshold (so you don’t have to take on extra expenses).
  • Be very careful about fees. Most of these cards carry annual fees, typically waived for the first year. Rationalize to yourself whether the fees are worth it or not. Being able to board in group 1 on United is worth the annual fees for United’s card (and then some), in my opinion. (When traveling for business, overhead space is important since you won’t be checking bags, and you need that group 1 to get optimal overhead space.) Also, Marriott’s free night at a category 1-4 hotel each year is worth the annual fees, in my opinion. That said, everyone’s situation is unique. Get too many of these cards and the annual fees can truly add up. It’s ok to cancel cards, if that makes financial sense in your situation. Understand the fees and incorporate them in to your overall strategy.
  • Always pay your card balance in full each month. Don’t carry debt to get points, that’s not worth it!

Tip 3: Upgrade At The Right Time, and Right Place

Traveling with your boss on a big business trip? Thinking of using your awards points to upgrade to first class? I discourage this for obvious reasons, it would just be strange. Traveling alone or with a colleague who wouldn’t really care about your upgrade? By all means, go for it if you feel comfortable (this was my situation in the example above)! It’s a judgement call. Just be smart about it.

Want to play it safe? Don’t upgrade for business trips at all. Save all of your points. Leverage them for an amazing family vacation. That way, you don’t have to explain to others why you’re flying so luxuriously for business.

This one really depends on your company culture, who you’re flying with, and your role. If you fly for a living and have status, it’s likely you’ll often be in first class and that’s no big deal since people know you fly for a living. However, if you’re like me (the occasional business traveler), then you’ve got to leverage your judgement when using award miles.

In the world of business, it’s all about being humble.

Tip 4: Cater Your Career Development To Your Travel Preferences

Do you like to travel a lot? There are certain jobs that offer a lot of travel. For example, one of my friends used to do all of the global client onboarding for a big digital marketing platform. I’m sure he racked up an amazing number of airline miles while seeing some amazing cities and sights around the world.

Within digital marketing, here are a few jobs that may involve more travel than others:

  • Client services
  • Client onboarding
  • Professional Services
  • Business Development
  • Executive Management (Multiple Office Company)

However, maybe you’re like me and enjoy traveling occasionally. Maybe you want to travel really well when you go, but you don’t want to be away from home all the time. There are jobs for that too (in fact most of the jobs are like this within digital marketing).

Just be strategic about it, and do what’s best for your personal situation.

Tip 5: Read Great Blogs About Travel Hacking

The world of travel is exciting. Those of us in digital marketing thrive on data and optimization. It’s amazing how the parallels exist between digital marketing and travel hacking. Want to stay up-to-date and learn more? I personally enjoy following several blogs about travel miles, points, and strategy. Two of my favorites: Million Mile Secrets and The Points Guy.

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on credit cards. I’m not a financial advisor. This post is just for entertainment. Please consult your financial advisor before making any financial decisions.
Image of Airplane Business Travel © iStockPhoto – felix140800

Embracing Change In Your Marketing Career

Oct. 19

I’m the biggest fan of the digital marketing career path around. In fact, that’s the precise reason I created PPC Ian nearly four years ago! PPC Ian is here to educate and empower those in the online marketing career path. Today, I wanted to write a quick post about embracing change in your marketing career. Change can come out of nowhere. Sometimes, it can catch you off guard with surprise. Sometimes, you may not look forward to change. Other times, you are the one planning the change, via exciting innovations, as an instigator of change and progress. Change is often exciting and fun. Learn to embrace and enjoy the excitement that comes with change and your career will flourish to new heights.

Change Ahead

Change creates so much opportunity for one’s career! There are two main reasons why:

  1. Change and innovation is at the core of a successful business. Only those enterprises that move quickly will remain #1 in their industry. Take it easy and remain complacent in your practices and your business will slowly (or sometimes quickly) go downhill. Push forward quickly and the sky is the limit.
  2. Not everyone is able to manage change. Change requires a unique perspective and attitude. It requires a true leader to embrace change with an open and fearless attitude. It takes an even greater leader to envision the future and lead others through change.

Today, I wanted to share a few types of change to expect in your digital marketing career. Prepare for these changes and you will thrive. Even better: Be an instigator of change and progress and the sky is the limit. One thing is for sure: Never have a closed mind. Always be open and willing to evaluate new opportunities, even if they do not seem intuitive right away.

Just a few changes to be ready to embrace:

  • Marketing campaign budgets – Be ready for increases or decreases, the beauty of paid media is the flexibility to throttle up and down.
  • New marketing platforms and technologies – Platforms are always changing. The top platform of yesterday is not always the top platform today. The top platform today is not always the top platform tomorrow.
  • New managers and leadership
  • Changes in responsibility
  • Search engine algorithm updates
  • Competitive changes on search engines
  • New office locations, new seating arrangements within your current office
  • Times of rapid growth and long hours, combined with incredible opportunity
  • Increased complexity, new technologies, new ways of marketing
  • Very timely requests, real time adaptive marketing
  • Changes in overall goals and targets
  • Changes in strategy and priorities
  • So much more!

Every day is an opportunity to learn and grow, and change within your marketing career supercharges your growth!

Image of Change Ahead © iStockPhoto – arcady_31

Small Agencies Rule

Sep. 14

I’m a huge fan of smaller SEM/Digital agencies. I’m good friends with several digital advertising professionals who decided to start their own agencies. They are absolutely thriving! I even considered myself a single-client agency of sorts in years past when working on a consulting project here and there, although it has been a long time. In my professional career, I have had the true pleasure of working with a multitude of agencies of all sizes.

Small SEM Agencies

Over the years, I have grown a true affinity for smaller agencies. You get an unparalleled level of attention and dedication. For a smaller agency, every single client truly matters. I especially respect those smaller agencies that embrace all of the advantages of being smaller while also offering many of the advantages of larger operations (technology, scale, and breadth of experience).

Is was not always easy in the past since technology can be expensive for a smaller operation. However, recent technologies such as Acquisio Dashboard Edition open tremendous doors for smaller agencies everywhere, those who may have a lean technology budget and/or want to expand their technology over time as their agency grows. Acquisio is the performance marketing platform of choice for agencies, so Dashboard Edition is a natural fit.

When my good friends at Acquisio offered me the honor of guest posting on the blog, I thought I’d do a fun post about small agencies. In particular, I offer suggestions on Starting and Growing Your Small SEM Agency. Make sure to head on over to Acquisio to check it out. Thanks, Acquisio, for the opportunity, you are the best!

Image © Acquisio.com

Fun Times Speaking At Google

Sep. 08

I absolutely love public speaking. I always get an incredible rush, especially when speaking to large audiences. It’s also a fun and amazing way to give back to the digital marketing industry, one of my core goals each and every year. I have featured quite a few of my speaking events here on PPC Ian over the years. Here are some of my favorites:

Recently, an amazing opportunity presented itself: I had the incredible honor of speaking to the Google AdWords Product Marketing team. It was a truly amazing experience, one of my favorite speaking opportunities. Formatted as a pure Q&A format, the Google team asked some truly great questions. I particularly enjoyed sharing my large, enterprise-level AdWords experience with Google, and hope my presentation helped spark some ideas in Google’s product marketing roadmap.

I also enjoyed staying after the presentation and forming friendships. It truly is all about your network and friendships, that’s how this unique opportunity presented itself. Matt and Google, I truly appreciate the opportunity, please let me know if I can ever be of assistance!

PPC Ian Speaking At Google

Speaking At Google

Are Junior Level PPC Jobs Disappearing?

Aug. 16

I recently wrote a post about SEM Automation and PPC Careers. An amazing PPC Ian reader (ppcKnight) was wondering in particular if all these amazing automation platforms, those built in-house and those available to purchase, are actually taking away from career opportunities? I shared some of my thoughts on the topic in that post, in particular why I think automation is actually helping build careers in digital marketing. Today, I wanted to answer a follow-up question from another PPC Ian reader (and friend), in response to that post. Sid wonders in particular if those more junior level jobs are becoming irrelevant due to automation. Thanks, Sid for reading and for the inspiration, I really like your question and I’m honored to answer with my 2 cents on the topic!

What About Junior Level Jobs In SEM? Are They Going Away?

Get Your Dream Job

Hi Ian,
It’s always very nice to read your blog. Of course, adopting the automation within the SEM will certainly help a company to scale or ramp up the campaigns and diversify your skills and driving new initiatives. However, the automation will eradicate entry level jobs within the SEM industry, what do you think? One has to be an expert level to work on the bid management tools like: Marin or Kenshoo or should gain superior knowledge before rubbing hands with the tools. What has been your experience like once you’ve executed the automation? Can you share what kind of jobs were created once the automation was deployed?

Moving forward, companies would like to automate the digital process be it SEM or display network through integrating demand side platform. I look forward to hearing for your thoughts on this.

Thanks,
Siddharth

The Argument In Favor of Junior Level Jobs

Siddharth, thanks again for the question. Here are some of the core reasons I think junior and intermediate level jobs in SEM are here to stay.

  • Certain projects require manual execution. One great example is writing customized ad copy. Another is executing upon an account restructure. While the strategy behind the ad copy approach and the strategy behind the account reorganization may be derived as a team effort (with leadership from more senior team members), there is a clear need for more junior and intermediate level marketers to execute upon the strategy. Many of the SEM accounts in existence today are the result of years and years of different managers. In short, many could use a good reorganization, creating a multitude of manual work.
  • It’s impossible to automate everything. A large number of second and third tier search engines do not offer APIs. For the foreseeable future, I see a more junior/intermediate role in managing/optimizing second tier search engines. It’s incredibly valuable, leveraged work, but requires massive time and attention. With more and more marketing dollars flowing online, marketers need to explore all opportunities including second and third tier engines. Someone needs to manage them.
  • Human interaction cannot be automated. Certain aspects of PPC require frequent human interaction and follow-up. While overall relationship management with search engines is a more strategic, senior role, various day-to-day aspects of the relationship are perfect for someone newer to the PPC career path. For example: Policing your trademark. Even though automated systems exist to locate the offenders, an employee needs to follow up with search engines, websites, and the internal legal team to appropriately address trademark offenses. They never stop, creating an unending queue of work.
  • Someone needs to take notes and document meetings. The plethora of opportunities in digital marketing is unparalleled. I have found it challenging at times to keep everything organized because we move at such a quick pace. Senior leaders on the team can rely on newer team members to document meetings and send out notes.
  • What about testing new keywords and ads? These are two projects at the core of search marketing that will never go away. Automation and platforms make all of this easier, but cannot fully automate it. Why? The best ads have never been created. The best keywords have no search volume because they take advantage of future trends. Start showing up before the trend hits and you will be a true winner. While the more junior team member will work with a more senior team member on the strategy, the process of deploying the keywords and ads is a great project for someone newer to paid search.
  • Great digital marketing platforms are not just for experts. When it comes to build vs. buy decisions on SEM automation, I’m a fan of buying. Why? In house platforms are rarely pretty. They are rarely easy to use for junior team members. However, when you buy a platform, you’re buying not only an amazing back end technology, but also an easy to use front end interface, complete with tutorials and documentation. There is no reason junior employees cannot leverage these platforms, of course with some guidance and supervision from a more senior level team member.
  • As an overall trend, more money is flowing online. With increased money being spent on digital marketing, there is more work. I feel it each and every week – more and more to do, more and more opportunities! With more work, the only way to scale is to hire, expand, and delegate. A well-functioning team requires members of all levels. As digital marketing professionals, we are all stretched for time. I see no end in sight for junior, intermediate, and advanced digital marketing professionals!

Agree, disagree, thoughts? Please write in with your opinions!

  • Darren (1)