Training options for turning a PA into a marketing assistant

Posted on: April 27, 2010

During the recession, many firms reluctantly dispensed with their marketing and business development staff which meant that the day to day burden of marketing fell onto the shoulders of secretarial and administrative staff. Many smaller firms cannot afford to hire full time marketing qualified staff and instead look to promoting secretaries and assistants into such roles. As a result, lots of firms ask me about the best training options for these staff. I address the issue in detail on my web site (www.kimtasso.com) but here are the options for those in the property industry looking to convert PAs into marketing supremos.

A secretary/PA will have many of the fundamental skills necessary to undertake much of the day to day marketing administration, but to be really confident and effective the secretary will need both some specialist skills training and some education in the general principles of marketing.

You should be aware that the training needs of those working with residential property (business to consumer) will be slightly different to those working in commercial property (business to business). Typically, whilst both will use digital marketing and public relations the commercial marketers will need to be better at professional selling, pitching and relationship management.

Strategic understanding

Before letting a new marketing assistant loose on the wide range of marketing and promotional tools, it is advisable that they develop a broad understanding of the principles of marketing which should include an appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of the various tools and guidance on how to create plans and campaigns and measure effectiveness.

Marketing education

There are a number of half and one day courses that I present through the Professional Marketing Forum (www.pmforum.co.uk). These sessions were designed specifically to provide a secretary with a broad overview of the purpose and various functions of marketing at a strategic level and also to consider the various roles and activities that will take up the lion’s share of time – for example, managing the database, producing and sending out promotional materials and organising events.

Current courses include: Basic marketing for secretaries, Professional and Practical Skills for Marketing Assistants, The Proactive Marketing Executive and The Future Marketing Manager.

Marketing reading

These general courses can be supplemented with marketing reading – I have prepared numerous reading lists for marketing assistants, some of which appear in the FAQ section of my web site (www.kimtasso.com) and others which are available on request.

For those in the property sector, my book “Growing your property partnership”, while aimed at partners, provides good introductory chapters on subjects including: strategic marketing, tactical marketing (an A-Z of promotional techniques), selling (including pitching) and relationship management. The other book I co-wrote with Graham Norwood for the property industry is “Media relations in property” which provides an introductory how-to guide to generate publicity in the residential and commercial property sectors.

Marketing qualifications

Of course, if the intention is that the PA/Secretary is embarking on a long term marketing career then it would be good to obtain some professional qualifications. At the Chartered Institute of Marketing (www.cim.co.uk) there are three levels of qualification – Certificate, Diploma and Postgraduate Diploma. These can be studied in distance programmes, on intensive weekends and in the more familiar evening or Saturday class formats.

There is an introductory certificate for those completely new to marketing which comprises two units:

Unit 1 – What is Marketing?
Unit 2 – Understanding Customer Relationships

Each level comprises four papers – with assessment methods being predominantly assignment based although exams are common at the senior level. The courses are practitioner oriented – encouraging students to apply what they have learned to their own work environment and challenges. The course breakdown is as follows and typically students attempt to do two or four papers each year.

Professional Certificate
Unit 1 – Marketing Essentials
Unit 2 – Assessing the Marketing Environment
Unit 3 – Marketing Information and Research
Unit 4 – Stakeholder Marketing

Professional Diploma
Unit 1 – Marketing Planning Process
Unit 2 – Delivering Customer Value through Marketing
Unit 3 – Managing Marketing
Unit 4 – Project Management in Marketing

Professional Post Graduate Diploma
Unit 1 – Emerging Themes
Unit 2 – Analysis and Decision
Unit 3 – Marketing Leadership and Planning
Unit 4 – Managing Corporate Reputation

CIM also provides courses targeted at Digital Marketing including the CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing comprising the following units:
· Digital Marketing Essentials
· Digital Marketing Planning
· Marketing & Consumer Behaviour

They also provide the more advanced Diploma in Managing Digital Media:
· Integrating Digital Media and Branding
· Implementing Digital Campaigns
· Advertising
· Public Relations

CIM (see above) also provides a range of 120 shorter one and two day courses covering a range of operational topics – for example:

– Advanced email marketing
– Search engine marketing
– Social media marketing

Operational issues

Once some basic marketing knowledge is acquired, it is time to learn how to use the most common tools used on a day to day basis by marketers.

Databases and emarketing/email campaigns

Day-to-day the marketing assistant’s role will in large part focus on creating, maintaining and using information in a database. Whilst some firms may still rely on spreadsheets (or even Word documents), ideally the information should be kept in some form of marketing database or CRM (Client Relationship Management) system. Some firms will have a marketing module integrated into their other practice software.

For this reason, once the principles of marketing are understood – and there is familiarity with issues such as the Data Protection Act you should look at training provided by the suppliers of your database software. Some firms will outsource their email campaigns to external providers such as Campaignmaster or Concep in which case they will not need to understand the intricacies of creating e-campaigns and managing the responses.

The Institute of Direct Marketing (www.theidm.com) offers a wide range of one to three day courses covering subjects such as:

– The Absolute Essentials of Direct and Digital Marketing training course
– Best Practice Google Analytics
– Complete Digital Marketing
– Designing Persuasive Websites
– Direct Marketing for Newcomers
– Effective Business-to-Business Email Marketing
– Introduction to copywriting
– Pay per click advertising
– Project management skills

Design

Most marketing assistants are required to assist in the development and production of a variety of marketing materials – whether these are advertisements, hoardings, signs, newsletters, email alerts or traditional leaflets and brochures. Ideally, you should ask your firm’s designers for details of your corporate or house style guide which shows how to use (and not use) your firm’s logo, colours and other visual identity elements. If you are not trained in design yourself, it would be advisable to ask your external designers to provide you with a series of templates for the relevant software packages that you use so that you can simply enter the text and images required to an existing format.

Typical software packages for producing materials include: QuarkXpress (professional designers) and Quark Promote (small and medium sized businesses) or Adobe Indesign. You will probably also use some form of photograph or image manipulator such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Digital Image suite.

Web sites

Hopefully, when external designers built your web site they incorporated a CMS (Content Management System) to enable you to make many of the smaller changes in-house. In this case you will probably need a quick training session from the designers to understand how to make changes to rapidly changing pages such as those showing new particulars, press releases about deals and new developments or the addition of partners and agents to your business.

More sophisticated skills are required to ensure that your web site appears in high rankings from search engines such as Google – and you may need to do some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) training in order to do this. Similarly, if your firm does a lot of online advertising you can either use the self-tutor tools in Google Adwords or seek more general training on PPC (pay per click) advertising.

Blogs and social media

The use of blogs and social media are increasingly important in today’s marketing mix. Familiarity with the main tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be acquired easily on-line. The various main blogging tools are relatively straightforward too although writing good content (especially titles) takes a lot of practice. Copywriting skills training will help here.

Copy and content

But having the skills to enter text and graphics is only part of the equation. In both traditional and online communications it is imperative that you have good content. Copywriting is a skill of its own and you need to adopt different styles of writing depending on whether you are designing mailshots, newsletters, web content or more extensive research reports. Most PR agencies will have staff who can write copy or you can hire freelance writers to do this work for you. There are also a selection of short courses on copywriting. Although the further complication is that in order to write good copy that prompts action and sells you need to also understand the principles of good sales technique.

Other short courses

CIM (see above – http://www.cim.co.uk/tandq/training/home.aspx) also provides a range of 120 shorter one and two day courses covering a range of operational topics – for example:

– Competitive tendering
– Copywriting skills
– Email marketing
– Fundamentals of selling
– How to develop key accounts
– Marketing the brand
– Mobile marketing
– PA’s Guide to marketing
– Search engine marketing
– Social media marketing
– Using the database for direct marketing
– Viral marketing

Kaplan Hawksmere offer some specialist communications and PR training courses (http://www.rtpiconferences.co.uk/hawksmere/category.php?id=49) including planning and managing special events, effective writing skills for business, marketing and advertising law and writing skills for PR.

Other sources of training

Associations

There are three associations that provide a variety of training and information resources for those in the professions:

Professional Marketing Forum (www.pmforum.co.uk) is a membership group that offers a variety of full and half day training courses as well as online article banks. They also provide a series of Unmissable Monday shorter sessions (some of these are free) – lasting just an hour or so – and webinars. It also provides a good opportunity to network with other young marketers working in law, accountancy and property.

Professional Services Marketing Group (www.psmg.co.uk) is similar to the above group and also provides a series of online resources and training sessions.

Profile (www.profile-network.com) is a group focusing entirely on those who are involved in marketing and PR in the property industry. They offer many events although most involve listening to key people from the industry talking about their experiences and gaining insight into how journalists think. But excellent networking opportunities nevertheless.

Specialist web sites

There are many sites dedicated to marketing and many offer free tutorials, guidance and templates. Just a few of those that might be of interest are shown below. There are many more shown in the fave links section of my web site at www.kimtasso.com

http://www.marketing-online.co.uk/ Dave Chaffey is an emarketing expert (his book is very good) and he does many of the courses for the CIM

www.hubspot.com Authors of an excellent book on inbound marketing, this site offers free webinars also.

Property sector specific courses

There are a number of training sources in the property sector – although most are targeted at the actual estate agents rather than the marketers who support them.

http://www.estateagencyacademy.co.uk/ This site has a number of free videos to watch on subjects as diverse as The 7 Principles of Persuasive Marketing, building your brand online, using social media to promote your business and customer relationship management.

http://www.naea.co.uk/ Mostly courses on estate agency but a couple on effective selling are included.

www.rics.org Mostly these are courses relating to the professional aspects of surveying, but there are occasionally courses on business development related skills such as negotiation, presentation skills and business planning.

http://www.hsconferences.com/marketing.aspx Henry Stewart provides courses to the property industry. In marketing, they offer specialist marketing analytics and digital asset management courses. Its “Introduction to property” courses are particularly useful for those who are new to the industry

Consultants

Some of the consultants in the sector who may also be able to help with training and coaching are:
www.kimtasso.com
http://www.consortiamarketing.co.uk/ is
http://www.propertyadd.com/
http://www.estateagencyinsight.co.uk/ There are some audio seminars which help with general business development issues

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2 Comments on “Training options for turning a PA into a marketing assistant

  1. Admiring the dedication you put into your website and detailed information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed information. Great read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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