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It’s National Apprenticeship Week here in the UK. So, the perfect time to take a look at how a growing business might usefully bring an inexperienced marketer into their team. Taking on a ‘marketing doer’  in their first job is often a good move in a scaling business. I asked Rachael Wheatley, who supervised the curriculum design for the Working Knowledge Academy (the only apprenticeship with Watertight Marketing baked in), to help us explore the best ways to do this. ~ Bryony Thomas, Author | Watertight Marketing

A marketing apprentice could be your first appointment into a marketing role, or perhaps you’re building your team with a new recruit?

Either way, you’re considering bringing a new person on-board within a marketing apprenticeship who doesn’t have any experience. Of marketing and/or work!

See: Resourcing marketing; agency, consultant or employee?

Three things to consider when appointing a marketing apprentice…

  • Introducing them to your business, how you do things and what your business is all about.
  • Identifying what skills and knowledge your new recruit needs and wants to develop.
  • How to support them.

1) Introducing a marketing apprentice to your business

Marketing only works effectively if it directly links to your business goals and plans. This means your marketing apprentice needs to understand how the company works, the story behind it and its purpose. When your new marketer arrives, you will no doubt arrange an induction and to meet colleagues.

Make sure this introduction includes:

  • Sharing how the company started, its protagonists, ambitions, plans for the future, how you’re organised, who does what.
  • How you see marketing, its place in the business, how others contribute to marketing and BD.
  • Key people your new marketer will communicate with.
  • What you sell, to whom.
  • The marketplace, what’s happening at the moment, on the horizon changes, trends – anything that will help give your marketer the context for what you sell.

Top Tip: Set up one-to-ones with all key people in the first week. Consider arranging job shadowing for one or two roles within the first six months. For instance, as a marketer it’s useful to sit with customer facing people or go out with sales people to really understand what they do and have direct contact with customers.

2) Identifying skills and knowledge gaps

An inexperienced marketer is likely to need ‘proper’ training in marketing. This can either from someone within the business who has the experience and can mentor them. When there is no-one with that experience, in marketing, you will need to look to outside organisations who can equip them with the tools and framework they’ll need to think and plan and do a really great job for you. This is exactly where a formal apprenticeship can work well.

Top Tip: A good starting point is to look at the capabilities they will need as a good marketer and those that you need them to have to do their job well. This can then be developed into a training plan. They will see a career path and you can rest assured they will be learning the skills they need for your business.

Getting on with it is no substitute for formal training. On the job training and coaching are essential too, but any credible marketer will also have some qualification. Offering a marketing apprenticeship also makes the role attractive to candidates who will understandably want to build their CV. This will mean they understand the principles of marketing, and how to apply the theory in practice. Coupled with developing skills and knowledge in specific platforms and techniques (particularly in a moving digital marketing context), it will stand them in excellent stead in their career and means they will be the most effective and productive they can be. If you don’t have an experienced marketer in the business already, look at having an access to a coach or mentor to support them. Being a sole marketer in a business can be lonely!

See: The life of a lonely marketer

Top Tip: Look for a marketing apprenticeship programme that specialises in people new in the world of work, that considers their wider support needs and that puts marketing in a strategic context – rather than just the specific marketing technical skills. Knowing what buttons to press does not mean they’ll know what to say. 

3) How to support a marketing first jobber

There is no point in recruiting a marketing apprentice and then leaving them to their own devices. They won’t thrive. They won’t be productive. And, they’ll probably leave.

In addition to specific marketing training and mentoring, they will need support for a few months in three areas:

  • Understanding how work works!
  • Your sector and marketplace which they may not know anything about to start with.
  • Your business and navigating the nuances of how things are done or who to talk to about what.
  • Managing their performance and your expectations of them, keeping lines of communication open so you can check in with them and they with you about how things are going. This will involve their on-going personal development and ensuring they have what’s needed to do their very best work.

Top Tip: As well as frequent and easy access to yourself, set them up with a buddy within the business who is responsible for showing them the ropes and is available to answer questions, invite them to company social events, make them feel welcome.

Your expectations of them are an area to give particular focus. In the previous post, Bryony commented that “asking a marketing first jobber to set the marketing strategy is a bit like asking someone to give birth before they’ve even starting menstruating.”

Top Tip: Having an experienced mentor for them is a great idea. If this is your first time managing someone in a marketing role, or someone in a first job, you should probably have them mentor you too. This will help you set realistic expectations and recognise the time lag from training to results. 

Bringing in an inexperienced marketer can be a great way to resource your growing business. Offering a marketing apprenticeship means giving someone a real career opportunity. But, to succeed – for them and for you – it needs to be done with real consideration, and a plan. If you don’t have this in place, however much you saved on salary or by accessing government funding will be lost in frustration.

By Rachael Wheatley, Watertight Marketing Master Practitioner

Rachael Wheatley

Rachael Wheatley

Watertight Marketing Certified Practitioner

Rachael is a strategic marketing consultant in the South West with a particular strength for integrating sales and marketing for long-term commercial success. She focuses on knowledge businesses and professional services.

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