Why Every Vancouver-based Marketing Professional Should Consider Leaving

I am a Vancouverite. The city is my true home, and will always be near to my heart. I was born and raised there, my beloved family is there, I have many dear friends there, and I literally live and breathe the West Coast lifestyle – the mountains, the ocean and yes, even the odd yoga class

It was for all of these reasons I diligently tried to build my career, in the wonderful world marketing and communications, in Vancouver. I worked hard, and was fortunate to gain significant experience in both B2C and B2B marketing through progressively senior roles at Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company, Ethical Funds and Texcan.

However, there was an underlying problem which at first I ignored, but in reality would have to face head on.

Vancouver is a small city that is not at all conducive to career growth and opportunity for marketing and sales professionals.

I first thought about this when my first boss and mentor Frank Dennis, the President & CEO of Swiss Water, recommended that I move to Toronto to advance my career. Through several subsequent information interviews that I had with marketing and advertising professionals, with experience in both Toronto and Vancouver, their advice was consistent: “move east, young man”.

A few years later, after spending a couple of years too long in Vancouver and an an awesome stint with Chaordix, a Calgary-based startup, I find myself writing this from my apartment in the the High Park area of Toronto. I have a job that I love at Asigra, and have settled nicely into my new city.

If you are in Vancouver, or in another small city looking to develop a career in marketing, I urge you to at least consider moving to a city that will provide you with better opportunity and resources to flourish in your career.

More Opportunities

Canada is unique, particularly compared to the US, because so many tier one and tier two companies are based in the Greater Toronto Area.  With so many companies operating here, there also are numerous ad agencies, communication firms and startups doing work with notable brands. In Vancouver, one can easily count on one hand the number of employers that have large marketing and communications departments.

It is true that competition for jobs is fierce, given the area’s population base, but Vancouver honestly just does not even compare to Toronto when it comes to opportunity. Not even close.

Consider Your Future Lifestyle

There are plenty of smart people in Vancouver, some of whom have cultivated great, rewarding careers in marketing and communications. However, there are also a lot of “consultants” – which honestly means there are a lot of people in Vancouver who are looking for work.

Sadly, salaries are also suppressed in Vancouver. It is a “destination” city, and that fact combined with fewer opportunities and lots of people looking for work means that employers just don’t need to open the salary vault. Simple economics, actually.

In a city which the Economist magazine recently ranked as the most expensive to live in in North America, the math starts to become dangerous – particularly when it comes to assessing one’s lifestyle and savings over the long term.

With a fair degree of certainty, I can say that marketing and communications salaries are higher in Toronto – I estimate by as much as 15 to 20%, when compared to an equivalent role (if you can find one!) in Vancouver.

Learn, Learn, Learn

I have found that both Toronto and Vancouver are rich when it comes to opportunities for learning and meeting people through networking events and seminars. I relish the opportunity I had in Vancouver to contribute to the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, and I always enjoyed attending social media events such as Third Tuesday.

However, there is a very distinct difference when it comes to the opportunity to career-related learning opportunities in Toronto – particularly with respect to social business and digital media.  In Vancouver, there are far too many people who profess to have social “expertise” without any proven, tangible business results to support their claims. These are also the people, in some instances, that are speaking at events. Sorry, I have a problem with that!

In Toronto, because of the size of the marketing and communications ecosystem, the people who who speak at events are able to do so leveraging tangible knowledge that they have developed through experience with top tier national brands.

Through events such as Social Media Week, PodCamp and Third Tuesday Toronto, and through many information interviews I have had since my arrival, I can honestly say that my rate of learning has greatly accelerated over the last year – for which I am very thankful.

Having said all of that, I can honestly say that the social life in Toronto isn’t all that bad either. Actually, it’s a very active, rich and culturally vibrant city. Yes, I am missing the outdoors lifestyle – the mountains and the ocean can’t be replaced. By hey, one can always make do with what one has access too.  Here’s a post I co-authored with Toronto native Debbie Horovitch on how to establish social roots in a new city.

I hope you found this post to be helpful. If you have any questions about making a move for career purposes, or about Toronto in general, please feel free to get in touch – eric.buchegger@gmail.com.

The One Question That Truly Defines Someone’s Level of Social Media Expertise

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to blog. Now that my life is a bit more settled, I hope to be able to write and share my thoughts on a more frequent basis.

Over the last number of months, there’s been a fair bit of discussion in the social media world about how people describe their level of social media “expertise”. Terms like social media “expert”, “evangelist”, “guru” and, surprisingly, even “ninja” are used so frequently, it’s almost like there’s a fire sale on them.

Now, I am all for the progression of social media – I feel that it’s important for companies to leverage available tools and technologies in becoming more social and more human in the way they act, communicate and conduct business.  Having people who are enthusiastic about social media, as well trained in and knowledgeable about social media tools and emerging technologies, is key to this progression.

However, unfortunately there is a significant credibility issue when it comes to people and their often self-proclaimed level of social media expertise. Social is evolving at such a breakneck speed, can anyone really claim to be an expert? In my opinion, no. Further, and more notably, many who claim to be experts actually lack formal marketing or communications experience – social media doesn’t exist by itself in a vacuum, it needs to be integrated with marketing, communications, customer service and other business functions!

This leads me to a key point I would like to make. There is one great way to judge someone’s knowledge of social media. Ask them this question:

What tangible business results have you created through your social media efforts?

The proof should be in the pudding. Even Bruce Lee can’t fake an answer to this question.

Stop Counting, Start Engaging

More and more brands are truly embracing social media as an important component of their overall marketing and communications strategy. That’s the good news. However, unfortunately too many companies are focusing on the wrong metrics when it comes to gauging the success and business value of social media initiatives. Sure, it’s great to have hundred of fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter. But where’s the benefit if fans and followers aren’t engaged with the brand?

Companies must do what they can to inspire engagement and action from their fans – focusing on fan acquisition is simply not sufficient. One hundred engaged fans who can relate to a brand and share it’s core values are more valuable than one thousand passive fans. They’re more likely act in favor of a brand – speaking not only with their wallets, but also through recommendations to friends and family members.

Consumers are looking for companies to be more human-centric, and to show interest in the communities they already participate in. Companies that are currently doing a great job of this include Starbucks, Zappos, Converse and Lululemon. They realize that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are not broadcast mechanisms. Instead, they leverage available tools to build genuine relationships with their fans.

How are the relationships built? By providing a fair exchange of value. Companies must offer something meaningful to fans and followers, perhaps product, service or cause related, that generates goodwill and entices the community to spread word-of-mouth.

It’s not about numbers, it’s about relationships. Genuine relationships that will enable a community to grow and prosper.

Communications Providers and Customer Service

It never ceases to amaze me how often communications providers rely on promises of “better network coverage”, “faster Internet access”, or “better pricing” to differentiate themselves from competitors and lure consumers. Such advertising, in my opinion, does very little to make their brands truly stand out in the consumer mindset. Other than perhaps offering exclusivity for a particular product, such as an iPhone, it seems that you could insert any brand in any campaign.

How can a communications company stand out and be remarkable? How about innovating around customer service? Wouldn’t it be amazing if your cellular provider contacted you mid-contract, to advise you of a better and more cost-effective cell phone plan based on your usage? Would that perhaps build your loyalty to the brand, and reduce the chance of you switching when your contract expires?

Communications companies could also benefit from establishing themselves on social media, to open themselves up to customers and engage with them. Yes, they can and will receive criticisms from customers that can be viewed by anyone. However, putting a human face on a cold, corporate brand has a tremendous upside. As an example, read about Comcast Cares.

What are your thoughts?  How should communications providers innovate, so they can stand out from the competition?