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.

Marketing in a Sales-Driven Culture

I have been working as a Marketing Manager at my current company, Texcan, for a couple of years now. When I took on the role, I knew from the onset that it would be an interesting challenge. Texcan, a distributor of cable and wire for various industrial markets, is a sales-driven organization. Marketing, although deemed important, was not exactly at the forefront when I started.

Personally, I viewed the role as a great opportunity to make an impact, while taking the lead in creating and growing a more strategic marketing mindset in the organization. Although there is plenty of work to do, much has changed during my tenure. Senior management and sales see marketing as a critical function and asset in driving growth, both through new customer acquisition and incremental sales amongst current customers. Further, marketing now has a more prominent role to play in corporate planning.

How was this achieved? Here are a few simple steps that I took.

Build Trust and Relationships

It goes without saying that relationships are such a cornerstone in business. From the outset, I made an effort to build personal relationships with the sales team. I listened to them, to gain an understanding of their unique sales challenges. Making an effort to attend become involved with sales meetings, and in general just make myself accessible, has made a difference.

Educate Colleagues

A strong component of my role at Texcan is to educate staff on the value of marketing, and provide a vision for what is possible. I consider myself to have a strong grounding in marketing fundamentals, I suppose the classic 4P’s we all learn. However, I also spend at least an hour each day educating myself on the latest in business and marketing innovations. Through communication with sales and senior management, some great ideas have been generated.

Be Proactive

Change can be hard, often times it’s much easier to stick to the status quo. Armed with insights gained from challenges faced by our sales team, I was assertive in providing strategic recommendations to senior management. I outlined challenges faced by our sales team, as well as opportunities, with corresponding strategies to execute and intended results. No, not all of my recommendations were approved, but some were. More importantly, however, by providing valuable insights I have gained management’s ear.

Demonstrate Results

Wherever and whenever possible, I communicate results of our marketing programs to senior management. For example, last year we re-launched our website in conjunction with a focus on search engine optimization. Our Google ranking, corresponding website traffic, and qualified leads from our contact form have all increased significantly. Senior management has gained confidence that our marketing initiatives generate strong returns, and as result funding has increased.

Have Patience

Change doesn’t happen overnight! It’s been a process at Texcan, and change is still ongoing. However, it’s been neat to see the transformation that has already occurred.

Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Often times, small business owners underestimate the value of marketing in growing sales and generating revenue. As such, they don’t devote nearly enough resources – in terms of talent and money – to the marketing function. To be fair, many small business owners juggle a multitude of tasks, making it easy for marketing to get lost in the mix. However, even small investments in marketing can make a large difference.

Here are some ways in which small businesses can build awareness about their products and services.

1. Build a presence on social networking websites. Create a group for your business on Facebook. Invite all of your friends and contacts to join,and send periodic updates about your business (for example, new products or services offered) through the group. It’s entirely free, and fairly easy to manage.

2. Think out of the box, and be creative with your marketing strategies and tactics. Maybe you’ve always ran an ad for your business in the local paper. Instead, perhaps consider investing an incentive program that will entice your current customers to invite others to sample your products or services. Remember, the most powerful form of advertising is word-of-mouth!

3. Sponsor a community event that is relevant to your business and your target market. Show your customers, or potential customers, that you care about your community, and you will help bond them to your brand.