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They say there is a fine line between bravery and insanity and I know now exactly where that line is! It’s in Clifton, in Bristol, above the shops on the Triangle… and it’s about half way across the middle of the 3Sixty office. Digital Marketing specialist agency, 3Sixty, first came into my consciousness at a PMForum event a couple of months ago. MD, Chris Thurling’s talk on social media and its uses in professional services lit a fire in me to know more… and what do I always tell people who want to learn about marketing? You have to learn on the job. So… in a bid to practice what I preach… for the first time in over a decade I found myself starting work experience!

There were two things that I found instantly eye-opening. The first was how little I knew about digital marketing and how much there was to learn… but that’s a bit of a no-brainer really (hence the work experience). The second, however, was suddenly finding myself in an agency environment having spent years on the other side of the fence. What I mean by that is that I have spent the whole of my career being the “client from hell” and employing agencies like 3Sixty. Now, all of a sudden I seemed to be doing a poacher turned game-keeper and I wasn’t sure I had the first clue whether I was going to be any use at coming up with the answers (rather than paying someone else to).

Ok…. so I’ve only done a day so far (with, one hopes – if they’ll have me back – many more to come). I don’t pretend to be an expert just yet. It’s been good for me though. It was good for me to be in an environment where I really didn’t know anything (not being arrogant but when you’re employed as the Marketing Consultant one hopes that that isn’t normally the case). It was also a real pleasure to be given a task to research a presentation on social media. I spent the whole day looking through articles and websites and actually having the time to make notes and learn… not a luxury that happens to me very often.

I can’t imagine that I was a huge amount of value to them (although I did become a dab hand at answering the phone and forwarding calls) but I certainly gained a lot for myself. I learnt about methods of using social media and digital marketing that I never imagined. I got time to think about the application of this within professional services (and time to realise that we’re really missing a trick by not doing it). Importantly… it only took a matter of minutes for me to realise that there really is a benefit to employing specialist expertise, such as at 3Sixty. There’s a tendency to see it as hype and “nothing a good design agency can’t do” but I have to say that I’ve been converted to disagree. I overheard a conversation where they were discussing a website that had been designed by a “print and web” agency (rather than a Digital Marketing agency) and I came to realise how much better an understanding of “ROI” an agency like 3Sixty actually has. You see… I think what makes their expertise stand out is that they aren’t turning out websites and digital marketing solutions that are already out of date. Every person in the room has a real understanding of techniques and ideas needed to genuinely maximise potential. They’re thinking ahead to marketing and business development opportunities that will allow you to get real use out of the site and your online activities for time to come. It was quite inspiring to realise that, in many ways, the website isn’t the end of the project… it’s only the start.

Meanwhile… back in professional services, I saw this article today. I wonder if people are condemning social media because they haven’t actually taken the time to really learn about it? I really had my eyes opened to the concept that if we only look for examples of what other “like” organisations have done then we’re missing out on being truly inspired. It’s actually by keeping an open mind that we start to see the benefits of learning from others (both consumers and businesses). My day spent researching was supposed to focus on B2B but the reality was that the real opportunities lie, not in copying, but in developing. It may be a primarily B2C (or even C2C) tool at the moment but the really savvy businesses and firms are the ones taking the time to learn from them and “pinch” a few ideas for themselves.

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