Chase Your Passion! Why I Left My Career To Learn Digital Marketing!
Guest Post via Clayton Carroll
How did I go from planning for seminary to studying digital marketing? Life has a way of working itself out. I have a degree in philosophy and religion from Covenant College. Covenant, the official college of the Presbyterian church, has probably the most inspiring campus you will find. You literally attend classes on top of Lookout Mountain. If you are ever driving from Nashville south to Atlanta, by Chattanooga you will see Covenant on Lookout Mountain staring back at you.
You Are Not Going to Be a Pastor
I went to Covenant because I needed to get away from Michigan, I wanted to go into the ministry and I had an opportunity to play basketball. I was planning on attending seminary after graduation. I love teaching and I wanted to teach others my passion.
I met my wife in Michigan before my junior year at Covenant. We got married the summer before my final year. A few weeks before my senior year she told me, “You cannot be a pastor”. We talked more about it and both agreed. I was going to work for her parent’s company after I graduated.
Rough Start to My Business Career
On May 9, 2011, two days after graduation, I went to work for an asphalt equipment manufacturing company. The beginning was rough. I was in sales and had a hard time selling anything. I was putting in the work but nothing was scaling. The people I called or visited were normally too busy or not interested. That swirl of emotions and anxiety you feel before a cold call is worth it when something actually materializes. Otherwise, it gets to you after a while.
2011: Back When SEO was Meta Keywords and Meta Descriptions
I had a breakthrough moment in late 2011. I realized that if people came to me, instead of me going to them, maybe I would have more success. This is normal today but 5 years ago, I was not on any social media or knew anything about websites. I had no formal business training and Google was still giving a lot of credit for meta descriptions and meta keywords (that long ago). One day, my father in law told me a great skill to have would be SEO. I took this to heart and poured myself into it. I read, studied, talked to people, everything. I was studying two hours before work and an hour after work to learn about this skill.
People Started Calling Me!
I started working on the company’s website during late 2011 and people started calling me. It took some time but we started ranking top three (then eventually the very top) for keywords and in less than 6 months, the new organic web traffic quadrupled. It used to be one “I’m interested” phone call or email every 2-3 days. That turned into five plus calls/emails a day from people interested in the equipment.
This was not due only to the website. At this time the company was increasing the sales network, started to achieve critical mass exposure in the market and we were working advertising campaigns. I hate to use the word synergy but that’s the best word. Despite these other activities, it is no coincidence that I started getting a lot more phone calls and emails from good leads when I focused on the website.
Fast Forward to Late 2012/ Early 2013
While I was selling off the website and in person, I wore a lot of different hats:
- Working on Falcon direct and dealer bid packages (a municipal bid package for capital equipment can be a nightmare when it is not your specification)
- Dealer and direct sales quoting / general support
- Trade shows, advertising, taking pictures and video production
- Customer training on equipment (in person and over the phone)
There was more stuff but you get the idea. I was really busy. As the company grew, I had to shift my attention away from the website. The website had momentum and it got to be good enough. I started to lose touch with SEO and our keyword rankings slipped but we were still ranking high. Web traffic never really grew, it just stayed study.
Earlier This Year in 2016
This continued into 2016. A few months ago, I picked my head up and realized that I was really out of touch with SEO and a topic new to me, digital marketing. I started seriously looking at how people were using the internet and social media. Our daily internet connected activities are only increasing (500 million tweets a day, over 750 million photos shared on Snapchat etc…). I really started to understand how little I knew about digital marketing, but there is really good opportunity if I could learn it. I wanted to throw myself at it 100%.
Trial By Fire
I lived through trial by fire in the business world. I have formed my business sense from one uncomfortable learning experience after the other. I look at things like the honey badger, I only do something if I can be passionate and learn. At the company I was at, I learned every day until I started reaching the point of diminishing returns. This made it less appealing to stay and got me serious about the next adventure.
Follow Your Passion
I have always been a student at heart and learning is what excites me. With my learning / experience starting to level out and my newfound realization about digital marketing, I decided it was best to leave what I was doing and throw myself into internet and social media marketing. All I knew was I wanted to be in digital marketing, without any idea of where it would take me. You could call me reckless but I found my passion. With my personality, I will follow that passion wherever it takes me.
Criticism as a Motivator
I got some mixed reactions from people when I decided to leave my job. Some people made fun of me, while a lot have supported me. The first thing someone asked me was, “When will you run out of money and have to find a job.” Frankly, I love criticism and doubt. If used properly, criticism is one of the strongest motivators. Sometimes it’s difficult to hear but criticism only makes you stronger, more motivated, more willing to sacrifice and win.
Cut From My High School Basketball Team
I got cut from my high school basketball team when I was a senior. It was rough and I was incredibly embarrassed. I will never forget what someone on the team said after I beat them in Madden, “Yeah, but at least I can beat you in basketball.” Among other things, I let that drive me. I was the only person from my high school team to play varsity basketball in college. Silent revenge, where you don’t tell the person who doubted you they were wrong, is quite wonderful. Every time I started, I laughed to myself how wrong people were about me. Tell me I can’t do something at your own risk.
“You’re a Terrible Sales Person”
I will never forget in 2011 when I cold called someone. The guy was an absolute prick and told me I was a terrible sales person. I let that drive me every day. I worked harder and longer to prove him and everyone else wrong. Why? I am addicted to winning and screw that guy. I used to keep track of how many machines I sold but stopped because I got so busy (after I sale, I would do the Lloyd Braun bell dinging https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20LTYxHON3g). Every time I sold something, I thought of that guy and how every day I was proving him wrong.
Doubters Can Drive You Every Day
You know how motivating it is to remember your haters when they are wrong? I don’t obsess over those that told me I couldn’t win, but I remember them when I do win. I have the drive to compete every day. Competing is fun but winning is better. I’m working every day to get better and learn more. I want to win.
Learn as I Learn – Digital Marketing
When I first got into the digital marketing world, I realized it was going to be a long road. There is a wealth of complicated information. Learning this stuff is hard because anybody can contribute. It’s hard to wade through information and get the nuggets you actually understand.
Since others will take this journey and smaller companies sometimes don’t know much about digital promotion, I thought starting a blog and video channel based on what I learn would provide value. Very simple lessons that focus on one big takeaway I learned from the past few days. Also, I can learn about digital marketing because I am producing content.
YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/c/claytoncarroll
My World Now
I now spend every day immersed in a world that I honestly know little about. Every morning I get up motivated knowing I get to learn about what I love. I retain more each day seeking knowledge like oxygen. I’m hungry, my only mode is to compete at 100% I have no idea what my future holds and I’m not worried. Why? I will work every day to win. I won’t let anything or anyone stop me.
What Would it Take to Be Passionate?
Here is my question for you: If you don’t feel so passionate every day that you feel it in your bones, what would it take to get there? If you search for it, I promise it will come to you. Become self-aware to your strengths, flaws and what drives you. Start talking to others, examine yourself and work hard every day at finding your passion. I work on my dream every day and I love every minute of it.