Marketing Interview with Briaunna Hickman
Updated: Jun 12
In our final week of module 2, I had one role left, marketing. I interviewed a Praxis alumni named Briaunna Hickman about her experience in a marketing role.
How did you go from college dropout to Praxis?
It's funny, I don't know if you've heard of the Zitting family, they're popular within the Praxis community. I had moved for college, and that's where I met one of my close friends, Diana Zitting, who also went through Praxis. I was already late to starting college. I had to wait a semester because I was in military training. So I was a semester late, I loved math but I hated my math class. I was going to school for marketing and Diana had gone through Praxis and worked for a platform that was a marketing agency for realtors. She was my age and doing way better than I was in college, and I got her talking about it. I came to the conclusion college wasn't necessary for what I wanted to do, and I would've rather gotten a jump start on my career than going through four years of college and not being guaranteed a job at the end.
How did you get involved in marketing before Praxis?
I was a police officer in the military, but I did join the military originally to pay for college. I knew what I wanted to do from a very young age, so when I started my freshman year of high school, my school, which was in Arkansas, encouraged students to get involved in a field. They had it organized such that if you wanted to go into say a business field, they had all these extracurriculars, all of these clubs. My freshman year I decided to give marketing, small business, and accounting a shot. From there, I knew I wanted to work in the business realm. As I got older, I narrowed that down to marketing because of the creativity it allows.
That school system sounds cool. Do you think it was just good for you or for the whole class?
I think everyone kind of enjoyed it, whether we thought we did at the time or not. It was a very large school, at the time we had close to 4500 students. It was very diverse, being that large. I think a lot of students benefited from it though because it's almost like a head start for college and picking a major. In college, you feel pressure for picking a field, but with this set up they allowed us to dabble and see what we were really good at, and we didn't have to stay in something we didn't like. I think everyone benefited from it in the long run.
What marketing role did you start off in and is it different now?
I've only been at my current position for the last three and a half months. I got hired as a marketing coordinator. My title hasn't really changed, but my role definitely has. I also work as a social media coordinator for a company called Dealer Cue. They had no social media marketing presence until I got hired. We had solely done display advertising. So when I was hired I was taught how to do the display advertising through a program called AppNexus. Once we got further in social media came in to play, though our product is still in development. I guess my title has changed a little bit. My company and I regard my role as a media marketing manager because nobody else knows how to do it, unfortunately.
Why is marketing important to the business?
Marketing is important to every business because it brings in revenue. There's a study that shows the more times you put something in front of people, the more likely they are to buy it. For example, because I have been targeted recently, I saw an ad for a FabFitFun box, and I was like, cool, but I don't need that. But then they started serving me with ads, and videos, and endorsements by celebrities I follow. The more they put it in front of me, the closer and closer I got to purchasing. The more you put yourself in front of that person that's looking at your product or service, the more likely they are to end up working with your company. In my business specifically it's very important because one of our products is solely a marketing product, so we do marketing for car dealerships. That's kind of where my role is. I do some marketing for my company, but the majority of what I do is marketing for dealerships across the U.S.
What are the best skills you've gained since entering this role?
I have definitely improved my marketing skills as well as my creative skills, creating ads. Analyzing data, that's a big thing I didn't really realize was in marketing. You have to run different tests and see what works the best. Whenever I do ads, I need to know, does putting text at the very bottom work best, or does putting it on a photo make it catch peoples' eye more. Data analysis is something I've learned a lot about. Another big one is how determined you have to be, especially in a start-up role, because things are always changing. You always have to adapt and overcome. You have to learn to go with the flow if things do change, and don't stress yourself out about it.
How do you analyze the data that comes in? Is it manual or automatic?
It depends on what you're working with. We are trying to make our recording automated, but as of right now it's all manual. We use different products to do our advertising. Display advertising, for example, would be a little ad you see while you're scrolling through the New York Times. To put that there we use AppNexus. We upload our ad, choose our audience, and all of those sorts of things. AppNexus does a minimum amount of recording. I can choose "for these five creatives that are GMCs" I'm running an ad for, and I can see how many people have seen it, clicked on it. That reporting is done for us, but the reporting we give our dealers, like how much their website traffic has changed overnight, how their sales have gone up from last year, all that is manual. We pull that from different products that we have. In marketing, you'll review how an ad does, change something, see how it changes, and draw your conclusions from there. Most companies will have a system that calculates the click-through rates for you.
What does your day to day activity look like?
I have a routine set just to make sure I get all of my tasks done. With managing so many companies, having so many tasks, and being the only person that knows how to do it, I have to make sure that I stay on top of things so they are all getting an equal amount of attention. When I come in I make sure none of our ads sold, and if they did sell I take them down. After that portion of my day, I go through and look at all of our new clients and old clients and make sure everything is up to date. I have the privilege to be able to sit with the COO of the company and the higher-ups. Occasionally I will have a meeting thrown in, so my tasks will change a little bit, but for the most part, I try to keep them on track.
What are the misconceptions about the marketing role?
That it is only creating pictures that people click on. That's totally what I thought it was. "I create an ad and put it out there, I don't need to look at numbers." I thought it would be a lot easier than it is. I still don't think it's hard by any means, but it definitely has a lot more layers than I thought it did.
What's the biggest distinction between marketing and sales you can make?
I think of sales as a more direct way of selling the product. In marketing, you spend a little money and put the ad in front of people. We have a salesgirl that I work with. Where I would do ads, and serve them to someone named Randy on Facebook, and he may see it and not click on it, I would keep serving him the ad in hopes he might click. The sales girl will actually go interact with Randy and get that face to face experience, which is sometimes more personable to the client, other times they don't want to give you the time of day. In a sales role, you have to be okay with rejection and the client consistently. I just have to deal with my laptop.
So is it like passive and active selling?
I don't know what that means?
Marketing is passive because you're not actively engaging with the client.
Yes! That totally makes sense now that you explained it.
What's the hardest or most rewarding part of your job?
The hardest part would be being able to adapt. I can adapt fine, I think I have an issue with knowing that I've been doing something, but it's not sufficient enough to continue. We've almost changed things a lot, which stresses me out because it means I have to learn the new way of doing things all the time. The most rewarding is when I come in and see that I've sold a vehicle for a company. It gives me butterflies. Also seeing your sales increase, your website traffic increases and being able to show that portfolio of successes to different companies.
Are there any ending thoughts you think people should know about marketing?
That it's not as easy as you may think. Know there is more than just creating ads and putting them up.
Thank you so much for doing this interview!
From Briaunna the biggest thing I learned was the distinction between marketing and sales. She painted a vivid picture of the complexities that can go into this role.