Words of Wisdom When Starting from Scratch

Amanda Dodge


December 13, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Image of wooden cutout reading "Words of wisdom." Concept for words of wisdom when starting from scratch in content marketing.

Marketers rarely have to start with a completely clean slate. They’ll take on a client who has a history with the company or join a team that’s already built a foundation; however, sometimes they’re handed a new company that has never had a marketing budget or enter an industry completely foreign to their team. Here are a few words of wisdom when you don’t know where to start.

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. – David Brinkley

 Track Everything from the Beginning

Starting from scratch isn’t easy. Sometimes the only win for the week is still having a job or gaining three more Twitter followers. However, tracking progress from the beginning builds good habits for the future. (Plus, it’s a lot easier to filter your 25 Twitter followers into lists and then add new ones in as they arrive then to wait until you have a following of 850 and they’re horribly unorganized.)

The sooner you begin tracking social mentions, news hits, and conversions, the sooner you can compare what was to what is. You’ll have a longer time frame to see if growth is stagnating or decreasing and where improvements need to be made.

Plus, take it from us, looking at your analytics and watching the line head to the top of the chart is always fun.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. – Napoleon Bonaparte

Watch and Learn

Don’t get me wrong, I live in a world of trial and error followed by asking forgiveness instead of permission, but there’s something to be said for watching what the other guy is doing instead of making the mistake yourself.

In reality shows like Survivor and Wipeout, competitors want their competition to run the gauntlet first so they can see what strategies are effective and what times they need to beat. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or hit every single branch when falling out of the marketing tree. Let your competition break a few branches for you with their own mistakes.

If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? – John Wooden

Take Your Time to Get it Right

Waiting a month or two to improve your website before launching it is better than launching a sub-par site with poor content and bad design.

Thoroughly researching an event or organization before getting involved is better than jumping in head first and regretting it later.

When people are on time crunches, products tend to get sloppy. It’s better to take your time to do something right than to start off on a bad foot.

Please think about your legacy, because you’re writing it every day. – Gary Vaynerchuck

Build a Foundation for the Next Person

A few months back we created a guide for moving on when your content manager leaves. One of the sections presented steps you can take today to make your successor’s transition easier.

Begin creating process docs for newsletters, software, and systems that you use. Making them now will save you time from having to create them when another person joins your team.

It also helps to make these early on because they will help ingrain the protocol into your mind. You don’t really know something until you can teach it to someone else. As you get used to the email service or logo guidelines you can create a document explaining the necessary steps for the next person to use.

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. – Will Rogers

Build a Little Bit as You Go

Let’s use media relations as an example of this. If you reach out to 10 different media outlets and get coverage from five of them, then your goal for the next event should be coverage from at least six different media outlets after reaching out to 12.

Of course, you’re flawlessly tracking who you reach out to and what the results were, right? Remember the “track everything” lesson from the beginning? Even if only one outlet runs your story, it’s better than none. If 25 outlets pick it up, you can always shoot for 26 in the next round.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much ― Helen Keller

Involve other People in the Process

Bounce ideas off of your coworkers who have been in similar situations, ask for advice on Quora, LinkedIn, and Twitter, or bring in an intern to give you a fresh perspective. Many people believe that marketing is a two-person job because having a different brain to improve on ideas or veto bad ones creates a better product.

Involving other people also ties into the above bullet point of building a foundation for the next person. When someone leaves a company, you don’t want everyone cleaning up after you and piecing together your strategy.

Successful people are the ones who are breaking the rules. – Seth Godin

Evaluate Strategies and Tactics

Any scientist will tell you that a sample size of one is an insufficient data set. If you try something and fail, try to figure out why. Try the tactic again with a few changes and see if there’s any difference.

Evaluating a strategy from the beginning presents the opportunity to come back to it in the future. A few months down the line you’ll be older, wiser, and might have more resources. You might be able to spot a fatal error you made on your end that will be prevented the next time around.

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations. – Steve Jobs

You Will Fail Often

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of failures. If this is the first time working with the client, you’ll learn the best and worst ways to communicate with them – most likely from a communication breakdown.

As content marketers, we can spot the SEO newbies immediately when they say things like “SERPs pages” or have other jargon snafus. Yes they’re noobs now, but give them a few months and they’ll be leading webinars and Twitter chats with the upmost confidence. Failure is a learning experience, embrace the scars.

CopyPress’ Advice

Our CEO, Dave Snyder, ends our Friday afternoon meetings with the story of the 20 Mile March. We make fun of him for it constantly and could recite the story from memory by now. But looking back at where CopyPress has come in the past year, and overcoming the months where hitting 20 miles seemed impossible, it’s a pretty accurate representation of how our company functions. I hope you were able to take away a grain of insight or two from this article and can face your upcoming challenges head on.

Author Image - Amanda Dodge
Amanda Dodge

CopyPress writer

More from the author:

Read More About Content Creation