Monday, 20 June 2011

(Nearly) six months in, how's marketing outside London?

"When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

Samuel Johnson

I can't comment on the validity of the great doctor's opinion of 17th century London. However, six months after leaving the capital and moving to Leeds, I would like to state that in 2011 it is, categorically, bollocks. I'm having a great time.

There's no doubt that life as a marketer in Leeds is different. I'm not working with quite such glamorous brands (though you'd still have heard of plenty of them; it's not that much of a backwater) but in comparison to household names in London, the challenges of working with our clients are different and very refreshing. To sell a piece of research, we've often got to convince the owner of a business that it's worth spending his own money on. It's money that would otherwise accrue to him, personally, as profit. Persuading a brand manager who has £100k for research already pencilled into his annual budget, to part with some of it for your particular flavour of research, is much easier.

On the other hand, Brilliant's client base is refining and focussing what I do as an analyst. The econometrics we sell is more like the econometrics I'd do for my own business; a lot of the fat has gone and it's geared to getting the right answer to a specific question, as quickly as possible. 'Interesting' research is still interesting, but the majority of our clients aren't willing to pay for it. Persuade them that you can make their advertising 10% more efficient though and the chequebook opens, although they bargain a lot harder than in London too. It's probably a Yorkshire thing.

So, a bit less glamorous but I'm enjoying the work a lot. If it's important to you to be waiting in reception at Canary Wharf rather than at a business park on the edge of Sheffield though, then it's probably not the place for you.

If you hate that tube ride to Canary Wharf. If it's really starting to drag, then keep reading. Move out of London and your work-life balance can change out of all recognition.

You may have to compromise on a bit of reflected glory from your client list, but you'll do the same job for essentially the same money. Life is cheaper outside London. Much cheaper. Swap your pokey Clapham flat for a house. Yes, an actual house with a garden, a garage, a dining table and an upstairs. You can have friends round and not have to eat off your laps on the sofa.

Go for a jog and it's along a canal towpath, not down New Cross High Street.

Everybody at Brilliant works hard. Like our clients, there's not a lot of fat on the business because we're smaller so it would be more noticeable. Working hard means arriving before 9am (not 9.30 - that was shock!) but most people have gone by 6.00 and the office is almost always empty by 6.30. I'm not entirely sure why, as we're still the same kind of marketing people, but my theory is that the environment outside the office is so much nicer that you want to spend time in it. You get finished on time rather than dragging things out. With a tube ride and my Lewisham flat to look forward to, why not stay till 7.30?

I don't want to be down on London and it was great while it lasted. It also set me up to be able to do this job. The move is working though and I can't ever see going back.

The last one - and the reason why I'm looking forward to the proper summer arriving so much - is that if you like outdoor pass-times then you can do them in the evening not just at the weekend. The outdoors (the proper, green, countryside outdoors) also isn't over an hour's drive away. I love paragliding (I might have mentioned it...) and have just taken up windsurfing. If the weather forecast's right, I can be kitted up on a lake, or in the middle of nowhere up a hill in the Pennines by 6.30. Tonight will be Nont Sarah's.

Nonts doesn't look like this right now, but winter could be fun too...

Dr. Johnson was right, in a way; London does offer all that life can afford. Unfortunately a marketer cannot afford all that London can offer and fortunately there are some things that money can't buy.

Unhappy in London? Don't just change job and hope things will improve. My advice would be to try getting out. If it goes wrong, you can always go back.

If you're like me, then I promise you won't.

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