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Amanda Cordner: Thriving in a Male-dominated Marketing Niche

By Amanda Cordner, Founder & Director, Sea Salt Marketing.

Despite many seeing marketing as a female-dominated industry, the truth is far more complicated. According to a study by Axxon, women are more likely to enter a marketing career (21% versus 16% of men) but men are more likely to rise in the ranks and achieve senior status.

The study unearthed a damning truth: men dominate senior marketing positions. The majority of responders revealed that the top position at their organisation were occupied by a man (62% as opposed to 38% women).

I started my boutique marketing agency Sea Salt Marketing four years ago to break away from the corporate marketing world, with a desire to help small businesses prosper and generate tangible results. I enjoyed seeing how my work impacted real people's livelihoods, and I entered the realm of marketing for the building and trade industry. This now sees me working in an area compromised of largely male competitors, with a clientele that is majority male. When I started the business, I had no experience in the construction industry, as my marketing background was in beauty, travel and FMCG. This was an advantage, as I could look at the industry with fresh eyes and approach marketing for builders from a more feminine perspective.

As with most industries when you break in, you come up against those companies that have been “doing it this way forever”, and it is fair to say there is a bit of a boy’s club. They didn’t always see a need to change, and the tried everything they could to halt innovation and dampen my fresh approach. Despite these challenges, many builders were open to my view on the industry and my collaborative approach to business. Sea Salt Marketing has continued to thrive, and it’s been motivating to see my clients’ businesses grow and flourish alongside my own. For many of my long-term clients, Sea Salt is now viewed as extension of their own team. Starting my own business has been a learning experience, and I’ve garnered plenty of tools for succeeding in a male-dominated marketing niche along the way. Here are my top tips.

Adapt your communication style

It can be tempting to lead with a similar style to that of your background (e.g. corporate). But what works in one world doesn’t always work in another. Many of the male-dominated marketing agencies that cater to the building trade run with a very aggressive, sales-driven approach. They tend to overpromise under deliver and entrap clients in a lock-in contract. All of which can leave a very bad taste in the client’s mouth.

"What works in one world doesn’t always work in another."

Try to be more collaborative and down-to-earth. Talk about the client’s brand, not just marketing – as clients won’t always understand what it means to be a brand custodian. Educate them on why branding is important and create tactics to help strengthen their brand, which will work better for both parties in the long run.

Clients connect to a refreshing, relaxed and worry-free approach. They don’t have the time for marketing fluff or jargon; they want plans and ideas presented in straight-forward and simple terms. Instead of promising them the world, educate your clients about what it means to build their brand.

Invest in your clients’ success It’s valuable to break away from the corporate model of success, which can leave those who run small businesses feeling alienated and put off by the idea of working with a marketing team.

It can sometimes be helpful to focus less on the bottom line. Rather, strive to see your clients prosper. At Sea Salt we don’t have lock-in contracts and we bill at the end of the month – only after we’ve delivered results and our clients are happy. This is different to large marketing agencies where your small business may be in the hands of an account manager with limited professional experience.

Be passionate about the long game. Invest in your clients’ brands and focus on long-term success. This is especially pertinent in the construction trade, where builders are looking for stability and balance, and want to worry less about where their next enquiry is coming from.

Build a team of passionate experts

An important thing to remember is that passion can be more valuable than experience. Your team don’t necessarily have to be from the same background – expand your search outward to create a unique and driven team that will deliver results.

At Sea Salt, we’ve assembled a team of young and enthusiastic professionals from a range of different backgrounds – from journalism, to design and branding – who are great at what they do and bring their unique expertise to the business.

A majority of the Sea Salt team female and many also run their own projects and businesses on the side. This is essential to promoting an entrepreneurial spirit at your business – not only does it produce a happier and more encouraging space, it can see innovative and creative problem-solving funnel back into your workplace.

I’m so excited to see what the future holds for Sea Salt. But no matter where the business progresses, I’ll always be thankful to be surrounded by great clients and a talented team who make running a boutique marketing agency an exciting and enriching experience – despite any challenges we may face!

Amanda Cordner is founder and director at Sea Salt, a digital marketing agency based in Melbourne. If you’d like to keep up with their activities, follow along on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.


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