In September 2020, 10 learners from across Guernsey started their journey with Squared Online: a Digital Marketing and Leadership course developed with Google, powered by AVADO and delivered through Digital Greenhouse.
The fully funded places for Guernsey residents were made possible through the Committee for Economic Development’s SMART Guernsey programme, which seeks to support islanders and local businesses to develop the skills needed to succeed in a digital world.
With the first cohort of learners just graduating, we caught up with Carola Zoni to hear about her journey so far.
What interested you in the Squared Online programme initially?
Last summer, after years spent working in the Financial Services industry, I was looking for a new challenge and was considering launching my own business. At the time, I had been planning how I would identify and reach my target customers and pretty early on, I realised that the business would need to have an online presence to have any chance of succeeding.
However, my own exposure to marketing had been mostly limited to traditional strategies and approaches that I’d picked up during my professional studies. I had no clue of how I could really leverage any of the digital channels – or how to use them to reach and attract my customers. Despite undertaking various free online courses to further my understanding of digital, those courses lacked the depth necessary to drive the digital approach I knew I needed for my own business.
So, when I saw Digital Greenhouse advertising sponsored places for the Squared Online digital marketing and leadership course, I was immediately interested.
Initially, I really liked that the qualification had been developed with Google, and that the course had been guided by industry experts. The contents of the programme were extensive, exploring how to respond to digital disruption, become customer-centric, use data to inform business decisions – and much more.
Given the diversity and six-month duration of the course, I could see that Squared Online would build on my existing knowledge of traditional marketing, and provide me with the depth necessary to leverage digital to reach my customers.
What new trends do you see impacting local businesses?
One key challenge that I encountered when thinking about establishing a business was the geographical barriers I would face being situated in Guernsey – or any island jurisdiction.
Traditionally, small businesses in Guernsey have operated in a small market – and opportunities to sell globally have been limited to a select few. But now, mobile technology and digital connectivity means that businesses can reach global populations, break down traditional geographical and language barriers, and eradicate borders.
For Guernsey, this puts the entirety of the world’s networked population and business community at our door, and opportunities for growth are immense. Retailers can sell to customers across the world in the same way they market to customers at home in Guernsey. But to leverage mobile’s full potential, we need the skills necessary to capitalise on the profound ways in which it has impacted our behaviours and expectations.
I’ve learnt that mobile underpins nearly every marketing channel, and a mobile-first approach is critical to enable businesses to meet their customers in the moments that matter to them. When we’re all increasingly using our phones to research, purchase, and socialise, retailers’ brands have to “be there, be useful, and be quick.”
How has your learning experience helped you to think about your own business ambitions?
It sounds obvious, but my main takeaway was the absolute necessity of putting your customer first. Customer centricity is fundamental for businesses to thrive today, and the course shares frameworks and presents best practices and tools to help you to put the customer at the heart of everything you do.
As somebody looking to set up their own business, pairing this customer centricity with a truly digital first mindset is absolutely crucial. Technology needs to be a part of your initial strategy from the outset, as soon as you begin visualising the experiences that you want your customer to have.
Evaluate the tools and technology at your fingertips with a customer-first mindset: what do your customers need? How can you help to reduce or solve their problems? Asking these questions really helped me consider my ambitions and the technology I would need to add value to my customers’ lives.
Beyond that, the course really helps to develop four key leadership attributes, which are essential for businesses to survive the pressure of digital disruption. These attributes are:
- Championing digital
Organisations with siloed teams will struggle to have a complete view of the customer journey – creating barriers to all kinds to digital transformation. Unless everybody in the business is brought into the impact of what you’re doing, people will only feel the pain of transformation, and not the benefits.
If you can be the voice of the customer, if you can engage others across functions and organisational structures and convince them to work together towards a single vision of the future – then you’ll have a powerful way to drive a culture of collaboration and customer centricity within your organisation.
Can you tell us about what you learned throughout the course? What have been the highlights?
I have learnt a lot! I really enjoyed learning about the digital marketing concepts and frameworks to identify customer needs and create the right message to reach them at the right time across the customer journey.
It was also interesting to see how technology can be leveraged to deliver that message in the right moment. As someone who has never interacted with a chatbot or signed up for Instagram, the course gave me a great opportunity to understand what others are doing. Learning how search, display and programmatic advertising works was inspiring, and made me realised how I personally am not as “connected” a person as possibly a millennial would be!
Along with live classes and campus activities, there is also a group project to work on during every module – which gives us the opportunity to put our new skills into practice. In particular, teamworking and collaboration, as we’re all encouraged to be digital leaders.
I have to say that the group project experience was challenging at times – but I can look back now and see that we did a good job. They do throw you into the deep end as each week you’re asked to apply the course learnings to your project and present a case for change - but it is a great experience and an opportunity to work with people all across the world.
How might other people or businesses benefit from digital marketing and leadership expertise? Would you recommend Squared Online?
Looking back, I believe I would have benefited from undertaking the course during my time in Financial Services. The industry has changed significantly after years of disruption and transformation. So, while marketing is obviously a core component of the course, what Squared Online also gives you is the ability to manage and drive change.
I’ve learnt a lot about what it means to be a positive change maker over the past six months, having undertaken activities to drive new ways of working and facilitate global networking. It’s these skills that really equip learners to lead in the digital age.
Secondly, I think the course really encourages a culture of agility and experimentation. While there is much to be decided about my own business, I know that testing and exploration will play an important role in the culture of my company.
An equally critical part of this equation is the necessity to leverage data to inform hypotheses, observe results, and create insights. Undertaking the course does, I believe, give some competitive advantage in this space – while every business has customers, technologies, and data available, having the skills to unlock the full value of each of these is altogether more challenging.
And finally, I think that the course’s core digital marketing and leadership skills can benefit any business that wants to thrive in this digital era. It’s clear that the way that customers interact with brands is changing. Digital is here to stay.
I would definitely recommend the course to everyone that wants to know more about digital marketing. Particularly if you’re somebody who is energised by driving change and unlocking value in your own organisation: Squared Online gives you the tools to make things happen.
Carola Zoni has been a fiduciary executive in Guernsey with 20 years’ experience in client services and leadership roles, currently looking for something new.
Her passion for project management, continuous learning and exploring possibilities to launch her own business, has driven her to embark into the Squared Online digital marketing and leadership programme to expand her digital marketing understanding, its benefits and how it can be effectively used to set up and grow a business.
To learn more about the Squared Online digital marketing course and other opportunities available under the Committee for Economic Development’s SMART Guernsey programme, visit Digital Greenhouse.