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Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Grace Mantilla

By Academy Xi

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Interior designer turned visual merchandiser Grace Mantilla is carving a new career in digital marketing. A creative at heart, she’s now helping a non-profit build their brand and online presence. 

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Read our chat with her as she shares her story and journey in the digital marketing space.


Tell us about you Grace, your personal and professional career? How did you start? 

My first professional dream was to become an Interior Designer which I managed to achieve when I was living in the Philippines. When I migrated to Australia in 2010, I struggled getting in the same field. To gain work experience, I decided to apply for a role in retail. I became a sales associate and found myself getting naturally appointed to become the in-store Visual Merchandiser. I was blessed with a manager who recognised my skills and urged me to follow that path. Since then, I have been doing Visual Merchandising as a full-time role, as well as contracting individual projects as a freelancer.

What made you decide on upskilling?

I have always been a learner, a consistent student, as my friends would call me. I like to learn new things and challenge myself. Every time I feel that life gets boring, I entertain myself through education. Before the pandemic hit, I was already contemplating on upskilling and hoping to carve a new career path. When the world took a stand still in 2020, I took that as an opportunity to pick a course to study and enrol. I found myself getting immersed in Digital Marketing.

Why did you choose Xi and what made you choose your course?

I was initially interested in learning UX Design. I remember going to one of Academy Xi’s info nights in Sydney to dip my toe in the water. However, I found the learning curve steep, so I decided to switch to Digital Marketing. Plus, a friend of mine suggested it too. 

There were a lot of online courses offering Digital Marketing. I attended a few free intro courses with different organisations and read reviews about several institutions before deciding. I found myself genuinely interested in learning Strategies, Content and Social Media – three areas where I would like to focus my attention. 

To be honest, I cannot even remember why I chose Academy Xi. All I know is that it felt right and somehow the institution made me feel that I belong. I love how they have built a good community of learners and mentors.

The course was very extensive, and I learned more than I expected. It was exciting!

Tell us what you enjoyed most about the whole experience

I found myself looking forward to our Monday night sessions with my classmates and mentor. It was tough to understand the theories at first, but the activities and assessments helped in applying what we have learned so far. The part I enjoyed the most was  the team projects where we worked with real-life clients. I was excited to put my learnings into action! Whilst it was nerve wracking to speak and present to a client, it was rewarding at the same time. Those mini achievements meant so much to me and our team, as well as our mentor.

Were there any personal or professional obstacles that you had to overcome to complete your studies?

I was very blessed to have supportive family, friends, and teammates. Apart from a few concepts and theories that are harder to comprehend (I’m looking at you Programmatic Advertising and Finance Calculations), I feel all went well while I studied. Our mentor was approachable and always ready to give me a hand whenever I get stuck.

Tell us more about what you’re doing at the moment. 

While working part time, I am participating in Academy Xi’s Outcomes Program and hoping to land a role in Digital Marketing. I am starting to expand my network connections on LinkedIn and connect with like-minded people (If that is you, hit connect and send me a note! Here’s my LinkedIn profile!). Oh, and I do yoga daily. It is one of my new year’s resolutions to practice every day for a whole year. Wish me luck!

Has the content you have learnt been useful in your career? Could you give an example of how/where you used the knowledge learnt?

All the content that I have learnt is useful in building my career as a Digital Marketer. It has given me confidence to carve a new path and continue my journey. To keep myself busy and to continually apply my learnings, I am helping a non-profit start-up company build their website and brand awareness online through social media. If you are curious, follow Alt Coffee Beans on Instagram and Facebook to see our progress, although it is very much in its early stages. 

What are your plans for the future?

I am focusing most of my energy on landing a role in Digital Marketing and working on the non-profit project. Whilst my priority is to land a full-time role, I am also open to internships and expanding my experience in an office environment. Continually learning, getting better and sharpening my skills.

Any advice or tips you would like to pass on to our current and future students?

If I am to give any advice for future and current students, it would be to never give up. Yes, it is a cliché, yet one that is also true. Education is an achievement that cannot be taken from you and continuously learning is a gift. Every step you take towards your goal is worth it. Believe in yourself and soon you will find that you are a better person today than you were yesterday.  As for tips? Ask. Always!

Interested in any of our Digital Marketing courses? Whether you’re looking to upskill or completely change your career, we have the right course for you. Explore our Digital Marketing courses today.

Academy Xi Blog

Why Marketing degrees are often out-dated

By Leola Small

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I’ve been in marketing for 20 years now. I started in a shop-front business which was part of a global conglomerate. A lot of our Marketing Strategy and efforts were driven from our parent company based in the USA. I recall having shared folders and waiting for them to upload promotional campaign collateral for our offices to print and place at our POS and window displays. Back then I thought it was so easy.

Four years into that role saw me become the Head of Marketing at a very young age. Looking back at the role I had, I was basically a Marketing Coordinator for Australia. I took direction from the US and formatted the collateral to fit AU standards and ensured marketing campaigns were running, the sales team had the right sales tools and was the point of contact for inbound enquiries.

You could say that I “fell into” Marketing, and although it certainly wasn’t planned, I found that I enjoyed what I was doing and that I was good at it. Having said that, Marketing is a totally different ball game to what it was then.

I ended up studying Marketing part time while working as I wanted to learn more about the fundamentals. It served me well then, and I felt I understood broader marketing as a concept for various markets and audiences.

That was 15 years ago.

If I walked into a Marketing interview now (in 2021) with the knowledge I had learned while studying in 2006 – I absolutely would not get the job. Heck, I wouldn’t hire me!

So what does that mean for traditional education and degrees? Are they still relevant? Do you need a degree to get a job in Marketing?

As a Marketing Manager, these are the 5 things I consider when hiring:

  1. Passion and Curiosity – My favourite values. Over the years I’ve come to value passion and curiosity so much more. I know I can teach someone a new skill, but I can’t teach them to be passionate about it, or instill curiosity to want to learn more. Lifelong learners are my kind of people.
  2. Relevant & Timely Study – Believe it or not, I never look at degrees or qualifications. The reason I don’t is because I know that marketing, especially Digital Marketing, is continuously evolving. The theory you learned 15 years ago (or even 5 years ago!) is either out-dated or has improved. Look at shorter industry-recognised courses which teach content that is on-trend and up to date – such as the rise of influencers, social media marketing and Google Certifications.
  3. Technology Adoption – This one is quite important when seeking new talent for your Marketing team. Tech adoption matters because it identifies your ability to learn new technologies, if you’re tech-agnostic and it can also provide a gauge as to how quickly you might grasp a new system. Martech is constantly evolving and you should be across most technology, with at least an understanding of the function they perform.
  4. Practical Experience – This is a tricky one, especially for applicants who have never worked in Marketing before. But if you can demonstrate that you’ve used marketing principles or concepts before and understand the logic behind it, then you’re one step closer. You just need to be able to nail your pitch around Marketing Strategy or a Marketing Plan – if you can demonstrate your understanding and explain it in practical terms you’re on the right track.
  5. Cultural fit – I didn’t realise how important cultural fit was until I started building larger teams. This (in my opinion) is just as important as experience. You can hire the most skilled person to do the job, but if they don’t work well with the team, it’ll fall apart.

So, do you need a traditional qualification to work in Marketing? The short answer is no, but  you do need to understand relevant and up-to-date marketing concepts, trends and technology.

Good luck!

Academy Xi Blog

Ten Growth Marketing Hacks

By Academy Xi

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Growth Hacking (or growth marketing) is the process of rapidly experimenting, iterating, and improving a business’ marketing strategy to optimise growth. The fascinating thing about Growth Marketing is how varied it is; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Many startup founders and marketers are faced with the mind-boggling challenge of growing a sales funnel without spending bucket loads on expensive marketing activities. But without the right hacks and skills, the solution is mere guesswork, simply crossing your fingers in hope of a good return on investment.

If you don’t have extra cash to splash on extensive marketing activities, growth hacking can help you unlock sustainable and scalable growth from the ground, up.

With emerging technologies and exponential disruption, let’s explore some examples of valuable, easy-to-implement growth hacks that you can utilise in your business:

Growth Hack 1: Dropbox Reciprocates Value

The key to a business’ success is to always be giving.” — Jordan Harbinger

We all know that one friend — the who borrows money from you or asks for a favour without offering anything in return. A brand’s relationship with their customer should be similar to human relationships, based on the same behaviour of ‘give and take’.

One of the most famous examples of clever growth marketing was Dropbox who added a ‘Get Free Space’ button on the front page of their service. If someone referred a friend, both them and their friend received 500MB free space. Sign-ups increased by 60%. Now that’s win-win.

Growth Hack 2: Hotmail Leverages the Power of Referrals

Referral marketing is an effective, less expensive tactic that results in a strong source of lifetime-value (LTV). Research reveals that 71% of marketers agree that referral marketing costs less than traditional customer acquisition, that prioritises the acquisition of new customers.

Back in the 90s, Hotmail massively expanded email use with an intriguing offer at the bottom of their emails: ‘PS: I love you. Get your free e-mail at Hotmail.’ Their strategy was simple and still effective — and at the time generated over 3,000 new clients per day.

The practice of ‘referral marketing’ is a popular hack, and a key part of the ‘pirate funnel’ of growth marketing:

Referral Tip: Use some attention-grabbing copy or images to capture people’s interest.

Growth Hack 3: Airbnb relied on other sites

It might sound counterproductive, but leveraging high-traffic websites can be an effective way to get in front of your customers. An example of a company that has made this work is Airbnb, as they dramatically increased their user base by exploiting an existing high-traffic channel.

Through a smart email integration, Airbnb encouraged Craiglist users in America (similar to Gumtree in Australia) to replicate room ads on Airbnb. This integration worked in a number of ways — directing traffic from Craigslist to Airbnb, and automatically posting any Airbnb ads on Craigslist, effectively doubling Airbnb’s outreach.

To identify existing high-traffic customer channels, step into the shoes of your users:

  • “Where do my users hang out on social media or online?”
  • “How are my users currently solving this pain point?”

Growth Hack 4: Pinterest Generates Buzz

Another method of rapidly expanding your user base is through creating a sense of exclusivity. With one of the top human motivators being exclusivity and fear of missing out (#FOMO), crafting exceptional, seamless user experiences go hand-in-hand to form the ultimate growth hack.

Pinterest pinned their way to the top by following Facebook’s lead and starting out as invite-only. After they built a long waiting list, Pinterest generated a whirlwind buzz within the community. To keep the flames of their initial hype burning, Pinterest cemented their position in the market through the introduction of limitless scrolling.

By including this small feature, the impact on the user experience was phenomenal. Based on the insights captured, Pinterest encouraged longer uninterrupted interactions, and significantly increased the enjoyability of their app.

Growth Hack 5: Slack unlocks ‘Job to be Done’

As part of the Human-Centred Design philosophy within User Experience (UX) Design or Service Design, each product or service has a ‘job’ (need or purpose) that a customer has ‘hired’ it to fulfill.

One remarkable company that has hacked their way to success is Slack, a messaging and task management software. Slack defined their product based on a pain-point. Customers who are disillusioned with time-consuming internal email communication. By leveraging existing communities, the team invited 8,000 people to try the software, without charging them if they didn’t convert afterward. Little did Slack anticipate that their success would snowball into over 8 million daily active users today.

Once you understand what jobs people are striving to do, it becomes easier to predict what products or services they will take up and which will fall flat.” ― Stephen Wunker, author of Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centred Innovation


Growth Hack 6: LinkedIn prioritises SEO

With 93% of all online interactions starting with a search engine, it is obvious that your site’s SEO shouldn’t be neglected. While meta descriptions and canonical URLs can be difficult to grasp, tackling your site’s SEO offers invaluable benefits.

LinkedIn is an example of a company at the forefront of site optimisation. Through a simple change; allowing users to create public profiles that show up organically in search engine results, LinkedIn completely changes the rules of the SEO game.

Before our extensive social media presence, valid search results, when searching a name, company or title, were few and far between. LinkedIn, therefore, had some valuable search-result real-estate, and as a result, were able to create a multi-million dollar viral loop in the business.

Growth Hack 7: YouTube makes it easy to share

From the earliest of days, word-of-mouth is naturally one most powerful marketing tools available. Customer awareness is one of the most difficult stages of the marketing funnel to crack, and any effort to increase awareness puts companies in good stead.

The key to YouTube’s success was to focus on making it easy to share videos and create a community. YouTube presents you with an embed code to easily share on your social media channels, website, or blog. Video suggestions that show up encourage further engagement, making a user more likely to share another video suggested to them.

Sharing Tip: Employ tools like Share Link Generator to encourage people to share your content and expand your outreach. As a personal recommendation carries more social proof than any paid marketing effort, build your brand’s reputation from the bottom up by people that we trust most — our peers.  

Growth Hack 8: Twitter optimises their signup process

For most products, only less than 16% of the market can be classified as an early adopter or innovator and it can be challenging for businesses to get their product in front of the majority.

Twitter experienced the same situation and was able to solve this problem. When Twitter first launched there was a lot of interest and people signed up and shared Twitter across social networks by the thousands. But Twitter hit a roadblock when new users starting dropping off and disengaging.

By thoroughly exploring the key factors that led to the continued use of Twitter, they identified that people were more likely to stick around if they had the following conditions:

  • They followed at least 5-10 people
  • They had selected interests
  • They had created a network

Twitter shaped their sign-up process around this, encouraging users to invest in their account. This dramatically increased engagement.

Growth Hack 9: Tinder thinks outside-the-building

While stepping outside of the building isn’t a growth hack per se, a number of companies have capitalised on growth opportunities with a physical presence.

Tinder swiped their way to success by using offline, in-person strategies to grow user interaction with their app. By identifying their target market, Tinder uncovered that universities were a great place to reach their ideal persona. Through a number of free organised university parties, Tinder significantly increased their customer awareness and acquisition, with only one requirement to attend — that you created an account.

Growth Hack 10: Whatsapp built a great product

The heart of any successful growth hack is to simply build a great product. It may sound cliche but having a great product is a straightforward way of securing user acquisition.

Whatsapp employed clever strategies to enable them to gain 400 million users without spending a dollar on user acquisition. Understanding and delivering key value is the momentum they needed to lead Facebook into buying them out in 2014 for $22 billion. How did they do it? Put simply, they had a great product.

Whatsapp did their research, understood their users’ needs, and continued to iterate until they perfected their product. Nothing else was needed, and they spread like wildfire now with over 450 million daily users in 2018.

Creating a great product tip:  Uncovering what your users want may seem like a monstrous task. Research methods such as developing user personas will uncover who you’re solving for and what their functional, social, emotional, and personal drivers are.

From the outside, it’s hard to tease out what these different examples have in common. The main takeaway should be that no one principle, technique, or offer will suit every business type. The key to growth hacking within any business is to complete thorough testing to determine the approach that will work, and then creatively tackle challenges based on your insights.

Learn how to grow businesses with our range of  Digital Marketing courses.