February 21, 2014, by Beth Dawson

Making an impression in the digital marketing world

By Aaron Dicks, Managing Director, ImpressionHead shot of Aaron Dicks, Managing Director of Impression.

Aaron Dicks, Managing Director of Impression, shares his career journey and advice about how to get into the digital marketing sector. Hear from Aaron and other experts in marketing, advertising and PR at our Spotlight On…Advertising, Marketing and PR event

When and how did you become interested in digital marketing?

I’m a self-taught programmer and I built my first website for a family friend when I was 14. I invested months into learning code and how to piece a website together – when my first site went live, the sense of achievement was huge.

I went on to study management and marketing at the University of Leeds where I developed a solid understanding of marketing theory and more traditional aspects of marketing. While studying, I worked for one of Yorkshire’s largest search marketing companies and there I discovered search engine optimisation* (SEO) and the impact it can have upon the success of a business. The more I got involved with search marketing, the more my interest grew.

How did you get to where you are now?

As a student, I worked part-time at a search engine marketing agency where I built links for client websites to improve their positions and visibility in Google search results pages. The company saw the value in my work and allowed me to try my hand at account management – back then this wasn’t bad for a part-time student!

As my understanding of search marketing increased and I saw how quickly the area was evolving, I began producing proposals and strategy documents for smaller local companies. Towards the end of my degree, I began offering freelance services to small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that is organisations which employ less than 250 people or have a turnover of less than £50 million euro. I developed a small client base with projects covering web development, SEO and pay per click management** (PPC).

One of the companies that I was in contact with offered me a full-time position following my graduation – I jumped at the opportunity and relocated to Nottingham. Shortly after, I discovered Antenna, a company dedicated to supporting creative businesses, and their monthly events Second Wednesday and Nott Tuesday. The extent of the entrepreneurial scene within Nottingham really inspired me and made me want to do my own thing. With all the investment, I could see a major opportunity for growth in Nottingham. In early 2012, I ditched the luxury of my guaranteed income and co-founded Impression.

What are the advantages and challenges of running your own growing company?

A major advantage is that I’m my own boss and I can steer the business in the direction I want. The success of the company comes down to my decisions and I don’t see a ceiling at Impression, I want to push myself as hard as I can and I get a real sense of accomplishment as I win new clients and deliver on proposals.

My main challenge is time: there aren’t enough hours in the day! In a small business, if you don’t do something, there’s nobody else to pick it up. I have to be incredibly organised. I’m currently work more hours than I ever have, but I really enjoy the work, so the hours aren’t a problem to me.

Where do you think digital marketing is going?

I think content will always be ‘king’. Social media is a continually growing arena and this growth looks set to continue. I believe there will be further search results personalisation with more focus on where and how people are searching rather than what they’re searching for.

At Impression, we want to offer more digital packages to suit clients’ needs: SMEs need to explore all their options and decide which will give them the best return on investment from their marketing budget. We’ll continue to grow as a company, hopefully bringing more SMEs on board. As our reputation grows, we’d love to work with more household brands. We’re currently recruiting for a variety of digital marketing roles which is one of the trickiest areas for us.

Do you have any advice for students wanting to get into the digital marketing sector?

Digital marketing is a competitive area that many students want to enter after graduation. There are no required qualifications, but having some marketing experience, a marketing qualification or a degree that has required a large amount of research and copy writing, such as history or English will help you to stand out when applying.

Many applicants have a relevant degree, but we also need to see personality – that’s what our clients are after from us. There are lots of internships out there which can be great opportunities to gain an insight into the sector and develop the skills digital marketing companies are looking for. If you make enough of a contribution, you might be lucky enough to be offered something more!

If you’re interested in digital marketing, be sure to visit our advertising, marketing and PR webpages and come to our Spotlight On…Advertising, Marketing and PR event to hear from experts in these sectors. If running your own business appeals to you, why not visit our self-employment webpages or see what our EnterpriseLab can offer you? 

If you enjoyed reading this blog, check out our ‘expert insight into PR‘  blog post where Dana Corson, Account Director of Proactive International PR shares her knowledge of this sector. 


*Search engine optimisation (SEO) – the practice of ethically influencing search engines to increase the visibility of a brand in search results.

**Pay per click management (PPC) – a digital advertising model where advertisers pay publishers for traffic on a per click basic.

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