Beyond Horizon Project Participant's Diary
Yin Mei Teo
Graduate of Beyond Horizon Project (Season 1)
As a fresh university graduate, Yin Mei was unsure about how to kickstart her marketing career. She struggled to find a job because she lacked the skills and experience. Let's look at Yin Mei's journey about how she has learnt throughout working with a client and Beyond Horizon Project!
Conducting a Market Research
During this week, I created a market research survey for the first time and unsure how it ties in with our project and whether we chose the right questions to ask (despite approval from Theresa). I am nervous about approaching customers.
Although I was sick with a sore throat and cold and struggling to do research in person because of how sick and tired I feel, I was excited to actually approach customers once I turned on my extroverted nature. Due to my sick nature, I had to learn to trust Darren (my other group member, Arpan was working full time and could not come to the café to do research) to cover part of my contribution in approaching strangers so that I would not over-exert myself in order to contribute for the rest of the week and not fall sicker.
Being there every day showed me a subconscious pattern on customer perception of café and who usually comes by. I had to be patient and see info unfold over time. I wanted to know exactly what info we would get and exactly how it would be used and come together. But I realised that it took time to watch it unfold. I learned that there were some questions that I could’ve included in the survey (e.g; ask for the first name) that would’ve made the survey more powerful. Also, I had to be patient and see info unfold over time. I wanted to know exactly what info we would get and exactly how it would be used and come together. But I realised that it took time to watch it unfold.
Writing a Marketing Proposal
This was my first time ever writing a marketing proposal. It was also my first time doing research on the ground from scratch and piecing information together.
I struggled with writing concisely in a proposal format and found myself falling back into my habit of long-winded sentences for university essays
The constant changes in writing the proposal and adding more information and conducting more research to support our proposal were incredibly tough on me. This was because once I thought a task was done, turns out there are more changes to be done. I was not used to that unpredictability. Creating a good-enough event concept and overall planning an event on paper was also incredibly stressful as I have never planned an event. It was a huge stretch. This time was the MOST stressful, unsettled, and anxious I was because of trying to keep up with the fast-paced changes.
Writing styles in universities are only for academic research, it is not transferrable when you join the workforce. I had to unlearn what I learned in university to relearn this new style of writing. After many many MANY late nights over Zoom discussing the proposal and brainstorming within the team to make the proposal air-tight, it was finally completed.
Proposal writing is hard! I learnt to make sure the proposal is air-tight is important because if your research isn’t thorough, clients may undermine your work because they also know the market and their competitors
Week 3 - 4
Pitching to the Client
We pitched our proposal to our client during these two weeks. It was my first time presenting off the paper and not a PowerPoint presentation, which was something I had to adjust to.
During one of the proposal meetings, my teammate shifted the subject to another subject. Darren and I both got upset as we were keen to finalise the proposal, but we didn’t know that Theresa and the teammate initially discussed their topic and wanted to bring it up with the client. It was a challenge to remain calm and not let my angry energy be obvious to the people around me to maintain my reputational standing with the client.
I have learnt to present by heart and with emphasis on points instead of reading off paper. Also, it is a baby step because in most proposal presentations people would want to see you fail. If I had let my anger towards Arpan get the best of me, I would’ve let a miscommunication affect how I handled the situation. Sometimes there are things that I do not know have happened that could’ve caused miscommunication and I should ask before letting my emotions get the best of me.
Helping the Client with Catering Menu Designs
This week we helped the client with the catering menu with the added pressure of completing it in time to promote it on social media for Easter weekend. However, it turned out they were not ready to start catering and also wanted a group picture of sandwiches for the menu, which I could not do with Canva.
Due to my attachment to my work (I spent a day designing the menu with back and forth from Theresa and put a lot of effort into it, and also spent a lot of effort designing the Easter weekend post to promote the catering menu), I cried because I was so upset. I had to learn to accept that if the client doesn’t like it, it doesn’t mean it’s bad work. Because art is subjective. And it is still my work and belongs in my portfolio. Also realised that I am here to please the client and must work according to their pace because they see changes on their side and I don’t, and because of differing perspectives on art (some people are traditional some people are more creative), it’s best to not attach self-esteem to others’ perspectives on my art.
I was also super stressed about getting the client’s approval for the catering menu in time for the post as I was chasing a deadline and was worried that if I didn’t make it in time, we would’ve missed an opportunity for Easter. When discussing with the client about the design I made for him, I had to learn to explain my design and where I’m coming from to the client. Had to learn to hear where he’s coming from. Had to phrase my words and provide options as someone looking to meet the client’s needs, to not take control of the company from the client. but also had to learn to explain where I’m coming from with confidence and control on my position. I have to balance push and pull with the client in an account executive role. Had to be prepared for my ideas to be rejected and to start all over.
This was an opportunity to learn where the client is coming from and to be able to design according to his vision, even though I personally may disagree. I had to learn to let go when the client decided not to pursue Easter weekend, even though I spent so much time designing an easter weekend post for him. It is the client’s decision. My designs are forever mine and mine to display, it’s all right if he doesn’t want to use it.
Handling Deadlines for Social Media Designs
I was trying to catch up with deadlines for publishing social media designs and was anxiously waiting for the client to get back to me with his approval for the design so I could publish it. There was a time where I spent a whole day stressing over whether he was going to keep his promise and return to me with his feedback.
I also felt anxious doing phone calls and liaising with the client over the phone. I learned to write a short script and the points I wanted to make before every call so I was ready and less nervous. Also, I had to learn to let go of control when waiting for the client to return with approval of posts while aware that there’s a deadline to meet. Also, I had to learn not to jump the gun and not pester the client constantly about his side of the deadline. It is better to remind him but not pestering him. If he doesn’t reply then had to learn to accept that that’s not on me and is out of my hands.
During this week, I started facing more feedback and challenges from the client.
The client wanted me to design designs that are more like an Instagram picture, which is different from what I enjoy creating. The client also wanted more product shots in the designs, as compared to our ideas of incorporating customers and community members in the designs themselves.
I had to learn to accept their feedback and design things based on what they prefer, even if I disagreed with it. I ended up designing designs that they prefer and using them as a template for future designs so the designs stayed aligned with what they wanted.
The second thing I had to learn is to negotiate and discuss – e.g; “we know you prefer product shots but since you guys wanted to position the café as a community member from our discussion, are you okay with one post a week that focuses on the community? Would you prefer pictures of customers eating, or maybe interacting with the staff?”
Finally, one more thing is to write concisely on social media even though I had so much more to say and so many ideas that I wanted to write.
Facing Feedback and Challenges from the Client
"Proposal Writing styles in universities are only for academic research, it is not transferrable when you join the workforce. I had to unlearn what I learned in university to relearn this new style of writing." - Yin Mei Teo
Wrapping up the Previous Marketing Campaign
This week is uneventful, mostly doing work and wrapping up the Stress Awareness Month promotion to start Mother’s Day promotion in the whole of May.
Making a Video to Advertise a New Campaign
During this week, we were busy preparing for Mother’s Day promotion, filming Maggie and Esther (Mother and Child) bonding at the park for Mother’s Day promotional videos and social media designs. This exposed me to how it’s like to work in video with kids because I couldn’t give them direction since they were kids and spontaneous. Instead, we just followed them around and focused on capturing videos at the moment while trying to catch them under the best lighting for quality pictures and videos. This taught me to do whatever I can at the moment and tailor my working style to the type of people I’m filming, for example, kids.
After this, we had a meeting with the client and realised that he wanted the promotion to focus on older children and parents and wanted to include older children and parents in the social media designs instead. In order to make the most of our video material from earlier (since it focused on kid and mum), we used the videos only for the promotional videos to evoke emotion by showing the relationship between mum and child as they grow up. For the pictures of older children and parents, we asked our friends of various ethnicities to send us childhood pictures of their mum and themselves.
Finding Alternative Solutions for Unplanned Situation
Mother’s Day promotion started at the end of this week so this week was quite hectic. As some of our friends’ parents were uncomfortable with sharing pictures, we ended up using royalty-free images. Darren was working on the videos and I assisted him with any editing of the materials he was using. After calling and confirming the Mother’s Day online voucher with the client (Although it was a Saturday, due to deadlines, Theresa advised me to call because with some important deadlines because it is necessary). When printing Mother’s day promotional materials, I was stressed and so was running around to get things done while not being able to think clearly because of stress. This made me realise that despite being driven, being driven on STRESS makes things worse because I felt the urgency to complete everything by myself. I had to slow down and communicate with Darren and work with him as a team instead of taking it on myself reactively.
We sent the promotional videos to the client for approval on Saturday which he promised to get back to us on but never did. Therefore, we asked for approval from Anna on his behalf. She took a while and I ended up spending that weekend stressing out and constantly contacting her back and forth while also making sure I do not annoy her by messaging too much. I realise now it did not help me as I was stressing over something that was out of my control which made me waste mental energy worrying. In the end, it was all finalised.
Wrapping Up for the Last Marketing Campaign
These two weeks were uneventful, we mostly did work to push Mother’s Day promotion online and suggested ideas to the client to further push promotion in person. The client preferred not to go ahead so the idea was cancelled. Also, I started working on the debriefing report for the client.
Dealing with Miscommunications and Finalising the Report
This was a stressful week. Around the start of this week, I had communication problems with Anna and she was upset with us. I was upset with her too and had to keep my anger down. Instead of solving it myself, I was wise enough to let Theresa handle it. She went to talk to them and found out there was just a misunderstanding between us about operational issues and the lack of information provided to Anna from Chirag (the client) about our marketing activities which made her confused and stressed when we ask for her approval on his behalf. This all caused a huge problem but thankfully amended. This situation worried me and when I found out the reasons why it was happening, it taught me that I am not necessarily at fault despite always thinking I am. Not to jump to conclusions and blame me and stress out, but to wait to see what happens and respond only when we know the reasons why. This also taught me the benefits of slowing down and not responding reactively by trusting Theresa as an experienced professional to help us.
I was also hectic because we were finalising the report for the client. Again, this was a struggle as I was still learning to write reports in a business way (not an academic way) which was a similar struggle I experienced when writing the marketing plan. We were definitely challenged and constantly in contact with Theresa who told us what we could do better. Darren took charge of data analytics and I helped with writing, proofreading for consistency, and structural changes.
On the night before the meeting, we stayed up finalising the report, leading us to only have 3 hours of sleep. Despite this, we were up early and were focused on completing the meeting and the project. This surprised me because despite being so tired, I was hell-bent on crossing the finish line and constantly pep talk myself to keep going. It all eventually finished, marking the end of our project with the client.