Holly is a successful and practiced marketing guru and speaker with almost two decades of hands on experience in marketing. Holly is the founder and director of the Marketing GP, a boutique marketing business in Newcastle. Holly is also the general manager and editor of Hunter Headline where she sources, edits and writes about relevant and timely business news in the region.
Holly was appointed the president of hyp in 2007 and since that time, she has served on many boards for organisations including Hunter Business Chamber, Newcastle Business Club, the Hunter Academy of Sport, ConnectAbility and the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation.
Why did you initially join hyp and what did you gain from that?
I initially joined hyp (then Newcastle & Hunter Junior Chamber) as I wanted a way to network that felt a little more ‘me’. I was in my early 20s and oftentimes felt a bit out of my depth at other networking events. I very quickly joined the Board (people who know me, know I jump in feet first when I do something!) and was appointed as President.
I’m grateful that I got so involved, as I gained some leadership experience very early on in my career. I didn’t know how to Chair a meeting – I researched the specifics and I asked other business people for hints and tips. I also got a taste for Board roles, and since then have gone on to sit on a number of other Boards.
Another amazing outcome of being involved in hyp is the relationships I have formed. There really are too many to list, but one that stands out is with Lauren Dawson (nee Goodall). I had met her a number of times, but when she became Vice President we became firm friends and still are to this day. There are other people who I met at hyp who became mentors, clients and friends as well.
Can you explain your career trajectory?
In a nutshell, I got a range of experience prior to launching my own marketing consultancy – this included in family-owned businesses; not-for-profits; Government; privately owned companies; and local, national and international businesses that ranged from small to large. Within each of the organisations I worked with, I had pretty challenging roles within the marketing and communication space. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I really was setting myself up well for the future, as I was getting such a broad range of experience.
In 2012 I launched Just Holly, a marketing consultancy servicing local businesses. After a few years the team grew – branding became a little bit confusing when it was no longer ‘Just Holly’ creating the marketing magic for our clients.
It was finally time to rebrand to The Marketing GP, which delivered a much clearer message to the marketplace! We work within a wide range of industries to help businesses with their marketing. We are a strategic marketing agency that helps our clients find, attract, convert and keep the right people for their products and services through a marketing approach that is strategic, integrated and leveraged. And from those beginnings in 2012, we are now a team of 12-14 people who are all working towards the same goal of helping our clients.
In 2013 I also launched a second business called Hunter Headline, because I saw a gap in the marketplace for local business news. We now have a database of 10k+ subscribers who receive the latest business news in their inbox each Tuesday, and thousands of people who interact with the website via social media.
Do you have or have you had mentors?
Yes! And I think they are vital, either formal or informal. At the start of my career, when I was still a student, I met the late Meg Purser. I approached her and Bob Purser about doing some work experience with them, and ended up doing two years of work experience! Meg provided invaluable advice into not only the communication industry, but also how business works, and more importantly how the Hunter works.
From that point onwards I was lucky to understand how valuable mentors are, and I’ve had a range of them since. I have also noticed in more recent years that mentorship becomes two-way, in that I now have a lot of people who I feel mentor me in some areas, and then I mentor them in other areas. It’s much more of a ‘mastermind’ approach. And this works really well, as everyone wins! When you are a business owner you want to have people within the business you can talk to, but you also need a fresh perspective of people outside the business. They really can take a situation and flip it on its head. This type of clarity can be hard to have from the inside.
What’s your biggest goal for the future and how do you get there?
I want to continue to grow and learn. Particularly since starting a business I have noticed that to be successful you need to be continually learning.
From the perspective of The Marketing GP, I want us to continue to have an awesome culture, I want us to have amazing clients that we love to work with and I want us to continue to work in collaboration with other businesses.
Long term I want to continue to be on boards that inspire me and that I can contribute to. One of the best things I did was to become a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors in 2015, and this has helped me to achieve this goal.
Do you have a normal workday and what does it look like?
There is no normal! But what I have found over the years is that I have shifted to being an early bird. So I do try to start my day early and really get a lot of work done that requires me to concentrate. From there I will likely have some internal meetings, client meetings and sales meetings. So it’s really about making sure there is a balance there between meeting with team members to answer any questions and ensure we’re on the same page, meeting with clients to review priorities and set new priorities, and finally, having meetings with prospective clients, so the business continues to grow.
I am also very focused on not bottlenecking the team I work with, which is a habit many managers don’t realise they’ve fallen into. So throughout the day I review and approve content in-between meetings or bigger tasks I have to get done.
I also do a lot of networking! I joke about the fact that I go to ‘the opening of an envelope’, but it is very strategic. I go to these events to listen to the speakers and learn something new, to meet people I haven’t met before, and to strengthen existing relationships. And, of course, I always make sure I have a photo taken for marketing content purposes! And then I am able to advise our clients on the best fit networking for them.
What do you do when you’ve had a bad day?
I wallow and vent to start with. Because usually it’s a specific thing that has made it a bad day.
But then I move on.
And this is actually something I have had to learn. It is ok to have a bad day (singular) but just don’t let it become bad days (plural). So allowing myself the space to wallow does actually allow me to move on.
I also communicate with the wider team when something goes wrong. We’re really good about sharing the joy when something goes right (we call these moments a ‘boom snap’), but everything is about light and shade, so we also talk about when things go wrong.
What’s something people might not know about you?
I like camping! Most people don’t believe me, but I have been a camper since I was a kid. When I was an adult I started with a tent set up, and then my husband and I graduated to a camper trailer, and since COVID-19 we are now caravaners! I love being outside, getting away from the list of things that need to be done at home, watching my kids ride their bikes around, going to the beach/river/pool, hanging out with family and friends and exploring new locations.
Whilst I still have my phone, and often I will work on my laptop, I really relax and slow down. It’s something that doesn’t happen when I’m at work and home.
Hot tips on structuring your week?
Scheduling!!! The Marketing GP is a VERY fast-paced environment, so planning is a necessity, but it is also something anyone can implement. At the end of each week I look to see what the next week has locked in and then I plan around that. I have a colour-coded calendar, where the two key colours are grey (work time) and aqua (meeting time). It’s a really quick way for me to see at a glance if I have enough time to actually get work done each day or week. It’s also vital for me to have planned downtime and social time. In a perfect world half my weekend would be downtime and the other half would be time to socialise.