Marketing at a turning point, but which way?

It has most definitely been a week of two halves. It started with a low but most certainly it has ended on a high, full of optimism and hope for the future of both marketing as well as society.

So how did the week start? Well I came across an advertisement for a Chief Marketing Officer. I have attached a screenshot below (pardon the typos but not my doing). They are obviously not looking for accuracy and a strong communicator. Please however take note of the last sentence.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 09.06.43

So we have now reached the point where senior executives and recruiters are reducing the role of marketing to numbers. It is a simple science, the more people we get our message in front of, the more people we will convert. It seems acceptable to engage with 1000 people and only have 2 convert at best. Yes, with the use of analytics and programmatic marketing you will increase response rates but how do you use this science to create emotional connections and generate loyalty? This requires the so called MAGIC and the reality is that it requires both art and science in equal measure to build strong, sustainable businesses. So it looks like I will be receiving more annoying emails, irritating banner ads and general junk for the foreseeable future. Mental opt-out is most definitely in play.

I then came across an interesting article from David Edelman, who is a McKinsey partner leading the Digital Marketing Practice and someone for whom I have a great deal of admiration. He recently wrote an article titled “Marketing’s New Math: 3C’s and 5 Blindspots”. He starts this article by saying:

“I sometimes wonder what people who look back at the 2010’s will say about this time. Though there’s a lot to comment on about the world in general, when it comes to the business world I think people will realize that this is the time when profound change happened – changes in how companies operated, changes in how they “sold” to customers, changes in what business meant.”

I worry that we have become caught up in the age of digital communication and see this as being profound to mankind. Thankfully some in the marketing community recognise the bigger picture such as Bryan Kramer with his book Human2Human.

This brings me to the highlight of the week. Sustainia, which is an innovation (media) platform that enables all forms of stakeholders to share information and provide support to create a more sustainable world, announced their 100 winners for 2014. This is an inspirational list and provides real hope for the planet. I saw that both Pharrell Williams and Melinda Gates both tweeted but where were the brands?


On closer inspection, I eventually found that Virgin was sponsoring one of the initiatives, school boats in Bangladesh, but where oh where is the marketing behind this? So how many people would know this?

Surely this is an opportunity for the best marketers and brands on the planet to step up and show what the power of great marketing can achieve? Innovative, socially responsible companies need to take the lead and build caring brands that create great businesses but also make the world a better place. It sounds like a true win:win to me with the added upside that senior executives may no longer think of marketers as only data scientists.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and do feel free to download my free book; “Marketing Undressed”.


Time and how to make the most of it as a marketer

I, like everyone else around me in business, struggle to make the best use of time. I constantly find that the day is over almost as soon as it has begun as I race from one meeting to another, trying to ensure that the wheels stay on the track. In marketing this can be even more of a problem especially when too much focus and effort is placed on the here and now as this can eclipse time that should be spent on the more important and longer-term strategic issues. In short, marketers find themselves with very limited time to listen to the market, to identify new opportunities to improve and to embrace the chance to innovate and create. This is critical when the function is evolving and changing more rapidly now than at any time in its past.

I have read and listened to many influential speakers on how to better utilize my time and to structure my day to improve time management but somehow I never seem to be able to put these into practice. Often over a weekend I think about how next week will be different and then find that on a Monday morning I’m straight back into the old habits. So this got me thinking; what is it that makes it so difficult to change and what really controls how I behave? One answer is very simple, as it happened I realized that it was my calendar. If I can control and manage my calendar then perhaps I can address some of my time management issues and improve my commercial productivity as well as my contribution to my colleagues.


So how should I go about improving my time management by better controlling how my calendar is structured? Here are my thoughts on my dos and don’ts.

The Dos. It is all about balance. I don’t think anyone should spend more than 50% of their time in formal structured meetings so here are my tips for keeping some non-meeting time available.

  • Try and set aside one day a week where you have no or almost no meetings. Try and be rigorous about this.
  • Always try and keep some blue sky between meetings and if you have to run back-to-backs then finish the prior meeting at least 10 minutes before the next one starts. Make sure you build this into your calendar!
  • It is also important that there is time available to have informal catch-ups with team members. Everyone should try and ensure they find 10 minutes every day to engage with colleagues. If you have trouble doing this then block out catch-up time in your calendar.
  • Another way of establishing some informal time is to bring in some breakfast pastries every Friday and create an informal get together.

On the other hand, when I do participate in a meeting then I want to make sure that my contribution is as optimized as possible and that each and every meeting results in the best possible outcomes. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you are meeting one of your team members then try going for a walk instead of a sit down meeting. This makes it more informal and it also sets a limit on how long the meeting will take place.
  • If you have to have back-to-back meetings then break them up by moving the location of one of the meetings to a coffee shop. A different environment can be uplifting and works especially well when addressing challenging issues or sensitivities. Again put this in the calendar invitation.

Now for the don’ts. Clearly the focus has to be on making any time that is spent in a meeting to be as productive as possible, so here are my thoughts:

  • The most obvious one is that you should endeavor to manage your own calendar or at the very least set some principles as to how you would like your time allocated.
  • I would also suggest that you set a limit of only 4 hours of meetings a day. Any more than this and you won’t be prepared for the ones you are actually attending.
  • We are all used to attending meetings where there is no clear agenda or objectives so make it clear that your attendance will only happen if there is a specific decision to be made. A good idea is to put the meeting objective in the subject line for the meeting invite.
  • Finally try not to use formal meetings for updating as there are usually more productive and better ways of achieving this.

Key takeaway
If you take control of your calendar, you will take control of your time management. There has never been a better time to start.

Leadership versus Management

I have recently read a number of blogs that discuss the differences between leadership and management and the importance of getting it right. I believe this topic is now top of mind as recognition is growing that people and thereby talent is the fulcrum on which any successful company needs to establish itself.

A very smart colleague once said to me that there are three competencies that you need in any successful organisation and each one is intrinsically linked.

The first is functional competence; the ability, talent and skills to conduct tasks, to execute processes, to undertake agreed actions and to deliver on the agreed plans of the organisation. Clearly you need people who are knowledgeable on a subject area, are confident enough to make decisions and can deliver on the outcomes that add value to a business.

The second area is managerial competence; the role of management is to enable the functional teams to perform to the best of their ability. It is about unlocking their potential and enabling them to deliver exceptional work. This includes:

  • Structured planning.
  • Resource allocation.
  • Clear goal setting.
  • Removing challenges and barriers.
  • Developing skills.
  • Aligning expertise to areas of need.
  • Ensuring the talent available fits the needs of the business.

It is also about how to promote and achieve collaboration. Two minds are always better than one and it is therefore essential that management enable collaboration at every opportunity.

The final area of competence is leadership; leadership is about creating the right conditions for the company to succeed. My personal view is that this all starts with a brand vision. A great brand vision can positively impact a company in two ways:

  • It provides clarity of purpose and a very well defined journey as to how success will be achieved.
  • It creates the right environment by establishing a set of principles and cultural values that motivate, inspire and impassion everyone to go the extra mile and deliver the best possible work for the organisation.

I am a great fan of Jim Collins and I believe his description of a level 5 leader in “Good to Great” hits this nail on the head when he said “A Level 5 leader displays a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” It is the joining together of the right culture with clarity of purpose that defines great leadership.


Interestingly if you follow this logic, leaders need to create a vision and culture that supports managers who then need to use this to unlock the potential of all employees. It is in effect an upside down organisation chart. So in this type of organisation, here is a list of behaviors I would hope to see:

  • A vision and clarity of purpose brought to life through great storytelling.
  • Inertia created through continuous engagement & communication.
  • Personal conviction built through authenticity, trust and direct face-to-face engagement.
  • Leadership providing direction rather than directives.
  • An empathetic working environment that builds connectivity and collaboration.
  • Promotion of diversity of thought as this enhances innovation, sharing and transparency.
  • Humility winning over hubris.
  • Empowered people who are confident to break new ground.
  • A caring culture as this deepens relationships and enables personal goals to be connected to company objectives.
  • Supportive management as this enhances productivity.
  • A fun environment as this is the best way to motivate the delivery of outstanding work.

What would be on your list?

Choosing the White Tuxedo

Have you ever been to a black tie event wearing a white tuxedo or an outfit that was different from everyone else? You end up with that uncomfortable feeling. You made the decision to wear the outfit as you wanted to express yourself, mix it up, change the status quo. On the other hand you have become ever more visible. This is very much the life of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

It reminds me of Steve Jobs and the TV campaign he inspired by Think Different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Changing how people think is one of the hardest things to do, to enable people to see the world from a different viewpoint but that is in essence the new charter for any executive, especially in marketing.


I am constantly surprised by job advertisements that are seeking a CMO who is a digital disrupter. Digital disruption is fundamentally changing the commercial model of the company. There is a clear difference between delivering fundamental changes and making brands more relevant. Making fundamental changes means we have to go back to the basics in creating human relationships and realizing this part is not just about a brand promise but rather it is about building a business. So many times, I see that management (rather than leadership) never really gets to know their people, truly get to know their team. It’s this fundamental that helps you identify what each individual is passionate about and what they are really good at and then aligning this to the needs of both the business and the customer.

We’re living in the dawn of technology and a social marketing revolution that has been forcing organizations to be ever more transparent, focused and relevant. The only way we can keep up is by putting the customer at the top of our organisation chart. When the customer is at the heart of what we are doing we can begin to see the challenges we need to meet and what outcomes we are seeking. This means that to be successful executives need to provide clear guidance on where the organisation is going but more importantly support and empower their teams, especially those that are on the front-line and engaging with customers every day.

Creating fundamental change doesn’t start with planning your team structure. Does your organization structure have dotted lines, direct lines and every other type of line? When you have dotted lines and dashed lines in a certain sequence in Morse Code, it means SOS (Save our Souls). The big challenge is that you don’t need dotted lines if you align the organization around the same customer goals. Get your planning right and the organizational structure will take care of itself.

Is your marketing plan defined by a budget in a spreadsheet?
If the first question being asked is what investment budget do you need next year, you have lost already. A plan should start with desired outcomes and then identify what resources are required to deliver on them. This then becomes a prioritization exercise based on customer needs and not a financial numbers game.

Do you take every network meeting or call?
I have an open door to everyone. You never know where the next great idea will come from. In addition, the world is changing so fast that to keep pace you have to remain connected. And always remember that someone who is willing to start a company and put everything on the line sincerely believes they have seen something that no one else has. Don’t you want to know what that is?

Does everyone complain that you have too many initiatives at the same time?
Changing people’s perceptions and priorities has to happen if you want the business to change. This means executives need to be the catalysts for change by constantly changing the status quo with initiatives that build motivation, passion and innovation. Try and test new things; some may not work perfectly but if they have contributed to how people think, what they know and what skills they have acquired, then there is still enormous benefit to be accrued.

KEY TAKEAWAY: When deciding which tuxedo or outfit to wear to the party, ask yourself whether you are prepared to stand out and be different. “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

B2B marketing: why the nature of the relationship really matters!

We are all aware that consumer expectations are increasing but a less widely talked about area is that of customers in a B2B setting. It is becoming clear to me that this area is following a similar path and that customers now expect more from the companies they engage with. The main foundation for this is context. Customers want to be engaged based on the nature of the relationship that they have with the vendor.

This has major repercussions for B2B marketing, as historically B2B marketers would run campaigns based on a specific market segment and would seek to treat customers in the same way as prospects. The overall goal being to create interest amongst an audience who are likely to have a similar set of challenges that could be addressed by your product or solution offering. But this approach doesn’t reflect any current relationship and engagement that the vendor might already have.

The answer is that B2B marketers need to consider a customer lifecycle approach where marketing campaigns and communications are adapted to the specific needs of the customer at the point of time in the relationship. This reflects a market-in approach where you start with the question “what is it that the customer needs right now and how can we help them?”

So here would be my recommendations for those wishing to test / pilot a customer lifecycle approach in a B2B environment:

For the customer, it is about who can help them address the critical business issues that they face. This is the area that many B2B companies do very well so I’m not going to cover it here.

The next stage is on-boarding. The most obvious priority for the customer is time to value. They want to embed the new offering into their business as quickly as possible and to start to reap the benefits.
Opportunity: Marketing collates data and feedback on the roll-out, organizing this in a way that helps identification of potential improvements, shares knowledge / tips & tricks on usage and also helps bring users into existing customer communities.

Once the system is up and running customers are always looking for ways to further improve performance. The market keeps changing, upgrades bring new features and other organizations using the same product find new ways to innovate and accrue more value.
Opportunity: Marketing is proactive in establishing interactions and communications that continue to build value for the client by sharing relevant knowledge and experiences around the product or products they have bought. Some companies have client success managers for this. The key though is to be proactive and to anticipate where additional value can be created rather than wait until an opportunity arises.

Organizations are always seeking to improve and generally there is always some form of maturity curve in place where you have industry leaders, followers and laggards. It is really important to know where your customer is at any point and also to have an appreciation of where they think they are, so you can guide them on what to consider next.
Opportunity: Marketing provides information to conduct an account review. This could be achieved through an ongoing survey or interview program. This information could be compared to the consolidated view of other companies within a specific industry, thereby determining the maturity of the customer in a specific area. This benchmarking helps to identify new opportunities. Discovery workshops and executive briefing programs can also support this.

Advocacy / Cross-sell
If an organization has successfully delivered on all of the above then you should have a potential customer advocate in play. However any advocacy or customer program has to be 2-way and ensure there is mutual value for the individual and / or company as well.
Opportunity: Marketing develops a customer program that is based on mutual value exchange and it is clear that the best way to open up cross-sell opportunities is through your current customer advocates. There has never been a harder time to gain the attention of new potential customers and internal customer referrals are like gold dust.

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 5.02.52 PM

So where are you now? I am very interested in knowing how companies in the B2B space are approaching this opportunity. “Times are as changing” as Bob Dylan would say and marketing needs to continue to evolve as customer expectations continue to increase.

Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer (Part 2)

Following on from my initial post, here are my five remaining pillars as to how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

Agility is important as it enables an organization to respond more rapidly to changing market conditions. Creating an agile environment helps support creativity and innovation and can reduce the constraints imposed by the usual planning and execution boundaries. The foundation to be able to adopt an agile approach is to ensure that you set clear objectives and always focus these on defined market outcomes. This empowers execution to take its own path.
Marketing considerations; adopt a flexible organization structure, introduce project teams, take every network meeting you can to learn what is new in the market, deploy a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach and test, test and test.

It is simple and that is that your customers expect an organization to be connected. Their expectation is that however they engage or are engaged, the organization should act as one and to be able to recognize the full relationship that they have with the company.
Marketing considerations; provide a consistent customer view to all functions, establish a single preference center, introduce customer governance with rules on engagement & frequency of interaction and set outside-in customer metrics.

Customer engagement is becoming more complex every day as more data sources become available and there are more ways and channels by which a customer can engage an organization. Technology is crucial to help connect customer insights with engagement, improve response times, enable efficiency and provide organizations with wisdom for improved decision making.
Marketing considerations; always start with process and once defined then look at technology enablement, deploy a test, learn, adapt approach, fully commit don’t half bake and involve everyone who is a stakeholder throughout entire process.

Marketing has always been local. People have connections and ties to the local community, to their home town, to where they live which influence their beliefs, needs and areas of interest. Location is key to understanding context and understanding context is what helps marketing ensure offerings are relevant.
Marketing considerations; segment by geography, adopt a geo-cluster approach that combines demographic data with geographic data, assess impact of environmental conditions such as seasons & weather and ignite word of mouth marketing in key geographic / community / tribal clusters.

In today’s modern era successful companies are those that take a Market-In approach and focus on the customer first and foremost. The real trick is therefore to always ask yourself the following before making any investment or running any activity; will they care, is it important to them and do they benefit?
Marketing considerations; consider introducing a Customer Officer, develop a customer advocacy program where there is a mutual exchange of benefit, establish a communities portal and only engage with customers when there is value for them.

success concept

What are your TOP TEN and do you have any examples as to why they are important?

Business transformation; the increased expectations of the connected consumer

Many companies are facing significant challenges due to the rise of the connected consumer. As the needs and aspirations of the consumer have increased so has the need for organizations to respond to these increased demands and to transform themselves.

There are numerous articles and books on this topic and I have consolidated the leading thinking in this area into my top 10 list. This list reflects the key pillars that I believe are fundamental for how the marketing function can support business transformation in the age of the consumer.

Here are the first five. I will share the remaining five in a follow-up post.

Leadership is about defining the long-term direction of the company and providing a working environment that enables and empowers the organization to successfully achieve their goals. Key qualities include; a very clear definition of the long-term goals of the organization and the journey it will take to get there, consistency in how this is expressed and a very transparent and pragmatic approach to how company progress is shared both internally as well as externally.
Marketing considerations; employ a journalist who can help craft the story, position your vision as a journey and share progress through employee and client stories that bring it to life.

An organization’s social purpose is becoming increasingly influential and needs to be part of the overall brand promise. This is important both internally as well as externally and will become a growing part of a customer’s decision process in the future.
Marketing considerations; ensure brand / company values reflect a social purpose, develop a specific social program by which all employees can participate and implement initiatives that enable the social purpose to be embedded in day to day working,

A brand promise is no longer enough to convince an audience of the values and merits of an organization’s product or service offering. Consumers are now relying very heavily on the experience of other users to determine the viability of a brand. A wealth of information is available as individuals share their experiences through social and e-commerce channels. Brand reputation is now the cornerstone for future commercial success and every organization needs to recognize that how it acts is now more important than what it says.
Marketing considerations: start with employees and build a culture that can successfully deliver the brand proposition by focusing on the 4 S’s of play to people strengths, keep it simple, give people space to express themselves and provide a support system.

Consumer understanding is imperative for an organization to be able to deliver an experience that meets the needs and expectations of each and every customer at every touch point. This is now the basis for securing customer satisfaction and for building long-term customer loyalty.
Marketing considerations: always start with data, establish a marketing sciences team, ensure that every decision is informed by insights and make reporting very easy to consume and act on at all levels in an organization.

It is all about the customer and the experiences that they take away after every interaction or touch point with your company or brand. This is where the rubber hits the road. Think customer, think experience and then work backwards from there.
Marketing considerations; employ UX designers in marketing, map-out the customer journeys, put yourself in the shoes of the customer and experience what they experience and always focus on delivering the right outcome rather than on the activity or process that underpins it.


These five pillars are focusing on the business transformation strategy, which are all about defining the destination. Next week we will focus on the actual journey.