This is my personal blog, offering insights, tips, predictions, frameworks, processes from twenty years of Marketing and Growth leadership and four years of running EMEA’s largest crowdfunding platform.
Having recent decisions with leaders and writing my weekly Focus Leaders Letters newsletter, I have been thinking about which are the priceless skills to have in the modern-day office.
Here are the 9 skills I believe are priceless and essential today and for the foreseeable future.
Making Complicated Things Simple.
Being able to breakdown the complex into simple and understandable is priceless.
The old saying if you cannot explain to a six-year-old, you don’t know it enough can ring true.
Learn to explain in the most complicated in simple digestible and relatable chunks. A comparison (like this like the tires on a car, or this is like iMessage for Apple and is our equivalent moat for us) tends to work best with more seasoned execs.
The most powerful skill many of us have to work on. Storytelling is the way we buy into ideas, concepts, and leaders. The best leaders can make the same story resonate every time they tell it, they tell the story differently and in empowering ways. If you have the data but that isn’t convincing colleagues, storytelling (learn the three-step process) will outweigh political clout seven out of ten times.
Below is a good overview of how the 3 act storytelling framework works.
Saying I Don’t Know And Being Confident In Saying I Don’t Know
If you don’t know that is ok and knowing that is more than half of the battle especially when speaking to someone more senior. If it is something you can revert back on say so, if it is something someone else is better equipped to answer, suggest them and why.
A skill can be knowing where you are right or strong and knowing you can bring someone else in and where you are not as strong.
Knowing The Environment & When The Feel Is Off
There are numerous times when you walk into an environment, on a call or meet someone and you know something is off.
Knowing the environment is not right or is not for you or your company is a human survival skill. The best people at this can make a quick exit gracefully and know it was the right thing to do by explaining this feeling in business terms.
Disney pulled out of a deal to buy Twitter very late in proceedings as they felt it was wrong and the environment wasn’t right for Disney as a brand.
Staying Calm Under Pressure.
Keeping your cool and knowing how to keep a calm head is invaluable. Panic mode sets in for numerous reasons but those who do not lose their head or cannot act normally will cause a ripple effect that is hard to shake.
As a leader, if you can stay calm and explain the situation with rational steps and what the team should be doing is priceless. This leads by example, encourages, and embeds this as the reaction that you require from the team. This sets the tone for the next event. I saw and learnt this first hand. Read more in my 27 lessons.
As I mentioned in team development 2021 developing out the right skills are essential and doing it early before the turn of the year can really set you and your team up for a better 21.
Owning, Managing & Maximising Your Time
Owning your time can be more challenging and seemly out of your control particularly now there is a cult around having to have meetings for everything.
If you can manage your time, maximise for deep and considered work, your output is going to be high quality. Managing your time is something that is challenging, being able to reduce meetings down by five minutes, knowing when to take a break and understanding when everyone is exhausted are essentials skills and very closely aligned.
One tip I have shared numerous times is reviewing your calendar, review the meetings you are in and rank them. If scores low and is unproductive, reduce down attendance, if can be optimised start setting the agenda and time keep. Make your time work for you and those around you. Cutting down a meeting from 30 minutes to 25 minutes will feel like a godsend.
Many people struggle with time but as it is the only constant we all have by managing time and flow you will be steps ahead of others.
Being Able To Keep Meetings On Track
It is extremely rare you can keep a meeting on track and control the output, working on and delivering a meeting that sets up the problem or task, has a flow and actions (including the owners of the actions) is a skill many do not have.
Many professionals are conditioned into celebrating a hero or someone who saves the day with an action. Typically this culture sticks and people are only rewarded when being heroic, this sets a bad tone and bad environment.
If you are consistently good, you consistently deliver you will raise the bar around you. Remember there isn’t always a need for a hero or the day to be saved.
In my 9ps: Problem, Pick, Plan, Prepare, Predict, Present, Preview, Prove, Proof post by knowing the process and understanding how to win, having consistency as a skill will stand head and shoulders above others when they are struggling or strategy is not crystal clear.
Seeing Opportunity Where Others Cannot
This is something that is some of the rarest skills. Most of us are primed and conditioned as humans to fit in to stay in the tribe, opportunity seers and seekers can often be the odd ones out and place themselves in a threat state as they are not conforming or have the ability to see where there are gaps, where to move towards and when to twist when others are sticking.
In my 2021 predictions and beyond, there are many of these skills, including keeping a calm head, seeing opportunities, and keeping meetings on track are essential for these verticals and market leaders mentioned.
These skills are even more important with the move to the hybrid office and will be essential to develop out and nurture in your team members.
What skills do you have or which ones do you need to work on?
Something I think about too much is future seeing, this is where you look into the future and consider the next areas we will see development in or themes we have to invest in early before many others go into.
As a Marketing and business leader, this has helped me be a step ahead, I pride myself on having a growth mindset to test, learn and iterate and consider how to be there first, to understand the actual use case, the platform, and how to maximise marketing messages.
There has been a number of questions posed recently around the next big areas and here is how I have been thinking and predict the areas of growth or hyper growth will come into.
Here are the four areas (with more of UK focus examples) I have been looking at and I consider to be the next areas for economic growth and see real potential in.
Food and Grocery Delivery 🍟
Why? Sounds obvious but the food delivery space has become a short and long game.
Short in developing a quick reliable solution for consumers to receive a small number of items within an hour.
Deliveroo connecting with Co-Op, M&S, and many other larger supermarkets alongside pairing up with local stores and convenience stores means they want to be any food solution ordering app, not just takeaway.
The Amazon investment in Deliveroo is more than just an investment, it’s a data play, this will improve logistics and understanding of local areas improving their own service.
Coupling that with the merging of JustEat and TakeAway, we will likely see a three-year fight in offering the best food options, 24 hours a day at the lowest prices for consumers driving up the number of orders leading to more growth in food and drink.
Sainsbury’s Chop Chop delivering from local stores within an hour has been great in lockdown and with these likely to increase in the winter and into 2021 we can see habits shift from popping to the shop to receiving the food you know is available with a tap and a swipe.
As Rory Sutherland has stated no-one demanded food within twenty minutes but it is has become an expectation nowadays, particularly for the younger generation.
Morrison’s extending their partnership with Amazon especially for the Amazon Prime customers means deeper brand loyalty, better convenience, and increased speed will improve the food delivery industry and prove Amazon have created Prime Expectations (expectations created by Amazon with quick delivery at cheap enough prices that no other competitor can really match) across multiple industries with multiple trusted partners.
Amazon’s move into Pharma will really shake up the way we shop and we view convenience.
Dark Kitchens: Dark and ghost kitchens have helped businesses stay alive during the outbreak and throughout the pandemic, we are going to see more and more locations open up for dedicated restaurants to have more local presence and offering bespoke takeaway menus. With all of the advertising options and channels, there will be a way to track ads to take-away and the speed it is delivered, this is huge in ROI and ROAS driven Marketing Departments.
Dark Stores: I also predict we will see big brands going into this space with food offerings and a hybrid model; dark stores (unused shop fronts) being turned into food and local delivery units for rapid-fire delivery and used for billboarding (reminding people of the brand, their products, and services with a QR code or MR experience) their brand and offering.
New High Street Opportunity: With the high street being decimated every week, we have the opportunity to turn these into experience spaces or hubs for locals to really benefit from. Local jobs, local service, and the local communities to benefit greatly.
Long in developing the best service for customers, Ocado and M&S is a partnership that will continue to evolve both companies and if Ocado can scale their high-quality personal delivery service it will mean there will be a race to improve delivery and ensuring the friendly, professional but personal delivery approach. Every consumer wants the best service at the right price, we are likely to see more players come into the market offering “better delivery solutions” with customer service placed front and centre not just delivering food.
What we have to remember, more investments typically means more consumer spending. In previous recessions we saw spending and average order values increase not decreased, this can be powered by new tech and new players.
Loyalty is going to be the battleground for any food brand and this will see huge investments made to win and own customers. Tesco’s Clubcard exclusive deals are just the start for the loyalty card (nectar etc) battlefield.
All in all a positive for consumers, still huge room for optimisation and disruption, however with this said it will be a hard expensive battle for businesses and Marketing teams.
Why? Audio is an industry that has had a huge influx of creators, curators, and obviously followed up with sponsors. Audio has broadened out, podcasts, audiobooks, short stories, music, voice notes, voice assistants, voice search are all coming into the same space and there will be a divide in quality or quantity.
Search was always an issue (serving the right content vs any content tagged), discovery is the new space where will see internal optimisations and tech developments.
Big Boys Battleground
Amazon, Apple, and Spotify are all entering the same boxing ring in the audio space, it is who has the best service and what the operating systems allow, Android and Apple devices have their own ecosystems with their own spends, where the resources and budgets are assigned we will likely see a winner in the next 36 months.
Advertising deals will ramp up, as will audio personalities being sponsored, the tricky situation censorship (like Joe Rogan is experiencing licensing his content to Spotify) will continue to bubble up to the surface causing friction. This could mean the open and free market (podcasts for instance is still driven by RSS) continues to have an important influence.
Low Touch & High Touch = Opportunity
Audio can be very low touch and extremely low barrier, or the highest touch, highest barrier to entry, we will see many apps and software releases and create different opportunities. Especially at the lowest end and the highest end. The middle will be a very messy fight.
Audio has a deeper connection between host or creator and listener/fan, which generally equals more affinity and potential for higher spending.
Subscriptions and Sponsorship
Subscriptions and sponsorship are what makes the business world turn. There will be growth in paid partnerships, paid networks, paid distribution and in the subscription space, we are likely to see a spike in paid fan clubs with one to one direct access to the creator or a community built around them.
The Next Big Boom: Podcasts & Audio Lessons
Podcasts and audio lessons is an area we will see an increase in consumer spend for learning purposes, we will likely see coaching courses and teaching courses become a paid solution, there are apps that do this already but has more people looking to develop out their own careers the category spend will increase. The East already has this and embraces this (podcast are generally charged for), the West is playing catch up.
Audio has grown up massively in the last few years and with Amazon (with audible) and Spotify looking to take on Apple in Music, Podcasts, and potentially in voice search there will be large spends, large affinity to brands and their platforms and consumers will want the best possible content for the best price.
Why? It is a profession before a hobby for many now. Gaming, live streaming and being a gaming celebrity is the new YouTuber. This area is something CMO’s and DTC brands are desperately looking at and diving into. Live streaming provides huge growth potentials for both consumer and for businesses looking to jump into the space and invest into the personality, into the game, and into leagues, this will continue as younger audiences will join and with more people having more time away from colleges and universities coupled with the increase in unemployment and lower barriers to entry with technology we will see increased investment with time and money from consumers and increased budgets being assigned for sponsorship not just of channels but in personalities and collectives.
Live and live-streaming still has the issue it is live and hard to police for the platforms, we are likely to see “going live” mean pre recorded and interaction with fans reduce slightly.
I can imagine there will be a reality series or two created around live streaming stars.
Esports teams and leagues have had huge investments from celebrities like Drake and David Beckham and we are seeing their investments potentially driving IPO’s.
Lastly but importantly; professional sports teams (Premier League, Rugby Union, Cricket etc) are proactively looking at connecting at a deeper level with their fans especially while they cannot attend games and could choose for the next 18 months not to attend the matches.
Sports are as tribal as you can get and fans will spend their last funds to help the team they love and emotionally fight for numerous times per week. This will see huge investments from the fans and clubs leading to innovation and huge investments.
Professional sports merging offline with online and connecting fans with players with deeper connections away from social media is a huge opportunity area with large budgets from consumers and sports brands wanting to be part of this evolution.
Gaming is evolving rapidly:
Traditional platform gaming is ramping up with Xbox, Playstation, Switch all consoles with releases in the coming months
Amazon will continue on its mission to add value to Prime Customers with live sports, particularly for Premier League coverage
Facebook is pushing harder into the VR and AR space
The metaverse becoming a dream many are attempting to build. Epic seems the most invested but so many are obsessing over the metaverse it could be a bloody fight
Despite the problems with app store fees mobile is where every games company needs to be and we will see huge shifts with tech and AR especially with glasses being an area we are seeing traction in
Apple and Google’s dive into their mobile gaming solutions (and subscription services) gaming is going to get huge investments especially the consumer side.
Technology and Extensions 🛠
Why? For many years we have concentrated on apps and websites as the core development area of business, in recent years there has been a scene bubbling up under the surface, browser extensions, and huge investments into them.
Expect Grammarly (and Honey’s acquisition) to lead the way with investments and show there are other avenues. Area’s that are likely to increase is spelling, gaming, VPN’s, and cheaper shopping. Extensions do not limit possibilities and can be transferable across devices.
Even the largest tech companies and well-known investors need to diversify their offerings and portfolios, to create the next utility. Browser extensions could well to the value add.
Expect browser extensions to be more useful, offer much better experiences than native software or apps, and leverage learnings about you and your behaviour to offer the best personal experience. These step changes will drive growth in both B2C and B2B businesses and public and private industries.
So what do you think? Am I right or did I miss a particular theme or industry?
This is probably the question that is ignored the most by senior marketers and many business leaders.
One of my motto’s is always be marketing (no marketing = no-one will know you or remember you), always be auditing (if you do not know what you need to optimise and where you need to improve you are losing).
Understanding where you are and what you need to do from a brand marketing perspective is essential, yet many choose to ignore it.
Here are seven simple classes to review and audit your brand and company and place yourself into these categories.
The class no one wants to live in. There are probably millions of companies who live in unknown.
These companies do not have a break out product, they struggle to get cut through with partnerships, they are an alternative or a brand people have been given as a substitute for their food order or a chain that appears in paid search or been discovered in the takeaway app of choice or surfaced in paid ads on Amazon.
In recent years it has never been so easy as a brand to be noticed, you have so many channels to get noticed on.
Social media has been a plus for many brands, many brands have used social media to build a brand and get seen (and followed) regularly.
Being noticed can be negative, especially on social media or national press for saying something or commenting on an area that causes upset or frustration. Some of these brands have their two minutes in the limelight but this doesn’t drive awareness, traffic or importantly sales.
Social media campaigns across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are typical channels used to be noticed.
Brands are now using social media to try and get seen. Posting regularly and often was the way many Marketers thought they would gain success from. A way to increase the reach of their brand, introduce their products and engage. In more recent times this has been harder and harder to achieve leading to fewer brands being heard or known.
A small number of companies have been created solely through Instagram, this is no mean feat however, some brands struggle to go from seen to heard to known.
Being seen doesn’t mean you will see purchases from your marketing and advertising.
So many brands get seen but moving to be remembered and known can be quite the effort and many are failing at this currently.
Some brands are seen automatically for when athletes wear their products or are sponsored by them but don’t mean it increases their awareness or the likelihood of being purchased.
Seen can be exciting but can be tricky to mature into heard or known. Spending more money or sponsoring more doesn’t always work and can actually negatively impact your business.
YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok ads can be great to be seen. Being featured in press and specialist magazines and sites also help you to be seen.
Transitioning between seen and heard:
There are many brands who have thrived from just advertising but these brands can really struggle to be known and loved away from their ads. Many brands try to leverage being seen and attempt to bump up into known.
We have large expectations of brands in 2020 like we have never before.
What is their mission, do they have a purpose we can buy into, are they environmental enough, can we support their suppliers, etc, etc.
Heard is important to many demographics, particularly younger audiences and high spending demos, heard can be a good leapfrog up to known, it can also be where many companies and brands stay.
Heard can be a class that sees some sales but rarely sees repeats or when the experience with the product brands stays there.
Most marketing teams have forgotten how to drive up from heard, yes it is a difficult class, however, your product or product experience will likely help or completely hinder you.
TV and radio ads can be great to be heard. Running print ads and having constant advertising across multiple channels also helps. Big impact video style campaigns and influencer campaigns are typical channels leveraged in heard.
Being known is probably where only the top 20% of brands really are, ask a handful of friends to call out brands and typically the same number of brands come up.
Being known for a product or product range is great, being known drives sales, it drives people to pick a certain burger over another, it drives supermarkets to stock you and give you real estate over others.
Known brands are typically habitual, they typically are regularly seen or interacted with.
Known can be a gift and a curse, you might be known but might also be a brand that someone just will not buy or use, down to your product, down to what you have done in the past or how the product made people feel.
Some celebrities release brands and they are instantly known, they are brought and have the opportunity to be loved within minutes of using their products.
Known often Markets and advertises across all channels, being an existing brand you have the fear of stopping advertising and larger marketing campaigns you may be forgotten.
In previous roles working with smart brand managers, we created and used variations of Know – Like – Love, love is how many people sing your praises, how many customers recommend you, how many go out of their way to buy you again and support your products.
Loved brands like Apple creates advocates and fanboys, they are brands that people are inspired to use and aspire to buy or upgrade to.
It is rare customers fall out of love with loved brands, some even to go as far as giving their loved brand a few goes before moving away. Many food brands, sports brands and tech brands are given multiple chances.
Loved brands often advertising across the biggest reaching channels and allow their brand and suite of products to increase the love and aberration, loved brands can often rely on brand advocates to do their marketing for them, typically wearing, drinking, gifting and shouting about their products for free. Celebrities will also promote for free as it increases their profile being associated with these loved brands.
The one area all brands typically don’t like to live in is hated, typically brands would like to do everything they can to get out of the hated bracket, unfortunately for some, it seems a difficult task, relying on a distributor, being impacted by a marketplace sale or fallen victim of a bad delivery experience.
Marmite is probably the brand who knows and understand the value of being hated.
Hated brands can actually still thrive, there are examples where specific consumers dislike or hate you but you can be used a huge number of times. Think soda and fizzy drink brands, coffee brands and food stores.
For what it is worth, you can be hated + loved by some but this is rarely the class the masses will apply to you and should be crystal clear to truly know which class you place yourself in. The research will be important alongside sales, retention, and growth numbers, but as Marketers, you should have a sense and a feel for this alongside the data you gather while Marketing and auditing. A clear message to Marketing leaders don’t forget what makes Marketing brilliant, the head (the data is there let’s add a bit of magic), the heart (I know this is going to work but needs that little extra from the team) and the gut (gut feeling – going to make this work with creative genius even if the data is not backing the idea).
It Is Important To Note:
We all live in bubbles and filters. For what you do and what you see you might believe you are higher up than you are.
The moment you lose as Brand or Marketing leads is acting inside your bubble and not understanding the wider market and what other industries are doing and achieving.
Your brand might gain a lot of usage and be number one in what you vs a competitor, however within the vertical you operate in you might not be as known, as seen or as loved aka important as you believe.
You can be appreciated and well known within your niche or vertical but can be relatively unknown.
This is often a healthy place to be but why not plan to acquire more customers, look to diverse slightly and look to partner to grow your base.
Something I often teach in my Marketing Coaching sessions is knowing and understand which class you live in currently.
How you can change this class and for Marketing leaders how are they developing their Marketing action plan to improve their marketing class and ensure they stay out of hated as much as possible. You would be surprised how many very senior Marketing leaders do not understand these simple classes and how to move the performance needle.
So where do you think in these brand classes? Where do you see the opportunity, how are you going to improve or optimise?
When I was 11, I was constantly in trouble, as a middle child I have learned this was somewhat normal in and around the teenage years.
I was often told off at school for being the joker / class clown and the teachers would often ask me to leave class.
One particular time, I was told to go and help out (aka work) in the school library, it was one of those things that was more for the teachers to have a rest bite than teach me a lesson.
The funny thing, looking back I learned more in the library and more about business than I ever did in Maths, English, or Science.
Hosting one of my Marketing coaching sessions I talked through the lessons that have stuck and it led me to start writing a list of lessons I learned throughout my career.
Reflecting back, a fair number of lessons that came from working in the library has set me in good stead even today.
It reminds me of a podcast I appeared on “content makers podcast” with my friend Beth Gladstone. Beth asked me about my Marketing career and the lesson I have taken away and it stuck with me how important the library lessons were for my career.
I would say at the age of 11 (alongside running the school stationery cupboard) the library was the first true step into Marketing and understanding Growth and the Business world. I know it helped me lead a crowdfunding upstart and make vital decisions that improved search rankings, drove hyper-growth and developed a much better product for maximising network effects.
Onto the life lessons…
Hierarchy Is Important.
Everything has a hierarchy and an order to follow. Without an order or system no-one knows what to follow and no one could find the important book for their education and increase their learning. Books are a priceless resource for many.
In the world of work, hierarchy is being questioned as hierarchy has had to flipped from corporate structure to personal to help employees know their own place within their team and their organisation.
Example of how people are having to think when unhappy at work: Level 1: Me Level 2: Team Level 3: Department Level 4: Company Level 5: Organisation
Categorisation = Order
Categorisation is essential, it’s a way to chart and order.
Things haven’t really moved on with libraries, sure they have online however in libraries the same categorisation happens and enables discovery.
Process Rules, If Process Break You Struggle To Adapt
Something that has stuck with me more than anything, especially in creating Focus. Processes generally rule silently, without a good process, many important foundations break, and chaos occurs.
Despite what people say, people need processes to understand if they are on the right path, if they belong to this (tribe) group of people and if they share the same values. When rules are broken or processes breakdown, it takes us humans a long time to adjust (think of items out of stock or the item you want has been discontinued).
In twenty years of professional work (plus the year of working in the library) an agreed broken process has a huge knock-on effect, the process takes much longer to bring back to normality. Humans are hardwired this way for safety.
Recommendations Are Underrated
Typically people don’t know what they need or what they want, they know what the kind of thing they are looking for, or the question they sort of need to answer but rarely know.
You might notice a theme, these are all areas if you shop on e-commerce after reading this, you will definitely see, even if you use a search engine and find the product or service you were looking for.
Without these, Google wouldn’t be in the position it is today, nor would Facebook or importantly neither would everyone’s favourite example, Spotify.
What Spotify is doing within the podcast space is a game-changer. Categorising, allowing adding to playlists, and adding contextual recommendations is changing the podcasting space.
FWIW TikTok FYP page wouldn’t work as they use cluster recommendations to drive your usage and entertainment.
A Recommendation: Keep an eye on how Spotify and Amazon Prime Video are adding more categorisation, lists, and subcategories to help search, improve discovery and apply better recommendations.
Book Value Can Be Priceless
Readers are often rewarded with answers or justification of what they are doing is right or someone else is doing it my way. The priceless lesson from the library for me was the takeaways people would get from the written word, especially if it triggered a follow up book or series of books.
With the barrage of content available (yes, we have hit content fatigue) at our fingertips and within audible etc, there still is nothing quite like touching the paper, reading the word, and empowering you to take more action.
There is a saying: Most books should be long blog posts and typically this is true, there are a tiny number of blog posts that have the ability to change lives however some books are life-altering, some can be considered life-changing.
Help With A Life Mystery
One of life mysteries (to me) is how and why some books are religiously shared and read between groups of people. This sharing behaviour has baffled me for years.
These are away from book clubs (which is incredible), however they do no doubt have an influence on the sharing of influential books.
I believe if you can crack this code, you truly understand how to influence people’s lives positively.
Q. What lessons did you learn from early life? Was there a library job or moment for you?
The last few months have been hard for everyone, many managers have had the hardest time, supporting their teams and supporting themselves through the crisis.
There has been no guide on how to handle this situation or be great for everyone.
The last couple of months have been difficult, there have been reduced team sizes, furloughing and redundancies alongside having to be scrappy, survive and drive the company forward and no doubt you have had to cut your marketing and growth spend with budget cuts.
You could be one of the lucky ones and saw your company and teams performance actually thrive.
The near future is going to be another challenge but one which should be clearer and offers the chance to step up and help develop those around you.
It is imperative to use your EQ and IQ with this exercise!
In the coming weeks, it is essential for Marketing and Growth leads to step up and drive personal and professional development of their team members.
Q4 is often the most important period for businesses, ending the year hitting or succeeding the annual goals, seeing your plan and all the hard work pay off is one of the treats towards Christmas. Something that is important towards the end of Q4 is boosting the team’s confidence into a new year, this provides a the right foundation to develop the individual and team skills and start the new year in high spirits and confidence to develop again.
Mentor and Coaching
As previously mentioned in mentor or coach it will be essential to arrange either an internal mentor or coach or bring in the right external coach or mentor.
Professional development should be something that is automatically thought of and prioritised, unfortunately speaking to a number of Marketers and Growth practitioners recently this has not been the case.
I challenge you to set up 2021 for success, work with your team members and help them decide what they require.
The new year is often when staff members question their role within organisations and look to move on, ‘new year, new start’, if you would like to keep your team together and make your team members feel valued, get ahead and use the following method.
Question Yourself Before The Team
Before you look to ask a series of questions, take a step back and run a SWOT analysis on the team, the team members and the supporting agencies.
Here are a list of important questions to ask yourself about you and the team:
Are there core skill gaps?
Are there obvious steps you can take to develop out your team?
Are there easy lunch and learns you can set up?
Do we have the right staff and agency mix?
Could we retender our agency work?
If we were to shuffle the pack what role would benefit us most?
Who is the internal influencer we need to keep motivated?
Can we arrange guest speakers or remote sessions to benefit the team?
Would an internal conference be beneficial?
Which teams aren’t working closely together?
How can I bring the teams closer together as a department?
Could you arrange a captain and champion system?
If we were to lose one team member, who would it be and what would be the impact?
These are important questions to answer honestly, I would recommend that you run through twice on your own and then run through with someone on a similar level to you to get honest and direct feedback.
Remember these questions are for the benefit of the team and the team’s performance, this, in turn, will help to develop the team, while you are helping individuals to develop and where possible share knowledge and round out specialists, and help to improve important generalists.
Questions To Ask Your Team Members
What skills do you feel you can work on?
What marketing or growth skills do you feel our team could develop on?
Where do you see yourself in:
Do you see yourself as a generalist or specialist?
Would you like to change this?
If there was one change you wanted to make about your role what would it be and why?
Where do you see your future laying within Marketing or Growth?
Is there a specific Marketing discipline you would love to learn more about?
Are you self learning currently?
Is there a development area we can support you on?
Once you have collated these answers and understand the direction you would like to take the team and develop out your team members, action these, start with smart internal steps to help build momentum, create milestones so you understand how far you and the team have come, revisit your budget and where possible or relevant reassign these to external coaches.
Personal Development As A Marketing Leader
Question: How would I benefit from these questions and where can I improve and develop?
This process will help you develop as a people manager and coach but also as a leader.
Developing out your team and team members do take time but it is invaluable for the team’s cohesion, for team members development and for the company’s performance.
You will see bumps, however, you will see improvements short, mid and long term and celebrate wins, micro wins all roll up to huge change.
Take the challenge. I dare you. Blog Note: This article was written for Heads of, Director and VP / C Suite members but importantly many senior managers and upcoming stars can use this framework too and should openly and proactively go and speak to the bosses about rolling this out.
I am a huge believer in personal mentors or coaches.
In the professional world the more senior you become the less training you tend to receive, the less time you make for self-learning and although you feel like you do coach and offer to coach, the less you deliver.
In the near future, I truly believe many individuals should self start and actively look to find a coach or mentor.
Over recent years I have found myself being introduced to senior Marketing, Growth and Product people and asked if I could help one of their colleagues or have a coffee with them.
In many cases, these introductions and virtual coffees have become informal mentees or have become formal coaching clients. In many cases these are CMO’s or VP’s.
I personally love mentoring, like many skills, it is a skill you have to work on, the more mentoring the more you will learn, the better you become, not just for you but for the mentees and future mentees.
In over two decades of professional work, I have mentored a number of people in and outside of the company I worked for and I believe mentoring is one of the most rewarding activities you can do.
Something to keep in mind with mentoring is, mentoring often is unspoken or informal, so mentoring often happens without your realising.
A coffee with someone regularly might seem like therapy but is likely mentoring or coaching.
A good percentage of the mentees I was lucky to work with were some of the smartest people I have met or had the pleasure to work with.
A good mentor relationship is two ways, a mentor who says they do not learn from their mentee either isn’t a mentor or is part of the unique 1%.
A great mentor will improve your confidence, learn with you and help you with some tricky decisions and where possible introduce you to good people.
I have also coached a number of professionals who had hit their ceiling or felt like they needed someone external to help their growth and help provide a different context to their work
In the near future mentoring and coaching is going to be priceless especially within organisations. Companies will have limited budgets, they will have to make hard decisions around how much they can invest into formal training and many should turn to the right internal coaches and mentors, or, go external and take on paid coaches or mentors.
Coaching Vs Mentoring
Coaching and mentoring are two different disciplines.
Mentoring is lighter, longer-term without a formal written down set of goals but should feel the benefit over these regular sessions after a few months. Mentors often provide you with a few avenues to take and helps to guide you softly. Rarely should a mentor make your decisions for you.
Coaching is harder, shorter-term with an agreed set of goals and you should feel improvements within four to six weeks. Coaches should be improving a set of skills or helping to shape you and improve you tactically and strategically.
Coaches are important to everyone’s careers, whether you are a CEO of a large successful company (even Apple, Disney and Google c-suite have coaches) to someone starting out on their professional journey. Even the highest performing athletes, like boxing champions, Olympics double gold winners to footballing icons like Ronaldo or Messi have coaches working with them and improving them constantly.
Coach or Mentor?
Are you still wondering if you should be looking for a coach or mentor?
If you are looking to improve specific skills or a set of skills a relevant coach is the right choice. If you are looking to discuss tactics, campaigns or projects and looking for actionable feedback a coach is the right choice.
If you are looking to round out your professional career, discuss general issues and look for guidance or options of how to tackle potential issues a mentor is the better choice.
Coaching and Mentoring Combined?
Mixing the two can work, however, it is important to state and call out if it is a mentor or coaching session with actions to come off the back of it.
Internal or External
If you wanted to know if you should look for an internal or external mentor, question if the internal mentor has the time, the energy and can remove themselves from the job to mentor you and be objective about your situation.
If external, always have a chemistry session and ask if they have the time and commitment to one to two sessions per month. Paid mentors will, of course, have the time but might not be the right fit.
Coaching And Mentoring From Me
I have made the conscious decision to take on more paid mentor clients and more paid coaching clients, the areas I will be offering include Marketing, Growth, Strategy and Culture.
My approach to paid coaching is building a structure, we review your plan (or build one if you do not have one), review your process and address and solve problems, typically one problem at a time. Expect homework and challenges throughout the coaching sessions.
Read more about my Marketing Coaching service.
My approach to paid mentoring is to have open mentoring sessions where we talk through how you are feeling, what you have on, what is going on with you and what areas you are looking to discuss and potentially nurture and we work through. Mentoring is far more informal and deliberately more relaxed, there will be times where I set homework and push you.
This has worked for me and my mentees previously and an important call-out.
If you would like to discuss this happily hit the button below or email me. You can reach out over LinkedIn by clicking this link.
In recent years it has been great to be invited to speak and keynote at conferences, hosting mentoring and coaching sessions and taking part in chapters of books, white papers and ebooks.
I’m happy to announce I was asked to be part of my own chapter for Attest’s The Performance Brand book.
The book is running through how a brand can learn from a performance approach and really put data and insights at the forefront of their branding campaigns.
I was more than happy to discuss a previous campaign we ran at JustGiving, running radio ads to increase the awareness of the JustGiving Crowdfunding brand and have a CTA of creating a page for people who needed support from their friends, family, their local community and potentially strangers.
A little tip:
In the coming months I predict audio will be a huge part of branded activity, especially with the multiple options and improving reporting, targeting and insights available. Probably a good idea to check out your audio options.
You are invited: To join the virtual book launch in September 2020. Follow this link and sign up.
Thanks and look forward to seeing you there (virtually of course).
If you were to break down Marketing you would be able to break down into a simple list.
For someone who has worked in Marketing for twenty years, Marketing has always had the same foundations. It has always had the same core pillars to succeed and can be broken down into just a handful of things.
The next step
Marketers have struggled to communicate their action plans and the why they are recommending their list of tactics and actions.
Many Marketing Leaders have stepped too far away or are too close to management teams to really break down Marketing into it’s simplest form and then struggled to communicate why they are going to take specific actions. This erodes trust quickly. As I mentioned in RIP to the CMO role (deck embedded below), this has to change.
The next time you look to explain and demonstrate what Marketing is and what you (and your team) are looking to achieve, this is a list you can run through and explain and build-out underneath these headings.
This might seem simple however by having these as sub category headings you will enable the whole organisation to understand and get behind your Marketing streams.
Next time you want to build out your quarterly plan or annual action plan consider how you integrate this with my 9p’s process: Problem, Pick, Plan, Prepare, Predict, Present, Preview, Prove, Proof
Here you go, it has a name. The 9p’s (not as catchy as the title) is the process we all go through at large organisations, every quarter we run through the same process to understand what we should be working on, how we hit the goals that are set, be proactive in making positive change, present it and then spend months chasing the goals or in many cases trying to prove and get proof it worked.
This process is a silent process, we typically run through this but rarely map it out in a way that it formalised or easy to apply for many departments.
I was recently speaking to a senior leader of a business, we discussed an array of subjects but one that stood out was the difference between teams within organisations.
We landed in saying that Marketing, Growth and Product Departments have the impossible task, they are the only teams that have to predict the future and then make it happen.
Let that sink in for a minute, only three departments truly have to think, collaborate (yes the best ones collaborate) and create the future alongside making it happen.
Product Departments have the difficult task in managing and delivering big techinical projects, Product Teams are often behind on delivery, catching up with predicted and long serving roadmaps or having to pick up tech debt. While Marketing and Growth have to pull the company and their users to the future and help to enable the future to happen. There are no real excuses for Marketing and Growth teams not to do this.
There is a but, almost all departments follow the same flow;
Understand the problem(s) we are solving,
pick what they are going to be working on,
plan for the future,
prepare a presentation or the numbers,
predict the outcomes, (assign yourself a large enough number to please the bosses but in near enough reach for you to actually hit
present to senior stakeholders,
preview the work,
prove it was the right thing(s) to have done
Show proof that it worked.
Then rinse and repeat. This can be frustrating but it is the nature of the business world.
Marketing and Growth often have what looks like the easiest or best jobs but the constant need to pull the company forward, breakdown every penny they spend, analyse and communicate user behaviours is challenging and getting harder.
The more channels that become popular the harder the job becomes, the more effective the messaging and targeting has to be and then passing over users to other teams to ensure they have a great experience often removes marketing from understanding their customers and who is likely just browsing.
Growth often has to pick up where Product work drops out and Marketing do not have the time or resource (typically technical or development) to improve the experience for the customers they worked so hard to get to the product or service.
Marketing does not sound so easy now, does it.
So although the 9P’s sounds like a silly process, it actually is a good way to build action plans and connect into the company-wide strategy. This 9p process will work in Marketing, Growth and Product Departments, a word of warning – do not allow teams to run off and create their own team version otherwise you are instantly siloing projects, tests, campaigns or programmes.
In recent conversations I have used these nine steps and have simplified the process down and enables staff of all levels to write down their action plan for the quarter ahead.
Why not try out the 9P process and see if it helps you focus the departments efforts for the future quarters ahead.
Problem(s) you and the team are trying to solve. List out the problems and think through the next three to six months.
Pick the most important problems and the ways you are looking to solve said problems. Pick a date for when they need to rolled out by
Plan your activities, plan the projects and the campaigns and demonstrate you understand the impact you are going to have. This is the spike or hunt phase for Growth or Product teams.
Prepare the data, prepare the deck, prepare the communications and understand how you are planning to move forward and backing up your problems and why you picked these and why they are a priority.
Predict the outcomes, breakdown by priority and show you understand you are going to move x or y metric.
Present the findings, present the campaign overviews and present it in a way that will get cut through
Create a preview of the work, show the teams around you, preview the campaign or project and start to roll out to live. Your plan and deadline dates will be important here
Prove you have done the right thing, prove you know the metrics you are moving and update to the teams and management that you picked the right work, prove it is working and show when you know how to optimise and improve. If it is working this is where you can ask for more investment.
This is the second most part of the process, gaining and showing proof you have answered the problems, that your plan was right and you are pushing the company into the right place.
With strategic projects there are so many ways teams and departments tackle presenting these issues, they all create in different formats and all predict in different ways, this is a way you and your departments can tackle the coming quarters and apply one theme or process for all to follow. I cannot stress how important it is for teams to collaborate and partner through the creation phase and check in constantly and not on slack or teams but on a centralised tool or in person.
Remember numbers are what senior leaders want but it is hard to demonstrate a story and growth of what you are doing without a presentation or video. Lead with numbers for trust but story-tell for cut through.
Retention is often one of the more difficult elements of Marketing, Growth or Product.
Typically you are reliant on extra work or building bespoke tools or flows.
Growth loops are more common now and with the recent lockdown, retention is going to be essential for all existing businesses. I’ve said on recent panels and livestreamed events, retention will be the new growth for many companies.
Retention can be broken down into the traditional (1) repeat usage, (2) repeat purchases.
Or into the more modern approach
(1) re-engage (when the user has gone quiet, consider comparing against their L (usage plotted over time) or apply on a smile graph) (2) reactivation (reactivating the user when gone inactive) (3) reacquire which is the hardest as the user has decided not to use you and you will have to pay another fee to bring them back to you.
Retention used to be the overlooked part of Marketing teams, many Marketing and Product Departments rely on the email (CRM) teams taking the lead in the lifecycle emails.
Repeat users would either use the brand or received enough comms (email, social media, SMS you name the channel) until they brought and used you again.
In the over-communicated world we live in, there just are too many channels, this blast (or spray and pray) approach just won’t work.
Ideas To Consider
Having a look back through more recent retention work and the best performing retention programmes, here are the best from my twenty years across Marketing, Product and Growth.
A word to the wise, the majority of these were hand-cranked, yes there is very rarely the silver bullet. So roll up the selves.
Personal Concierge Service
Personal doesn’t mean edit the name and URL it means getting to understand the user, their objective and crafting outreach to let the customer know you are wanting to help their cause, you want to speak to them personally and you will be available to them when it is convenient to them.
The personal concierge service is time-consuming but you are not looking to roll this out to 100% of users, you are looking at a quality cohort of 5 – 10% of users. This can be earlier in their journey or when their usage (or spending) spike drops. A red rope service is always an option if you have the staff who are great at what they do and can speak and create action plans for users. It is important to note in 2020 and beyond many people actively dislike the phone call or look to have live chat or even look to turn it into the dreaded zoom call, if your staff are comfortable these are all options.
If you are lean with staff or cannot leverage customer support or customer service, have one dedicated day you can assign for member(s) of the team to offer this.
If you know how to spot early usage patterns and quality signals vs quantity signals you will really easily be able to identify the people to reach out to first.
Bespoke Personal Tips
Everyone loves a nudge, behavioural science and economics have always said how important personal tips, nudges and recommendations are. When you are close to the product, it is easy to think the product is simple to use. In fact, as I have said previously, products have to be easy to learn, easy to use, easy to share, if your users are not all technology advanced or are time-limited it is important you make the product as easy to learn and as personal to their use case so they can use it more or use the product more effectively.
Something that many teams won’t consider is looking at the users, how many other users or their network they have brought with them and helping users to understand their network makeup and recommending to bring them specifically to the product. Close friends, close family, colleagues, promoting in groups/promoting on social media and then broadening to friends of friends are all ways you can help shape and guide users
A Thank You
Trivialization Effect is one of the more under-used behavioural economics out there, a thank you is something we as humans are primed for and look for validation or verification from external sources, brands and products can also leverage this if you have a connection with the brand.
A thank you has taken many shapes in recent years (from an emoji reaction on Slack or Microsoft Teams, to a gif in email or a thumbs up in response to an email) but sending a thank you great examples include email, a handwritten card or letter or a personal push / SMS can do wonders for your product and WOM recommendation.
These thank-yous have to be more than a generic thank you or a gif, it has to show you understand them individually and appreciate their efforts. Take it out of the CRM flow and look to review their actions or purchases.
Gifs can now be edited to scale, personalised designs have never been easier or creating video has never been as cheap or editable at scale.
Looking at users product usage or purchase habits does not have to be creepy, it can be something like picking out a review they have previously written, some feedback they have offered or a recurring gift they send.
Be mindful of sending a good time and encourage them to have a conversation with you one to one (over that communication channel) vs taking it to social media.
Leaderboards are like polls they are great for engagement and great for passive for use. Using the product or connected product is the goal however passively caring about how they are doing and being able to benchmark against someone they didn’t know they could be competing with is a sure-fire away to receive an increase in usage and interaction. Being top of the leaderboard or top x % always leads to social sharing or private sharing across chat apps like iMessage and WhatsApp, look to understand what makes everyone win vs attempting to make it number 1 spot is the only winner.
Encourage lighter competition and fun. Don’t always force competition if you are asking the user to spend more, push more or take a big action.
The leaderboard email trigger hooked in users and became the most opened email we sent out, your logic has to be smart and knowing when not to send an email.
Something to keep in mind for leaderboards is to ensure if you drive to a landing page you should prompt the user to know they can take their next action in the header or show notifications otherwise you are will a passive user or forget the purpose of why you would like the user to come back to your site.
Very rarely is it convenient for both parties online, what I mean by this is if someone contacts you it is rarely convenient for you to stop what you are doing and take that action they require.
One of my favourite tests was rolling out a remind me feature, it was a calendar based remind me service. A little detail, the calendar is still the best way to nudge someone and remind them of the action they need to take, why you might ask… gmail (50%+ of my email users) nudges users by sending a push into your calendar, sends you one to two emails before the event and stays sticker than any other notification. It can also nudge more than one person at once. Simple, straight forward and is very low cost and low friction and is normal behaviour. Getting the right time will be a test but something you will help you.