From afterthought to business necessity: One entrepreneur’s changing view of marketing

As part of Marketing Week’s ‘View From The Outside’ series, former investment banker India Martin tells Charlotte Rogers how she discovered the power of marketing after launching her own business.

India Martin

India Martin’s view of marketing has taken a complete about-turn over the past five years.

As the former chief operating officer of investment bank JP Morgan Chase she says marketing was not seen as a business driver.

But since launching her luxury nail varnish business, Only Fingers and Toes, her opinion has completely changed, and having swapped corporate banking for a disruptive startup, she now appreciates the value good marketing can bring.

Here, she tells Marketing Week why her views of the discipline have shifted.

Different perspective

When I was in the corporate world, my view of marketing was much softer. I always saw what marketing did from an events perspective, all the fun and games. But I don’t think I appreciated how serious the role is in actually getting business.

At the time, marketing felt to me like an afterthought, maybe because of where I sat operationally as a chief operating officer. I didn’t experience much of the strategic vision marketing was trying to achieve.

Then when I started my brand Only Fingers and Toes five years ago, I began to understand. Whereas when you’re in a big corporate, marketing is part of the machine and you can take it for granted, it is very different when you’re in a smaller company. For an entrepreneur it is integral to your survival.

READ MORE: Aviva UK CEO – Marketing shouldn’t be the only function responsible for customers

I would say marketing has been more than crucial in building up my business. We are marketing all the time and I learned by a baptism of fire the fundamentals and operational marketing tasks.

I had always assumed that, in general, marketing was the fun stuff and I didn’t really understand the challenges you face on an operational level, like when people don’t like your marketing or you have to shift campaigns. In marketing, people make mistakes and it’s OK.

All about the ROI

Everything we do has to have a return on investment and I definitely believe that the discipline I learned in banking has helped me at least shape the kind of questions I should ask in terms of return.

That being said, banking is so risk-driven that in some cases I didn’t take the risks that I probably needed to from a marketing perspective, in terms of being a little more ‘out there’. It was the discipline I had been taught for several years around risk, which I have now thrown out of the window.

I had always assumed that marketing was the fun stuff and I didn’t really understand the challenges.

I’m applying all the things I learned through marketing in the UK to the launch of Only Fingers and Toes in the US, which has made my life a million times easier. Since I came to the US in October, 75% of what we have worked on has been marketing. It was the first thing we looked at.

A lot of the work has been on understanding what’s driving the market and how other brands are marketing to our target customer, so that we make the right choices when shaping our marketing strategy.

Marketing is a big part of my job. I always have to be confident of the strategy and thinking about what we do next. I’m a marketing tool for my business too.

I do, however, have people who do marketing in my business so I don’t have to do it all myself. In a small company particularly, you need to have people who know what they’re doing.

I pick people with great skills and who love what they do. As a smaller company, we’re not going to be able to pay people top dollar this second, so it’s more about people growing with us. Incentivising and having great people is super-important to our bottom line.

A huge line in the budget

Not all businesses value marketing in the same way and not all businesses use marketing in the same way. If you bring marketing to the table early on, you can get some interesting strategic value out the function it provides.

However, if it’s a function that sits off to the side, or is just seen as the people who do the presentations and client events, then I don’t think you’re getting the most value out of a function that can really help shape your business.

READ MORE: From disruption to domination – Three lessons for long-term success

Marketing is such a skill and it is undervalued. By the time somebody gets to CMO level they have such great value to add in terms of how people think about things and how they shape what their business will look like. It’s not just about brand, it’s about how you implement marketing strategies across your entire business.

Essentially, you cannot build a brand without marketing. It’s impossible. But I have learned never to underestimate how much marketing is going to cost you as a young brand. As I had always seen marketing as part of the corporate machine, I underestimated the cost of actually having to do it all the time, and what it would really mean for my business.

Marketing is also expensive if you’re going to do it right and you shouldn’t underestimate how much those costs are. I would say that whatever you put into marketing you have got to at least triple it if you’re going to be successful.

Over the next three to four years, 70% of what we do is going to be about marketing. It’s a huge budget line for us, but marketing will always be core to what we do.

Hide Comments1 Show Comment
  • John Robins 8 Jun 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Am I wrong in thinking that this statement – “As the former chief operating officer of investment bank JP Morgan Chase she says marketing was not seen as a business driver.” is a rather scary proposition? How may other large corporate CEOs who have not started their own company and remain in position out there also think this way?

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