MW roundtable: what kind of marketer are you?
Our panel of experts discusses how new technologies and ideologies are changing the remit of marketing roles.
At a glance
SAS research, conducted exclusively for Marketing Week, has identified five key types of marketer:
- Social media mavens
- Email experts
- Mad men
- Direct marketers
- Multichannel marketers
Despite acting in the two least measurable channels, social media mavens and mad men are most confident about the channels they use. Those least confident about the effectiveness of their most significant channel are digital marketers (across direct and multichannel), operating in arguably the most measurable channel of all.
Do you think of yourself as a particular type of marketer, and are marketers adapting to the modern world?
Colin McDougall: I may look like an old-school direct marketer butI’d hate to be described as anything like that because we use 14 channels and I use pretty much all of them. It’s pretty stereotypical that the old-school direct marketer came from direct mail. It’s not about direct mail, it never has been. We use a lot of TV, and direct response TV marketers are realising that a lot of this activity needs to push people towards websites and social media. We still get 80% of our website traffic from offline media.
Charles Randall: One of the really interesting things from the survey came when we looked at social, because social is theoretically a consumer [B2C] marketing channel. But when you look at the proportion of marketers in B2C compared with business-to business [B2B], the latter appear to have been much more keen to move along the social route.
Ben Rhodes: B2B marketers always try to foster one-to-one conversations with customers because they’ve only got a handful of them as opposed to 10 million potential shoppers like Sainsbury’s. But what cost-effective social and digital channels allow you to have is a dialogue – not a monologue like a TV advert, but a dialogue at scale. There’s an awful lot that can be taken from that and you see quite a lot of B2B marketers moving across to B2C techniques, less so on the creative side but more on the strategic side in terms of their communications.
How have the fundamentals of marketing changed – if at all – in the era of fragmented audiences?
Adrian Walcott: The universal truth about marketing hasn’t changed. It’s about knowing your customers – where they are and what they do – and also understanding your own marketing objectives, then applying the two. A lot of our consumers are spending time on social so we need to be there. If they were somewhere else, we’d need to get there.
Ben Rhodes: When there was limited supply [of media channels] you could only communicate in a specific way to reach everyone. In ecommerce, you have this huge long tail: something like 30% of books purchased on Amazon have never been stocked in a bookstore.
Digital also adds real piquancy to things such as authenticity and content, and these are becoming core skills that a marketer needs to be aware of. You can’t have a promise over here and then an experience over there that’s different. People are always looking for a recommendation before they buy, even from trusted brands. The principles haven’t changed but the application of those principles has changed massively.
“I hear you’re not truly digital until no-one has digital in their title, and not customer-focused until no-one has customer in their title. I’m head of digital customer experience”
Colin McDougall, SunLife
Katherine Mearman: Marketers can’t exist in a silo. They have to interact more with the rest of the business, especially in terms of the experience through the whole channel. It isn’t just about selling an idea, you’re selling the brand and the end-to-end experience.
Richard Chalcraft: The digital world has enabled organisations to track and understand consumers pre-sale, during sale and post-sale much more effectively than they ever did before. But ironically, the window in which you can interact with those customers and do something useful is so fleeting these days because there’s so much noise. If you don’t interact in that moment and provide something relevant, the moment is gone. There’s much more interaction these days, but organisations aren’t set up to take advantage of it.
Data is permeating the marketing space. How do marketers access insights when data is not a core skill?
Ben Rhodes: One of the biggest challenges in the analytics field is getting analysts who can communicate. You can get brilliant analysts but you can’t put them in a room with others because they’re not communicators in the same way that traditional marketers are. There’s an interesting new role that needs to be created within the marketing team to be able to understand the data and communicate it in an actionable way that other people can pick up on.
Katherine Mearman: One of the biggest challenges we’ve got is that there’s so much data we need people with the skill set to interpret that and then bring it all together and present it in a meaningful way.
Maeve O’Sullivan: Great analytics people who are also great communicators are a rare breed. It’s like finding marketer who are absolutely brilliant at drilling down into the data. It’s the classic problem companies have where we’re used to sitting in our departments and perhaps not working as closely together as we could yet thinking about how we could structure our teams in a different way.
Adrian Walcott: We need to attract the right people. It’s about the power of alignment, clarity of vision and clarity of purpose. Once that’s out there, all the departments can think about how they play a role, being strict around vision but flexible around details. I’ve been collaborating with HR for years to think about how we get that in a service business.
Charles Randall: I think this is a serious issue for the HR department — they understand what an accountant looks like, they know what a Microsoft-qualified programmer looks like and what their price is in the market, but they can’t put a price on an analyst.
Colin McDougall: It’s also trying to understand what sort of cultural environment those curious data-driven people want to work in. You can pay them what they want but they won’t work for a small insurance company that has no ambition or tools. They’re interested in pushing boundaries and those are exactly the sort of people you want. There’s no point employing them if you can’t deliver. It’s not about different skill sets, rather it’s about attitudes and behaviours, wanting to learn and investing in learning.
Matthew Hunt: Data is only valuable if it’s based on insight and insight is based on understanding human behaviour. To find an analyst who can do that second bit is quite challenging but making the info usable and then understanding what consumers are going through and how they live their lives — that’s where the magic happens.
How hard is it to manage the tension between creativity and analytics in one role or department?
Colin McDougall: It’s great to come up with a hypothesis but I’d always try and validate it before I went ahead. Two or three years ago that just wasn’t possible – you’d go with a gut feeling. That’s still good, but validate it with real data before you do anything silly.
Adrian Walcott: Data just allows for richer, deeper briefs so it helps the creative start point to have all of that data about consumers. Instinct is still required – it’s not just about following the data. It’s a case of soaking up the information but allowing yourself to be visionary or future-facing, and taking punts.
Ben Rhodes: It’s difficult to take an initiative to a board without validation in today’s world because everyone knows there’s so much data out there. The thing is having the right balance of people in your team who can help join the dots in disparate ways and work out how you best test that and validate. The better organisations say we’re going to nurture that intuition but we’re going to validate it, stress-test it and build on it, and make it better.
Colin McDougall: People need to be allowed to be brave and to fail, and not all companies are allowed to fail. I don’t care if things fail as long as you learn and do something different and improve and test again, or stop doing it. It’s just a learning experience. You’re not failing unless you don’t learn.
Richard Chalcraft: It’s also important to consider how data is used at different levels. We’re talking a lot about creating brand strategy, the use of data at that level, big segmentations and ‘what should my product strategy be around?’. That’s different from the use of data at an operational level where, for example, you’re optimising the message going out at campaign level to specific individuals.
Real-time marketing is another trend. Is it a priority for you or your organisation?
Matthew Hunt: For us it’s a question of reputation management – if you’re not there within 20 minutes you’ve missed the boat. I’ve put a lot of effort into it but it’s less about brand-building and more about reputation, creating the right environment.
Colin McDougall: Not all marketing has to be real-time, sometimes just real-time enough for the channel you’re in. You can infer something if a customer has been retargeted: you can start the personalisation without having to link back your databases and make it horribly complicated. If you respond to social media, it’s just about having good listening tools and good people responding effectively. It’s real-time enough.
Ben Rhodes: Partly because of its vast infrastructure Royal Mail can’t really do real-time to 29 million people. But around customer experience and Twitter what we’re starting to do is test-and-learn in delivery and collection offices, deploying much more in-depth tracking so we can understand that experience. If we can create thousands of those experiences that’s great, but we’ll start with a few in high-impact areas.
The reason real-time is uniquely challenging is that it involves the capacity of the organisation to react to it. Most can only do two or three things brilliantly in a year and yet you’ve got data coming in that can be used to generate monthly reports, when the organisation will already have a plan for a quarter or half a year. If you want to execute your existing plans brilliantly, you can’t keep bombarding customers with stuff.
Maeve O’Sullivan: Another challenge is if a community manager spots something in all this real-time data and decides they should to act on it, they won’t be able to go up through a chain of command to get sign-off on something. If they don’t understand the brand – and they’re not empowered and not really living the values of the business – something could go very wrong. It’s a real loophole that needs to be closed quickly, especially by bigger companies.
Adrian Walcott: For those very reasons we’ve brought our community management in house. Having agency-side management that is working on a number of brands doesn’t help us. You need to know your organisation inside-out.
Leadership and customer-centricity seem to be the focus for CMOs, but what other skills do they need?
Katherine Mearman: There’s something about having a chief customer officer that is really important because it stops it being lip service. How many companies talk about putting the customer at the heart of things and how many actually do it? It’s really important to have someone on the board with ‘customer’ in their title.
Charles Randall: We did another piece of research beginning last year about who owns the customer and the people who claimed it most were in the sales rather than the marketing department. There’s obviously tension in the business as to who actually owns the customer.
Colin McDougall: I read recently that you’re not a fully digital company until no one has digital in their title, and you’re not truly focused on customer experience until you don’t have customer in your title, and yet I’m the head of digital customer experience. But for a time you do need to create those roles to be the catalyst for change. I feel that my job is to encourage, bully and transform as best I can.
Adrian Walcott: It depends on what kind of organisation you’re in. You need to promote greater collaboration between the different departments and if it isn’t there you need the chief marketing officer [CMO] or chief information officer, because it shows commitment and a vision for where you want to take the business. It’s unique to each organisation. A brand director in one organisation needs to be a marketing director elsewhere. You have to look internally.
Ben Rhodes: There are a lot of new and modern CMOs because the remit of the role so much broader now and there’s more analysis involved in it. Marketing is all about relationships. There are no new ideas really, they are just ideas in different contexts. But you can’t move up by being brilliant at just one thing any more. You have to have a much broader understanding of commerce.