Bill Merrick has more than 20 years experience in international business, gained in marketing, advertising and PR – from packaged goods to infrastructure. He is now, from London, partnering with Darren Woolley to launch TrinityP3 UK – to bring all of their combined experience and insight to clients in Europe.
In my rather long career, I’ve been back and forth on the marketing and advertising sides and have learnt a great deal about where to spend my time and what to spend it on.
I’ve also learnt a lot about the relationship between time and money. When you get the time right, it makes spending the money so much more enjoyable, targeted, accountable, much more effective and much more inclusive.
All of which means that you’ll lose less sleep, make more friends, be a success in your role and have more time and money – both personally and professionally.
As a marketing director, The Holy Grail really is where you focus your efforts.
The six best places to spend your time (in order of importance)
- With your team.
- In your company’s channels.
- With the team you lead.
- With your researchers.
- With your end market purchasers.
- With your agencies.
Why in this order?
Oh my!….. I didn’t put agencies first – please let me quickly explain why.
Another great thing about having had a long career in both marketing and agency roles in many, many countries is – evidently – that you meet a great many very good marketing and agency people. You get to see them going about their routines and observing how they manage priorities.
Oddly enough, it all came down to where and how they spent their time.
The really successful marketing directors spent very little time with their agencies.
The very successful agency management I met spent as much time as possible with all of their clients.
The least successful marketing directors spent most of their time with their agencies.
And the least successful agency management spent most of their time in the agency.
Let’s go back to the list and go through it one by one. Hopefully, this will clarify why this makes sense.
1. Spend most time with your team.
(The team you’re on is your peers and superiors. Bleedingly not obvious to a lot of people.)
As a Marketing Director of a large organisation (I mean at any level from global through regional to local country) you will almost certainly report to a CEO. You’ll have the “C Suite” around you. You are a member of a team. If you don’t play well with your team – everything else you do will be fraught with anxiety and failure.
Do all of them know what you’re up to? Why you exist? What you do for them and the company? Do you keep them informed and fed with facts? Is the CFO your closest ally? Does manufacturing admire your insights into what you make – how you make it – what you make it from?
Does the Sales Director think you’re just the person to call on major accounts with them? Does the IT Director talk to you and avoid big words? Does procurement always sigh and look towards the ceiling when meeting with you? Has the supply chain organisation asked if you like sex and travel? And in what used to be called HR and is now Talent Management, do they giggle as you pass?
Harnessing the energy and expertise of these people and their departments behind you will mean that you are close to getting a company that should be well on the way to being “customer centric.” (We all want to sell more, more often to more people – and be better all the time).
This will also have the wonderful effect of meaning that silos will disappear and that when you do talk to the agencies, it’ll be a very productive and satisfying chat for everyone.
2. Spend lots of time in your distribution channels.
This means anyone in any chain down to the end buyer. Everyone is someone’s customer – and if they aren’t all aligned behind your commercial objectives – it is not going to be a well-oiled machine.
As the Marketing Director – how this all works together well should be your assumed problem. Sure, there are supply chain specialists, warehousing, shipping, dealers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers and even e-commerce – and at the end of all of this – a consumer.
I hate to tell you this – but it’s your job to orchestrate the design, engineering, implementation and monitoring of the “brand experience.”
Now you may say this is too simplistic – and some may say too complex; but it’s actually an issue of whether you’re B2B, B2C or a wonderful mess of both. Most organisations are, but don’t think hard enough about it.
The FMCG industry is not very good at getting this thoroughly. The one exception is the tobacco industry – they can talk to anyone except the end user….
So as the Marketing Director, you can align all of this behind your brand’s commercial imperatives – your team, the team you lead, your supply chain and everyone else and all will be cheering on your mutual success.
3. Spend regular time leading your team of specialists
As the Marketing Director, you’ll most certainly have a team to lead. They will probably be quite grown up and capable. If they’re not, then you may have an answer to some of the reasons for your sleepless nights.
Are they structured and purposed to align behind the commercial objectives of the organisation? Do they have the right priorities that are driven by commercial imperatives and not what’s “in”?
Are you helping them deal with the suppliers they work with? Are you making sure the whole ecosystem is aligned, measured, resourced and compensated accordingly? Are their budgets based on objectives – not history?
Once all of these things are mastered and the whole team knows where they need to spend their time and resources – you will have a whole lot more time to think and investigate the really interesting things….
4. Spend time to be curious.
Are you spending enough time finding real insights into customers, competitors, channel and technology development?
The Marketing Director needs to have incredible intelligence capabilities at his or her disposal – and use these resources carefully. See where changes are happening – work out what needs to be done – where investment will be needed – where disinvestment is crucial.
What new markets are being created by new technologies, new channels or new materials? Curiosity is the Marketing Director’s best asset. Complacency and status quo the greatest killers.
5. Spend time with end users – or at least amongst them.
I was really fortunate to start my career in large surface retail. I joined Woolworths in Australia on their management-training program. I had to clean the floors, unload trucks, manage the warehousing areas, use point of sale systems, manage a large number of people, meet sales reps – and the most fun of all – serve people of all shapes, sizes, races and creeds.
It is fascinating to learn to watch how and why people make choices at the very end of the chain. It is also really good to learn that helping people make choices that are right for them – means they come back. And back again. It is also important to make sure they can keep their dignity.
I went on to work in Sales with the Mars Corporation and ended up being a State Manager, running a sales force and doing negotiations with major retailers. I spent most of my time in their stores talking to customers – and not a one ever – wasn’t happy to talk about why their dog loved Pedigree dog food and they loved Mars bars.
If we meet some day, ask me about some of the stories.
When you spend most of your time with people in the act of buying -instead of when they’ve bought – it can be very instructive as to what really shapes their views. It’s a bit like the recent debacle on Brexit – everyone on all parties kept on message, but no-one was really listening to the cry for help on “where did our national identity go?”
It wasn’t the economy, stupid.
Spending any time out there “in the field” no matter whether you’re B2B, B2C or again – a mix – will stand you in very good stead when you’re in a room of “experts.”
6. Spend time with your agencies.
I mean any of the agency types – Creative, media, PR, Activation, Digital and so on.
Agency managers are normally very nice people.
I know, I used to be both.
They are also very well informed, pretty good problem solvers, very convincing presenters, can be very insightful and these days, quite stretched on just about every front.
They love the industry. I think there are very few professions that get people quite so addicted. I’ve come to think it’s closer to the entertainment industry than the rest of business. Although entertainment industry people are far too earnest.
No matter how hard all of us try to change their minds, the agency industry people still think it’s important, has a message, is glamorous and makes money. One out of four is not bad.
However, the great ones – the ones that really do make a difference – are the ones that have just one thing in common – happy successful clients.
It surprises me how often anyone thinks of asking the agency’s other clients about this. The agency industry should be thoroughly B2B.
Whether the agency is in PR, Media, Creative, Activation, Direct or any form of consultancy they have – to know where and how they can add value – not just take a slice of the pie.
Their expertise and contribution has to be that they are better at finding and convincing the people you want – to buy – to buy more of your stuff.
Even if they’re only twice as good as you – it will be worthwhile.
However, the really great ones are made up of people who can literally be worth their weight in gold. Not award gold, coin of the realm gold. What they do is to be creative on demand and in quantity. This is not easy.
And it has become harder and harder. The temptation these days is always to “add a bit more, stretch a bit thinner”, when, in fact, a reduction in some areas may be beneficial.
Great gardeners know that pruning is a great skill and massively helpful to productivity. Now, ask yourself which clients get the best work? You can bet your life it’s the Happy Marketing Director of whom you may never have heard.
Why not? Because he or she doesn’t need the fame, doesn’t need the profiling – trusts his agencies to get on with the job whether he’s there or not. These marketers trust them to be on the job – available when they’re needed – and understand their c business inside out – and often know most of their C-Suite almost as well as they do.
So perhaps the lesson is that by spending time where one should – one can build brands, businesses, people and trust – all at the same time.
And still have time for life.
I’ll clock off now.
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