scott allen on market mentors podcast
Jan 30, 2019

Scott Allen – CMO, Microsoft

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer



Fiona Jensen: Welcome to Market Mentors, a podcast for the marketing leaders of today and tomorrow. I’m Fiona Jensen, a director and co-owner of Market Recruitment. For over a decade I’ve been helping B to B marketeers find the best jobs with great companies.

Fiona Jensen: Together we’ll discover how marketing experts reached the top and learn from their experience, ask career related questions you can’t get answers to elsewhere, be tough, be challenged, be mentored.

Fiona Jensen: From startup to global giant, with a mission of transformation, Scott Allen, formerly CMO and now global marketing programs development and strategy director of Microsoft, talks us through the highs and lows of tech marketing and provides valuable takeaways on how not to get left behind.

Fiona Jensen: So, I’m here with Scott Allen in the Microsoft offices. Thanks ever so much for having us today Scott.

Scott Allen: [crosstalk 00:01:15]

Scott Allens B2B marketing career

Fiona Jensen: Much appreciated. So, for the audience, those who don’t know, Scott Allen formerly CMO UK of Microsoft, recently moved to an international role as, now this is a biggie, get ready everybody, global marketing programs development and strategy director. So over to you Scott. What does that mean?

Scott Allen: Okay, so formerly I was heading up marketing within the UK for Microsoft. So very simply put, I had to go to markets, perform in that role with a very talented team which was consumer marketing and B to B marketing. Alongside that go-to-market strategy with the commercial and the consumer team, we also had our center of excellence that was responsible for the strategy and delivery of that marketing. So we had the digital team, that’s everything from digital destinations, paid media, content creation, social, analytics insights and also the events experiential team as well. So first-party, third-party events, VIP visits to our offices and to see our execs. And also webinars as well. So all the CMO team was responsible for consumer, B to B and then the delivery of that as well.

Scott Allen: I’ve now just transitioned into a new role with Microsoft headquarters, it’s a global role. So I’m looking forward to working with the team. They’re very excited about the future of marketing and where it’s going. Digital transformation is now the thing we do daily. It’ snot something we have to do, it’s something we should be doing and we are doing. And we are transforming quite significantly within Microsoft around our marketing. And I now have joined the team that is responsible for driving that transformation forward.

Scott Allen: So it’s helping land some of the investments we’ve already made within to the field market. And obviously I have field experience, but also looking at the future investments from Microsoft so that we continue to be top of the game in the marketing that we do. So very very excited for that role, only two weeks in, but looking forward to working with a wealth of talent within my HQ team and being part of that team now.

How to work with the US as a UK based B2B marketer

Fiona Jensen: Sounds amazing. And one of the conversations we had before we started recording was a conversation around the major frustration that a lot of marketeers have in the market, maybe from software companies, who often get a lot of the strategic decision making in another country, the US normally, and then who have the frustration of dealing with that relationship and how to overcome. It sounds like you’ve found a way.

Scott Allen: Well I’m also very lucky. Microsoft are great at wanting to hear the views and the opinions of people in the field. There’s a lot of experience in the field, but I’m a big believer that strategy has to come from one place and one place only. If everybody owns strategy, then we’d have a very very mixed set of marketing that would be going out and it wouldn’t be consistent, and ultimately you’d end up not being as good as you could be, but also wasting money. So having strategy based out of the headquarters is absolutely right.

Scott Allen: I think what now, you will see more and more of and we do have it in Microsoft now for a few years, is listening to the field of what their thoughts and opinions are, because they’re the ones that are consuming it and that advice going back into HQ as well. So you’ve got a nice two-way street of strategy coming out and the thinking coming from the center, but that’s been influenced also by people in the field. What I’ve got is field experience which I can now take into that team. So I’m going to learn a lot from them, but also hoping they can learn a lot from me around how the field works.

Scott Allen: So I don’t think we should get frustrated that strategy comes from one place, but there should be that confidence that you should be able to put your ideas forwards. And I’ve been very lucky in my CMO role of being able to do that and working with my core colleagues accordingly. Now I’m part of that team, I’m really really excited to be working with them to help land that strategy back into the field.

Fiona Jensen: Fantastic, thank you. And the other thing that I was personally just interested in was what it’s like coming from a B to B background and now also, as you touched on, having the consumer element as well. What was that like? How did you really integrate yourself with the consumer side? Because often, they say they’re two very different skillsets.

Scott Allen: Yeah and often that’s what you’re told, but actually they’re not as vastly different as you would expect. Obviously there are the differences that are obvious. The fact that you are doing marketing that is going directly to a consumer audience as opposed to organizations and individuals within there. But actually we’ve started to do a lot of marketing that is cross-consumer and commercial. We’ve done some really big campaigns where we brought the two together. Ultimately the end goal is that you are trying to either build reputation, create demand, or enable your teams to go sell in a more efficient way.

Scott Allen: And even in consumer, when I talk about the sales enablement bit, that’s working retail partners. How do we get our products better front and center within retail stores or online? How do we sell them better? How do we educate the sales force to sell one of our Surface devices or whatever that may be?

Scott Allen: So I don’t think there’s a lot of difference actually between the two as much as you think. The way that you will go to market and execute, we obviously with consumer do a lot of out of home and TV advertising you wouldn’t necessarily do with B to B. But actually the way that you will think about a brief, think about the objectives of the brief and also the KPIs and outcomes that you want, is all the same. It just, it may be done in a slightly different way. So the transition to consumer was not as vast as I thought it would be. And actually what I’ve tried to do with the team is bring commercial and consumer to work more closely together so that we can go out with one wholistic story that works both in the consumer and the B to B world. So really enjoyed my time in doing both of those and that my new role, very excited about how I can be part of the B to B transformation for marketing that we’re doing.

Interview advice for B2B marketers

Fiona Jensen: Very interesting, thank you. So, I’m sure that our audience are dying to get a few hints and tips from you. So having interviewed a host of B to B marketeers over the years, what advice would you give them to perform better at interview?

Scott Allen: Yeah, so obviously I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years for varying different types of roles and experience. And I think probably the thing first and foremost with interview is don’t try to second guess what the interviewer is looking for. So mostly people will always turn up with a PowerPoint presentation. Hey, I love PowerPoint, obviously, but don’t actually feel you need to conform to how an interviewer, and standing interview, is always done. So I love it when someone turns up and they don’t get PowerPoint out, they say they want to get onto a whiteboard and they’re going to whiteboard some of their thinking to me or they’re going to talk to me or explain to me something in a slightly different way, either verbally or using props. Rather than just, “I’m going to use PowerPoint.”

Scott Allen: If they’re going to use PowerPoint, using that as your signpost, not feeling you need to cram every bit of information on their because you want the interviewer to go away with every single thing that’s been on your CV and in your mind. Ultimately by the time you get to interview stage, your CV has done a really good job in saying that you’re experienced to do the role. Obviously there will be some testing questions there, just to validate what’s on your CV, obviously. But actually the interviewer will be looking, I certainly have been looking for the fit. How do you fit into the team? Would this company be the right company for you as much as will you be the right company for them as well? So it’s a two way thing.

Scott Allen: So interviews for me should be two way. It shouldn’t be, me as interviewer asking you lots of questions and expecting you to give me 100 answers back. I’d like it where there’s a bit of conversation going both ways and I’m learning from you in the interview as much as I’m asking lots of different questions.

Scott Allen: So ultimately my tip would be, think about turning up slightly differently to how we normally conform to interviews. Whether that’s whiteboarding or some other way of getting across the messages. Make sure you do have some questions that you want to ask the interviewer but don’t wait until the end. That’s a standard thing you normally get, “Any questions for me?” And there’s three questions that you’ve pre-written down even if you don’t fully want to get the answer from them. Try to be a bit more authentic about how you deliver it, and someone who turns up a little bit differently. And then kind of gets across their fit and their personality as much as their skillset will win through in the end for me.

Fiona Jensen: So being human and trying to relax and enjoy the interview as much as possible as well?

Scott Allen: Totally, totally, because think about the-

How to overcome nerves in interviews

Fiona Jensen: It is quite tough though when you’re confronted with Microsoft. We’re in the London office today and I have to say it’s all rather nerve wracking coming in with secure lifts and the big glass wonderful building and it’s all nice and airy. It’s quite an experience for people. So how can they overcome the nerves I suppose, which is normally people’s worst enemy in my opinion?

Scott Allen: And I totally get that. And I think as interviewers we need to be better at making sure we put people at ease. So I’m very quick at the start of an interview to try and maybe have some form of humorous conversation to get them a bit more comfortable, but also make it very clear to them I don’t want this to be really really formal. So, just trying to go in there and understand that the person on the other side is a human as well and they have a personal life and they probably have similar interests to you nine times out of 10, you just don’t know about them at that time.

Scott Allen: So I normally talk about the fact of, try to treat them as if they’re you’re peer, even though I know it’s nerve wracking because you’re trying to get the job. But also the interviewer, hopefully, should help you be at eat a little bit more as well. And if not, that’s something that you need to try and build into the early answers that you give so that it feels that it’s less a formal interview and has a little bit more of a personality within it.

How to assess a B2B marketing job

Fiona Jensen: Good, lovely. So if you were interviewing for a B to B marketing role, what would you need answering in order to feel confident it’s the one for you? I suppose we’re kind of looking to tap into Scott’s brain and what’s important to you.

Scott Allen: Yeah, absolutely. I think for me there’s probably three things that I would look for, ultimately, if I was interviewing for a role, either within this company or more probably, for what I’m going to say, for other companies that I don’t know too much about. First and foremost is, it’s fine to ask the question to the person who’s interviewing about, how important, how critical is marketing today? What is it performing? How is it seen across the business? This is good to get a viewpoint of, “Hey it’s great, we love it, we just need to get it onto next level.” Or, I’ve had in previous, interview answers of, “Yeah, it’s about as low down the pecking order as possible. You’ve got a lot of work to do.” Now, I’m a transformational marketeer, so that to me is music to my ears, going and fix something that’s not in a good place. But it’s good to understand where it is, how it’s seen in the business and therefore you know what you’re working with when you go in and there’s not surprises.

Scott Allen: I think the second bit, which is absolutely super critical for me, which is why I love working for Microsoft, it’s about culture. What is the culture of the company? How does that culture work? How do the employees work together? What’s the overall feel of the office? How employees work? Is there flexibility there? What’s the feeling around work-life balance? Those sort of cultural, really important things, to get across of what you’re going into. Because I think in this day and age, when you go to an interview, you should be interviewing the interviewer as much as they’re interviewing you, because you’ve got to choose the environment that’s right for you. Otherwise you’ll end up going to a role that isn’t a good fit for either of you.

Scott Allen: And I think nine times out of 10, gut feel comes into it. You’ll know when you walk into an office or you deal with two or three people within the organization that you’re interviewing for, whether it’s the right feel for you. So, don’t use gut feel as your first choice mechanism, but definitely have it built in there alongside those other two areas.

Career advice for Graduates in marketing

Fiona Jensen: Lovely, okay. How do you figure out what you want to do marketing career-wise, out of university?

Scott Allen: So, I’m probably a great example of someone that has done that. So I went to university, I went to Bournemouth University, way back when. And at the same time I did a marketing degree I also did my Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications. Massive fan of the CIM, I’m a very massive fan the CIM. I still do work with them today. And I left uni with this marketing degree and qualification and I think the biggest bit of advice that I can give, and this is what I did is, don’t decide what you want to do once you’ve got your degree and it’s the summer and you need to go find a job for whatever reason. Some people may not have to rush into a job, but often it’s critical that you do because you’ve got to go pay rent or whatever financial pieces you have to cover in the immediate term.

Scott Allen: So try and think during your last year at university, what is it you really want to do. And my example was, I was going into the workplace, or I would’ve been going into the workplace at a time when we were moving from analog to digital in the mobile phone world, for those who are old enough to remember back that far. There was people like BT Cellnet and Orange just started to launch into the UK market. And I had a bit of a passion for technology anyway, so I deliberately picked a technology area that I knew was going to be the next piece of innovation that was going to happen. And therefore I stared to hone in, reading up around this area, but also honing in on the sorts of organizations that operated in them.

Scott Allen: And obviously there was the operators, but there’s also the companies that were dealing with implementing the infrastructure and services around this move to digital. Therefore I ended up joining a company that were responsible for producing SIM cards. And I joined as a marketing assistant, but I went in there at the lowest level you could, which is fine, because I didn’t expect to leave uni and have some senior marketing role. I have to go and learn my trade essentially. But I knew I’d picked an industry that I wanted to be in for a number of years. Now, I’m still in the technology industry all these years later, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in that industry, but try and think about somewhere where you want to get a little bit of longevity in, so that you can then start to come up through the ranks.

Scott Allen: And I was lucky enough to then move from marketing assistant to marketing manager, head of marketing, as I went through different companies and into different roles. So I think if you then selected the industry or the type of organization you want to join, it’d be good to see whether you can meet up with an employee from one of those organizations. Get a feel of who they are, what they do. That could be via events that are going on or you might be lucky using something as great as LinkedIn to see who’s connected to who, to make an introduction for you. And if you can move that one step on, there’s an option to do some work experience there, even if it’s unpaid, so that you get an idea of how that organization works. That might get you in the shop window with that organization. If not, it at least gives you an opportunity to understand how that works. And that will set you in really good stead, rather than, “I’ve left uni and now I’m going to just apply as many roles as possible across many different industries.” Without really knowing which one’s going to excite you.

Scott Allen: So my advice is try and be more planful way before your degree ends.

Fiona Jensen: So be a person with a plan? I like it.

Scott Allen: Yeah.

The transition from Manager to Director in B2B marketing

Fiona Jensen: How did you make the transition from being a manager to showing that you could strategically have a big influence on key business decisions? You talked there about marketing assistant to marketing manager. There’s normally another step in between.

Scott Allen: Yeah, so I would say that transition phase, probably two areas for me. First of all, it’s being on top of your business. And I talk about this from being on top of your business both from a marketing standpoint, as a marketeer whether I’m still new to a role and new to experience or whether I’m leading a team, understanding the business as a whole. Sometimes as marketeers we can get stuck into that, “I’m going to do this marketing over here and I’ve got a reasonable idea of why I’m doing it related to the business, but I don’t fully know because I’ve not got on top.” So do I know how the business reports back to our investors? What are investors really interested in? At Microsoft that is how do we report to Wall Street?

Scott Allen: If I don’t know how we report to Wall Street, how would i really know what marketing needs to be successful, what I should be focusing on? So I listen to the earnings calls that are run by our CEO and our CFO at every quarter.

Scott Allen: How do the growth aspirations of the organization look like? What are those key objectives we’ve got? What is our growth strategy for the next one to two years? What is the way that sales people are paid? So often we talk about wanting to work really closely with sales people, but if you don’t know how a salesperson is paid or how they’re operating or what motivates them, because they’re under extreme pressure, we can often say sales teams don’t appreciate marketing. That may be true. Often I find that’s not true, they probably just don’t understand it. If you understand their world, it’s then very easy to communicate your world back to them. So understanding the business piece alongside your own marketing organization’s critical.

Scott Allen: Second bit is about ensuring that you are relevant to the business in what you’re doing. So don’t get into a position where your stakeholders feel marketing is being pushed on them. Which, often I’ve heard that, “Hey, you’re pushing marketing on me. I’m not really sure why I should be using it.” What you want to hear is, “Marketing is really adding value to what I’m doing.” So they should naturally feel that it’s adding value. So try to get in the position where you are talking to them about what marketing can do to help them in their language. If they feel that’s more relevant, they’re going to want to engage with you more, use it more and then more importantly, tell you how well it’s helping them in their day job and helping secure customers and revenue.

Marketing skills needed to move up the career ladder

Fiona Jensen: Fantastic. So what experience do you need to build on to make the move from manager to director or head of marketing role?

Scott Allen: So I’d say for this one there’s no blanket answer because it does depend on the size of company, where you are in your growth cycle as that organization and also whether you’re B to B or B to C organization as well, because there is a bit of difference there in terms of how you do your business. I think for me there needs to be a passion to continue developing as a person. I’ll touch on that during the course of an interview, what I mean by personal development over career development. But developing as a person and in your career is a must do, rather than getting into a situation where you’re in retrain mode.

Scott Allen: So often, I’ve seen marketeers leave it late before they go and learn something and they’re learning it because they have to, but then they’ve got a short time period to have learned it. Whereas if you are a little bit more in the mindset of, “I’m going to learn and I’ve got a thirst for learning as I go.” You can develop on the go rather than retraining at the end for a reason that has been thrown upon you.

Scott Allen: If you can also try to balance that with practical experience, that really helps as well. So, what I mean by that, I think the theory’s great, but practical experience alongside helps you tremendously. So is there an opportunity to do side projects as you go? And we’re very big on that in Microsoft. We talk about the One Microsoft culture here, whereof we’re all in it together, we all want to succeed together. Therefore there is the opportunity to work on projects within the business that maybe wouldn’t necessarily align 100% to your day-to-day job. But it’s something where you’re going to learn, but also you’re going to add value to the business. So if there’s opportunity to do that, that’s a really good thing.

Scott Allen: The other thing is, which I’ve found to be quite popular, is can you do skills exchanges? And that could be one-to-one skills exchange. So is there external people within other organizations that do a similar role to you where you can go and learn about how they perform their role and you learn them how you perform yours. That’s worked really really well with my teams.

Scott Allen: In the old team that I had in Microsoft UK where we’d have the social team from CMO UK Microsoft, go and meet the social team at one of our banking customers and one of our retail customers. Or when you’ve got two disciplines that are different coming together to learn from each other. So it may be the analytics team going to meet the branding team from another organization and learning how branding works, but also branding learning how analytics works. Because ultimately the two do work quite well together. So try to bring that practical and theory together if you can and that will definitely put you in good stead.

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KPI’s modern B2B marketers should focus on

Fiona Jensen: What are the top five KPIs that a marketeer should focus on?

Scott Allen: Okay, so I would put this more from a personal standpoint rather than KPIs that we have in our day-to-day job around qualifying leads and revenues and all the other key metrics that we have. So from a personal perspective as a marketeer, I would say be bold, be bold in what you do. Don’t feel that you have to just conform to the norm all the time. Have a transformative mindset. If you’re transformative that will help you with the learning and the development piece. But also it will help you come up with new ideas. We talk a lot about growth mindset in Microsoft. Having that growth mindset and feeling that you can transform the marketing that you’re doing is super important.

Scott Allen: And I talk about yearning to learn and be better. And you’ll hear me talk a lot about learning. Learning culture within organizations is very very important. You’ve got to have a learning culture, personally, around wanting to continue to move on in your career. You have to learn more, you have to understand more. And I talk about that even in the roles that I do. Just because I’ve got into more senior roles doesn’t mean that I know all, and I never will. I continue to learn and I think that’s very very important.

Scott Allen: I’m also very very passionate about having an insights mindset. If you’ve got an insights mindset and you’re getting the data that you’ve got within your business and the data you can access externally, are you converting that into insights that helps you make forward making decisions, not just looking back? We’re very good as marketeers looking back and seeing how well we performed, which is fine, we have to do that. What about using those insights to make forward making decisions? And therefore I’m big on having that insights mindset.

Scott Allen: And then the last one is more around, for me, business are made by people. People make businesses and they make businesses succeed. They help businesses be part of the change that is needed. So, as an individual, be part of the change. Don’t complain about the change that’s happened, go and join the change and be part of it and be the change with the organization, because also you will change as well for the better. And apply that across the culture for the business, the approach the business takes and the overall environment that you want to have within the business as well. So be part of that change, don’t be somebody that is resistant to that change.

Convincing someone your marketing plan is right

Fiona Jensen: Lovely, really good advice. How do you convince someone your marketing plan is the right thing to do?

Scott Allen: So I talked about the insights bit, so you’ll hear me talk a lot about that if you ever hear me talk at conferences. I talk a lot about being, insights and analytics being the new muscle of marketing and I really truly do believe that. So using insights based on data, super critical. It’s a much better conversation with your stakeholders when you’re using insights, i.e. facts, to have a conversation. Rather than just opinion. Opinion’s important, but you’ll always get top trumped by insight and facts than you will opinions. So going in and having that more insights lead conversation will set you in a much better position with your stakeholders in terms of getting the outcome that you want.

Scott Allen: What I mean by that is things like, instead of going in and saying, “Hey, we should do this event because we’ve always done it over the last three years and it seems to work and here’s some leas we got.” And a couple of small insights there. Going in and saying, “Hey, I’ve done some insights on what we should be doing for events and I’ve seen that we have … Let me give you an example. A lot of our banking customers are based in the Manchester area. We’ve done some propensity modeling, we can see that these organizations are likely to want to by this format at some stage. This is the type of role that would potentially buy this product from us. Hey, let’s run an event for these types of customers, with this type of content and theme and invite these sort of people.”

Scott Allen: We’re getting more sophisticated with marketing and machine learning to be able to pull that. Data and AI is going to be even more our partner as we move forward as marketeers. So use that to your advantage and use that insights lead approach to have much better conversations.

Fiona Jensen: Really, that’s great, thank you. When is it safe to move more towards strategy and leave the tactical/hands-on tools behind without jeopardizing your value as a marketeer to your current organization?

Scott Allen: Yeah, this is the age old question. It’s that fine balance of course where there is a need for you to being playing a role in hitting the near term company objectives and revenue targets. And we’re all there, we’re always there. It doesn’t matter what size of organization you are, that’s really really important to do.

Scott Allen: But I do mention the word balance. It’s important to also think about marketing in terms of what it can achieve for you. And I put it into three essential, three areas that we focus on. As a marketeer, I might have a driving reputation for the organization. In the B to B world I’d call that commercial intent, but reputation is what I would call it in the consumer world. We’re creating demand and that demand hopefully then will lead to opportunities and sales followups, which then could essentially lead to revenue. But our job doesn’t stop when we pass a lead over.

Scott Allen: We also have a big part to play, which is the third piece, around sales enablement. How do we enable our sales teams to be more effective in the selling they do? How can they be better social sellers using LinkedIn Navigator? Making sure they do have the right decks, the right customer case studies, the right events or workshops they can get their customers to. So our job doesn’t stop when we pass an opportunity over. Our job is not very much from the reputation piece, which is minus 10% of the customer journey, right through to 100% plus in some organizations like Microsoft, where once somebody’s bought the product we want them to be using it and using it in an effective way.

Scott Allen: So if you think across those three areas, that gives you a much better idea about where you’d invest and how you’d invest. And then if you looked at how you would move forward on that, it depends on where you invest will effect whether you take a market. And what I mean by taking a market is planning for moving into a market where you’re not yet know. If you’re moving to a market where you’re not yet known, it’s probably less initially around developing leads and more about being know in that area. Therefore your KPIs are going to be different to if you’re what I call, taking a market, which is generating opportunities and revenue for the here and now, because you’re already known in that are, you just need more customers and more opportunities to pass to the sales teams.

Scott Allen: So whatever you do around making market and taking market, will depend on then what your KPIs are. But more importantly, take your stakeholders with you on that. So if you’re going to spend some money on reputation building, make sure they’re clear on what the KPIs are and they are different whether you’re taking a market, which is around more traditionally what marketing’s been known for which is generating leads and opportunities.

Managing your career in B2B marketing

Fiona Jensen: There we go, so make sure that you know what your objective is before you start measuring your own KPIs or value. How do you manage your marketing career in a company that’s very very short term focused?

Scott Allen: Yup, been there before quite a bit and it’s always a challenge. So the way that I would say is, it’s easy to get into a short term mode of thinking and a short term way and end up doing things that stakeholders are asking for, without any real purpose or strategy of why you’re doing it. It’s a case of, “Hey, we need to hit this revenue number for this month. Market here and I need you to do this, this and this.” And you will end up, because you want to make good for the company, ending up doing that without actually challenging back of whether this is going to make a blind bit of difference whether we do it.

Scott Allen: So I think trying to think about where you get key stakeholders with you early on in the thinking and you talk to them about this notion of making market and taking market. If you’re building reputation to take to marking your ROI measurements are going to be very different to if you’re taking the market where you’re creating traditional leads, opportunities and revenue. So I think it’s about this thing I talked about with the KPIs bit, being bold and being transformative. If you’re bold and you’re transformative, you would’ve got your stakeholders understanding the difference between taking a market and making a market. And if you can get them on the same page as you, then they are going to be more comfortable you spending some money on something that doesn’t give near term results, but it will help you over the next six, nine, 12, 18 months.

Scott Allen: But as you can see, there’s always a fine balance here. You can’t spend all your money in one bucket, you have to make sure that you’re also helping generate opportunities in the moment. But it’s about being a bit bolder and transformative around how you spread that money out evenly.

Fiona Jensen: What’s the worst experience you’ve had working for someone?

Scott Allen: That’s a good question. I would say, for me, there’s one experience around getting over the hurdle of the value that marketing can bring. I’m sure that means a lot to people who are listening out there. It was hard. So despite many attempts, that I tried to show them what marketing was and what it was doing and how it is working for the company, not just from my standpoint. So I decided to not come from my viewpoint and come from their viewpoint.

Scott Allen: So even from their side of the fence, using their language, it still didn’t hit home. I used insights, as I’m passionate about insights, to show it. I also brought in an external, credible marketeer who was a bit more senior than me at the time to meet with them and just to talk to them a little bit more about marketing to hopefully help as well. Despite all of that, we were still seen as an overhead and I just couldn’t, whatever I tried, couldn’t convince them or show them what marketing was all about and I was still seen as being the department that was useful in writing stuff. And it just wasn’t a very nice experience.

Scott Allen: And sometimes you will get across those situations where whatever you do, you don’t always get the buy-in of that key stakeholder, no matter what you try. And sometimes it’s a case of you may never do that. And then you need to work out is there alternatives to that or should you take more radical action?

Fiona Jensen: I.e. leave?

Scott Allen: Essentially yes.

Fiona Jensen: Get the hell out. What’s the lowest point you’ve reached where you thought, “Is this really worth it as a career?”

Scott Allen: Oh yes. Okay, so this would be related to my last answer, where I had a leader and stakeholders who, despite my best efforts, did not think marketing added value. I started then to question, was it me? Was I in the right role? This was a bit earlier on in my career as well, so I was lucky enough to get a marketing manager position as my number two position outside of uni. So I was relatively inexperienced then in terms of practical term. Theory, I had that coming out of my ears, but I didn’t have the practical knowledge.

Scott Allen: So I started questioning, am I going to be successful in marketing? Is it me? And that can start to have a bit of an effect on you. And I actually, back to the last point, I actually ended up in the end deciding that the stakeholders I was talking about that weren’t getting marketing, probably meant that I was in the wrong company. So I did make the bold decision to leave. Obviously I found another role before I left. And guess what. I went into the role, the opposite happened, everyone bought into what I was doing and understood how I was communicating to them.

Scott Allen: And yeah, of course there were bumps, but it was much much better than it ever had been. And therefore, sometimes if you start to question yourself, you should always look at, could you do better and is there any more you can add to get to where you need to? But sometimes it can just be different stakeholders have different opinions and you won’t always be able to win everybody over.

How to structure your B2B marketing department

Fiona Jensen: You can win them all, absolutely. Describe your best B to B marketing department.

Scott Allen: Right okay. So I’m lucky to have worked in many many brilliant teams, many talented teams. And already, two weeks into my new role, I’m excited about the talented team I’m working with, within Microsoft Global. I have to say, if I bring it into, because I wouldn’t probably pull out one team specifically, because there’s been two or three, but I would say all of these teams had the same sort of makeup and culture about them.

Scott Allen: So first of all, they all worked as a team. The all worked in a way that the whole is definitely better than the sum of the parts. So we were covering each other’s gaps. And I think that’s really important. And that’s on hiring as well. Don’t hire all the same people with all the same skills, because we’ll end up having gaps everywhere. So I love the fact we covered each other’s gaps.

Scott Allen: My manager, my leader at the time, was brilliant at leading from the front, middle and back. So it wasn’t them giving us all the direction all the time. They also were part of the team, they were in the middle of the pack and sometimes were just there, stuffing envelopes or whatever it may needed to be done to get the project out the door. So I loved that. It’s something that I’ve taken into my approach as a leader.

Scott Allen: No person is too important. So egos were left at the door. And all opinions were listened to, which I think is important. Because sometimes you might not be the loudest, you might be an introvert and therefore that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be listened to. So having a team where everyone’s opinion is listened to, discussed and your idea might get thrown out, but at least it’s been listened to rather than you haven’t been able to get it across at all.

Scott Allen: Outcome focused. So we started with, “What do we want to achieve?” Not, “Let’s do loads of stuff and hope we’ve achieved it.”

Scott Allen: And then finally, we had fun. Fun, spent time together. It is actually okay to go to work and laugh and joke and have some fun, as long as you also get in the work time as well. So that makeup of team, I’ve been lucky to have that two or three times. It’s brilliant.

Fiona Jensen: I think that’s something that we’d all aspire to achieve. In addition to a world of new apps and new startups, do the established, incumbent, straight legacy brands, really matter anymore?

Scott Allen: Well absolutely. I totally-

Fiona Jensen: Well you would say that.

Scott Allen: Well, it’s easy to say I would say that. But absolutely there is not shadow of a doubt that brand loyalty is still as strong as it ever has been and will continue to be. And that won’t change, that’s for sure. But I think as brands, and I’ll talk as brands, Microsoft, but brands overall, we need to continue being relevant and appropriate to the audience and making sure that we’re changing in the right way so that we’re not stuck back 10, 15 years ago. And we’ve done a great job within Microsoft with being able to do that over the last four or five years under the leadership of Satya Nadella.

Scott Allen: I think when I talk about the relevant and appropriate bit, what we need to think about around brand is, is there’s lots of things going on around brand safety now and how we should be using our brand out there externally around sensitive news and stuff that’s going on around terrorism and click-bait et cetera et cetera. So we’ve got lots of great approaches and processes in place to make sure that brand safety is paramount to us. And those measures are there and we’re making sure that we’re adhering to the all the right rules and regulations out there.

Scott Allen: Alongside that, there’s also brand sensitivity and brand ethics. And the brand safety bit, a lot of it is governed around what you should do and there are lots of regulations that you have to adhere to. Brand sensitivity, brand ethics, they’re not necessarily always that have been set by bodies, but as a brand it’s important that you are also taking those into consideration as well.

Scott Allen: So brand sensitivity is everything from things like if we’re posting stuff online, avoiding news stories that might be critical of a product and then having an advert along side it. Or avoiding content that may be considered edgy and we don’t want our brand to be associated with it.

Scott Allen: Brand ethics would be much more around working with advertisers that have sites with real accessibility. So we’re big on accessibility and we’re big on diversity and inclusion in Microsoft. So trying to work with partners that adhere to our ethics as well. Supporting causes, not getting involved in political vies and stuff like that.

Scott Allen: So we are thinking very much and I think organizations think about the brand safety bit as that’s the, you have to do that. But also what are you doing around brand sensitivity and brand ethics as well?

The importance of a mentor in your B2B marketing career

Fiona Jensen: Gosh, there’s a lot to think about there. How important is it to have a marketing mentor and why?

Scott Allen: So I’ve found this to be critical from day one that I went into a role in an organization. So I think, probably, two tips here with around a mentor, because it’s easy to go get a mentor, but having to think about why you want one to start with is important. So my couple of tips here would be, if you have a mentor who has a marketing background, then definitely pick someone outside your organization, because I think you then get someone who’s less caught up in the internal workings of the organization. And even better, outside of your industry, because then you’ve got somebody who understands marketing but they’re not bedded into your day-to-day industry or your organization so-

Fiona Jensen: Your objective you mean?

Scott Allen: Yeah, exactly.

Fiona Jensen: They want to challenge you?

Scott Allen: Challenge you-

Fiona Jensen: Versus the status quo?

Scott Allen: You’re not going to get involved in conversations about your industry and your organization, which kills all of the mentoring time that you’ve got. They’ll be coming a lot more from, “Hey, I get marketing. Let’s talk about what you want mentoring to do for you.”

Scott Allen: And most importantly, don’t see this mentor to discuss your day to day job. Because it’s very good to go and say, “Hey, I’ve got three projects on the go. Can you help advise me on this and that?” That’s not what a mentor is for. A mentor, and I mentor quite a few people and not just within marketing, but also in sales and other disciplines as well, and I don’t necessarily have to know about their day-to-day job because what you should be using your mentor for is to help them to advise you on your future career progression, how you maybe show up better in your job and in different environments within your job, any particular tough situations that might be coming up that you don’t really know how to handle. Using them for that type of thing is more important than using them for your day-to-day job stuff.

Scott Allen: And also, I’ve got a mentor whose background is not marketing as well. So I’ve got two mentors. One with a marketing background and one without. And this gentleman is CTO. And what I love about working with him is first of all, he’s C-level. So he can give me that C-level experience, but he’s not a marketeer. So we don’t ever talk about marketing. It’s always about those things around career progression. How should I be developing on, “Hey, this is coming in a month’s time, how do you think I should handle it?” He’s really really good at that. So I could highly recommend finding a mentor also outside of your discipline, so not marketing.

Fiona Jensen: Very good. So if someone’s now listening to this and thinking, “Right, how do I find a marketing mentor?” If they’re already the most senior marketing person in a business, what do they do? How do they go about finding a mentor?

Scott Allen: … So, I would say that the one thing that often as marketeers we avoid, and I don’t, I think I find it very useful, but it’s very easy to sign up for a breakfast workshop at 8:00, in the back end of London, and it’s an hour and a half trek and you don’t really want to get out of bed that early. But I often find that going to free events that are on out there, is a brilliant way of meeting people that you would never maybe get access to before. And I mean senior as well as people who are moving up the ranks to become more experienced. Because your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be a C-level person, it just needs to be somebody that can give you the right advice in your career at the right time.

Scott Allen: So having a mentor for 20 years is not necessary. You can swap your mentors in or out depending on where you go in your career path. And the way that I’ve met people that I wouldn’t call them mentors, but I can tap them up for a bit of advice and then vice-versa, is via different events that I’ve gone to that I haven’t paid for other than traveling to get there. But where I’ve clicked with someone, we’ve swapped details and then it’s easy just to send them a quick email to say, “Hey, have you got 10 minutes on the phone.”

Scott Allen: So next time you decide not to go to that breakfast event or that evening do, because you’ve got something else on or you’re far too busy at work, think about how you’re potentially missing out on meeting some very very good people that could help you in your career progression.

Fiona Jensen: Very good advice. And you’re so right actually because there’s a lot of people who are willing to give time, which is actually the most valuable asset that somebody can. And if they’re going to a free event, then you normally find that they’re willing already, because they’re doing it already.

Scott Allen: Yeah, absolutely. If I go to an event and somebody was to come up to me and say, “Hey, could I grab five minutes?” I’m there anyway, of course. Why wouldn’t I? I’m a massive advocate for people wanting to learn and move on in their careers and if I can help in any small way then I would. And I know lots of peers of mine that would do the same, absolutely.

Learnings being a B2B marketer

Fiona Jensen: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in marketing/business and how did it come about?

Scott Allen: Oh okay, so for me 100% don’t get left behind. Marketing is changing so much now and whilst in marketing some of the key principles will still stay the same from 20 years ago, it is changing massively about how we approach it from strategy all the way to execution. This is particularly true now that we’re in this digital world and I’d love to get to the stage where we don’t talk about digital marketing as being separate to marketing. It’s marketing, but digital playing a big role, because that’s what it is absolutely doing now.

Scott Allen: And also we talk a lot about digital transformation, but actually you personally transforming is important as well. And I felt that a number of years back that I was not quite on top of the trends and the approaches that were coming. And this is before digital really kicked in. So rather than just wait for it to come and then back to this, I’ve got to retrain myself really quickly, I decided that I needed there and then to keep on top of things and keep reinventing myself as I need to.

Scott Allen: So I spent a lot of time reading stuff, meeting people, going to conferences, just generally all the ways that I could consume and learn. Pulling experience from people that knew way more than me and therefore I reinvented myself, but didn’t feel in a, I’ve got to train myself in the next six weeks. It felt an ongoing thing. And I’ve probably reinvented myself two or three times now within my career, maybe more than that. And that means that I’m up to date and where I need to be, but it never stops.

Scott Allen: So already I’m seeing what’s coming and making sure that I’m on top of that as well. So when AI was talked about, quite a little while back now, I was straight onto that. Now wherever you go you hear about AI, it’s been around for a little while and a lot of the organizations and people that were on it early are already doing some great things with it.

Fiona Jensen: Very true. I think you’ve got to run to stand still in marketing, haven’t you- [crosstalk 00:46:52]

Scott Allen: 100% yes.

Fiona Jensen: With pressures of general life, how do you manage the work-life balance and how important is it in today’s society.

Scott Allen: Well, 100% really really really important. So work-life balance to me, it’s certainly important to my family and also I make sure that it’s important to the team that I have around me as well. It’s not just about me getting work-life balance. It’s also, is my team getting it as well? Because I’m a big advocate that if we have the right work-life balance mix in an always on world, we are going to be so much better at our job. And you can get too tired too quickly if all you do is work work work.

Scott Allen: So I’m lucky that Microsoft is a big advocate too, of work-life balance and they want it to be part of your job. I know that’s always the same in all organizations. But I think work-life balance is not just about, “How do I spend more time at home?” It is generally how do you make sure that not every working, or every minute of the day is consumed by your job?

Scott Allen: So I’m really strong about when I have down time, I think it’s important to have rest and recovery. So if you are tired, then you go to bed, that’s important to do. You’re no good to anyone and your performance and impact will be affected if you don’t balance work, rest and thinking time. I truly believe that.

Scott Allen: I therefore have gotten really really good at switching off when it’s family time. I’ve got three kids and they keep me busy, but if it’s family time or leisure time, and it’s not all about just if you’ve got kids, it’s just generally are you switching off? And that starts with not being tempted to look at your phone to see whether the latest email’s come in. If you’ve switched off, you’re off. And you’re not outside the room you’re in the room. So I make sure that I am in the room, in the moment. So if I go home tonight and it’s story time time and then a bit of play time with the kids, the phone won’t be with me in the room.

Scott Allen: So, I think it’s not being tempted to keep working when you should be having that down time. And also, it might sound obvious, but if your body’s telling you to sleep, leave that piece of work until the morning. It’s fine. If you’ve left it until the last minute then that’s a slightly different conversation, but hopefully if you’ve planned properly you can leave it until the morning.

Scott Allen: And then I of course have to balance working really hard, because we have to work hard in this day and age, but I balance working hard and being productive with making sure that I have that down time as well. When I’m in work mode, I’m in work mode, when I’m in home life mode, I’m in home life mode. And therefore, sometimes I will work into the evening to get achieved what I need to, but then I will get that time back somewhere else. Rather than I’m doing five all-nighters and then still got to work on the weekend as well. It’s like, how do you get it back so that you do feel that top of your game, because if you are tired you’re not going to perform anywhere near the level that you could do. And that means you’re going to not be true to yourself, but also not give the best performance to your organization either.

Fiona Jensen: What do you do to keep up to speed with the latest B to B marketing best practices?

Scott Allen: So, I am somebody that uses online a lot. So-

Fiona Jensen: Funny that.

Scott Allen: Funny that, yes. I’m very lucky within Microsoft that there’s a lot of stuff that circulated around so I can read those documents and stuff like that. But actually, outside of that it’s not just about reading stuff around what’s happening with Microsoft or the trends close to what Microsoft is doing. I’m very big at using both Twitter and LinkedIn. Yes I post statuses, not as regularly as some others, because I’m very much there using it to find stuff that’s of interest to me. Back to that continue reinventing yourself. I’m often finding the latest article, the latest video.

Scott Allen: I love video. I like to consume video. Podcasts, I’m not just saying that, but I’m a big fan of podcasts. It’s something that’s easy to consume and they’re very much back in fashion of how to be used to consume information and learn. So Twitter, LinkedIn, that’s what gets me the source to different things to keep up to date. So far I don’t get disappointed by what I can find by those channels, especially if you’re well connected into a strong network who are sharing brilliant things all the time.

Fiona Jensen: That’s it, you can learn from other people there can’t you often?

Scott Allen: Exactly.

Fiona Jensen: As a senior marketing leader, what is your guilty pleasure?

Scott Allen: Some might say that’s a guilty pleasure, but for me the feeling afterwards is why I do it, is running. So I’m a big runner. I’m running the Windsor Half Marathon this Sunday. Running for me, I do a couple runs a week, long runs, 10 mile plus runs. And they are my thinking time runs. So I’ll get two benefits here. First of all I get to do a bit of that work thinking stuff while I’m running along. I go along the river, so I go to some really quiet places where there’s no-one around. So stop there and just reflect, whether that’s winter or summer.

Scott Allen: But then when I get back and the after feeling of having a run means that I’m in good shape for feeling good about the next thing I’m going to do. Whether that’s personal or work orientated. But often I’ve got a lot of stuff that is on my mind out in that hour and a half. So when I’m back to the crazy environment of work or home, I haven’t got that whirling around in my head because I’ve sorted it all out as I go over that hour and a half. So guilty pleasure.

Scott Allen: That alongside I love tea and I probably drink far too much of it.

Fiona Jensen: Well you see if you do two 10 mile runs, then I reckon you can probably have a few biscuits alongside the tea.

Scott Allen: Good point.

Fiona Jensen: What’s the most valuable marketing skill you can have?

Scott Allen: So, I want this to come as authentic as I mean, it is being customer-centric and thinking from their point of view. And I am that person who’s always in the room when we’re having internal discussions or when we’re creating our next ideas or next marketing plan and brief with, “Hm, from the customer viewpoint, would that make any sense?” So I don’t just talk about the customer, I make sure I spend time with the customer.

Scott Allen: Now, not everyone has the opportunity to go and spend time with customers all the time. I’m lucky that I can do that. But back to the piece of going to different events and stuff like that, that’s a good way of getting in front of customers. Often a salesperson in your organization will say, “Yes.” If you asked to go and attend a customer meeting. That’s what I had done a lot. You often go along to a customer meeting where you don’t think you’re going to have a speaking part, but there’s some stuff that you add value in and you feel pretty good about that as you walk out.

Scott Allen: So don’t put yourself down to, “Hey, I’m only new to the business.” Or, “I’m only six months out of university.” Or, “Hey, I don’t have a customer facing role.” Don’t put that as an excuse not to spend time with customers, because often you’ll learn a lot from them, but also they’ll learn something from you. So customer-centricity means that you are going to be the best at delivering marketing rather than just doing it in the internal walls of your organization and using third-hand opinion to get your insights.

Fiona Jensen: Fantastic. What parting words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?

Scott Allen: Right, so I think I’ve touched on it a few times throughout the discussion, keep on learning, definitely. Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room, because if you’re learning that means you don’t know it all. So it’s fine to show that you don’t know everything. And therefore, ask questions. And I’m very good at asking what might be what I want questions, but I think if you can demonstrate as a leader that you’re prepared to ask those questions then others won’t be afraid to ask them as well. So I do that all the time.

Scott Allen: So yeah, definitely keep on learning and don’t feel that you have to know it all or you have to pretend you know it when you’re in an environment. It is fine to be curious and ask questions. And when I, back to the interview question, curiosity and somebody who’s curious in an interview goes a long way with me.

Fiona Jensen: Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time and sharing your experience.

Scott Allen: No problem, thank you.

Fiona Jensen: So there you have it. Career advice from a real marketing expert and leader in the field. Thanks for listening. If you’re enjoying this podcast then please leave us a review in iTunes, we’d love to hear your feedback.