bang consulting podcast guests
Jul 11, 2019

Thinking about starting your own marketing agency? Lessons and tips from Nicky and Kate of Bang Consulting

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer

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Fiona: 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 B2B marketeers find the best jobs with great companies. Together, we’ll discover how marketing experts reach the top and learn from their experience. Ask related questions you can’t get answers to elsewhere. Be tough, be challenged, be mentored.

Fiona: Sometimes two heads are better than one, especially when you are an SME looking for marketing support, Bang Consulting have a 13 year track record of delivering just that. And I enjoyed chatting to both the latest recruit Kate Jones about the move from house to agency and to Bang Consulting’s MD, Nicky Parker, about how customer centric approach has helped Bang stand out.

Fiona: I’m here with the wonderful Nicky Parker of Bang Consulting the MD and founder. Nicky can you talk us through who you are, how you got to where you are, and the type of skills and experience that people are about to learn from?

Nicky: Sure. I definitely didn’t take the traditional route to marketing. I was doing a different job, and was very interested in marketing, and I persuaded by then employer to fund me going to evening classes to train. For three years, I did two nights a week at evening classes, and did my certificate, my advanced certificate and my post grad diploma. And I held that together with a very busy demanding job, which meant I was traveling up and down the country. So whatever hotel room I was in my books for the CIM courses came with me. When I fully qualified, which was right back in 1999, which was pre-internet days, I still didn’t have a full time career in marketing, so I did marketing as part of my job. A very big part of my job, but it wasn’t a marketing role.

Nicky: Then I went to work for Motorola not doing marketing at all, I was their business planning manager for Western Europe, so I did sales forecasting and that thing. And then I left there to have my son, which was 18 years ago, and decided I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world. I wanted something to fill some of my time, but not all of my time. So I took a correspondence course in writing, and like most avid readers had got this wild idea that it would be a good idea to write a book. But they start with nonfiction, so article writing. And of course, they encourage you to write about stuff that you know about. [inaudible 00:03:11] I had to become a school governor, so I wrote articles about being governor and fell across somebody while I was interviewing someone for an article who said that they wanted to talk to me outside of that, about an opportunity.

Nicky: They persuaded me to do PR services to support them. So they were a marketing consultant, it worked with an independent school, and they felt that they needed PR as well. I said, “Well, I don’t really know anything about that.” And she said, “Well, let’s learn together, I’ll give you six months. If it doesn’t work, no hard feelings, you walk away. And if it does, well, then great.” And I did it for two and a half years. But in the meantime, things changed and I needed to bring more income in, and she was the one who gave me the confidence to then really run as a proper marketing consultancy. And so that’s how we started. That was in 2006, and we’ve grown every year, and we are fully outsourced marketing agency. So we operate as marketing departments for our clients now, and they don’t have marketing skills in house.

Fiona: Perfect. And what sort of clients is it that Bang Consulting service?

Nicky: It’s mostly SMEs, typically they have a turnover of a million pound plus. Interestingly for whatever reason, quite a lot of our clients are male. That’s not a deliberate thing. That’s just what’s happened over the course of time, perhaps it’s my style that attracts that. And they’re in a variety of different sectors. We never work with more than one client in any one sector because I passionately believe that I can’t offer them a competitive advantage if I’m working with their competitors. But all sorts of stuff leather wholesaling, managed outsource IT, logistics, recruitment all sorts of different things.

Fiona: Very interesting. I like that value as well, the whole, “I won’t work with your competitors if I’m representing you.” That’s really nice, and actually quite an advantage, I imagine.

Nicky: Yes, I mean, obviously the challenge with that is that there’s a learning curve when you start with a new client in understanding their sector, but I actually consider that to be quite exciting and quite interesting. And what’s nice, from their perspective is sometimes when someone doesn’t come with any preconceived ideas, they’re more able to challenge the status quo about why something happens the way it does.

Fiona: Very interesting, bring that fresh perspective, and ask the tougher question.

Nicky: Yes, I have a reputation for asking tough questions.

How to interview marketing candidates

Fiona: Speaking of tough questions, so when you’re interviewing candidates, or looking at people to potentially freelance or support Bang Consulting, what key things do you look for in those people?

Nicky: I care deeply about the way people look. So appearance is important in that I want someone to have come to an interview looking smart, and like they’re serious about work. But aside from that, I want them to recognise that it’s super important that they deliver good value, that they’re very hot customer service, which is my absolutely, if you chop me in half, I’d have customer service written through the middle of me. And that is more important than anything. I find it quite disappointing when you interview people and they have not bothered to think about what they might like to ask you. There must always be something that you needed to ask or you want to ask. Preparing is super important, and also having great examples.

Nicky: It’s not about telling me what you did on a day to day basis, it’s about finding examples to demonstrate your skill set, whatever that skill set might be.

The most valuable lesson in B2B marketing

Fiona: Very good. Very interesting. With regards to the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned in marketing or business so far, what can you tell us now? How did it come about, and what did you learn from it?

Nicky: Okay. Well, I would say that my biggest lesson was actually right back when I very first started working, so way before I had a career in marketing. My first job was a training scheme, working for a private department store in Bournemouth, and they were super-hot on customer service. I was taught the importance of the customer always comes first, and how to deliver great service. I think that has stuck with me all my life, and was reinforced by my father who’s sadly no longer with us. But he also was quite obsessed with customer service, and taught me from a customer perspective, what it feels like and what you should expect as a customer. I think those two things added together, have made me the person I am today.

Nicky: I have hugely high expectations when I’m a customer, but I like to think that that translates to what we deliver to our customers as well.

Why customer experience is so important in marketing

Fiona: [inaudible 00:08:39]. Why is it that customer experience is so important? What experiences or examples have you had that have solidified that belief for you?

Nicky: I think the thing that jars the most is when a business purports to be very good at customer service but that does translate to good service. And we’ve all got horror stories of some of the large corporates who have a reputation for poor customer service, and, “Oh boy, don’t they deliver bad customer service.” And I just think it isn’t hard to deliver good service, it’s about saying the right thing and delivering the right thing. And whatever you say you’re going to do, you need to then deliver on that. I think our clients would say that we under promise and over deliver. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The best career advice

Fiona: It’s a good philosophy to live by. What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given or found for yourself?

Nicky: Well, bizarrely, it’s the best and the worst career advice at the same time. I made some very ill judged career decisions early on, as I think probably an awful lot of us have done, and decided to go down a career path that was quite clearly a serious mistake. Having gone down that career path and discovered, yes, okay, I’ve done my training, I’ve started the job, and it’s not what I want it to be and I’m miserable. So I did go and seek career advice, which back when I was a late teens early 20s, was not like career advice is today. I was told probably because I was a woman, that the best thing that I needed to do was learn to type, which I then spent a number of years trying to shed that mantle because of course everyone was trying to shoehorn me into being a secretary, and if ever there was a person not suited to that as a career, it’s me.

Nicky: But I find myself looking back now at thinking what good advice it was, because obviously I know my way around a keyboard pretty well now, and you can’t get away from a keyboard these days, whatever job you do. So being able to type at a reasonable speed and make my way around presenting a document in a reasonable way is no bad thing.

Fiona: A good life skill now-

Nicky: Indeed.

Skills B2B marketers should invest in for the future

Fiona: … definitely. What skills do you think marketers should be investing in for the future?

Nicky: I think that they need to understand the basics first, the fundamental marketing rules, the four Ps, the seven Ps. That is just as important now as it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. And I worry that young people coming into a career in marketing, or too attracted to the latest tool, shiny, shiny thing, that is supposed to be the next best thing since sliced bread. That there is no marketing magic bullet, there’s no such thing as that. If there were, a number of us would be multi-millionaires by now. It is about slugging away at the basics. It’s about understanding that whatever tool you choose to use, the basics still remain the same. It’s about understanding those basics, and those skills are far more important than understanding how to use Snapchat, Twitter, whatever the latest new shiny thing is.

Fiona: Whatever the new channel or tech. That it is more about why you’re doing it in the first place, and how it’s going to add value and that sort of stuff.

Nicky: Yeah. Absolutely, and some of the things that were around a number of years ago, are making a resurgence because people are fed up with being bombarded online. So, actually, sending a letter in the post is often quite an effective tool, which if you’re asking people who think that the answer to everything is social media, they be horrified. But there are some good results being produced.

Fiona: The revival of print and door…

Nicky: Yeah.

Fiona: Yeah, absolutely. Being the MD now of business, you’ve obviously got multiple hats. You’ve got now a what? An 18 year old son at home as well.

Nicky: Yeah.

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

Nicky: I think that’s a very individual thing dependent on the person, and how they see life and what they want out of life. I am a workaholic and I really, really love my job. I love my clients, I love their business, their success is everything to me, that’s why I get a buzz out of doing. We do work for clients and it produces great results and their sales grow. To me there is nothing more rewarding than doing that. My son would say that he never sees me not working, I work in the evenings as well, and I rarely get home from work until 7:00 or 7:00 [inaudible 00:14:10], and I only live about a mile and a half away from the office.

Nicky: I balance that with I still do some school governance stuff. Obviously, I have my son who is quite independent now, but I also don’t as well, I do ballroom and Latin dancing, and so does my son. So we do that together. That’s our pleasure. And when you’re dancing, you can’t think about anything else, so it’s a good downtime for me. So yeah, that’s how I do it. But I think it’s about ensuring that you get the balance that’s right for you. And some people are not workaholics, and therefore, they need to manage their life accordingly, so that there is the right balance of pleasure as well as work.

Fiona: Yeah, no, I know exactly what you mean actually because we’ve got a very similar ethos at Market, we all work silly hours, but it’s because we love what we do. But then I’ve luckily got a Hungarian visitor at home that drags me out for an hour a day. And during that time, normally, I’m just trying to keep up with the hound, and yeah not [inaudible 00:15:14] else happens during the hour, so it’s great to get that downtime. What would you say the difference is actually out of interest around when you are talking to people who are on the client side of marketing, what is the difference coming at it from a marketing agency? You’ve been doing it for 15 years. About how long…?

Nicky: 13.

Fiona: 30?

Nicky: Yeah, 13.

Insights in setting up as a freelance marketer

Fiona: 13 years, fine. What would you say that differences is? What’s the difference from… If there’s a client side marketer out there who’s thinking about maybe setting up their own freelancing or moving to a marketing agency, what insight can you offer them?

Nicky: The upside when you’re client side is you have the business behind, so they will protect you and you have that mantle. The challenge when you’re agency side is the buck stops with you. So whatever you feel is the right thing for the client, if you get it wrong, you have to get yourself out of it, you have to come up with a solution. And we’re the best one in the world, none of us are perfect. And occasionally it doesn’t go as you want it to do. But I would say that, experiences is key, and knowing what is usually the right thing to do for a client, gives you the confidence to be able to make recommendations.

Nicky: Ultimately, when you’re an agency, they’re buying your expertise. Invariably, you know more than they do, so that’s a big plus point. Sometimes when you’re client side, you’re very good at knowing where the business wants to go. But you might not have the full skill set, which is why you use agencies. I think I would say if you’re coming out of client side and wanting to go to an agency, be clear about what it is that you want to do in an agency. Do you have an area of specialism? Do you have enough general skills? And if you don’t, then how are you going to develop those skills? What are you going to do? What can you deliver? What have you learnt from working with agencies, because there’s bound to be frustrations on the client side when they feel that an agency hasn’t done what they want them to do. So what have they learned from that experience that they could bring to an agency?

Nicky: So some really key and valuable skills when you come from the client side, and now are able to say, “I know what that feels like to be on the other side of the fence. I don’t think it should happen like that it should happen differently.” So that’s valuable.

Fiona: Very good. From your perspective, just touching a little bit around the expectation versus realistic results. When you’ve been in that type of scenario, where maybe people’s expectations of what marketing can deliver either time scale wise or budget wise has not aligned with what you know is realistic. How do you have that conversation? What things have you learned during your time to be able to help marketers who may be sat in an internal position who have got potentially unrealistic expectations? Maybe they’re a first marketer, within a business and they’re trying to deliver this company’s hopes and dreams, but obviously they’ve only got a limited amount of time, limited amount of budget. What conversations would you coach them to have in that scenario?

Nicky: I would encourage them to have a look at what kind of growth for example their competitors are achieving. So that if they’re working within a business where they want substantial growth year on year, and it points to the sector that they’re in that that kind of growth is incredibly unusual, it just doesn’t happen. You can use that as part of your argument, because unless you’re going to do something hugely and radically different, the reality is you’re not going to suddenly catapult the business into stratospheric growth, that’s just not going to happen. Ultimately you have to have a reasonable budget, but you also have to have the resources and the capacity to deliver it.

Nicky: And just as importantly, there has to be the resources to service it. So it’s no good, a company getting very excited about huge ambitious growth, if they don’t have the people to service that growth when it comes, because you’ve switched customers off before they’ve even started, and therefore you’re going to start losing business, and then you’re going to be fighting negativity and poor reputation, and that’s much harder to come back from. I think I would encourage them to look at what their competitors are doing, and set realistic goals for the business and realistic marketing goals. If there’s only a very small marketing team, there is only so much time in the day for them to deliver things. And it’s better to do a small amount well, than a lot of stuff badly. So focus on maybe a project or two or three tools, get to grips with those, make sure that they’re working well. Then think about what the next thing is, rather than trying to do everything at the same time.

B2B Marketing Book Recommendation

Fiona: Fantastic. Really sage advice. Thank you. What is the book you recommend most for B2B marketers today or how to keep up with all the latest and greatest marketing techniques and information?

Nicky: Well, I’m a chartered marketer, so we have to do 35 hours minimum CPD every year, so I need to do that. A lot of that is reading and some training as well. I don’t know that I’d have one particular book, there are three or four books that I think have had quite a big impact on me. The [inaudible 00:21:30] Visited, which I’m sure lots of your… my colleagues will have mentioned as well is a really powerful one. Start With Why, was a good book for me. But something slightly different is a book called Watertight Marketing by a lady called Bryony Thomas. She’s also a CIM qualified marketer and chartered marketer and her book turns marketing on its head a little bit. So rather than being superficial focused on lead generation, and how much stuff you can throw in the top of the funnel, it starts with the bottom of the funnel, if you like, and talks about making sure that the experience when a customer comes on board with you, is really super strong.

Nicky: Those marketers listening who have gone through the CIM training will know all about post purchase dissonance, and that whole concern, have you partnered with your money wisely and made the right choice of company to support you with whatever it is you’re looking for. That whole onboarding process needs to be super seamless and super effective to reassure the customer that they have made the right decision, and also is the switch that will flick them from a customer to a raving fan. If you can get that right first, they ironically will do a lot of your marketing for you because they’re much more likely to refer you, recommend you if they think what you do is awesome. And that’s how we grow Bang, because nearly all that work come through recommendation referral.

Fiona: Fantastic and a great example, back up. Thank you. That’s lovely. What parting words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?

Nicky: Gosh, I think nobody has the answer to everything, so don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something. Accept the fact that we’re all learning right from the minute we come out of the womb to the minute we disappear. Life should be fun and that you should enjoy it, and if you’re unhappy then you need to think about making changes to make it right for you.

Fiona: Perfect, really good advice. Thank you ever so much for your time Nicky, much appreciated. If anybody wants to get in touch with you or reach out to Bang, what’s the best way for them to contact?

Nicky: They could drop me an email, that would be fine.

Fiona: Okay, lovely. Thank you ever so much.

Nicky: Thank you.

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Fiona: Kate James of Bang Consulting. Thank you so much for joining us, the Market Mentor Kate. Tell us a little bit about your background, experience, how you got to where you are today?

Kate: Okay, so my background was that I started my marketing career, probably about three months after I finished university. So I went to university and studied English language with the view to being a journalist.

Fiona: Oh…

Kate: And…

Fiona: You like asking questions [crosstalk 00:24:57]?

Kate: Yes, I like asking questions and was sold on the glam side of being a journalist.

Fiona: I can see you on the BBC news report now.

Kate: Yep. That was where I thought I was going. As most people do, you left university and went back home, lived with parents for a bit and did some temping and then thought, “I need to find something different. So I read in the back of Cosmopolitan magazine about how could earn some extra money by being a copywriter, and a proofreader for some of the magazines and, pay us 40 pounds, and you get a list of all these publishing houses. So I did that and I sent my CV and covering letter off to loads and loads of different publishing houses. And one got back to me, Guinness World Records. And said, “We’ve got a vacancy for a press officer, because we’re in the book selling period, September to December, we’re really busy, we need somebody to come and man the phone.”

Kate: And actually, what I found in hindsight, was the thing that sold me to the… it was the CEO of the company that seen my CV it’d come to him, was… I was from Winchester and his brother got married in Winchester, so-

Fiona: Oh well there you go.

Kate: … it was the smallest detail that set my career off really so…

Fiona: I was born there, so I think some of the best people [crosstalk 00:26:10] come from Winchester.

Kate: Yeah [inaudible 00:26:11].

Fiona: There you go, I didn’t know that.

Kate: Yeah. I started there as a press officer, it was a temporary role. When it got to Christmas, they said, “We want to keep you on.” I had booked to go traveling for a month, I think that April in Mexico, and they said, “That’s fine, you go and do that, and when you come back, there’ll be a permanent position for you as a marketing assistant.” That’s really where it started. And I did my CRM diploma on the job. By the time I left, seven years later, I was head of marketing for the company. So, it was really a kind of… I wasn’t expecting to fall into that role, and I learnt everything there really and grew from there.

Kate: I moved from there into gaming. I had a view that I wanted to go into marketing big films. Traditionally very, very hard to get into, so I thought, next step up might be entertainment and computer games. At Guinness World Records we’d just done a gaming book, so it seemed I new a lot of the contacts and a lot of the… what they were talking about. I managed to get a job there in computer gaming. Unfortunately, it was 2008, and then a lot of the companies, particularly in gaming were really, really hit. So the first company, I went to merged with Activision, and then they got rid of all the marketing team. That at the time was a bit of a blow, but I managed to find a job straightaway, so totally went into a new job straight from that one again in gaming.

Kate: Month into that job, they merged the European marketing team with the UK marketing team, and I was made redundant again. So that was all in the space of [crosstalk 00:27:54] four months.

Fiona: Twice in four months?

Kate: Yeah.

Fiona: Oh my god. How did you cope with that?

Kate: I know it was quite stressful, and because it was 2008, there was no job.

Fiona: No.

Kate: I think they were saying it was 40 people for everyone role or something, so it was really, really difficult to get into to find something new. I actually had… obviously still had a very good relationship with Guinness, and I went back to them and they said, “Look, we’ve got a offering over in New York to help recruit for a permanent marketing manager over there. We’d like to send you over there so you can manage it in the interim, and you can recruit for the Head of Marketing that’s going to over in New York. So I went and did up three months. At the time it wasn’t a role that I could take on permanently and suited me to go and do that. Then I came back, got back into gaming in London. Worked in London for a year, but the commute was two hours each way, so four hours a day I was commuting, learning how to do presentations and things on the train and just didn’t get the switch off at all.

Kate: I then went into travel accessories, got made redundant after two years.

Fiona: Right, three times.

Kate: Yeah, so hopefully that’s it, and then moved on to Miller, where I’ve been for six years. So Miller, on the professional side, so on the B2B division, and was working on selling to care homes, and marketing to care homes, hotels, and laboratories, and quite dry companies, but very, very interesting. And then again, that’s an hour away from my house. I’d had two children by that time, and it just didn’t… the work life balance wasn’t right for me. So I have been working as a marketing consultant for the last four or five months at Bang Consulting and it’s totally different. All of our clients are B2B but very small to medium sized businesses.

Kate: Working agency side is totally different to client side, and juggling expectations, and just how I approach it has been totally different, but brilliant as well, really interesting and this is where I see myself going now, on this side of the business. Being able to offer businesses everything that I’ve learned over the past 15, 16 years, also, and bringing it to other companies that don’t have the resources to have an in house marketing team, so working on that.

Fiona: I’m pretty sure that out of the audience there’ll be as many who would love to know, not prepared Kate. But I just can’t help myself. What was the best Guinness world record that you heard of?

Kate: Wow. [crosstalk 00:30:44] I mean there was so many. It’s like a different life. [crosstalk 00:30:47] It’s like I lived in a different life.

Fiona: I can imagine. It just mind blown, but what’s the one that sticks the most?

Kate: Oh there’s loads. I mean, we had Michael Jackson come to the office in London, and it-

Fiona: Did you? What was that like?

Kate: It was amazing, but it all came from nowhere. His agent phoned up and I didn’t believe it. And just it was… You know have all the security.

Fiona: Crazy day.

Kate: Yeah, it was totally crazy. So we had that. We flew the tallest man in from Mongolia. So he didn’t fit in the airplane. He had to wee from the hall way.

Fiona: Did he have to lie down. Oh my god.

Kate: To get into the toilet.

Fiona: Nobody look.

Kate: I know exactly, and then yes, he had to have two beds, two double beds pushed together in the hotel and… But you know it’s kind of… It’s a laugh out, but obviously this was his life. But it’s the first time he’d hidden away… Just a bit of a backstory, but he’d hidden away because he was so tall and he felt really freaky and everything, and then with us announcing that he was the tallest, he then got married. And he was touring around the country going to… the world going through all these different places. And he… I guess it’s not exploitation, but he did embrace it and he-

Fiona: Well obviously.

Kate: … forced a career for him but yeah.

Fiona: Yeah, oh, fantastic. Well, there you go. Thank you for sharing, sorry to get off subject but I couldn’t resist. In the past when you’ve been interviewing candidates, what key things have you looked for, for the people that you were going to hire?

Kate: I definitely look for confidence, not to be overconfident. Nobody wants somebody that comes in and tells you that they can do the job better than you’re already doing it. But the confident with the work load that you’re going to be given them and then a doer. I think it’s important, especially right at the beginning of the career, to be able to do everything or show a willingness to do everything and to learn, so that needs to come across. And obviously just personality wise, in terms of are we a good match? Are we going to be able to sit down and talk to each other? Can I learn from you? Can you learn from me? Can I delegate to you? Because that’s one of the biggest things of being a manager learning how to delegate, but how are you going to report back to me so that I feel comfortable with leaving you to get on with it and know that you’re going to do it?

Kate: But I think as well somebody that’s positive, a positive influence. I’ve had experiences where people come in and they talk badly of their previous company, and doesn’t resonate well because your next job you could be going, saying bad things about me or my company. So that doesn’t paint a positive picture, so I would just definitely recommend [inaudible 00:33:33] that.

Fiona: Avoid that.

Kate: Yeah.

Fiona: Gotcha.

Kate: Come in and be positive and represent yourself well, basically.

Fiona: That’s a bit forward.

Kate: Yeah.

Fiona: If you were interviewing for a B2B marketing role, what things do you need answering more, or do you enjoy shall we say in the interview process?

Kate: I always like to… One thing I’ve appreciated from all the interviews that I’ve had is knowing what the first 90 days are going to look like. So asking somebody to go away, and have a think about come back and present on what they see the first 90 days being in the business. It shows that they one, they’ve done a bit of research, and they understand what is going to be expected of them in the 90 days, but also gets… And this is what I’ve experienced gets me excited, When I’ve interviewed for companies, when I’ve been on the other end, when you can see yourself doing that role, and you get invested in the company and you bring that. So yeah.

Fiona: Yeah good answer. So that first 90 day question, either start thinking about it, so you can really understand the company and its challenges and how you might be able to help. Or if the shoe’s on the other foot, generate that interest and excitement and be willing to maybe share your voice and opinion.

Kate: Yeah.

Fiona: But it’s kind of a tricky thing a interview stage. So are you ever nervous about sharing your vision of the first 90 days with companies that you’ve interviewed, where you felt like maybe it’s a bit risky, or maybe this isn’t the stuff that they want to hear?

Kate: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:35:10] and I guess, yeah, because if you’re on the other end, then you… Like you don’t want to be told that you’re doing it wrong, and that you’ve been doing it wrong, or it might be stuff that they’ve tried in the past and they’ve got examples of why it’s not worked. So there is that risk associated with it. But I think it shows that if you were going to… They’re the questions you would ask in the first few days. “Have you ever tried doing this? Have you ever tried doing that?” And, “Well this is what we could do, and this is…” It could throw up some new things, because traditionally people in big corporations, particularly international corporations, they’ve been there for a long time, so you don’t have the same level of knowledge about changing, the changing side of marketing that maybe people that are coming in fresh and business day or they’ve moved around to quite a bit do as well.

The changing nature of B2B Marketing

Fiona: Yeah, that fresh perspective to be able to look at things, so you turn up with marketing toolkit and give them a fresh perspective. [crosstalk 00:36:09]. How has marketing changed since you started out on your career?

Kate: Well marketing definitely has changed since I’ve started out because when I started, it was a very, very heavy focus on advertising. And that was TV, radio, and also print, and it depends on the market going in, because some of the markets, still are very traditionally on print, and print advertising, but never shy away from that at the moment. But it’s definitely understanding the mix. There used to be more of a formula, of these are the steps that you should do above the line below the line. And this is where meaning you should focus, but now, it’s all merged into the line. It’s much more about having a conversation with your customers, your customers are coming to you a lot more, because of seven points of interaction and things like that. But before it used to be you selling, “This is what we do. This is what we… You must come, these are the offers we’ve got.”

Kate: Whereas now, it’s customers do a lot more research, even particularly on the B2B side as well. I think there’s always been a general thought on the B2B world, that that’s B2C and there’s always a place for marketing and selling to customers, for B2B. And there is to an extent, especially when you’re buying a big purchase, where I’ve just come from, with the Miller Commercial Washers and Dryers. You’re not going to buy those online, you have to speak to somebody, but they will research, customers will search more than ever, what should I be looking for? What’s my environmental policy? And how much impact is this having? What’s the competitors look like? Lots of people have to go to tender quite a lot, so how does it all stack up from that side of things.

Kate: Changing the way that you market so that you’ve got all of the information ready for people on the website for social media videos, tutorials, and any question, you’ve got to be there all the time, for any question, it’s got to be automated. Gone are the days, “Well get back to you in three, four days.” It’s instant we have to respond now. I think that level of expectation’s definitely changed over there years.

Fiona: You mentioned something interesting there, the seven points of interaction. What was that?

Kate: To that was some research, I think it was from Harvard, that we’ve been using on Miller for the past few years in terms of people will come to you once they’ve checked out your social media, once they’ve checked out testimonials from people. And looks at your website, looks at competitors websites, looks at media websites, and all the different touch points before they actually pick up the phone and call somebody from your company. So you need to have coverage across all of those elements before somebody actually feels confident that what you’re talking about, that they know the people behind the company were because people always buy from people. It doesn’t matter how big your brand is, or you’ve got the best company page was ever.

Kate: They want to know, okay, “Well, who was Rob that works there, or who is Dave? And what am I going to get when I speak to them, and they are just going to be pushy salespeople, they’re going to talk to me and bamboozle me this stuff and pretend I don’t know what you’re I’m talking about. Or is it’s somebody that I can actually ask their advice on. I guess from a sales perspective as well, it’s knowing that that sales person can say, “Okay, will you go away and have a think about it.” I feel confident that they’ve got enough information that they’re going to come back? That they’re not just going to go over to competitors, it’s got to be that constant level of giving them enough information to draw them back in as well.

Fiona: Very, good. Thank you. What advice would you give your 20 to 30 year old self now?

Kate: Well, I was thinking about this because my 20, 30 year old self is so different from myself now. And I probably was-

Fiona: It’s like light and dark isn’t?

Kate: Exactly, yeah. It’s like, “Oh my god, did I actually do that?” But I think actually, who I was back then I was, I worked harder than ever. I definitely was in the office and leaving late, but at the time that wasn’t a problem because I didn’t have the family and things. I think it’s just to keep doing what I did. I appreciate now the time that I invested in doing all the training, back then and really putting everything in. I kind of… not bring myself up, but that is my biggest steepest curve of actual development during that period. And going to head of marketing within five years. And I think just having the confidence. I think maybe it would be a reminder to myself from 30 onwards, still keep being confident, you know what you’re talking about, and reminding yourself of that constantly.

Kate: Because I think when you’re 20 to 30, you do, you do know it, and you do believe you know it, and it’s all fresh in your head and everything. So it’s… I think just keep developing, and don’t be afraid to train as much as you can. That’s certainly where I am now, is up scaling and doing this much training at home, and going to seminars and things like that, that you can do, because it’s all been… You just said it’s all changing, constantly changing. It’s not like other careers where you’ve learn between 18 and 22 or whatever, and then that’s it. You have to keep up to date with what’s going on. And you have to be responsible for taking that on board.

Fiona: It’s a moving target definitely. What can you tell us about… How did the progression, the first progression happen when you were with the Guinness Book of Records? Because like you say, in five years, going from a marketing assistant head of marketing. What did you do during that period to create this great opportunity for yourself? How did it all come about?

Kate: It came about because I had a great boss. We talk about bosses a lot don’t we? Whether you got a good boss, a bad boss [inaudible 00:42:41]. But having a boss that truly believes in everything you do, and she would bring me into meetings, from really on, and asked my opinion, and meet agencies and everything. I felt like I was running things before I actually got those titles [crosstalk 00:43:04] yeah. And that’s definitely something as well is, don’t be afraid to do the work before you get the promotion. I think it’s not having to prove yourself, but there is a lot going for putting the extra hours in, putting the extra work in to get your foot there to then make the step up a lot easier.

Fiona: And people just see you at that level already.

Kate: Yeah, exactly.

Fiona: It’s not a step up anymore it’s-

Kate: [crosstalk 00:43:33] No exactly.

Fiona: … just we better just give you this title, because you’re probably already moving a head of it.

Kate: Yeah. And the whole company was like that. It was very kind of everybody… there was a progression plan for everybody. It was a fairly small company, but it had to diversify a lot [inaudible 00:43:52] recently, with the fact that it was a book and a TV series, and all the different formats that came out, and you couldn’t just rely on the September to December sales period, it has to be a company that runs all year round. But I think, as you say, it’s just moving from that level of experience. So getting the most experience as possible, so speaking to press all the time. Meeting with agencies, giving opinions, getting opinions, going out as much as possible to meet with all the other licensees as well that were selling the brand internationally. But getting that conversation going with people.

The biggest learning curve when becoming a B2B marketing leader

Fiona: Interesting, very good. Thank you. What was the biggest learning curve you had when you got your first leadership role in B2B marketing?

Kate: This is probably one that 100% of people feel, but delegation, because you’re so used to doing everything yourself, and you know your limits, and yes you may feel stressed with the amount of work that you’ve got doing ahead. But actually being able to delegate to somebody is the hardest thing in the world, and it takes a lot of effort. It’s not just a case of saying. “Okay, I’m going to give you this task to do.” I never ever want to be a micromanager that says, “How are getting on with that? Of [inaudible 00:45:09] change that color, you know it’s… why did you change that color? What’s your reasoning?” If it makes sense, fine great. If it doesn’t, or it’s something that really, that logo shouldn’t be pink, it should be blue, because that was what the clients color is. Then it’s having discussion about managing, try not to make people feel small because that’s never anything I want to do.

Kate: We all had bosses like that, that nitpick, so definitely delegation down but also delegating up. The are certain tasks as well that really, your manager should be doing. So it’s having the confidence to say, “Look, I can do this bit, once you get me that. And once… let’s manage your time as well, because you’re not getting me the bits that I need. To let me do my job me and to let my team do their job as well. So it’s all about delegation but as I say it’s the hardest thing. And I think, with that it’s learning how to collaborate, and not dictate is how to sit around the table and say, “Are you happy doing this? How would you approach it? How will you report back to me, because that’s the main thing I need to know is in hand. So let’s work out a structure between us about what’s going to work.”

How to get promoted in B2B marketing

Fiona: Very good, very good. What advice would you give to ambitious marketers looking to get to the next level when they haven’t operated at that level before?

Kate: I think like I said before is try and get yourself involved in as many groups in your company as possible. So when you work in groups that are going on, that you won’t be compensated with financially, that it’s getting to know other people across the company, is showing that you’ve got initiative and that you’ve got drive and that you’re helpful. I guess there will be, “Yes, you’re taking that on above your current workloads, so you need to make sure you can do that. But, it is showing that you’re investing in the company, and like I said up scaling as well. There’s loads and loads and loads of free courses out there, you don’t have to spend five days on the core retreat somewhere.

Kate: It’s all just reading what other people are doing trying to listen to podcasts, webinars, and things like that. And just, any certification that you can get I mean, HubSpot, do some great free courses, Google Digital Garage obviously, and just trying to learn as much as you can, so you’re never going to be an expert, unless you’re totally niche. And you need to know everything about SEO, brilliant obviously, you will. But if you’re abroad marketer like I am, then you need to know a bit about everything. Nobody’s going to say you need to be 100% knowing how to do that, that and that, but you need to have a broad understanding of how it integrates together, so. I would look to do that.

Fiona: Perfect, very good. What skills do you think marketers should be investing in for the future?

Kate: I think… I mean, the core skills of marketing is still very, very much the same as what they have always been. So understanding the fundamentals of marketing, because they one they transfer to every single sector. So, I’ve worked in a variety of different industries and marketing has 100% always been the same in terms of what does the customer want? How do we reach that? How do we communicate with them? Obviously, There’s new channels, which have come up and then it’s understanding those. But I think definitely, in terms of investing for the future is looking at content, having these relationships with your customers, having these conversation. Where are your customers? Doing the whole persona, use personas and really having some strong understanding in that and how it integrates across everything else that you’re doing.

Kate: Obviously digital, digital is the trends moving forwards. But as I say it’s just one part of the full marketing package. So it’s understanding how it fits in with everything else that’s going on, so having a strong comms plan behind it.

Fiona: Makes sense. What is the book you recommend most to B2B marketers today?

Kate: I can’t recommend one book in particular, in terms of my reading I tend to read novels, just because it’s a switch off at the end of the day. But in terms of I tend to find my resources online, and via as I said webinars, and podcasts, and reading articles and things. So for me, it’s… They do tend to be more female orientated where I have a look. So Janet Murray is a great industry leader I think, in terms of being very clear and very concise. And these are the things I’ve done to grow my business, this is how it works with… could work with you. She offers it out across a load of different platforms, so emails and free tip sheets and things like that, but also webinars.

Kate: You can hook up within events that she runs as well. There’s a lady in America who Cailen Ascher who’s… she does a 3 Day Work Week. She’s been really inspirational for me recently, because it’s all about work life balance, and how she manages to still have a six figure business, but by working three days a week and how… Basically what to do and what not spend your time procrastinating about and give that to somebody else to do-

Fiona: [crosstalk 00:50:52] Oh wow, I think we all need that.

Kate: … and delegating too. Yeah, exactly.

Fiona: It sounds amazing.

Kate: Yeah. So… But and as I say, all the training HubSpot, Google Digital Garage, all the things that you can get your hands on that you can just… There’s some really inspirational people there behind the brands that I think can really help.

Fiona: Choose the people that you follow, and then learn from them and listen to their advice and experience. And you either… I suppose you’ve select two people there one who sounds like they offer real expertise around marketing, and then the other around you know how to actually get more out of your working [inaudible 00:51:31] on reduced hours, which a lot of people nowadays are actually looking at part time roles, flexible working, so that sounds really relevant and it could be useful for many.

Kate: Exactly, and it’s not… You don’t have to cram everything, your five day job into three days. It’s being a lot more succinct with actually what you’re doing, so it’s important.

Fiona: Very good tip. Thank you. What parting words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?

Kate: Take yourself seriously. Marketing in particular is not a fluffy side of any business. So you will have strong return on investment, challenges ahead, and you will need to, I think more than ever be showing how marketing is having an impact. The first step is to take yourself seriously and take your role seriously. That’s what somebody once said to me as well is, you’re never going to be taken seriously by anybody unless you are taking yourself seriously. Prepare, preparation, that was my one best piece of advice I ever got given within two years of my first job was prepare, prepare, prepare. So for every meeting, make sure you’re up to date with everything, you’ve got your list of questions, and then your confidence will just shine through, so you’ll never be on the fly.

Kate: And if you are on the fly, then you can just say, “Actually, I don’t really know at the minute, but I’ll come back to you on that.” And you take it from there. But that’s something… I take that into life outside of work as well. In terms of always be prepared, [inaudible 00:53:10] Girl Scouts but…

Fiona: No, no, it’s perfect. Really good advice. And I think if… Is it if you don’t plan, plan to fail?

Kate: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Fiona: But it’s really relevant advice.

Kate: Have yeah [crosstalk 00:53:21] know what you would do.

Fiona: That’s the same with interviewing as well as for a marketing job or any kind of project [inaudible 00:53:25] as you say, you’ve got to have a think about, what you want to get out of it and what do you want to leave people with, and then work around that as a minimum.

Kate: Yeah, exactly.

Fiona: Fantastic. Well thank you so much for taking the time Kate and giving us some of your helpful experience and advice. If anyone wants to reach out to you, how do they get in touch? Where-

Kate: [crosstalk 00:53:47] So as I said, I’m currently at Bang Consulting. We’re an agency down in Basingstoke so you can reach me on my email, which is [email protected]

Fiona: Fantastic. There you go.

Kate: Thanks.

Fiona: 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.