00:01:29 Why don’t you talk to us a little bit about your skills, your experience, and a little bit about what the audience is about to learn with regards to your past history?
00:04:33 Having no doubt interviewed a host of B2B marketeers over the years, what advice would you give them to perform better in that interview scenario?
00:06:18 What are the most important skills that you want to see in people that you look to hire?
00:08:11 What are the top five KPIs that a marketer should focus on?
00:13:03 What’s the most valuable marketing skill you can have?
00:15:42 How do you get involved in the board’s strategic decision?
00:18:19 When is it safe to move more towards strategy, and leave tactical hands-on tours behind without jeopardising your value as a marketeer to the organisation?
00:23:34 It’s often said you can be paid in money or experience. Looking back on your career, how often did you value experience over a higher salary? Did you strike a good balance, do you feel?
00:35:13 What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in marketing stroke business, and how did it come about?
00:41:53 With pressures of general life, how do you manage the work-life balance, and how important is that in today’s society?
00:45:06 What’s the book you recommend the most to B2B marketers today?
00:49:03 What parting words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?
Fiona : Welcome to Market Mentors, a podcast for the marketing leaders of today and tomorrow. I’m Fiona Jensen, the 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 real related questions you can’t get answers to elsewhere. Be tough, be challenged, be mentored.
Fiona : Like a kindred spirit, for all B2B marketeers out there, Vincent is endlessly passionate and enthusiastic about B2B tech marketing. It was like a meeting of the minds, and he talked with passion and candid honesty about some of his own career experiences, and shared his device for others with challenging questions. He talks about his philosophy of sharing best practice, and having a more global or international search of marketing expertise to draw upon, and how that can help give you the edge.
Fiona : I’m here with the lovely Vincent Rousselet. Did I say that correctly?
Vincent: Almost, yeah. I’ll say it in French, “Vincent Rousselet.”
Fiona : Vincent Rousselet. Thank you so much for having us, and joining us in Market Mentors, it’s an absolutely pleasure. Why don’t you talk to us a little bit about your skills, your experience, and a little bit about what the audience is about to learn with regards to your past history.
Vincent: Yeah, sure. I’m French, I suppose would be the first thing to say.
Fiona : Really?
Vincent: Some people may not pick that up. I’ve been in B2B marketing really since I left business school, this is a long time ago, early 90s, and I’ve always loved it because it’s a different way of thinking about audience, customers, markets. It has changed a lot in that time actually, and what I’ve always been able to do is find my space. I get my sweet spot at the intersection of technology and outcomes strategy and marketing actually, and sort of international outlook on markets, consumers, whatever it might be. That’s just given to me that sort of 25-plus career, years of fun and working with great people in great companies, and I hope I can share some of that experience, and things I did wrong and things I did right in that time, today.
Fiona : Perfect. What is it that you’re doing at the moment? Who are you working with, or for?
Vincent: Today, spending most of my time with ITSMA, and I run the business in Europe for ITSMA. It’s a membership based organisation working with, overall, 55 or so B2B tech professional services companies around the world, and helping their marketeers to become better marketeers. That’s great fun because it covers a whole range of topics, skills, issues, from the marketing tech stack to, how do you organise a marketing team, to how do you run campaigns, to messaging. It’s really the whole set of marketing questions that anybody might have. Because there are so many different members, and it’s in so many different places around the world, we’re strong in the US and strong in Europe, we also do work in Asia, you also get to look at different situations, different contexts, and you also look at how, I think, the behaviour of the target customers, those B2B buyers, is perhaps different, or perhaps common, in different parts of the world as well. Very interesting to just get those learnings translated from professional firm to more of a technical product firm, to a completely service oriented firm. For me, I find it fascinating.
Fiona : If we get a little bit of interview-specific advice from you first, having no doubt interviewed a host of B2B marketeers over the years, what advice would you give them to perform better in that interview scenario?
Vincent: This horrible cliché I’m going to have to use, which is really, you have to be yourself. I think that’s probably no different to what everybody will say. There is no point trying to pretend that you’re something else than what you are. I think what’s very helpful in a marketing context is to be able to bring examples with measurable impact of what you might have done in the past.
Fiona : What sort of measurables do you look for?
Vincent: It could be anything, but I find sometimes marketeers can be a bit too much on the artistic end of the spectrum of skills, so it’s all about, it’s lovely, beautiful, colours are great, very creative. Which is fantastic, but that has to come with, as a result of doing this very creative campaign across all of these wonderful things, this happened. The awareness increased by X percent, or the pipeline moved from X to Y, or we got some new logos that became customers of our company. I really like that, hard facts that people will bring to the discussion, because it just demonstrates a knowledge and awareness of marketing having an impact on the business, rather than just doing great, creative work. Which is important, I totally agree, but that with business impact is absolutely essential.
Fiona : There you go. What are the most important skills that you want to see in people that you look to hire?
Vincent: There’s something which I find rare, and which therefore I really value, which is people who anticipate what is going to be coming next in terms of, we’re working on a project, there’s a given deliverable or there’s something to do. They will do that, they will do that deliverable, they will provide great quality, clever stuff, but they’ve already thought through in their head what’s going to be the next question coming from either myself or the business or water, and they’ve already started to think about what that might be. They’re ahead of the game, and they are therefore ahead of their peers perhaps, and to me again, it’s a rare thing. I haven’t seen it in many people, but when I do spot it … I had, my last corporate role, somebody who did it very, very well, and was proactive, and ahead of the game. It’s probably happened, probably I’ve known four or five people like that, and I think I used to be like that myself, and that’s probably why I like that particular characteristic. But I think it does put you in a good place in terms of actually being ahead of … And going back to your manager and saying, “I’ve done this, and by the way I think that perhaps next time we should do that as well.” I think that’s a really great sense of value for the group, for the team.
Fiona : So someone who’s thought the outcome, the results, and then beyond that, as to what’s next, how could that be improved?
Vincent: Yes. It helps, I think, you the manager, and indeed the whole team, to just accelerate your progress on to the next thing. Because typically they would have got that next step right, and it just makes you go forward that much faster.
Fiona : What are the top five KPIs that a marketer should focus on? Only five.
Vincent: Only five. Actually that’s interesting, because I was, yesterday, with a client, and we were talking about KPIs, and these guys are actually redesigning their marketing KPI, dashboard and so on, and one of the big discussion is, how on earth do you get down to five? I was saying to them, without even trying hard you could have 100, ever so easily. Because all of these new technologies are actually making so many new things transparently available. But top five, I think they have to do with, again, business impact.
Vincent: My short answer would be, ROI would be part of that list, and some manner of lead generated or total contract value. But I think the key thing is to make sure that those KPIs actually make sense to the business, not just to the marketing team. That gives you a more credible place, a more agreeable role, to play, when you’re in discussion with, let’s say, the finance team, or the sales team, or many of the general managers around. Because you’re not just talking about stuff that matters to marketeers, it’s stuff that matters to the company. Again, things like, we’ve grown the pipeline by X through those new qualified leads, or we’ve grown ROI, so we are effectively doing marketing well from X to Y in a period of time, would be really important to have in that list.
Vincent: You may then go into things like … Again, it depends very much on the business, but where international consideration would be also would be quite important. And potentially I think, depending on the scope of marketing, something around the scope of customer satisfaction or recommendation type things. I think some marketeers-
Fiona : Sorry.
Vincent: That’s quite all right. Have the role of covering the life cycle, end to end, what’s happening to customers from the time they become customers to the time they are hopefully very strong advocates, or renew a particular contract. You only get to make that work well if you keep an eye on that customer satisfaction as well. Yes, beneath all that there might be, let’s say, 100 other things, to do with click rate and all sorts of other things, but actually at the bottom of the discussion will be, are we making a difference to the business. You do that through efficiency, ROI, bottom and top line, pipeline, and customer sat, I think.
Fiona : Yeah, because that customer service piece, I think, often gets overlooked as well, doesn’t it. You can have thousands of customers, but if they’re all saying bad things about you, that’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Vincent: ITSMA has done quite a bit of research on, where do the budgets from the marketing team get allocated in terms of that life cycle, and very often it’s from bloated, it’s all the acquisition piece. Which, again, depending on the state of the business, it can be super important. But at cruising altitude, as I would say, you need to spread that out to, not just acquisition, but also retention, advocacy, and to your point, making sure that those customers are hopefully saying the right thing about the business, because they truly feel that that’s what they’re getting from that experience.
Vincent: We had an interesting piece of research, actually, last summer, where one of the companies we looked at, we asked the clients and the non-clients about their perception of that firm, and very interestingly, and I think very counterintuitively, the non-clients were saying, “We think these guys are great,” and the clients were saying, “We think these guys are okay but not great.” This was the disconnect between the marketing message, which was clearly very effective in talking to non-clients about the fact that they were great, but the clients were saying the reality of working with these people is good, but it’s no more than good. That can be a bit dangerous, because those non-clients then become clients, and then we’ll likely fall in their appreciation, because they will go to the good but not great sort of position. So marketing can play a role in making that, I think, much more seamless. Pushing the delivery teams to do, perhaps, a better job through the evidence of what’s happening today, and perhaps turning down the marketing message that goes out operate future clients to be realistic as well.
Fiona : Managing expectation from the start, I like it. What’s the most valuable marketing skill you can have? Only one.
Vincent: Only one, wow.
Fiona : It’s all about the numbers.
Vincent: If I think back to my experience, I guess what really worked very well for me was to, I think, very quickly gain an appreciation of the impact of marketing on the business, and to translate how what you’re doing, which can be very technical in the marketing sense, translate that into something which is simple and clear for people who are non-marketeers. And again, tends to be related in business terms. One of my former bosses was talking last week about marketers as multilingual people, because they can adapt the language they use depending on the context to say, “Let’s talk about marketing things to the marketing group. Let’s talk about business things to our business colleagues. Let’s talk about market in the words that the customers themselves will use.” Having that ability to just switch between one language and another is actually quite important.
Vincent: Another thing that came up actually in that same discussion actually was around, what would be your spirit animal to describe you as a marketeer, or your marketing team? I think something that came up was the chameleon. An animal who’s perhaps able to, again, adapt to the environment, to change its colours, as things around them change. I think that adaptability is a really important attribute for a good marketeer.
Fiona : Yeah, because from a marketing perspective, I think sometimes if you get too stuck in the marketing lingo you can alienate the rest of the business.
Fiona : Because it’s a different language that you’re talking half the time.
Vincent: I see good marketers who, I think you’re right, who come from a sales background, retain that sales language, and it allows them to connect very well with their former colleagues, the other side of the fence, saying that’s what you’re worried about every day, you’re thinking about your quarter numbers, you’re thinking about the next close of your next contract, and those simple hooks, and again the simple words, will mean a world of difference in that engagement, and hopefully common success actually.
Fiona : There you go, so communication.
Vincent: Yes communication.
Fiona : Perfect. How do you get involved in the board’s strategic decision?
Vincent: I think if you do network well inside the business, and if you stand for someone who can talk about business issues and business metrics, and talk about value and that, I think it starts you to get in the right place. Again, if I think of my experience, I was lucky that, very early on actually in my career, I was asked to take part in a … What did we call it? Some sort of task force I think it was, which was rethinking the future of that particular company.
Fiona : So to become the visionary…
Vincent: Well I was only very young and very naive and all of that, but I think to be starting to be part of that team, and I was asked to look at market trends, what was happening to that industry sector, customers which were B2B customers, there customers which were consumers, and to try to draw some options as to what we as a company could become, was a great moment of learning which I think I’ve retained, and whenever I’m in any situation, any company, with any client or corporate role, I’ll be thinking about, what’s happening to us a company. As well as doing the job of marketing, thinking about what’s happening around us. I think the more you can do that …
Vincent: Again I’ll say, I was lucky because I was asked to join that task force, and here was me, 24 or 25, with three or four directors of the company, interacting with the shareholders back in Paris as it were. That was a great time. Great exposure as well, so you’d have to think about your own profile in that way. And if you don’t say too many stupid things I think people will start to trust you and ask you to do more of that. Again, from a marketing perspective you can transition very easily, because marketeers should have knowledge of what’s happening to customers, should be tracking what’s happening in the marketplace, and also should be understanding how their own company’s working, how money’s made, how the sales guys are being effective or not effective, and how finance is working. I think you pull all of that together and it gives you that really important and unique position to be able to say, “I think, given where we are, and given where the market’s going, I think we should be doing A, B, or C,” and have that discussion started.
Fiona : Very interesting. When is it safe to move more towards strategy, and leave tactical hands-on tours behind without jeopardising your value as a marketeer to the organisation?
Vincent: I think that’s a really interesting question. I don’t know if it’s a question of safe or not safe actually. I think it might be a personal preference actually. At some point you’ve done all you think you wanted to do in terms of tactical marketing, and certainly that was my experience when I was at BT where I had been doing campaign management for a little while, and one day I thought, “I’m being asked to do all these great campaigns, and we’re having great fun with doing creative stuff,” and we did look at ROI and all these good things, and then I thought, so who’s telling me what it is that I should be doing? Where are these campaigns actually even thought of? That made me think, actually there’s sort of, somewhere upstairs there’s a strategy group who’re thinking that the market is going in a direction, and having delivered good work on the tactical piece, what about going up there and just influencing the direction rather than the doing.
Vincent: For me it does help if you have actually delivered something really major. If I think through my time at BT, for me the big breakthrough was being asked, and I did lobby hard for that actually, being asked to run this new launch. Which actually turned out to be the largest B2B launch ever at that point in BT.
Fiona : Oh wow.
Vincent: We had …
Fiona : I think it was 60 million budget.
Vincent: The budget was that, but the actual launch was 50 million for this one launch. It initially was all about connecting customers, what are customers wanting from BT in the B2B space, so this was the small business sector, 1 million customers. So market research, then actually modelling the new product and what goes in it. Because up to then it was all … It’s just very dull, but super important to BT calls and line, so the heart of the business. That was always a sort of, let’s put the price up and we’ll see how many people turn basically.
Vincent: So how do we bring in the layer of proper service in there, how do we bring in some reward for loyalty, how do we actually change the pricing so it becomes more competitive? We did that in three months, and the team was fantastic, and a great team was actually assembled around me by, in fact, the marketing director at the time. Because I was fairly new, so I didn’t know who was any good, and he did, and he brought them in, to assemble that team of about 10 people. So three months, we worked like mad, and nobody thought we could do it in three months. In fact we were early, because we were ready to launch early January, and somebody said, “Nobody will be back from the holidays. Let’s delay by a week. Which was like yeah, that’s actually a good idea. So we went sort of early, and it went well, then the numbers came in
Vincent: People were starting to sign up to this new package, wanting to benefit from, again, loyalty rewarded, good pricing, good service. Actually again, interestingly, got us to talk to the sales guys and say, “How will this work for you?” “Fantastic.” The service and delivery guys, “How will this work for you?” “We love it.” But this was the big breakthrough.
Vincent: Then based on that, and I think it would be true for people listening, you look at, without necessarily wanting to build your reputation, you suddenly have a reputation for being able to deliver the largest ever campaign of B2B in the shortest ever time, and that’s a good thing. That then gives you options, I guess, to say, “Next I want to do this, or that, or this,” and people will encourage you, allow you, depending on the culture, to do just that.
Vincent: Again, I’m not sure it’s about safety, I think it’s about demonstrating that you can do a good job in one domain, which can be very tactical, and then saying, “I’ve got other skills which would be helpful to the business in another context,” and that could well be more strategic and more about direction, where hopefully you’ll apply just as well your skills, and do just as great a job.
Fiona : So potentially getting your ducks in a row first.
Vincent: I think it’d be very difficult to say “I’m a failure at marketing, I’d like to do strategy now.” I don’t think that’s the best sort of career discussion you could think to have.
Fiona : No. Might raise a few eyebrows.
Vincent: It might do, yeah.
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Fiona : It’s often said you can be paid in money or experience. Looking back on your career, how often did you value experience over a higher salary? Did you strike a good balance, do you feel?
Vincent: I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my wife about that, with the money.
Fiona : Mrs. Roussel.
Vincent: Yeah, she might be back in a moment. I think I was lucky, because I’ve been able to learn a lot in every one of the jobs I’ve ever been for, as well get a pay raise every time as well. I don’t think I had to choose between one or the other, I just think that if I think back to my very, very first job in Paris, in American Express, I didn’t need much money, but it was paid, so I got paid, and it was a fantastic learning moment around things like segmentation and customer value and campaigning. If I think of my time in peer consulting, great set of projects across the world, learning about business modelling, launching the operators, new technology, so it was sort of the 3G era, if one is young enough to remember that. I think every time, again very lucky, and somehow … Maybe it’s to do with my interviewing techniques, I don’t know, but somehow managed to get a good advance on the money as well.
Vincent: I think it is true that you can say, I’m happy to go for something which is, money-wise, the same, or maybe a little bit below. I wouldn’t recommend it. And I’m going to be entering maybe a new sector of industry, or a new domain I don’t know anything about, or not much about, and that will just run my skillset well. I would say good for both. If people value what you can bring, they should recognise that in the sense of the money side of it, as well as giving this environment where you continue to learn. Absolutely to this day, I continue to learn. I think it’d be … Whoever said, it might have been Charles Dickens, but the day you … Could be not. Somebody said, the day you stop learning is the day you stop living, and I think that’s completely true.
Fiona : It is very true. Yeah, I agree. “I’m an experienced marketeer with over eight years marketing experience, with at least four as a strategic marketing manager at an educational publisher. I also have an MBA from Lancaster university, and I’m an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. As a parent who needs to work part time, term time only, so that I can fullfill the needs of my three boys, I’ve been struggling to find a flexible marketing role in Exeter as a result, and hiring managers always get back to me with ‘Sorry, we’re only looking for full-time candidates,’ and shutting the door completely. As a CMO, or senior marketing leader, what are your strategies to bring back or utilise people like me in the work force? What would you advise me to do to find a role where I can be productive, committed, and utilise my expertise?”
Vincent: Fantastic question, and it’s a really interesting experience.
Fiona : It’s so relevant as well, isn’t it, at the moment.
Fiona : It’s just on the money.
Vincent: That’s a really great point. My personal view is that people who actually don’t work full time are ever so more effective, because they are driven to be home at a given time on a given day, and the other days they won’t be available, so the job is done in the time allocated. I’ve always almost had a preference for people who can have that sort of drive, for whatever reason, to achieve in time.
Vincent: Two things come to mind actually. One is, we have actually in fact somebody on the ITSMA society associate pool who doesn’t work full time. It’s very clear that she in fact doesn’t travel. So we’ll do work in the hours that she wants to work, which is sort of 10:00 to 5:00-ish, and we make it work. Because she’s fantastically skilled, she’s a great marketer, and if there’s travel to do we’ll do it remotely, or somebody else will. We find ways. I think it’s about being very clear on your skills, and clearly there’s plenty of skills here, and being also very clear about setting those limits.
Vincent: Not everybody, I think, take that view. I have found, actually, public sector organisations are much more advanced, I think, in that space. And while there’s not always necessarily a lot of marketing going on in public sector organisation, there is often roles which require the same skillset. That might be one particular avenue to look into for this particular person here.
Vincent: Again, I go back, your personal value, your personal efficiency, should be something that everybody would look at and say, “That’s going to work. We can make it work.”
Fiona : So keep looking, there will be a company out there.
Vincent: There might be a local site of, I don’t know, DWP, or some other government agency, that might say actually yeah, it might be more of a strategic role actually, thinking about future plans, planning something. It might be more of a comes role. These roles exist, and again, from my experience, people there are very happy to do job share, very respectful of people doing compressed hours, so you can do your five days of work in four days. And certainly very happy with part-time as well. I would certainly say yeah, keep looking.
Fiona : Yeah, there you go. There will be options, keep looking. How do big corporates justify spend on difficult to measure campaigns around brand and thought awareness?
Vincent: Oh yes, it’s marvelous. I think you need a balance actually, your marketing mix has to be a balance. It can’t all be about lead generation. Because these things, yes, are valuable, but they can be very short-term, and in fact they can end up being …
Fiona : Counterintuitive sometimes.
Vincent: They can devalue the brand, and I think a brand that’s not invested in through a range of initiatives will likely over time fail. So how to justify, hopefully you’ve got an enlightened CEO, also an enlightened CMO, who will say the email marketing, telemarketing, that’s all great, but amongst stuff like that we need to do proper air cover to the brand, and need to continue reinforcing. I think thought leadership actually … Okay, a brand campaign can lead you to measure awareness, or familiarity, or favourability, that’s good, and these things should be tracked anyway, but I think thought leadership as well can be more pointed to very specific target audiences, depending how you run those thought leadership campaigns. Again, they do strengthen the brand, and they can also help you to reposition it.
Vincent: When I was in my last corporate job at Amdocs, one of the big brand challenge we had there was that, through acquisitions, and the company still to this day acquires probably about two or three firms a year, had broadened the set of services and products it could offer to its customers, which are typically telecom operators. But the brand was still stuck in a sort of legacy building software world, and so the challenge was how do we extend from that very strong core, to the whole set of new things? We did a number of very successful thought leadership programs to just start to bring the idea to key decision makers. The customers’ accounts were actually … Amdocs did plenty of other things. It can be a very personal thing, and we used to run a workshop or a meeting somewhere in the world every week, so 50 in a year, and you had anything between five to 50 customers attending the session, so you knew that if you ran 50 of those, on average 20 people attending, you know how many people you’ve touched in a year, you know how many people you’ve touched in a quarter, and you know that you’ve listened to what you’re saying. Hopefully that tells you that you’re moving on the positioning of the brand one meeting at a time, but absolutely with the right people.
Fiona : Sounds like it’s the start of account-based marketing.
Vincent: It wasn’t the start, but it’s one of the aspects of account-based marketing, and I think that’s, again, account-based marketing can be very revenue-focused, but I think what I would say is, you always want to add to that revenue aspect something about reputation and something about relationships, so three R’s, revenue, reputation, relationships. That gives you, I think, a very strong mix, to again prove value. If your, which is often I’ve discovered the problem, the finance guy, the CFO, says “You’re spending too much in marketing,” one of the tricks there is to actually bring them into some of these thought leadership or executive leadership dinners, as part of an account plan, and say “We’d like you, Jill or Tracy the CFO, to have dinner with five CFOs from our five key customers, and you’ll talk about CFO things.” It’s just really about getting this relationship going. I think by being here, and being part of it, people who may be …
Fiona : Skeptical?
Vincent: Skeptical, or blockers, can be gently nudged to a more positive, or maybe just neutral, position as part of the big mix of influences, including internally. I think, who said that to me, somebody said to me in the job, when you start, get a friend in HR and get a friend in finance. Because these are two groups that, as marketeers, we need to work with, in funny and mysterious ways sometimes, but certainly get that in place and you’re motoring much faster.
Fiona : Fantastic. I like the funny and mysterious, I’m like ooh!
Vincent: Well it goes back to recruiting. For example, if you’ve got a good HR partner, I can promise you that your recruitment will be more effective, your appraisal will be more effective, your pay reviews, it all flows nicely. Again, it’s relationship, but applied internally.
Fiona : Yeah, that looking after your team and making sure everyone wins.
Vincent: Oh yes, completely.
Fiona : What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in marketing stroke business, and how did it come about?
Vincent: So many mistakes littering my career. I think probably the most important was actually probably at BT, and I think that campaign I was referencing earlier. Which, again, I was fairly new in the business actually. The gentleman who recruited me, by the time I joined, because interviewing took a long time, as you well know these things can take time …
Fiona : They can.
Vincent: My first interview as a headhunter was the day after 9/11.
Fiona : Oh wow.
Vincent: So it was like, this is never going to happen, is it? Because the world is going to stop now. Actually it didn’t, but that was obviously September, and I got in in January. It only took five months or whatever is. Completely fine.
Fiona : No time at all, what are you complaining about.
Vincent: Absolutely. Anyway, by that time the directing manager was moving onto another role in BT. His boss, who’d also seen that interview, was moving onto another role a month after. By the time I was in there nobody knew why I was there actually.
Fiona : What a great start.
Vincent: What a great start. In the first six months I had four managers who, nobody really knew what was-
Fiona : Were you that bad to manage?
Vincent: No, I think there was a whole bunch of reorg. The point is, actually I lobbied very hard with the new market director saying, “I think I can do this for you, Tim, this launch.” He said, “I’m really not sure,” and I kept saying, “I think I can do this for you.” Anyway, he agreed. The first learning for me was just persistence. He went off to see the CO, who was actually French, but that’s fine, and Pierre said, “Do this as fast as possible, and come back to me when it’s ready.” Nobody thought, again, we could do this in three months, and nobody thought we could actually stick to the customer needs, because one of BT’s great attributes is to take testimonies and then change them to something which, and this is back [inaudible 00:37:32], they can be doing, as opposed to just cut through, maintain, those customer needs through the proposition, through the campaign, and so on.
Vincent: I think the learning for me was, lobby hard; when it doubt, go back to the customer. Start with the customer and their needs, and drive that through the machine. But the further learning was, again, because of BT being BT, you can mobilise, overnight, 10 people, and you could mobilise, overnight, 15 million pounds. The strength of the brand, and the strength of the team, if it’s led well, was just completely amazing. I always try to retain those lessons and keep that going in future roles.
Fiona : That experience of having multiple managers in a short space of time, unfortunately that’s not a unique experience.
Vincent: I’m sure it’s not.
Fiona : What sort of learning or advice can you provide to people who are maybe facing that, who are maybe tearing their hair out a bit and thinking, “I’m just going to leave her, because they can’t retain the manager, or there’s too much change here for me.” What advice would you give to them?
Vincent: To be fair, I did think to myself, am I going to stay? Because literally, by the time the third gentleman came online I was like, well that’s just … So what’s the advice? The advice is, I think, think about those options. I think put everything on the table, frankly, and the answer will be influenced by a number of factors. I think you still want to do a good job in whatever it is you’re being asked to do, and I think you still need to be trying to engage your team and get them motivated. Because they’re equally, the team around you, thinking, “What’s going on here? What’s happening?” So trying to keep that motivation going, if you can.
Vincent: I think also try to understand what’s driving, even though it may be a very interim situation with this line manager, try to understand what is driving them, so that you can be positioned to help them, even if it’s for literally two months, do what they need to do in that two months. And network like mad inside the business, because something else might just exist somewhere else, which would be giving you yet another option to do something great. Eyes open, do a good job, communicate, network.
Fiona : Do you think, because of the amount of managers that you had in that short space of time, that you maybe took more responsibility and more focus on what you were doing and why you were doing it, versus maybe how you’d normally approach it? Because of that lack of-
Vincent: Well I’m in a new job mode, and I believe it’s important to make a good impression when you start. As we know, we only get one chance at first impression. So I think probably unconsciously I was doing that. It would have been nice to have been told that actually those managers were interim, which wasn’t the case, obviously, in the first person, because he was moving on, and it was announced when he knew he was moving on. Or in the third one, because he was just a … But we didn’t get told that he was just there for two months. Again, I think you have to reflect on what those messages, what other signals the company, unwittingly perhaps, are sending you. “Actually we don’t trust you enough to tell you that this guy is there for just two months, and please, holding pattern for everybody.”
Vincent: But again, stay true to your values. If you’re, which I certainly believe, you’re there to do a good job, try to do the best job you can in the circumstances. And if it’s still not right, then again, the option of leaving has to be on the table. There’s no point losing sleep or hair or anything else over it. Your career is in your hands, you decide what you want to do in the end.
Fiona : Yeah, you’re in control.
Vincent: Yeah, absolutely.
Fiona : With pressures of general life, how do you manage the work-life balance, and how important is that in today’s society?
Vincent: Yeah, it’s important, very important. I’ll tell you what I do, which actually is weird, because it’s not really work-life balance. In fact later today I’ll be going to meet my wife at the nearest concert hall, across the river from here. We have a membership at this concert hall, every Thursday there’s a concert at lunch time, and it’s just an hour to just completely switch off. Bizarrely actually, it’s not really work-life balance, because actually I’m thinking through some business stuff, and I come up with an answer. Being seduced by the music, I am completely relaxed, and I can usually come up with the answer of something which had been troubling me for the last few days. But I think you’ve got to set some rules for yourselves and stick to them, for yourself and actually for people around you. Because there’s also expectations to be managed there. I used to do that very badly actually, I’ve learned, my wife has taught me well, to manage her expectation.
Vincent: Amdocs, global company, lots of colleagues in Israel, the working week starts on Sunday, so one choice you have is to say, I will be available on Sunday, or I will not be available on Sunday. Obviously working week finishes on Thursday night, so you could say, what do I do on Friday? Do I work, do I not work? So you could say okay, Fujitsu, Japanese company, nine hours time difference, if you want to be interacting with your Japanese colleagues in Tokyo, you could decide that you want to be up at 3:00 in the morning and go to sleep at 4:00 in the afternoon UK time. I’m not suggesting that you should do that, and that’s not what I did, but I think these things, you have to be clear about it, and keep yourself … Again, it’s a horrible cliché, but keep yourself some me-time, just to recharge. Different people have different needs for that recharge time, but you’ve got to make a conscious choice about it, because otherwise I think it’s burnout guaranteed, actually. That’s really no good to anyone, yourself, your family, friends, and business either, so don’t go there.
Fiona : I think that’s a charming story, about the concert and your wife, and the hours of …
Vincent: I’ll tell you, it is work time, really, because I come out of that almost invariably with this thing I couldn’t think how to make work: “Actually, what about this?” I shut my eyes for half the concert, and I’m half asleep, trying not to snore because that’d be disruptive, but almost every week something comes up.
Fiona : It does shift you though, doesn’t it? It doesn’t necessarily have to be music, but-
Vincent: Completely, and I’m completely rubbish at music. I cannot play any instrument, I have almost no knowledge of anything, but I just like being in that moment, not thinking about … Well not really thinking about anything, and yet the brain’s sort of churning away.
Fiona : Fantastic. What’s the book you recommend the most to B2B marketers today?
Vincent: It’s just so hard. Actually the book I would recommend is here in fact, but this is nothing to do with B2B marketing at all. This is Proust, Marcel Proust, [French 00:45:24].
Fiona : Ooh, I like it. Oh, you’re going all highbrow on me, I’m excited now!
Vincent: I’m sorry. This is the second volume, the second tome of the three that I need to read. Every 10 years I reread it.
Fiona : Really, every 10 years.
Vincent: I’m now on my third reread, my fourth read. What’s interesting in Proust is that it’s, obviously it’s about story, it’s about what’s happening in France in the late 19th century, early 20th century, he makes points about, what will happen to the telephone, and how will we do things like television, and things like videophones, and video conference. Thinking that the telephone was an invention that was about 10 years old when he was writing, his foresight on some things is completely amazing. But I think more relevant to perhaps B2B is the way that he does storytelling. People have read him, it’s almost impenetrable, because the style is very French, very heavy, and some sentences go on for half a page, easily. That’s one sentence.
Fiona : Really studying it now.
Vincent: I’m not suggesting that, again, this is the way the way you would … If you’re writing blogs, or if you’re doing content or whatever. But I think thinking about a different style of storytelling is very important, and how you might apply that to your content efforts today.
Vincent: On the more business oriented thing, what I do like to … There’s another book here in fact, which, this is more about visualisation, so this is Information Capital, which is a book about different ways of thinking about London. I recommend it. This is more about how-
Fiona : Oh it’s beautiful. Lovely pictures.
Vincent: How you visualise information.
Fiona : Oh wow.
Vincent: I think that’s a really important skill for marketeers as well, because life is complex, and making it simple for your audience, whether it’s internal or external, really important. I was going to say, what I do try to catch upon, which is more of a proper B2B read I guess, is … In fact we’re coming to that season right now. Which is that every late November, December time, sometimes January when they’re late, most of the major analyst firms, like Gartner and Forester and IDC, and then a few others, come up with typically 10 predictions for next year. I think that’s a really interesting, especially I must say the Forester version of that every year, very interesting.
Vincent: Because it’s not just about tech, I mean Gartner is very tech, but the combination of three or four of these gives you a really interesting insight in terms of what is going to be happening in the minds of … If you’re in B2B tech, many of your buyers, many of the people you’re trying to influence, because it will be AI, it will be IOT, it will be all these great little acronyms that we all love. It gives you perhaps the latest flavour of that, and just being that little bit ahead of what common wisdom is, and what the analysts are actually saying may not come to pass, it may not be that IOT grows to be X many billion trillion zillion connection in 2019, but it gives you that extra little bit of, I think, insight. And typically you get those things for free-ish, or they get reviewed or trailed in various other things, so if you don’t have a Gartner description you can still look at that quite easily. That’s what I try to do, and it’s only one read a year you’ll see, and it’s now. The rest of the time I can read Proust in my bed.
Fiona : I can imagine that now. What parting words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?
Vincent: I think marketing, B2B marketing is just fantastic. It’s the place to be. I would say if you’re in it, stay in it, grow your skills; if you’re not in it, and you’re in another function, think about it. If you’re in B2C marketing, I think you have a lot to bring to a B2B world, so perhaps consider coming across and …
Fiona : Come to the dark side.
Vincent: Dark side, absolutely. It’s a lot of fun. It’s arguably, I think, a lot closer to customers. I think because there are fewer customers, they’re typically bigger deals, you get to be so much closer to the decision process, to your sales colleagues, it’s much more personal I would say. So yeah, come over.
Fiona : Perfect, I love it. Thank you so much for your time, and for all the advice. It’s been fantastic.
Vincent: Thank you.
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.
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