00:01:12 It would be great if you could give us a summary of your skills and experience overall, so the audience can understand the wonderful experience they’re about to learn from.
00:02:40 So having interviewed a host of B2B marketers over the years, what advice would you give them to perform better when they’re actually in an interview scenario?
00:05:05 And how has marketing changed since you started out on your career?
00:06:29 What was the biggest learning curve that you’ve had when you got to your first senior leadership role in B2B marketing?
00:08:27 Describe your perfect B2B marketing department. Examples of teams you’ve seen smash it and why and what kind of budget they had or activity they undertook.
00:10:21 So, what’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given or found for yourself?
00:12:42 What’s the worst experience you’ve had working for someone?
00:13:55 How do you manage your marketing career in a company that’s very, very short term focused?
00:14:56 With social technological changes set to continue at pace, what do you think an aspiring marketeer should be learning now, to be in the best position possible to add value to business in five or 10 years time?
00:15:47 What I would look to people to really understand is, how is it that digital channels will change B2B marketing and what are the channels that B2B marketing should regard essential and what should be regarded as peripheral?
00:16:57 What past failure or uncomfortable experience set you up for success at a later date?
00:18:31 The gender pay gap and percentage of male versus female leadership roles, do you think this challenge needs addressing in our industry and if so, how?
00:19:59 Looking back on your career, how often did you value experience over a higher salary and did you strike a good balance?
00:20:59 In a digital world of new apps and new startups, do the established incumbent, straight legacy brands really matter anymore?
00:22:48 What are the marketing skills of the future? What, do we invest in growth hacking, inbound, ABM, automation, whatever next?
00:24:40 With pressures of general life, how do you manage the work life balance and how important is that in today’s society? Especially with three daughters?
00:25:36 As a senior marketing leader, what is your guilty pleasure?
00:27:38 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.
Fiona: 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.
Fiona: Together we’ll discover how marketing experts reached the top and learned from their experience, ask career related questions you can’t get answers to elsewhere.
Fiona: Be Tough. Be challenged. Be mentored.
Fiona: How does the history of a brand help define its future? It’s a good question and one of the many today’s guest, Robin Mackenzie answers. Robin is a warm, pragmatic family man who loves sharing some great insights from his career. Spanning the exciting world of mad men advertising to the ups and downs of working at large corporates and everything that goes with it.
Fiona: Thank you ever so much for joining us on Market Mentors. It would be great if you could give us a summary of your skills and experience overall, so the audience can understand the wonderful experience they’re about to learn from.
Robin: I’m very happy to. So my career really falls into three main sections. The first section of my career was in advertising where I worked for-
Fiona: Ah, you were a madman.
Robin: Well I was certainly mad. I’m not sure I qualified as a mad man, but I was a planner in advertising for about eight or nine years and I learned there, an awful lot about customer insight, around research and making the complex simple.
Robin: I then moved into con side activities, initially in the consumer marketing arena. So I worked at BT, in the consumer marketing team, gradually progressed through into more strategic marketing roles. So looking at some of the core disciplines away from communications into segmentation proposition development, marketing strategy and marketing execution.
Robin: And then in the third phase of my career, I discovered the joy that is B2B marketing. So I transitioned initially in BT to its business to business function and really found there, my absolute heartland, because I think it’s a little bit more complex and a little bit more pure as a marketing discipline, which is how do you combine all of the things that marketeers can do, into something which already makes a difference for business?
Fiona: Well that’s lovely. So having interviewed a host of B2B marketers over the years, what advice would you give them to perform better when they’re actually in an interview scenario?
Robin: I think there’s a couple. I can only talk about what I look for. So there’s a couple of things I always look for. The first is, I think, being really clear about what the role for marketing is in a B2B organisation. And for me, we exist to help sales sell. So somebody that understands that and talks in that way, that’s the first thing that’s really important.
Robin: The second is, despite all of the new opportunities and different challenges that we all have as B2B marketeers, actually, it’s fundamentally about the numbers. It’s about a disciplined approach to what it is we do and how we measure the effect and how we can then improve on it.
Robin: Third thing I always look for is, you as a B2B marketeer, have to walk into people’s shoes. Walk in the shoes of the customer, but also walk in the shoes of the sales guy because the sales guy, man or woman, is the person that really does the work, whether they’re doing face to face sales or telephony based. And our role is to help understand those things and help them do their jobs better.
Fiona: So if the, in the interview scenario, they need to think about bringing all of that to the fore. So being able to communicate that clearly and also appreciating the business that they’re interviewing for and what those journeys and experiences might be like?
Robin: The best interviews, it’s a bit like media training. If anybody’s gone through media training, you have to recognise that the things you know about, you’re far more expert in than the person that’s interviewing you. So the critical thing is to simplify the story down so that you can tell it as a story. That you can be very clear. Don’t talk about jargon, be very clear about where you found yourself, what the situation was, what you did, the difference you made, what your learning was.
Robin: We never as interviewers expect perfection and I’ve always been taught that what I’m looking for is, I recruit for attitude, which I think is exactly what I think. If I can see the right attitude in somebody, if I can see clear thinking, if I can see passion, if I can see integrity and I can see that understanding of customers, that’s what I look for. Crisp, clear stories with solid data points that really help reinforce that this is what this person will bring to the team.
Fiona: Perfect. Really lovely advice. Thank you. And how has marketing changed since you started out on your career?
Robin: Well, everything’s changed since I started out in my career. I think the very, before I even worked in advertising, the very first thing I was responsible for in an office was delivering handwritten messages to the telex operators to type out and transfer and telex over to the US. So technology has transformed.
Robin: I think in the main, if you think about the fact that Google only came to be less than 20 years ago, then the entire world has transformed. But I, the more I get involved with new tools and techniques, the more I’m convinced that actually, the core disciplines are still the same. There are just new and quicker and different ways of executing. And what I mean by that is, we still have a role to tell stories. We still have a requirement to contribute to opening doors for sales or presenting leads and opportunities to sales and qualifying those to a point that sales can actually go in and maximise their conversion rates.
Robin: Now, the fact that we’re using any number of different tools to do it means that actually, the core discipline remains the same. The tools change, but keep absolutely focused on those core disciplines.
Fiona: Brilliant. What was the biggest learning curve that you’ve had when you got to your first senior leadership role in B2B marketing?
Robin: I suppose there were two. One is actually when I went did something which I would recommend all business to business marketing people do, which is run a sales team. And I was involved in the setup of an inside sales channel for one of the brands I worked on and that brought together best of breed, sales, digital and telephony based marketing into, if you like, one coherent proposition.
Robin: And what I learned really, was that I’d spent all of my career till then working on big brands, developing carefully thought through deeply integrated, longterm campaigns where every single media played its role and it was highly structured, highly disciplined, highly organised, and took about nine months from cradle to grave. From the inception of the planning, the development of the plan, the execution of the quarterly campaign and the delivery of the results.
Robin: And what I learned in running my own inside sales team from scratch was that you had to do all of that but do it in a day. Not In nine months. Because you were learning instantly what was resonating and what wasn’t. And you were having to execute the same disciplines, but do it so much quicker, do it with clarity and be adaptable and flexible and align with what sales people and customers were telling us was working straight away.
Robin: So I used to wait months to see copy from an agency, and we ended up having to change and get an agency who could turn around copy in a day. Same disciplines, just much, much quicker, much more focused, much more agile, much more aligned with sales than ever before.
Fiona: Brilliant. Describe your perfect B2B marketing department. Examples of teams you’ve seen smash it and why and what kind of budget they had or activity they undertook.
Robin: So I think the first thing about a perfect business to business marketing team is actually more of a qualitative than a structural element. And the qualitative element I always look for is, is that marketing team central to the business and is it regarded as central to the business and is it demonstrating its value?
Robin: I think all too often, where business to business marketeers get frustrated, is where they feel they are not in that role. So what I always look for is, is this department central to the business? That’s the first very important thing.
Robin: The second is, is it truly helping sales sell? And that can be in anything from creating a brand position that helps open the doors for sales, through to delivering campaigns that actually generate the right quality of lead and then can be presented to sales, through to actually helping sales with, what are the conversations they should be having?
Robin: So if you’re central to the business and you’re helping sales sell and you are using and proving the tools available to you, that’s the stuff I look for. Structurally, that can be everything from a fully integrated marketing department, from brand right way through to sales enablement data, data management, campaign delivery, or it can be any element and components of that.
Robin: I think every business I’ve ever worked in has similar challenges but different structures. So the role is for B2B marketing is to fit comfortably within that and still open the door, help sales close the sale.
Fiona: So, what’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given or found for yourself?
Robin: That’s a great question. I think that there are, if I may, there are three. That’s very unfair.
Fiona: That’s a lot of threes, I like it. I like it, real value.
Robin: The first is just, it’s actually just a piece of advice which I’ve always held really dear, which was not to do with work, but was to do, was from my dad, which was “Don’t ever be an if only.” I’ve always found that just a really simple thing. If you’re thinking about what you do next, where you go, what your choice is, at that moment, think about how things will be in a couple of years time and look back and do the if only. If only I’d done X or if only I’d done Y. That will almost invariably be the thing that you should think about and the way you should act. That’s the first thing.
Robin: The second thing is, I had a great leader in one of my businesses who, I’m a bit prone to big, strategic concepts and big, visionary thoughts and that’s what I like doing. I like telling those stories. And he always said to me that he wouldn’t entertain a single, big, strategic concept unless I told him the first three steps that will be taken for the first three weeks. So know where you’re trying to get to, but nail down the first three steps because then you get momentum and any business that gets momentum, will deliver real progress. So that’s the second big piece of advice.
Robin: The third piece of advice, which again is more career based is, if you know yourself, then you can brand yourself and then you can succeed in any environment. And spend some time just making sure you know as much about yourself as possible because what makes you tick, will drive the environments that you should find yourself in, the things you’ll enjoy doing. If you enjoy doing something, chances are you’re going to be better at it and you’re going to be more successful as a result.
Fiona: Fantastic, I love it.
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Fiona: What’s the worst experience you’ve had working for someone?
Robin: There’ve been a couple of occasions where I think if I reflect back with the benefit of hindsight, then probably it’s when I’ve had occasion to work with people where our core values are different. And that’s something which is difficult to interpret at the time, but is much easier with the benefit of hindsight to understand. And I think again, it comes back to knowing what makes you tick. And I know what I look for in a boss. I look for my own inspiration. I look for somebody that I can help to be successful. I look for someone that can help coach me, that can help me learn.
Robin: And when I find those relationships, when I actively seek them, which I do, and they work, they work incredibly well. It’s a two way relationship. When it’s not been the case, that’s actually because we’ve got some slightly different moral, ethical or business principles and those are the ones, very few occasions, but those are the ones that haven’t worked for me. That’s good learning in itself.
Fiona: Yeah, very true. How do you manage your marketing career in a company that’s very, very short term focused?
Robin: In a funny way, I think there’s a fantastic challenge in being a marketeer in a company that’s short term focused. And the reason for that is, that you’ve got an opportunity to demonstrate something really important every day, which is the value marketing brings. So if the focus is on a day, then demonstrate how much you’ve improved things in a day. If the focus was, we need 10 leads a day and you’ve got it up to 11 or 12, you’ve delivered a 10 to 20 percent uplift in performance.
Robin: So actually, perversely, the more short term it is, the more you can demonstrate real rapid value and that’s all about understanding how you can squeeze better value out of the investment that’s being made, what you need to do to improve it, and also how you tell people. So don’t worry about being short, in a short term focus company. Actually, in many ways that’s a great challenge and a great opportunity for any marketeer.
Fiona: Well challenge, hopefully, accepted. With social technological changes set to continue at pace, what do you think an aspiring marketeer should be learning now, to be in the best position possible to add value to business in five or 10 years time?
Robin: I would say there are three core skills and then there’s a technology angle. So the three core skills are, number one, know how to tell a story. Number two, understand the sales process and the sales triggers in the business that you’re in. And number three is, be very comfortable talking about an end to end pipeline. And be very comfortable, what a pipeline looks like, what the metrics look like, what the drivers of success can be, because those will endure.
Robin: What I would look to people to really understand is, how is it that digital channels will change B2B marketing and what are the channels that B2B marketing should regard essential and what should be regarded as peripheral? And those are two very discrete things and each business will have a degree of, either desire to embrace new technologies or resistance to it.
Robin: In the business I’ve been in most recently, it perhaps was probably, it was probably one of the last businesses to enter social media. And it was because that, it had a long standing heritage, it felt somewhat nervous about the concept of social media. So we’ve now embraced social media, but we’ve done it step by step and we’ve proven each stage, what it is we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how it’s making a difference to the business.
Robin: Now that’s a very traditional business. In a very new tech startup, you’ll be looking to embrace the very latest and the very new. All I would ever say is, use them for what they’re good for and use them well.
Fiona: Perfect. What past failure or uncomfortable experience set you up for success at a later date?
Robin: I think in a couple of occasions in my career, very different situations that, I’ve been in situations where things have been going, on the surface, incredibly well. So it’s been good sort of headline momentum. And I think the thing that I would always, that those have taught me is, there can be unexpected things around the corner that you need to prepare for and you need to plan for.
Robin: So it’s always worth thinking not just about the positive, but also about the sort of potential and always on those occasions, put in place the most solid foundations you possibly can. So in one business, which was in the B2B market, we hit a very surprising, but very quick, recession. And our business was-
Fiona: The R word.
Robin: Yeah, the R word. And the business wasn’t sufficiently ready for that in terms of its underlying foundations. In other businesses, there can be a key contract win that goes against you, but again, you have to be ready for that and you have to be able to prepare for the unexpected as well as ride the wave of success when it’s happening.
Fiona: So, prepare for the worst.
Robin: Prepare for the worst, there’s no, the worst that can happen if you prepare for the worst is, you’ve wasted a bit of time. The best that can happen is that you’ve got very solid foundations that continue to drive the business forward.
Fiona: Brilliant. The gender pay gap and percentage of male versus female leadership roles, do you think this challenge needs addressing in our industry and if so, how?
Robin: I think it needs addressing in every industry. I think there are different things. I have three daughters who are now either in or entering the workplace and I don’t think they enter the workplace thinking there is, nor should they, that there’s any differential in pay between a male and female employee and that’s entirely the right way. I think that there is a gender pay gap still across virtually every business, certainly in the UK. Triggered by how people choose, if they are involved in having children, how people choose to take that time, whether it’s males or females.
Robin: And I think that we need to continue to challenge that. I think it’s culture that tends to be at fault in companies. I think in a modern world we should recognize and respect that people can add significant value, males or females. If they are taking time out to look after families, that’s completely fine. That’s as it should be and that they can walk back into workplace and add significant value.
Robin: I think we have technology now that should enable us to work flexibly. We have a generation of people that are happy to work flexibly. We’ve no need to sit in an office and talk to each other five days a week, eight hours a day and that’s what we should all be embracing.
Fiona: Brilliant. I reckon there’ll be lots of nodding heads there. 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 and did you strike a good balance?
Robin: I have always said that everything I’ve ever done has helped me learn and change and therefore, experience has always been the most important thing. And I won’t deny that I’ve been very lucky along the way and that has also come with, therefore, there’s a good salary as well. I would always take experience over salary. I think it’s the most important thing because actually, experience endures. Salary, relatively speaking, is transient.
Robin: And I think it can go up, it can go down. You can do very well, you can do less well. There are situations, but actually the more you experience, the more you learn, the more prepared you are for any challenge in the future.
Fiona: In a digital world of new apps and new startups, do the established incumbent, straight legacy brands really matter anymore?
Robin: Brands matter, whatever your brand is. There was something I taught when I was, or I was taught when I was in advertising, which was actually, the difference between products and brands. And I use this to this day. The difference between a product, a product does something. A brand stands for something as well.
Robin: What a product does is pretty much functional. It fulfills a specific rational requirement. What a brand stands for is always emotional and products really, just by their very existence, expand choice, but a brand simplifies a buying decision. So I as a consumer, know I’ve got choice, but I choose this particular brand. I’m not going to tell you exactly why because I don’t really know why, but that’s what a brand is all about.
Robin: So whether you are a new brand or an established one, brands are really important. I think that people choose different things for different reasons. If you have a new business and a new brand, then absolutely you’re going to champion it’s newness. You’re going to be a challenger and you should play to that, play to your strengths.
Robin: Established brands have a number of different elements to them that are equally important and I work in a business now that’s over 200 years old. It’s got 200 years of heritage to draw on. It’s got 200 years of relationships to draw on. It’s got 200 years of innovation to draw on. Those are massively important things and that history defines its future.
Robin: So yes, of course, traditional brands have a role. As long as you use that traditional set of values, successfully, to shape a way to the future. Just as new brands have a role, as long as they can demonstrate that they will make a difference in the future.
Fiona: Brilliant. What are the marketing skills of the future? What, do we invest in growth hacking, inbound, ABM, automation, whatever next?
Robin: It’s very dangerous to try and predict the future in that sense. I think again, I would focus on the core disciplines because I think you can learn the technologies. So I would focus on the skills for the future are just as they have been right the way through. The strength of storytelling, the strength of insight, the focus on the consumer, understanding the sales process, understanding the sales pipeline. How those things then get delivered and how those things get generated will always change.
Robin: So in, when I was in various roles in B2B marketing, it’s all been, always been about big TV campaigns. Well that’s no longer the case. It’s now about different, different ways of amplifying content across different channels, but the core discipline remains. I’ve got to have somebody understand that I exist. I’ve got to have a relevant proposition for them. I’ve got to make them want to talk to me and when they do talk to me, I’ve got to give them the relevant information.
Robin: So all of those things are the things that I would focus on as core disciplines. All of the techniques we also need to have, but those techniques will evolve and change over time.
Fiona: And you can learn them as you go.
Robin: We can always learn. I’m an old dog and I don’t know all the new tricks about social media, but I know well enough to bring in people to the team that really do understand it and that’s part of the management of the team. I’m, I wouldn’t profess to be an expert in all things digital and all things social, but what I do have is trusted people who I know, know much more about it, that I can then get the best out of by helping them with some of the broader structural elements that I understand.
Fiona: Brilliant. With pressures of general life, how do you manage the work life balance and how important is that in today’s society? Especially with three daughters? I can’t imagine.
Robin: It’s really important and I’m really bad at. I am a sad workaholic, but I think it’s incredibly important, I think for anybody. Being able to be a happy in all parts of your life, being able to be fulfilled in all parts of your life is really important. I often say I can deal with tons of ambiguity at work as long as home is absolutely great. And tons of ambiguity at home, as long as work is really great and so you can’t function optimally unless you actually are able to take a breather, take time, balance your work life. And that’s really important and I think it’s an easy thing to say. And I’ve spent 30 years learning how to do it and I’m still learning.
Fiona: Yeah, I think we all are. As a senior marketing leader, what is your guilty pleasure?
Robin: Well, it’s little to do with marketing and a lot to do with anything to do with Master Chef on television, I have to watch. So as my wife and kids will testify, if it’s anything Master Chef, I’ll be watching it and nothing will interrupt me during that time.
Fiona: You find it inspiring? Are you an aspiring chef?
Robin: I just find it fascinating, I think, to a certain extent inspiring, and I think I would love to create such amazing stuff, but I just find it fascinating. General fascination with the process and just the sheer entertainment value of it.
Fiona: Yeah, no, it’s a fab program, we watch that too. What’s the book you recommend the most for B2B marketeers?
Robin: So I’ve been really rubbish at reading all of my life and that’s probably because I did an English degree.
Fiona: You did enough back then.
Robin: That’s right but I certainly, I think there’s two things I really appreciate, I will consume far more of. Real life case studies and real, proper case studies, so really carefully thought through examples of how people have tackled certain issues.
Robin: I was lucky enough in part of my career to work with one of the big management consultancies on some internal projects. And the thing that they had was this great mine of different stories of how people had tackled certain issues. And I was voracious in consuming those.
Robin: And the second is, there’s always been an aspiration that I can help be part of a transformation that gets written up in the Harvard Business Review because I find the accessibility of the way those articles are written, is they’re rich in insight, but they’re very accessible and if you read the right ones, there’s always something in it for you. Some piece of learning, some piece of insight that you can take and deploy into your own situation.
Fiona: Well, I believe you’ll be there soon. I should be reading it, checking it regularly.
Robin: Thank you.
Fiona: What parting words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?
Robin: I think the, I think, recognise how lucky we are to be in business to business marketing. I think it’s a, it’s truly fantastic discipline to be expert in and it’s fantastic for a couple of reasons. I think the marketing function within a B2B organisation should be the pulse of the organisation. It should set the vision, it should bring people together, it should help sales sell. And that is a huge and exciting place to be.
Robin: And when we get it right, and we don’t always get it right, than actually, the very best organisations are ones where there’s actually not a tissue paper between marketing, sales, operations, and any of those other functions, product, R and D. Actually, it’s everybody focusing on that same core purpose and invariably, marketing will be at the very heart of that.
Fiona: Fantastic. Thank you ever so much for your time. It’s been a real inspiration.
Robin: My pleasure. Thank you.
Fiona: So there you have it. Career advice from a real marketing expert and leader in the field. Thanks for listening. If you’re enjoying this podcast then please leave us a review in iTunes. We’d love to hear your feedback.