Bethan is the Founder and Managing Partner of Open Velocity, a marketing strategy consultancy, based York but working globally.
In this episode we discuss:
- Should marketing be involved in product decisions?
- Building teams the P&G way
- Being the voice of the customer in the organisation
- Speaking the language of the business
- Marketing bubbles and why you need to avoid them
- Why marketing reports should be backwards
- Tell me what you don’t know
- Attribution is dead – so how do we manage success
- What’s old is new… knowing your customer
- Defining what marketing strategy is and does it matter that it’s not defined properly?
- Who should organise the Christmas party?
- What is a fractional CMO and their involvement in strategy, culture and execution
- Businesses don’t care about creativity – what do they care about
- Lessons from standing for election as an MP
- TOPTIP is back! This time it’s about finance… and it’s a banger!
Formerly Marketing Director of a leading technology consultancy and a senior manager in the cloud computing industry, Bethan’s career has been built at the intersection between marketing, product and development.
Building on her work at the C-Suite level, Bethan is a regular speaker about marketing and technology at international conferences, including GitLab Commit San Francisco 2020, TuringFest 2021 and Learn Inbound 2023 conference.
Outside of their “day job”, they like to powerlift, meet interesting people and contribute to The Brave Podcast, which explores how we can build a better future.
Walden Two BF Skinner
The Uncertainty Mindset – Innovation Insights from the Frontiers of Food by Vaughn Tan
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Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast every fortnight and if you enjoyed the show, please give it a 5* rating.
Andi Jarvis, Eximo Marketing.
This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
[00:00:00.520] – Andi
So today’s guest on the Strategy sessions is Bethan Vincent. Bethan, how are you doing?
[00:00:11.370] – Bethan
I’m good, thank you. The sun is shining, the weather is slightly warmer, so it’s all good.
[00:00:15.970] – Andi
It’s spring. Spring has returned. I’ve been podcasting in the dark for about the last six months. It feels doing afternoon episodes and lights rigged up here, there, and everywhere. Now I’ve had to shut the light out. It’s wonderful. Right, we are here to talk about strategy and that’s what you do. We met at a conference this week, only this week, and now you’re here on the podcast. That must be the quickest guest ever. So tell us about your current role.
[00:00:41.460] – Bethan
Yeah. So I’m the Managing Partner in Open Velocity. We’re a marketing strategy consultancy. So we work with a lot of startup scale up companies, helping them with their marketing strategy. And essentially, what that looks like in terms of the challenge they have is normally we’ve done a lot of sales and product like growth, and now we need marketing. What is marketing? It’s technical founders. They haven’t done it before, and that’s great. That’s really exciting. Or we’re looking at a different market geographically, or we’re looking at introducing a new product, new service. How do we do that? So we call it marketing with a capital M, if that makes sense.
[00:01:19.630] – Andi
Yeah. So it’s interesting, I think, when you go into places where they don’t have a real clear idea of what marketing is, because in my experience, that tends to lead them into thinking marketing is just the promotion aspect of marketing, the communication aspect. Is that what you’re brought in to do initially and you have to spend a lot of time going, Yeah, but… Or do you nail that right at the beginning?
[00:01:46.390] – Bethan
We do try and nail that right at the beginning. And again, when we’re chatting to people, especially in the exploratory initial conversations, we’re asking questions like, Okay, so how did you arrive at your pricing strategy? Okay, so what does product look like in your organization? Who’s deciding the product roadmap and all of that? I think it’s always presenting marketing as that wider surface area, not just talking about promotion. I’d say any marketer should be doing this. Don’t feel left out, especially because products become its own thing. I think marketeers always feel like, Oh, we can’t do product anymore because product owns that. No, we should be involved in asking those questions.
[00:02:23.380] – Andi
This is a bugbear of mine in tech companies, particularly that product sits very separately to marketing because while marketers don’t understand product, they just do ads or something like that. But surely, the 4PS of marketing have product right there at the beginning of it. So why did this happen? Is it a market has been awful or is it product people being great?
[00:02:51.460] – Bethan
I think it’s almost like it’s the professionalisation of this layer of marketing. And I think the challenge was that especially product within a tech, a SaaS company, they do actually have to understand engineering or at least engineering challenges, how engineering teams work. And marketers were always distanced from that. We were seen as the fluffy creative people you come to when you want a pretty picture or Christmas party. And actually, it’s really interesting when you deal with technical escrow, for example, as a subdiscipline of marketing, that’s essentially as close to engineering as you can get, as in we’re telling engineers developers what to do. So I think product ended up this way just because marketing was seen as distance from doing code technical stuff. So something had to fill that gap. But yeah, I completely agree. My argument is, and product people hate me saying this, I was on Jason Knight’s podcast and I said this, that product should be sat under marketing. Controversial, but that’s my view.
[00:03:49.940] – Andi
I think there are many good reasons why they should report. In an organization of the right size reporting to the CMO because it is your main interaction with the customers in SaaS businesses is via the product. And within the few percentage of cases where it goes wrong, the customer service team, yet they often sit outside marketing. You’re like, so well, if marketing is about the interaction with the customer, where do you sit? What’s going on?
[00:04:19.030] – Bethan
I used to work earlier on in my period. I was part of a cross functional product team. So that was quite nice. I don’t know if people have seen the squad style of setting up a team within large software organization. So Netflix, people like that, Amazon. So it was me marketing. We had a product manager, we had a UX researcher, we had a developer and a designer. And that was a really nice combination because we could actually ship end to end a new feature. Our marketing had been at the heart of that conversation, which I loved. So that was quite a nice model, but it’s hard for larger organizations to scale that model unless they have the squad structure. But it’s also really hard for small startups to have that structure as well because it relies on a team dynamic where it’s very open, honest, trusting, less hierarchical. So yeah, it’s one of those where it’s like, oh, great in theory, but actually in practice, you still need a leader and you need an owner.
[00:05:17.840] – Andi
So regular listeners will be falling asleep now when I mention the words Proctor and Gamble because I’ve had a number of people from P&G on the show and I love talking to them, mainly because of the way they approach marketing. But they have those cross functional teams. There’s finance, there’s product, there’s distribution. But at the heart of every one of those teams is marketing. I’ve been lucky enough to work with, he was chief finance officer at the time of a company, so his background was all finance. But he’d come through P&G and had sat in those teams, which are not necessarily, I’m going to necessarily say, led by marketing, but heavily influenced by marketing. And probably one of the sharpest marketers I’ve ever worked with, his job was chief finance officer, but understood marketing in a way that 99 % of people I ever meet do not understand it. But that was the P&G when people go, Oh, yeah, but that’s P&G. And you go, Well, do you think P&G got that big by accident, or do you think they got that big because they work at it? And when you look around, the clues’s all there, aren’t they?
[00:06:21.430] – Andi
And I think if you put marketing at the heart of it… Advocates for marketing, shock. But I think the evidence is there that that’s where we should be.
[00:06:30.340] – Bethan
Yeah, absolutely. But I think it’s really difficult if you’re incumbent in an organization that doesn’t have that mindset, how do you change the position of marketing? If you’re a listener sat here and you’re thinking, Oh, it’s great you’re talking about me getting involved in product and pricing and the million piece there are now, apparently for marketing. But actually, I’m stuck in this little corner and I’ve been boxed in. What do I do about that? And that’s a really interesting question. And I think that’s an organizational challenge. But also it’s almost like a structural perception of marketing. We as marketeers need to change across the board and not accept that we’re just stuck in this little corner.
[00:07:07.960] – Andi
Thank you for continuing the answer while I was choking just back there. Excuse me a minute.
[00:07:13.690] – Andi
There we go. Problem solved now. Because what I see in marketing is actually the fragmentation of the marketing role. I talked to this with Mark Ritson on the show many months ago. The question I asked him was, is there anything market is a more terrible app than pricing? Now he said strategy, but I’d probably advocate for pricing. But if we’re now in SaaS world at least, not just in SaaS actually, most companies’ product belongs somewhere else with somebody’s technical. Pricing doesn’t sit in marketing, often led by sales, maybe senior teams. From product, we don’t do that. The price, we don’t do that. Many companies want to hit a certain scale. Distribution and the other place elements doesn’t sit in marketing. Maybe you might argue the website bit does, but then you end up with Dev teams saying, Well, we don’t want to sit in marketing. We’re technical, we’re Dev. Which leaves marketing as the promotion function, the color and in department, the Ministry of Pretty pictures, whatever it is that you want to call it. But is that led by market is not having the right skills, or is it led by actually it makes sense when you get to a certain scale to have specialisms in each of those?
[00:08:26.280] – Bethan
Little from column A, a little from column B. I think in an ideal world, it’s about the marketing leader in that organization being skilled enough to deal with pricing, promotion, place, all of the P’s, and bringing together the sub team together around that. That’s a big issue. And you end up with a lot of CMOs who frankly are shit and sat in those positions because of tenure, often. They’ve been around for long enough, so they might as well get the top seat, so you don’t have the person in the right seat. But I think also there’s an issue at a scale you do need to have devolved decision making as well. And you do need to have those sub teams. So there’s this real tension within organisations about how do we make decisions at scale rapidly and not have a bottleneck of one person. And also that’s to do with command and control style organisational structures that are often being broken down at the moment. So lots more organisations are realising, people are more engaged if they actually can make decisions in this organisation.
[00:09:23.950] – Andi
Imagine that. Who knew? They discovered that on car manufacturing lines in Japan in the 1950s, didn’t they? Where if you went from the Henry Ford model of everyone puts their own bolt into a squad approach, as it’d be called now, and let people make decisions and decide how they… Imagine. So now we’ve worked that out 70 years later.
[00:09:44.940] – Bethan
Yeah. So what I’m trying to say is this change in the issue isn’t just to do with skill set or autonomy to own a certain area. It’s to do with the evolving nature of organisations having to figure out how do we structure ourselves. Remote is a really big question for organisations. How do we have a structure that allows for remote hybrid working? How do we have a structure that allows devolved decision making? And how do we have a structure that incorporates lots of very hyper specialist roles? Because again, specialisation is only going to continue in the long run. You may say AI breaks that. And I’m quite excited by the fact that I can now write code with chat GPT 4. Amazing. So developers, sorry, I’m now in control of the website again. But anyway, they’re dealing with all of this fragmentation. If specialisation continues, how do you bring back specialisation into a decision making process? And that’s really interesting.
[00:10:42.020] – Andi
Yeah. And I think the key thing that I have learned over the years is an undergrad in sport management and marketing, postgraduate in marketing, and done several marketing courses along the way as well. And it was only when I did Richardson’s mini MBA in marketing that was the first time I had any proper training on pricing. So 20 years in, I actually got some proper training on pricing. Now, I’ve been involved in pricing in different organisations, the very beginning of my career before I moved out on my own. But it was guesswork, right? There’s some awful decisions we made. My training wasn’t there anyway. I’m involved teaching at a degree now at a postgraduate John Moores Uni in Liverpool. There’s nothing about pricing in that as far as I can tell. And you start to look at think, Okay, well, if we haven’t got the skills coming through in new markets, you’ve got to learn them on the job. How can we bring marketing’s importance back if people don’t have the skills? But the thing I keep coming back to is who’s advocating for the customer? Because when fragmentation happens, as you’re talking about, there’s so many examples of fragmentation that you see as a consumer using a company.
[00:11:54.060] – Andi
And you start to realise, well, the left hand is not talking to the right. You hear this all the time listening to people and go, well, why is that? Because you fragmented as an organization because that will be looked after by them and not by them. So surely that’s how marketing get back into the hot seat, if you want to call it that. But being the voice of the customer in the organisation, is that the future?
[00:12:13.300] – Bethan
Well, the organization has to want to listen to the voice of the customer. And you’ve probably seen this in your work. You go into so many organisations and they say the customer comes first, so customer centric, and then you look under the hood and they’re very clearly not… There’s no insight, there’s no even basic, do we talk to our customers and ask them what they want and what their experiences? I’m not saying you’re blaming marketing here, but putting the onus on marketing and saying, well, if you advocate for the customer and make sure your procedures are voice of the customer, you will get buy in. I don’t think it’s quite that simple in.
[00:12:50.910] – Andi
Some organization. That’s my utopian dream, is it?
[00:12:53.550] – Bethan
Yeah. I think, what is utopia? Utopian is a place that can never be right. So we’ve got to be maybe a bit more pragmatic about actually… Ideally, we would own the voice of the customer. We would be the voice of the customer. We would own customer experience. But that’s not necessarily going to be an organization’s top priority. Their top priority will be revenue. My argument is that while yes, we need to be seen to be doing that, actually, what we need to be doing is getting ourselves closer to revenue and speaking the language of the business, which is ultimately profit finance.
[00:13:27.220] – Andi
And the number of… Probably the thing I say more than anything else to marketing teams I work with is turn your reports around or turn them upside down. The reports will always be something of interest to marketing, something else of interest to marketing, and somewhere buried in it, if it’s a positive number, will be something with a pound sign or a euro sign in front of it or a dollar sign. You’re like, Why is that on page three halfway down that I’ve got to go hunting for? Put that at the top and then explain how you got there instead of explaining how you got there and getting to it. It feels like I’ve invented fire when I talk to companies about this. And you’d say it’s not that fucking difficult.
[00:14:06.300] – Bethan
No, it’s not. But we’ve been told for so long that’s where you sit and the brand fluffy metrics are the things you should be interested in. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be, by the way. I think they’re really important, like leading indicators that are indicative of something indicative of progress and performance. But yeah, if you’re sat here thinking, Oh, my God, I feel so seen with my reports. I need to turn them back around. And that’s an amazing tip, by the way. Ask yourself, why am I presenting my reports in this way? Who has taught me that this is the right way of doing it? And it’s probably because you’ve been sat in a little echo chamber with other marketeers. Again, I’m being quite blunt here, but again, that’s what I see a lot when I go and work with marketing teams and organisations. The marketing team just sits together and just sits in their little world and they don’t want to talk to sales because sales are mean to them and sales are asking difficult questions like, get me more leads by tomorrow. Well, the answer to that is it’s not that simple sales.
[00:15:12.580] – Bethan
Come on. They don’t want to have that conversation. They don’t want to explain to stakeholders that actually marketing isn’t necessarily that simple, especially in B2B. It’s a complex web of touch points, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But we always seem very defensive. I don’t know if that’s something you’ve come across, but marketing always seems very defensive about its work and about the results it’s giving.
[00:15:33.690] – Andi
I think there’s a little bit of learned behaviour in that, maybe. But you know that when cuts come in an organization, they tend to land on marketing and training first tend to get hammered in every organization when cuts are needed. But I think the reaction to that is always to show that the sun is shining and something’s worked. So that leads us to polishing reports with dog shit metrics in stead of, Oh, look, the reach of this campaign is three million. Didn’t actually sell anything. But by doing that, all that you do is reinforce the lack of credibility that you have, which means you’re the first one on the chopping block when something happens. Even if the metric is terrible, as in you’ve spent X amount and you’ve not actually generated any revenue from it and this is the worst campaign you’ve ever run, I think you build credibility by explaining this is what we think went wrong. Now, if you do that in every single campaign that you’ve done, that’s just because you shit at your job and you’ll probably be asked to leave. But sometimes stuff doesn’t work. And if you can deconstruct it and explain why you think that’s gone wrong and what you’re going to do different next time, that builds trust that senior levels of an organisation rather than trying to convince them that something that was terrible worked.
[00:16:47.920] – Andi
And if you do it in terms that they use, all the better.
[00:16:51.700] – Bethan
Yeah, and they can see through it. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had from a CFO is don’t include every metric just because you think I want to see everything. I don’t. And also, if you can’t put something in, if there’s a data point you don’t have, tell me what you don’t know, because that’s actually quite interesting to me. What are we basing these assumptions on? What is the no knowns, unknown knowns, all of that stuff? Because I might, as the CFO, might be able to help you fill in some of those gaps. And especially if I’m using things like forecasts, for example, to forecast revenue, I really need to know the assumptions this is based on. And what’s the fragility in this report? So, yeah, that honesty goes a long way, actually. I can tell when a team is very underconfident by their reports, which is quite interesting. You can.
[00:17:44.790] – Andi
You can. Where’s the value hidden? There’s an apology somewhere halfway through the report. There’s a confidence involved in putting a terrible revenue figure at the top of a report of a campaign, isn’t there? Look how badly we’ve done. But it builds confidence. It’s a counter intuitive point. Your failure will build confidence if you handle it in the right way. Continued failure won’t, but not everything works. And the chief executive probably got to be in chief executive by getting a few things wrong along the way.
[00:18:14.640] – Bethan
Yeah, absolutely. I do agree with your point, though, that not everything can be wrong. And that is a really quick way to destroy confidence where you’re adding no value. And if you can’t evidence your value, that’s a huge issue for you as a team, you probably personally as well. But I guess my caveat, bloody hell, marketing caveat, caveat, caveat, it depends. We’re about to enter an age. Rand Fishkin wrote a really great article on this, How to Measure, How to Measure Marketing. We’re entering the age where we’ve been so used to be able to attribute every click and see every customer interaction that has been taken away from us. So we’re entering this age of obscurefication of marketing metrics where we’re not going to be able to present stakeholders, put X in, got Y out. And we saw this with all the iOS changes. If you’re doing any Facebook marketing or that stuff, it’s been quite a shock to have that rug pulled out under you. So again, just on this reporting point, I’d be thinking about now, how do I explain to stakeholders the fact that my reporting is going to look different and I’m not going to be able to have the same level of confidence?
[00:19:21.660] – Bethan
Ga4 is part of this conversation as well because some of your metrics you’re reporting on, they’ll change and they won’t necessarily match historically, if that makes sense. But really think about this now because this is going to be a problem for you over the next couple of years.
[00:19:35.860] – Andi
I’ve just had a quick look at your CV on LinkedIn and I can tell from when you went to university that I have a few more candles on my birthday cake than you do. I remember the good old days and I’m actually really looking forward to this age of shit attribution because when I started in marketing, you didn’t have… So the first website I ever got involved with was a My space website, which will age me perfectly.
[00:20:00.160] – Bethan
Did you have sparkly HTML.
[00:20:03.070] – Andi
Coming down? Yeah, all sorts of stuff coming down and the music of the wrong artist came on. Anyway, it was My space. And I’d been working for a number of years before that came around. So you had to prove the value in things and you couldn’t prove value by talking about open rates or click through rates. Your value was proved by. So if we did that thing, what was the impact on sales? And we run a campaign once. I used to work at Durham County Cricket Club. I was marketing manager there. And for the first time, Talkspot bought the overseas rights to England playing cricket. And I think they were playing in Sri Lanka, somewhere in Asia. So the time difference wasn’t ideal. So there was radio advertising available at 4 AM in the morning and it was for nothing because nobody was listening. And talks, but when we’re speaking to them, they were like, Why don’t you go up prime time and drive time? I’m like, I want to be when the cricket is on. Yeah, but we could do you like evening drive time and then you’ll get this reach. I was like, I want to be when the cricket is on.
[00:21:08.140] – Andi
And we then ended up having to open the box office at 6am because in those days you had to ring up to buy a ticket. And the box office were coming in to 150 voicemail messages for people who’d been, Who gets up at 4am to listen to the cricket? Cricket badges. People who love cricket dearly get up at 4am to listen to the cricket. And then you hear an ad saying, Come watch England play at Durham. And we’re only targeted in the Northeast. And they lift the phone up and then, Oh, why aren’t you there? So we ended up like, We measured that and everything worked with that cause and effect and it was brilliant. But we had to measure everything through how many tickets did we sell? And when did that activity happen and what happened with the sales spikes? And there was a lot of guesswork in it, but every metric had a pound sign at the beginning of it. Every single one. You think, are we going back that way? Because if we are, I’m on that bus, right? I’m all for it.
[00:21:58.920] – Bethan
Yeah. And it’s quite interesting because you see some people writing about, oh, the good old days of advertising about Don Draper spending millions of pounds on message campaign, TV ad that goes out to millions, tens of hundreds of millions of people. I think, yes, we’re going back to those days in the sense of it’s going to be less directly attributable. God, that’s word, isn’t it? And you’re going to have to do more, like you say, inspecting your time all of that, breaking it down like that. But the media landscape is so fragmented now. That’s the real difference. That’s not what we’ve had before. So I no longer can, as I’m talking about a really large advertiser with a massive budget, say, I’m going to target after East Enders, 8 PM, everyone’s going to put their kettle on and I know I’m going to get this level of exposure to this type of audience. Actually, well, the caveat, I guess, or the counterpoint to that is programmatic in terms of digital TV becomes very interesting because actually you can be hyper targeted with that. And I’m seeing a lot of interesting stuff around the podcast space as well.
[00:23:00.430] – Bethan
You can be hyper targeted in terms of understanding the profile of, let’s say, this podcast. If you want to market to marketeers interested in strategy, this is a perfect one.
[00:23:10.590] – Andi
Absolutely. Advertisers, my rates are very competitive at the moment. I had two sponsors. No, it doesn’t matter. Anyway, we’ll move away from me selling sponsorship. It’s not fine. I think one of the interesting things is that the media landscape, so did Al Kassab when he was on chief marketing officer for channel 4, used to talk about also Proctor and Gamble talked about his first media plan used to fit on a sheet of A4. Now it needs a whole wall. And I think that that approach of there is going to be a little bit of gut feeling guesswork because you’re not just going to be able to… I had one radio campaign running from 4 AM, so you knew that if the phone was ringing, it was that. The inevitability is you’re going to have lots of different things spinning at the same time. And then budget gets cut and you’re going to have to work out, so do we dial podcast back or radio back? And look, And the thing to do, I think, is to get comfortable with being able to test better and geographic tests and things like that and going back. But none of this is new.
[00:24:10.740] – Andi
In the old days, TV ads used to be tested in Northern Ireland because you could test it and you wouldn’t get any spillover. So you’d not get… If you’re on the borders of Scotland and England, you could pick up STV as well as Taintees TV. Couldn’t get that in Northern Ireland. You got Northern Irish TV and that was it. So you could sandbox test. It’s not new. I’m a big believer in everything in marketing has been done before. Just doesn’t carry a label on.
[00:24:37.120] – Bethan
Yeah. And it just thought for me that what’s quite interesting with the media fragmentation and better audience targeting, what that forces marketers to do is really understand the audience they’re talking. Who actually we’re going after. Again, nothing new.
[00:24:52.300] – Andi
But if you want to offer… But we’re back to voice of customer.
[00:24:54.780] – Bethan
Who’s the voice of the…
[00:24:58.330] – Andi
Yeah. So we’ve come full circle. That’s it. Thanks very much. End the podcast now. But it’s back to the crucial importance is who’s your audience, who’s going to buy the product and why are they going to buy it and what difference is it going to make to them? What are their reasons for purchasing it? That to me is the core of any marketing strategy. Who are you targeting? Why are they going to buy from you? What are your objectives for this year and what problem are you going to solve for them? If we answer those four questions, the number of times people say, Give me a strategy, and then I explain what that’s the thing. And they’re like, So what we’re going to do on Twitter? I was.
[00:25:31.470] – Bethan
Like, That’s not strategy, that’s tactics.
[00:25:34.160] – Andi
Do that for me.
[00:25:35.420] – Bethan
And the difference between strategy and tactics is one of the big, I guess, things that my posts on LinkedIn and stuff are normally… They’re normally rants, let’s be honest, all good content comes from the heart.
[00:25:48.770] – Andi
Yeah. Roll my sleeves up and I’m going to tell everybody on LinkedIn they’re wrong today.
[00:25:53.780] – Bethan
Well, it’s normally I’ve seen some growth hacker tech rose post around like, if you want to succeed in marketing, this is the list of 50 things you need to do. Pm me for it. Just like such engagement bait, I can’t deal. Anyway, doing a list of 50 tactics is not a strategy.
[00:26:12.610] – Andi
No, it is not. It is a list of 50 tactics. Two things to mention at that point. Pep Laya, who was previously on the podcast, was on the podcast because I was that day on LinkedIn who he posted something. I remember the opening line was, The story is the strategy. I was sat in an airport, I was like, I’ve fucking had enough of this. I don’t usually do that. And I did. Now, to be fair to the man, I then sent him a direct message. I was like, I think I was a bit over the top there. Do you want to come on and discuss it on the podcast? And we did. But that’s fine. But the other one is JP Kessler, who previously lived in this parish. He used to be a lawyer who got into business strategy rather than marketing strategy. But his big beef with marketing is that no term is defined properly. In law, every term has a particular meaning. And he said, So the language of marketing is meaningless because no one agrees on what it is. So when you say all the difference between strategy and tactics, I’m utterly convinced I am right on what my definition of strategy and tactics is.
[00:27:10.850] – Andi
But there’s other people out there who think slightly differently, right?
[00:27:14.030] – Bethan
But that’s interesting. I don’t agree it should be completely defined. I think it’s really interesting to have these conversations about what strategy is and how we leverage it and how we conceptually define it. Because I do strategy. I know I do know what strategy is because I deliver it. It’s what I sell. But I still find it very interesting to unpick it. And it obviously comes from war terminology, right? You’ve got a finite set of resources, you’ve got a landscape you’ve got to operate on, and you’ve got to deploy those resources effectively to win. And strategy is about winning, people forget that. It is how you, under your constraints in your landscape, are going to win.
[00:27:54.780] – Andi
Where do you play? How will you win? As you referred to. I think in simple terms, when I talk to organisations, again, I try not to use marketing terminology because marketers disappear up their own arse when they start talking about metrics and TPCs and whatever. I rarely use them when I’m talking to clients because I much prefer talking to the senior team, the marketers. You learn much more. But my general demarcation is, I say, look, if you think of it in these two terms, strategy is where you’re going, tactics is how you’re going to get there. And if you just keep those two things in mind, let’s talk about where we’re going first. So where to play, how to win, that stuff. That’s the direction we want to travel in. Give it to the marketing team and they’ll work out how best to get there and measure them against their progress to that objective. But we will need them to organise the Christmas party. Where’s that on where we’re going? Oh, yeah, but who else is going to do it? I don’t give a fuck.
[00:28:46.640] – Bethan
But that’s not marketing.
[00:28:49.130] – Andi
Yeah, move there. So who should organise the Christmas party? That’s the.
[00:28:55.300] – Bethan
Key question. Well, okay. So in my business, it’s me. And I know we’re very small, so I guess I can get away with it. But I see that the job of the…
[00:29:06.030] – Andi
You live in Yorkshire, so you keep hold of the purse strings, don’t you? That’s all it is. Oh, yeah. Where can we go that’s really cheap?
[00:29:13.020] – Bethan
Does anyone just want a pie and gravy, please? But no, it is a really important question. I think actually it does sit with the people team. You’ve got to be large enough to have a people team because it’s something that is about taking care of your people, giving them a good experience and stuff internally. But it’s not marketing. I am very certain of that it’s not us.
[00:29:37.420] – Andi
Tell me this, because part of what Open Velocity do is that you are fractional CMOs. So if you are a regular on the internet, you’ll have realised that you never saw the phrase fractional CMO three years ago, and now you can’t turn LinkedIn on without seeing fractional CMO everywhere. Fractional even. So explain what a fractional CMO is, and then we’ll dive into some of the challenges and the opportunities for that approach.
[00:30:02.870] – Bethan
Yeah, sure. So Ron Seil name says what it does on the tent. It’s a role within an organization at the CMO level that is done for a fraction of the time. So I think it’s born from the realisation that especially a lot of startup and scale up companies, they would really benefit from someone who’s been around the block a few times, frankly, knows what’s what is sitting at that CMO level. But that either the company doesn’t want to spend the salary cost on a full time CMO, which you’re looking at north of 100K, if not a little bit more than that, to be perfectly honest now. And also, frankly, they don’t need that person full time. They’ll be twiddling their thumbs. They’ll be doing lots of execution or lifting and that work, which isn’t, again, cost effective for the business. I think you’re seeing this a lot. We’re in a very interesting labour market as well where obviously it’s pretty tight. It’s flexed a little bit in the last couple of months because we’ve had a lot of layoffs, but I’d still say at the senior level, it’s very tight labour market. People are also realising that actually I can leverage my labour in a different way.
[00:31:05.830] – Bethan
It’s quite interesting to work with lots of different clients. That’s what I definitely get out of it. I said before, I did set up the business I was client side for two and a half years and it’s lovely owning a brand end to end and all that stuff. But the variety and the challenge is what I love. You’re bored, right?
[00:31:22.340] – Andi
Yeah, that’s fine. I put words in your mouth, but you’re bored, right?
[00:31:27.000] – Bethan
Yeah. That’s the essential premise and you’re seeing it rising because, like I say, tight labour market, I think also tight funding conditions. So PNVC companies, they love fractional consultancy style roles because it’s not a fixed cost in their balance sheet, which makes investors a lot happier. So it’s that flexibility, really, and cost control that’s really important there.
[00:31:49.500] – Andi
So coming back to where we started from about this devaluing, if you want to phrase it that, of marketing an organization and this fragmenting of it across different things, is it really difficult as effectively a part Timer, and I’m deliberately using fairly negative language about the fractional CMO role just to try and poke you a little bit, but is it difficult then as a part Timer to advocate for the value of this service in an organization if the organization doesn’t value it enough to have someone in full time doing that role?
[00:32:21.750] – Bethan
See, I would take a different view. They actually value you more because you’re external, you’re an external pair of eyes. That’s the thing about the role. People set it up in different ways, but you are still an external contractor coming in, essentially. I think it is that perspective. I know from our experience with clients, that’s what they really value. Like I said, been around the block, seen things a few times before, and we can come and say, Hey, actually, what are you doing over here? This is a bit ridiculous. This doesn’t work. Seen that before. There’s something here. We should double down on this. This is working. So anyone with experience and expertise can advocate for something. This is going on a bit of an aside, but I’m a really big believer in flexible working and that’s the future. And that’s the way actually of solving a lot of our labour market shortage issues. And you’re seeing the government slowly in the UK turning on to that idea with the budget yesterday. But just time is an indicator of value. I think that’s what I’m trying to get to. And just having someone sat with a bum on their seat for 40 hours a week and whatever doesn’t mean they’re doing a good job.
[00:33:32.390] – Bethan
So we need to break away from this idea that present ism is a determiner of success. It definitely isn’t. And you can have a massive influence. Some of my clients I work with a couple of days a month, and I know from the results we get, I do have a massive influence there. But they’re just not at the stage where they need someone full time.
[00:33:53.450] – Andi
So the role of fractional CMO then, which you’ve just sold to me as this is great. So it’s about the quality you deliver, not the amount of time you sat there. Wonderful. I agree with that. When you’re then developing strategy, and you said it as well, you’re CMO level, so you’re not doing the on the ground delivery. Talk to me about how you walk a strategy through to execution when you’re not there all the time, when you’re not supposed to be rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in. How do you manage that? And how do Open Velocity manage that dichotomy between strategy and execution?
[00:34:30.000] – Bethan
Yeah, I mean, normally with clients, it depends on such an it depends answer, isn’t it? It depends on the client’s needs, what stage of business they’re at, do they have existing internal marketing resource? Because sometimes our clients have quite a genius marketing team who are just maybe not pointed in quite the right direction. So there’ll often be a strategy phase of the project which is answering all of these fundamental questions. Where are you going? I’m picking the business strategy as well that’s going to feed into that. And then when we get to, we almost flip into an executional phase. That’s where we might be coordinating resource. Part of the strategy is actually coming up with how the strategy is going to be delivered. That’s really important part of what’s the resource plan. So it could be leveraging freelancers and we might be involved in coordinating briefing in, quality checking. It can be agencies as well who are for all their bolts, and I’ve worked with great agencies, I’ve worked with some dog shit, so you say for the years. They can be a great.
[00:35:26.730] – Andi
[00:35:27.320] – Bethan
Nimmin ship. No.
[00:35:28.090] – Andi
Oh, my God. No.
[00:35:28.810] – Bethan
We should have the burn book. No, I’m just joking.
[00:35:31.620] – Andi
Get the beep button out there. I worked with beep.
[00:35:37.250] – Bethan
It wouldn’t be quite a long list, but anyway. Also, the agency is only as good as the direction they’re given from the client. I think we’re often received quite well by the agency partners we work with on clients because we’re there to act as the filter and the translator of what the agency wants to do and bring that through to the board who maybe if they were just directly hiring the agency, they wouldn’t quite get it and understand what’s going on. Delivery can also be building an inhouse team, and that’s something we do with a lot of clients where we’re building their capability internally. A ctually, there will be a point where they say, Hey guys, great to work with you. We actually want to hire a full time CMO now. So can you do a handover and then leave? And we’re like, Perfect. And that’s happened with a couple of clients and that’s normally after 18 months where we’ve really got them to that stage. But we ultimately want them to own their marketing function and to be able to build something that’s very sustainable.
[00:36:34.990] – Andi
Yeah, excellent. So what do you think about the Tom Critch law phrase, the strategy and stewardship instead of strategy and execution? Does that sit well? It seems to be what you’re describing. It’s not that we’ve created this wonderful document now you millions go away and get away.
[00:36:49.610] – Bethan
With it. Yeah. So much of Tom’s writing, it’s so on the nose and pointy and gets to the heart of the thing. A lot of consultants, especially strategy, even management consultants, they sell a PowerPoint deck. Let’s be honest. There might be some good stuff in there, but I never want a client to be sat left thinking like, shit, how do we actually do this? Great ideas, but what’s the deal? So yeah, the stewardship is a really great way of putting it. I think we call it… We’re directors, we’re directing the action and we’re there to help and there to support. We’re there to enable as well.
[00:37:28.030] – Andi
You used a couple of times at Learning Bound Dublin Monday just gone. You presented there, great presentation, loved it. It was right up my street as strategist. All the Google Analytics 4 stuff, no idea, somebody else. I loved it. But you used the word interpreter or translator several times during the presentation. You said it again here. How important is that to understand the language all around you? So it’s not just the language of the board and you have to translate for them, but about translating back to the marketing team as well.
[00:38:03.890] – Bethan
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a hugely important part because as I said, marketers, we’re often in a little bubble. And especially if you’ve only progressing your career in that bubble, suddenly then to be confronted by, let’s say, a senior leadership team who are talking about revenue and talking about all of this stuff and you’re like, Oh, my God. I didn’t need to know or didn’t know I had to care about this stuff. Yeah, it’s really important that you have a marketing leader in place. And that is the role of a leader, right? It’s to lead a team and also to help coordinate that team and buy the team into the direction that you’re going into. And that does really predicate on the fact that you’re able to translate, this is where we’re going to, which will be set a business level. So it will be using that hard, spiky language back into something your team understands and can get behind. Because I think I realised as we’re talking all of this through, there’s a tension between me saying, oh, marketing is just the colouring in department and that’s bad. Whereas actually creativity is a big part of our world and is very important.
[00:39:01.350] – Bethan
And I don’t want to devalue that. But businesses don’t care about creativity, they care about the results of creativity, if that.
[00:39:09.440] – Andi
Makes sense. I think that’s it as well is that the creativity, when it’s a bad thing, is often the starting point of the process. And the point I come back to several times with some people is that Amazon is one of the ugly… If you pitched the aesthetic of an Amazon website to an e-commerce client as a web designer, your ass wouldn’t be on the chair for more than 20 seconds before they laughed you out of the door. Yet it’s one of the most brutally efficient websites on the internet. It’s just incredible at doing what it does, which is taking money out of your pocket and into theirs and then fiddling the tax and pushing it around different people. That helps, doesn’t it? Amazon’s lawyers, please. But the creativity is a means to an end in things that they end itself. And I think that’s what a lot of marketers get. Oh, it looks wonderful. Who cares? Does it work? Let’s focus.
[00:40:01.900] – Bethan
On that. Yeah, absolutely. And it’s interesting. I end up socialising in circles with lots of artists and artistic people, and they’re like, oh, marketers, you’re just creatives who’ve sold out. And again, it’s supposed to be a provocative question, and it’s meant to make me angry and whatever. And I feel like, well, yeah, I’m monetising my creative skill and making money. Sorry, you’re not.
[00:40:29.220] – Andi
I did once have a very fraught conversation with a designer I worked with years ago when we were on a deadline, over the deadline. I was like, listen, if you want to be an artist, fuck off and go and be an artist. This needs to be finished 10 minutes ago. Just go. I don’t care. No one cares about the kerning. Only you understand what that is.
[00:40:50.060] – Bethan
Just get it.
[00:40:51.320] – Andi
But yes, I’m not as angry as these days. I’m just much calmer and much more mellower. But if marketing works the way that most of the world thinks marketing works, you have these unbelievable powers of influence and you can make people do things they don’t want to do because that seems to be a marketing makes people buy things they don’t want and do things they don’t want. Tell us about your side hustle, for want of a better phrase, as a candidate in.
[00:41:18.020] – Bethan
[00:41:19.170] – Andi
If marketing had the super powers that people attribute to marketers, you wouldn’t be here currently. Would you? You’d be in the House of C omments?
[00:41:27.250] – Bethan
Well, I stood for the Green Party, so I think the odds were stacked against me from the beginning for various different reasons. Yeah, politics is a really interesting place to look at marketing in action. And I think that comes down to the changing, the influencing of hearts and minds. And yes, there are swing voters who sit in those marginal positions. They might flip between lipdem conservative, Labour, Green, Labour, Lipdem. And they are often very driven by local campaign issues. There’ll be a single issue or set of issues that will change their mind. And if you can be really pointy in your messaging and speak to that, you can move those swing voters. But the more entrenched positions, that’s, in my opinion, much harder or much more difficult for marketing to influence. For example, I’m never going to vote for you and no amount of Facebook ads or anything or even probably unless they change to literally a different party in their policy decisions. That’s the only thing that will sway my mind. And even then, I’m bloody pissed off at them, so I’m never voting for them. So this idea that just if you have a repetitive message, you get in front of it enough in front of someone and it’s eye catching and the creative is great.
[00:42:42.280] – Bethan
It doesn’t work in practice. Someone has to be in market. They have to want what you’re setting. You have to have a product worth buying. And I think a lot of political parties, especially, frankly, I’d say Labour at the moment, they’re not presenting a product.
[00:42:56.980] – Andi
Worth buying. Without getting too political into this. I think it feels like Labour’s whole position is just to be we’re not as crazy as them at the minute.
[00:43:04.730] – Bethan
It’s a holding position.
[00:43:05.720] – Andi
For sure. You don’t actually have to do anything. You just have to watch those idiot pull themselves apart, which is mildly funny if it wasn’t so catastrophic for the country. But what did you personally take away from standing as a candidate? Because you learned something from everything as a person, right? What did you take away from it?
[00:43:25.870] – Bethan
I think I took away, and this is a marketing lesson and a sad lesson in how the world works. When you stand as a candidate, you’re given a candidate email. I’m sure you’ve done this before in a general election, you’ll sign a petition and you want that to go to the candidates. You want to understand the candidate’s position on certain issues, which is all great. But when you get that email, you get literally hundreds of lobbying groups in that email saying, Hey, when you win, oil and gas or whatever, can you have stuff for the Green Party? Oil and gas message? Or radiance match? Get off there, guys. But you get hundreds of those saying, Hey, come to… We’ve got tickets at Twickenham. Come to champagne reception. And I think as soon as you see that, you’re like, Holy shit. Yeah, lobbying. Bloody hell. That is influencing hearts and minds within Westminster. They are definitely behind the strings, pulling the strings of politics. And we’ve seen the expression of this recently in many different scandals, many more probably to come for 2024. But that was a real eye opener on like, Oh, my God. That is how the world works behind the scenes.
[00:44:33.500] – Bethan
And we as a public, we think we elect, we think we are in a democratic society. We control who we elect and they should be acting in our interests in terms of the policy decisions. They want what they advocate for in Parliament. I don’t think that’s true.
[00:44:50.090] – Andi
I was very sad. The American system is different to the British system, but still open to influence by lobbyists. And there’s a bit in Obama’s book about the amount of money spent in different places. And you just like, it’s eye watering. But if your corporation is doing billions in revenue, that matters. That needs the government to do A, not B, spending 10 million or 20 million is actually, in their terms, a really good investment. Sad, but I don’t quite know what the answer is. Back to that utopian dream, just ban them all.
[00:45:22.160] – Bethan
Yeah, and that’s not the end. Logging has always and will always, even if you go back to Greek democracy, lobbying was the thing. It was individual Senators, catching the ear of someone else and be like, Hey, actually, could you do.
[00:45:36.000] – Andi
This for me? Charities lobby you. And who am I to be the decider of? I think that’s a good thing. Therefore, that charity should be allowed to lobby, and I don’t like that idea, so they shouldn’t be allowed to lobby. It’s really difficult to put some structure around, but I think it probably needs.
[00:45:52.920] – Bethan
More structure. My issue isn’t that it happens. My issue is how opaque it is. And I think it nd you do have the donor list and all of that, but I would really love to see exactly who is this politician influenced by? Who is my MP? My MP here, I won’t name names, you can all figure out who it is, took hundreds of thousands of pounds from Russian sources, potentially allegedly, shall we say? So that’s interesting. Yeah.
[00:46:22.500] – Andi
And I think there was a question in Parliament about that. If it’s been covered by parliamentary privilege, we’ll be all right. But it’s another one for the lawyers but yeah. Moving back on a firmer ground, you have a very interesting bookshelf behind you, which is probably a question you weren’t expecting me to ask. Because I didn’t warn you I was going to ask this either. There is a section on the website where I ask all the guests about a good book that they’d recommend to people and they tell me and I stick a link on the website. So, hey, Presto, there you go. What book would you recommend to marketers to… One or two that they just have to.
[00:46:58.180] – Bethan
Read from? Okay. Can I recommend two? Can I recommend one just for a jammer? Just thinking about utopias for the theme that came up a lot. So Walden Two is a seminal book about basically development of communes. It’s fictional about commune in the US. It was highly influential in the 60s and it was meant to inspire a way for people to think about different ways of living. That’s very interesting. That’s just for anyone. For marketeers, this is a cool one. The uncertainty mindset. It’s by a really great, I think he’s ex Google, and it’s basically about how innovation happens within high end food restaurants and what conditions do those restaurants create that allow those teams to be creative, come up with amazing new ideas and really push forward the forefront of the food industry. And it’s just a great way of thinking about, what are the conditions we create within our organization that allow the best creativity and the best ideas to come through? So that’s a bit of a niche one, but it’s really a.
[00:48:00.000] – Andi
Good read. As fractional CMO, are you involved in helping to set culture or do you end up really hyper focused on sales metrics?
[00:48:08.360] – Bethan
Yeah, we do, to be fair, because it’s this idea that marketing actually… Again, I could go on forever about this, but my thesis about marketing is basically the organization, it’s everything, it’s every touch point within it. So, yeah, we do a lot of mission vision values type work around what does this company stand for, what can people get behind? And that’s linked to brand, obviously as well. But yeah, it’s not just the cold hard revenue money. It is how to create a place where people want to work, where people are really invested in the mission because that obviously lead to greater revenue and money. It’s a byproduct of it.
[00:48:46.620] – Andi
Perfect. Well, look, we’re coming towards the end and I promised Morret on the last episode that I’d bring the top tip from the theme tune back. So basically, if you’re still here listening, anyone, anyway, this is I sing a really bad theme tune about a top tip and Bethan then gives us just a short top tip that you can take away an action and do something about in your job when you listen to this. Okay? So if you’re ready for my singing, it’s time for a top tip. Top tip. there you go. That’s it. That’s the theme. Okay. It goes twice with a bit of a click as well. I don’t know why the click came in. I think I was just feeling a bit awkward. My hands, I didn’t know what to do. So yeah, top tip time.
[00:49:26.480] – Bethan
Spend some time with finance if you can. So if you’re more in a leadership position, maybe go and speak to your CFO and just say, I really want to understand how we can deliver better metrics to you. What are you focused on? What would you like to see from us? Again, if you may be within a team, say as a team, can we spend some time with finance to understand what they mean? Just make that connection. Get them on board, have that conversation.
[00:49:52.040] – Andi
I love it. When I talk to junior marketers, I often tell them I spend time with the sales team. Go along to the sales calls with them, go into their sales meetings and listen to the things they talk about. You’ll soon stop whinging about them and us and start going, How can we help them? So yeah, just getting out of your marketing bubble. You said that earlier and you said, Why do you create such bad reports? Well, you’re in an echo chamber. And that gets you out of that. So no, big fan of that, big fan. Listen, Bethan, thank you very much for your time. It’s been great having you on the show. And if you want to get in touch, LinkedIn is in the show notes. Thank you very much for your time.
[00:50:28.090] – Bethan