Episode 7 | Season 3
Noémie El-Maawiy is the Head of Marketing at Viaduct Generation.
In this episode we discuss:
- Event marketing – never really chatted to anyone on the show about events and you’ve got a background in them. Could be interesting
- Working for a mission led company – what does that mean and how does it match the commercial reality of running an agency
- Living in Spain, working in London.
- Moving from specialist to generalist
- What a Demand Generation Manager is an why the title might not be as bad as you think
- Marketing is more than just the creative discipline
- A Bold Talk and helping other women overcome challenges of progression at work
- How and why the work place is designed for men
Noémie El-Maawiy is the Head of Marketing at Viaduct Generation.
Noémie began her career in the fintech startup environment, specialising in Event Marketing and Communications. She later moved into Demand Generation, gaining full visibility into both online and offline marketing channels.
Alongside this, Noémie has always had a keen interest in company culture and fostering inclusive workplaces, getting involved and spearheading employee engagement initiatives. Find her on LinkedIn.
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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.
[00:00:01.360] – Speaker 1
So my guest today on the strategy sessions is Noemie El-Maawiy. How are you doing?
[00:00:06.490] – Speaker 2
I’m good, thanks. How are you?
[00:00:08.170] – Speaker 1
I am top of the world and always happy to have you on the podcast. So we’ve been on the other end of this before, haven’t we? I’ve been on your podcast. So now this is some sort of podcasty thing going on, right?
[00:00:20.730] – Speaker 2
We’re doing a bit of a swapsies .
[00:00:23.290] – Speaker 1
So the good thing about that is that I don’t do as much talking this time. You have to answer all the questions and I get to be the awful shit who does the interrogation. So first of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do, where do you work? Why are you here on the show?
[00:00:37.760] – Speaker 2
Sure. While I’m here on the show, you might have to answer that one, but so I’m head of marketing at an SEO agency called Viaduct Generation. We’re a new kind of startup. When you’re on the scene, I think what differentiates us is that we’re mission led. So we’re all about supporting underrepresented founders, kind of get their websites ranking and yeah, I’ve been in this position officially since April this year, so 2022, but was working part time for about a year before I joined on a full time basis.
[00:01:15.220] – Speaker 1
Got you. And so how did you get into marketing? And you’ve been a couple of different jobs that got you to where you are now. So tell me through that history and that progression.
[00:01:24.860] – Speaker 2
Sure. I mean, I guess I kind of have to start at Uni. So I studied Spanish and Management at Uni. Spanish was kind of like my passion subject. I knew that I wanted to go to South America specifically and management was really the subject that I chose because I had no idea what I wanted to do at all. I had some idea that I wanted to kind of go into corporate, but I didn’t know what that looked like. So management was one of those subjects that touched on a bit of everything. And I had a marketing module, which incidentally, I hated. I was like, I came out of Uni, so sure, I was not going to go into marketing. I think it worked out for you really well, apparently. But I think I unluckily had a professor who was kind of the worst of the stereotypes of marketers, where it’s just a lot of bullshit. It’s a lot of like, window dressing, very opaque, like, let’s pull all people into buying our product and stuff. And I don’t think it was a very good vision or visual of what marketing really is about. If you’re listening, you’re not watching a.
[00:02:42.520] – Speaker 1
Video, you’ve not seen the face I’ve just pulled as a little part of my soul died inside when you said, that fair. Later on you can tell me the name of this person and I’m going to go Liam Neeson on them. I’m going to find you and I’m going to kill you. Liam Neeson doesn’t sound like that, by the way, but let me know who that is because I hate that shit.
[00:03:01.390] – Speaker 2
It was painful. Yes. I mean, especially now that I am in it, I’ve realised that it’s so much more than that. But, yeah, I came out of unique kind of not really focused on marketing at all. And then I moved to Barcelona, which is where I live now, and I was just trying to find myself a job. I was really applying to everything and anything. And I saw this internship at a fintech company where it was within the marketing team, but it was almost like a journalism role. It was to do interviews with CEOs. It was essentially an inbound marketing technique, really, about kind of contacting CEOs outside of being a salesperson to try and get them to understand what the company was about, talk about the topic. And so I joined that team. It was kind of like a late stage startup at that time, that was in 2018, and then it was a pretty small internal marketing team and I really got to really shape, I guess, my marketing career in that team. I moved into events after, so I did that kind of six month internship, managed to stay, saw there was a huge gap in the events process.
[00:04:21.850] – Speaker 2
It was a B to B fintech as well, worth noting. And so I noticed that they were sending salespeople to trade events and conferences, but there wasn’t really either like a tracking system or a way to see how successful these conferences were. It was kind of the salespeople being like, oh, I’ve got a prospect going to this event I’m just going to attend with no data behind it at all. And so I love organisation. And so I saw an opportunity to create a bit of a process, to organise it a little bit and start documenting what we were doing, how successful these events were, and it really kind of went from there. I stuck in events for about two free years, dabbled in like, comms, internal comms as well, and then yeah, and then it led me to what I’m doing with BG now.
[00:05:17.040] – Speaker 1
Okay, right, I’m going to roll back and pick bits of this out as we go along.
[00:05:21.340] – Speaker 2
That was a big answer.
[00:05:22.410] – Speaker 1
Yeah, well, it was a big answer and probably not one that’s going to clip up really easily for the promo, so let’s see if we can make some clip. So when we start talking about I’m going to come back to talking about uni later on, just once I’ve calmed down and my annoyance has gone. But that first job where you were interviewing CEOs and using it as a lead generation approach, lots of different names for that. If you’re a regular podcast listening, you will have stumbled across many marketing podcasts where the marketing agency goes out and talks to some CEOs and spends the whole time telling them just how wonderful they are. Right. And it’s the same thing. Get some face time with them. Some people call it account based marketing, some I call it lead generation.
[00:06:02.580] – Speaker 2
[00:06:03.010] – Speaker 1
There’s lots of different terms for it. Right. Have you seen it be successful? That’s my first question.
[00:06:10.160] – Speaker 2
Very good question. It was successful to an extent, but it wasn’t as successful as cold calling, for example. So actually, about three months into this internship, they actually put an end to this internal magazine that I was a part of, so I had to quite quickly make myself useful. It was successful in the sense of we were really going for those prospects that were impossible to reach via phone calling. Like there were just too many people in the way. And we kind of came because we came in with a PR angle rather than, we want to talk to you about this pain point in your company. It was a lot more successful in that sense, but it wasn’t as quick, and it took a lot of resources to get to that point.
[00:06:58.330] – Speaker 1
So you’re in a B to B startup, and so their measure of success is basically leads coming into the system, right, and putting into sales. So cold calling is just a funnel approach. If you make 1000 calls, you’ll get 200 answered. If you get 200 answered, you’ll get 50 people spoken to. If you speak to 50, you’ll get ten appointments. You get ten appointments, you get two sales. Brilliant.
[00:07:24.870] – Speaker 2
[00:07:25.290] – Speaker 1
Repeat that every week. Right. 52 sales, whatever. So your activity was being deemed a successor or failure on the same sort of metrics as cold calling. But what I think you’re saying is that it was a bit more upper funnel stuff. It was longer term, just getting on the radio, first of all.
[00:07:42.580] – Speaker 2
Yeah, exactly. So I do know that we did get some clients out of it, and it was a situation that actually, if CEOs were quite open to it, because we were talking directly to the CEO.
[00:07:59.140] – Speaker 1
That’s the big.
[00:07:59.830] – Speaker 2
Yeah, maybe most importantly, but yeah, because we were talking essentially with the main KBM, that there’s no one really big the CEO within that company. If they want something to happen, then it will, and they will push for things to happen, and things will happen a lot quicker compared to when you do take the cold call approach. You’re working your way up through the system, right. And then the ultimate sign off is maybe a CEO. And so we were kind of working the other way around. So maybe we weren’t as successful from the point of view of the CEO’s kind of saying yes, but when they did, we did see a four to sell cycle as well.
[00:08:40.170] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And it’s amazing when you start talking about measurement of activity, how quickly in every world, but definitely in BTB world, how quickly things are measured on leads into the funnel and suspects becoming prospects and prospects becoming clients and all of that sort of stuff. We had someone on maybe season two, I can’t remember it’s all about they don’t put metrics on their brand work, b to B SASPO because it’s just too long term, it’s too long scale. We just do it because we know it’s the right thing. That seems like a ballsy decision but it does feel like it needs to be measured differently I think is the point I’m trying to make for sure.
[00:09:18.420] – Speaker 2
And I think also one of the elements because we were essentially we’re producing content and it was actually quite high value content for what it was we were marketing for a product that didn’t exist. We were creating a kind of a demand for it. And so a huge part of our responsibility was to kind of get the messaging out there and to also get people to understand that this was a problem that existed within their companies. And so if you’ve got a CEO talking about it straight away, kind of from a PR value, from a content value that kind of bumps up and that is obviously a lot harder to measure, you know, thought, leadership, all of that stuff, you can’t put real, real numbers to it. But if you do say, hey, we’ve spoken to ten CEOs who agree that this is a problem within their company, much more likely CEO number eleven is going to be a lot more open minded to what we’re saying compared to maybe number one who maybe was a bit more difficult to approach in the first place.
[00:10:20.880] – Speaker 1
I think the other thing as well is that that content has such a lifespan as well is that every one of those interviews is something you can use. The whole amalgamation of ten CEOs now we’ve got a white paper or we’ve got some sort of report we can push out and all of this can keep coming over and over and over and over and the lifespan of the payoff time is measured in years. Cold calling answer, don’t answer and then it goes through the process and comes out the other side pretty quick.
[00:10:47.950] – Speaker 2
Yeah, it’s funny that you mentioned the reports actually because that’s exactly what we did. We tried to go by industry, we were quite specific on the industries that we really wanted to tackle. And so then, yeah, after a while and we had enough CEOs from a certain industry talking about the topic, we were able to put a report together without again needing the consulting side or the approval because all of these quotes had previously been used. We were essentially repurposing our own material.
[00:11:16.160] – Speaker 1
Yeah, if you’ve got it right, you might as well use it. Can be expensive to invest in that type of content approach. You might as well make the best use of it for sure. But they obviously didn’t believe in this to their own detriment.
[00:11:31.240] – Speaker 2
Not quite enough.
[00:11:32.550] – Speaker 1
Right. So they binge you and you have to find your own way into another one of my favourite B to B tools, which is events. Let’s talk about events. When you talk about events, are you talking trade shows and that type of event?
[00:11:45.660] – Speaker 2
Yeah. So industry events mainly less than conferences. Actually, I did mention conferences, but really, we’re really talking about events where you’ve got stands. People are trading, people are open minded to a sales person coming up and having a conversation with them.
[00:12:03.710] – Speaker 1
Now, on a scale of one to ten, how shit would you say most companies are at doing trade shows? Shit or very shit?
[00:12:12.860] – Speaker 2
Extremely. Is that one that I can include.
[00:12:16.540] – Speaker 1
And the worst ship possible?
[00:12:18.010] – Speaker 2
Yeah. You know what? For me it’s a really interesting one, because I felt I didn’t have a huge amount of experience right. When I went into events. A lot of what I did was applying a certain logic, and because I had the time, I was able to become that resource internally. And so I didn’t think it was as valuable as it was until I really spoke to people outside and then I would kind of give something that I thought was obvious and they would then be like, wow, that’s so insightful. We’ve never thought of doing it in this way. And for me, it did just seem logical to look at things in a certain way. Off the back of that, I would say that probably most companies are doing a pretty shit job of it.
[00:13:05.590] – Speaker 1
There are companies I know in all sorts of industries who go to trade shows. I was talking to one company who go to there’s one in a big industry trade show in Vegas, which takes place every two or three years. And then another one in Germany. It’s in sort of more manufacturing, industrial type processes, and they spend somewhere in the region of half to three quarters of a million quid just to take the space and to get the people out there. This is a big investment, right?
[00:13:37.310] – Speaker 2
[00:13:38.890] – Speaker 1
One of the questions I had with them, talk me through what you do about this event. And I got a lot of logistic stuff about how they ship the thing out there and how they put this thing there in the day. What do you do before to kind of make sure that you’re talking to people on the day? You’re not just hoping somebody useful walks past. There’s a lot of blank looks coming my way. Okay. And then at the show, what do you do? Get lots of information. And then what do you do after the show? And it’s like everyone takes leave because they’re tired. And then you’ve got a derivative got to do that and they’re brilliant. And then we’ve got another show that comes up in six weeks time, which is somewhere else. It’s a bit smaller. So we go to that and you’re like so you don’t follow any of the lead? Oh, no. Like, the sales team are like two or three key leads will follow up. How many people do you speak to? 300. What do you do with the other 286 people? Right, I think we’ve got some work to do here.
[00:14:36.130] – Speaker 1
So that’s quite a long introduction to this, but is that what you found? Because everywhere I go to talk trade shows, I find exactly the same problem.
[00:14:43.990] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I mean, I haven’t spoken to a huge amount of companies about their process, but I think even internally, that was the thing that confused me is that I remember these guys, they’ve gone to a show in Dubai, so you can imagine how expensive that was just to spend that. We didn’t even have a space at that point. But we, you know, they went and they came back, I think, with like definitely over 100 cards each, and then just let those cards kind of sit on their desks. And so I asked, I was like, oh, have we been to this show before? Given that we were, I mean, I’ve described it as a start, I say late stage at start at kind of like the scale up point. So it made sense that maybe we hadn’t been to a huge amount of shows before, but we were spending money. That, again, was it a sales budget? Was it a marketing budget? A lot of the time when things didn’t work out, it fell into marketing. If it did, then it went straight to sales. And so it was about kind of finding that differentiation. It was about, OK, a month later, where we are, six months later, where are we at?
[00:15:53.140] – Speaker 2
Because as well, I was in a company where actually it was quite a long sale cycle. So it was a thing like, yes, follow up on your hot leads within the week, within two weeks. But things do take time and it’s entirely possible that actually, six months down the line, we’re going to see a lead generated from an event that happened six months ago. And we need to make sure that we track that and we need to make sure that we’re keeping a record of that somewhere so that we can send some more people there, or maybe we just send one person rather than two. And it was all those kind of questions that naturally came up that no one in the company really had an answer for. And so I was like, let me make a spreadsheet. And that’s where it already started. But yeah, it’s definitely something that has come up. And we actually at one point, we workshopped with another B to B that was based out here in Barcelona, and we were comparing kind of how we do things within marketing and with the events. And the main event isn’t actually the most important part by a mile.
[00:16:55.660] – Speaker 2
Like the prep, I think, is definitely where it’s really, really key because I think events are a place where you can make things happen, where you can kind of take it to the next step. Ideally, by the time you’re meeting someone, an event, you’ve already introduced yourself to them, they already have an idea of what you’re proposing. And essentially at the event you’re solidifying on that conversation and you’re building towards the next step. People don’t have time at events. Like, a lot of the time your meetings are like 15 minutes, really, 30 minutes if you’re really lucky. And so the main thing that you want to do at that event is say, acknowledge the fact that, hey, yes, I am interested, and hey, let’s put something in the diary for the upcoming month of this is what we’ll discuss and this is what we’ll talk about.
[00:17:44.160] – Speaker 1
Yeah. So amazingly, prepare for something, do the event, prepare for what you’re going to do afterwards. Seems like really good advice for events, generally for life. Prepare yourself and be ready for it. I don’t know. It amazes me, genuinely amazes me. The investment companies put into go into events and don’t match the financial investment with the time investment other than boots on the ground in a couple of days of the event, for sure. I really don’t.
[00:18:17.140] – Speaker 2
[00:18:19.320] – Speaker 1
So at that time, were you demand generation? Is that what your job title is?
[00:18:23.830] – Speaker 2
Not just yet, actually, that came a lot. Well, that came about like four years into my time there. I was mainly focused on events. At one point, obviously Clover had happened, so that felt a bit of a dangerous time to be an event manager, but essentially privileged online. And webinars became my bag became really good at webinars. It was really quickly as well.
[00:18:53.100] – Speaker 1
In this case. I’ve never done a webinar before. I’m an expert at webinar.
[00:18:56.230] – Speaker 2
Yes, exactly. At one point we were doing about three to four webinars a week and we were eating per industry and it was all very intense and I was kind of the webinar host, so I had to become a specialist in a lot of areas really quickly to ask some good questions, you know. So that happened and then we actually had a change of management and a new kind of head of marketing. Really wanted to push essentially our marketing team to the next level and notice that our sales team were divided by geographic location, but marketing was divided by the specialisms within marketing. And so sometimes it was a bit of a clash in that of like, what marketing resources were going, where some markets felt a bit abandoned by the marketing team or didn’t feel like they had enough attention on them. And it made sense that we applied different marketing strategies according to the market that we were working with. So essentially the demand generation manager became a combination of doing the digital and like the offline bits for a specific market. So I was targeted. Like UK and the DACA market. And so I had to look at both things, like events, but also what are we doing online digital marketing wise, what we’re doing PR wise?
[00:20:24.540] – Speaker 2
Just the whole marketing suite, essentially, which actually served me really well, given that my next job after that was head of marketing, which essentially then made me become a generalist, which I hadn’t really done before. So having those like six months of Demand Generation was very helpful towards that. And it was a role that was completely catered to. Bringing in leads, that was the goal, that was the idea. Like anything that is outside of lead generation was not my responsibility.
[00:20:55.050] – Speaker 1
Right. So my regular listeners will know I love to have a run about ship marketing titles and Demand Generation Manager feels right up there. But maybe I’m going to kind of ease back a little bit on this because maybe if it is so were you looking at maybe there’s a bit of B to B sales process that you can talk about here in terms of handing over marketing qualified leads to sales? Is that basically what you were doing?
[00:21:17.970] – Speaker 2
Yeah, pretty much. I think it was really looking at the leads that marketing was bringing in and then how could we really support our sales teams in converting them? So is there a point in sending every lead our way to the sales team? A lot of the time, no. So it was about differentiating classifying. Those leads, the hot ones, they’re going straight to sales, and we had different benchmarks to kind of qualify what a hot lead looked like. Maybe a specific piece of content or a specific CTA that was triggered, and then otherwise it’s what can marketing do to kind of warm up that lead and prep it so that it gets to a place where we can then pass it on? And I do think it was something that was necessary. I’m not going to lie. When that title was first kind of like proposed to me, I was a bit like, I’m really unsure. I think a lot of it as well was this idea. We didn’t really know internally how we were going to be able to make the switch because all of us had niche so much. We obviously were going to be the experts in whatever specialist and we’ve been working on for the last few years.
[00:22:30.850] – Speaker 2
But then it was about kind of teaching other people in the team how to kind of onboarding them into the event process, understanding what it meant and just kind of passing on that information. But then, yes, at the same time it was really valuable because it did make us better marketers, because we had a much better understanding of what was happening behind the scenes, like our website, for example, or the email marketing, et cetera.
[00:22:55.420] – Speaker 1
It is a well trodden path. As people develop in marketing, they often start in some sort of specialism and as you get a little bit older I’m not calling you old, but just as you get older, you sometimes see maybe the limitations of what you were doing. I had to say when I was a digital marketer and I was like, this just doesn’t answer all the questions that I have. And it answers some of them, but not all of them. And then you start looking wider and broadening and broadening and broadening your skill set. So it sounds like you kind of gone on that journey and maybe it was forced on you a little bit. But do you feel better as a better marketer now that you’ve got that broader world view?
[00:23:31.760] – Speaker 2
I think so, definitely. I think also with that company, I think sells had a huge impact on what marketing was doing. Like sales drove a lot of what we were doing and I think that you had marketing kind of came in and said, like, marketing is a discipline within itself. We are experts, we shouldn’t purely be influenced for what sales people are saying. Telling us to do a sales support function. It is that thing, right? Or like a sales person just like kind of hands off something because they’re like, obviously this is easy, always. Like, marketing isn’t like a skill or a thing with himself. And so I think it also gave us the sense of ownership, of working still working really closely with our sales team. We would work with the sales team leader on different initiatives who would understand what’s working in certain markets. Cold calling was like a gold mine and that was the way it should really be approached some other markets, namely actually the UK. Cold calling is hard, like hardcore. And so then it was about trying to be a bit creative and kind of how we could bring about different leads and things like that.
[00:24:43.650] – Speaker 2
So it was a really interesting role because it allowed me to understand sales a lot better as well and kind of their thoughts and their concerns as well and like how maybe we could kind of alleviate those. And, yeah, it definitely did make me a better marketer and I definitely wouldn’t be able to do the role that I mean, I probably would, but just maybe not as well do the role that I’m doing now because it did give me a much better idea of what works, what doesn’t work as well and the practise of it as well. Like the actual is not only just having an awareness, but it’s actually putting things into Practise and testing these things.
[00:25:22.990] – Speaker 1
I’m a big believer that everyone in marketing should at least once do a job that is really tightly connected to sales. And sometimes when you see big enterprise consumer companies where they have so many people in marketing doing small fractions performance marketers, yeah, they can see that link between sales, but a lot of the time it can be hard to measure for some marketers. And that often leads to a lot of marketers not wanting to talk about finance and selling stuff and numbers at the end, pound signs at the end, or your signs, actually. You got to get comfortable with the fact that what our job is, is the same as sales. We approach it differently but if the company’s not selling stuff, we’re all going to be up a job, right? So we have to get comfortable with how does what we do affect sales. That could be number of leads generated, not necessarily number of things sold, but we’ve got to get comfortable with it. So it gives you that real corporate commercial approach to it, doesn’t it? Which is always going to stand you in good stead for the future.
[00:26:16.110] – Speaker 2
Definitely. And you have a much stronger buy in as well. You have a larger sense of responsibility towards the bigger picture of it all. Because as much as my final role was really focused on demand generation, there was also the point of like, let’s look at your sales cycle. What point in the sales cycle are we struggling with? Is there a part where we’re not converting as well? What can marketing do to kind of jump in? Can we maybe provide an additional webinar or workshop or can we invite people to events, for example? That was always like a really strong one. You get a salesperson saying, I’m finding it really hard to close this deal and I would be able to say, hey, I know that they’re attending this event, have a meeting with them at that event, just get the conversation going again. And a lot of the time that is sometimes how we used events and it didn’t necessarily then contribute to my lead generation goal but at the end of the day it was about kind of closing and we were able to support with that too.
[00:27:22.310] – Speaker 1
Every company in the world that has a marketing team that feeds leads into sales or marketing qualified leads. Whatever is looking at their process going, we hand this lead over either too late or too soon and we’ll be spending a fortune and loads of time trying to change where they move that point to somewhere else. That’s going to be better. And then in a year’s time, look at that and go, we need to move that point again. There is no perfect point, is that but it sounds about working the way through to understand that for sure and.
[00:27:46.800] – Speaker 2
It’S important to keep following your lead once you’ve passed it on. I think that was something that we really learned and that was also something that was maybe a bit of like a point of contention within that company sometimes, is that sales sometimes prioritise their own lead because they get a bit, not a better commission because they get. The commission regardless, but according to their own individual goals, it’s a lot stronger for them to close their own lead that they call it cord, than one that marketing has passed over. So it was actually really important that we follow our leads to and that we put pressure on sales to work on those as well, so that we could kind of look at the bigger picture and say, hey, marketing is contributing. Because there was that danger of saying, like, all marketing is giving us shitty leads. And actually that really wasn’t the point. It was they’re just not moving through the sales cycle.
[00:28:41.360] – Speaker 1
When you talk about marketing in these terms, it’s very commercially focused. It’s about driving lead generation, ultimately following that through to euros, dollars, pounds landing in the company’s coffers. Right?
[00:28:51.820] – Speaker 2
[00:28:53.740] – Speaker 1
How does that make you feel when you see marketers or hear other people talk about marketing as the colouring department or we are just you do these great posters, or isn’t it lovely a marketing? What reaction do you get when you hear that?
[00:29:10.610] – Speaker 2
Slightly furious, frustrating.
[00:29:13.000] – Speaker 1
I think it’s slightly more serious. Then go for it.
[00:29:16.910] – Speaker 2
I’m mad. No, I find it very frustrating because I think people do pass off marketing as a silly little task that’s almost like this b task compared to maybe what more commercial teams are doing, when in fact marketing is very much part of that commercial team and is an extension of it. And let’s be honest, without marketing, your commercials are going to shit like, nothing is really happening. It’s obviously here, we’ve been talking a lot about lead generation and like, hard numbers, but, you know, you can look at the other side of things if we’re talking brand visibility, if we’re talking authority within your industry, these are all things led by marketing. And the only reason why people will trust your company and will trust the things that you say is because marketing has played a part in that. Your website, who’s doing that? That’s your marketing team. All of those elements. And it’s a lot of elements, I think as well. I think that’s the part I think people fail to understand about marketing is that it’s such a wide ranging discipline that maybe that’s why maybe people don’t quite fully understand what we’re doing because there are so many little different touch points.
[00:30:37.750] – Speaker 2
And when you do break it down, like, for example, if I’m giving my weekly goals to the team, it does feel like these little tasks and maybe that we’re not as good at explaining the bigger picture and why we’re doing certain things, but it is part of this discourse of, like, it’s a long term game. And like, even if we can’t put a number to some of the things that we do, we do know. Like a salesperson, if you’re cold calling, the first thing that person is going to do is look at your website. They’re going to look maybe at your LinkedIn page or they’re going to look at your activity. If maybe they go to a LinkedIn page and they see nothing has happened in the past year. Why am I trusting your company? Why am I giving you my money? If I see that they’re engaging with other industry experts, if other people are commending us, that does come from marketing, you know, and so I think that’s why I get frustrated with it, because, yes, these things are less tangible, but they count, they really do.
[00:31:39.810] – Speaker 1
But is that a marketing problem? Is this marketers who are happy with the fun stuff, the colouring department, and just happy with those not superficial because they’re important? There’s a lot of fluff goes on in a lot of marketing teams, and I love it because the only reason I have a job, because I’m going to have to go and fix all that shit that they’ve got wrong. But it’s a marketing problem, isn’t it? It’s not the rest of the world doesn’t understand us. It’s a lot of people in the discipline don’t understand us. We can’t tell that story to the rest of the world.
[00:32:10.170] – Speaker 2
Yes. And I think I do also think it leans into this idea of creative not being as serious. There’s obviously elements of creativity that goes into marketing. And I think it’s almost like this wider society thing where you talk about stem and, you know, that’s authority, it’s serious, it’s good stuff. Like even like you’re to talk to your parents about certain things. And they’re going to put a lot more respect if you say, hey, Mom, I’m going to be a doctor, versus I’m going to do marketing.
[00:32:43.310] – Speaker 1
I still remember my granny being so disappointed when I told her I wasn’t going to become a teacher, which is what I went to uni to do. She was like, Why wouldn’t you become a teacher? It just doesn’t interest me. But it’s a good job, I don’t care.
[00:32:56.360] – Speaker 2
Yeah. And there’s almost this element of if you get joy and enjoyment from your job, it’s not that serious a thing or not that skilled a thing either. So I think that there are those kind of elements that creep into it, too.
[00:33:17.140] – Speaker 1
Not a strange one, but it’s just a quick handbrake term which might lead us somewhere else, is that being from a family of a migrant community to my granny was part of the Windrush generation that came over from the Caribbean to the UK and came over doing, let’s be honest, not particularly great jobs. Right. She was a cleaner for a while most of her life, actually. She cleaned places, took shitty jobs in places, got moved on because people didn’t like it for the colour of her skin and all that. Sort of the joys of being from the Caribbean in the UK. Fifty s and sixty s. Right. So when your grandson goes and says he wants to be a teacher, teachers have a respect. Professions have a respect that, you know, she just never could have had as a child, as an adult, even in the UK, because that was a respect no one ever conferred on her. So we’re going to be a teacher, you’re gonna be an accountant, you’re going to be a doctor. Wonderful. We’ve achieved respectability in this community, in this place, and then you go to a marketing granny and she’s like, what?
[00:34:21.560] – Speaker 2
Yeah, no, definitely. A lot of my family, funnily enough, are either kind of like creatives or haven’t really been in corporate. My mum is a teacher, actually, and my dad is an engineer for TfL. And so I think that was also part of why I wanted to study management at Uni, because I didn’t really have anyone within my family, really. My grandpa did have a bit of a corporate job, and he loves to talk about the good old days, like, you’ve had to get his diet and he just can’t stop. But obviously living in a very different world to the one that my grandpa was working in, and so I really didn’t know what it looked like, office culture or corporate or anything like that. I remember the first day of my internship being like, what is a product manager generally? What does that mean? And especially when it’s not a tangible product, like something that you can hold in your hand. This was a software, technically, it was fintech sass. And so it was this conceptual thing that we were talking about, and I didn’t understand how people spent their days. I was one of those people, even within the marketing team, when someone was like, yeah, I do data.
[00:35:37.690] – Speaker 2
What does that mean? What are you looking at? Like, why is that interesting? And what does that bring around? And so I’m glad I did come into it with so much curiosity, because then it did mean that I learned to really respect the work that people were doing and quite luckily, being part of this internal team, a lot of us were quite young. I think the average age of employees in that company when I joined was maybe like 29 or something like that. So it was a really young company. So it was a really great place to be a part of because those of us that were there for maybe longer than your typical two year cycle, we really grew up together, and so we grew up through the ranks as well. By the end of people that I’d started, we were all managers within the marketing team and leading our own strategies and budget holders and things like that. And that part was really fantastic. But, yeah, explaining it to someone on the outside can sometimes be really difficult. Like, yeah, I did spend all my morning spent sending emails, like, how do I.
[00:36:47.660] – Speaker 1
Mention about not knowing what some of these things mean? And I think there is a whole gap depending on maybe where you went to school before you even get to university.
[00:36:56.610] – Speaker 2
[00:36:57.510] – Speaker 1
You just don’t understand.
[00:36:59.260] – Speaker 2
Have no idea about have no idea about.
[00:37:05.360] – Speaker 1
I’m a non exec director in a couple of places, right. And I think I was about 28 before someone actually sent me and said, do you know what an Ed actually is? I was like, no. I mean, I’ve seen this ned term around, but what is it? If I’d have gone to a different school, probably a prepaying school, you probably get trained for that. Maybe at GCSE. I don’t know. I didn’t go there, but I didn’t know what it meant. The whole world of stuff you just don’t understand that no one ever explains to you for for sure.
[00:37:31.710] – Speaker 2
Sure. And actually, I will say that is one of the things that I really took out of Uni. I still think actually, at Uni, they did a terrible job of explaining the possibilities of what I could do with my degree. I think that Unis should have a lot more responsibility to that regard. But what I did come out with was a network. And so with things like LinkedIn and you see people updating their job descriptions or the companies that they’re working for, I would always just look those things up. I would look up these companies, like, what are they doing? Could I work there? What would I need to do to be able to work there? And that was something that was really useful to me. And having that network and people understanding your skill set and then maybe presenting you or putting you forward for certain opportunities, I think was invaluable and has been invaluable.
[00:38:27.160] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And you’ve also taken some steps to help other people who have been through a similar approach or similar press. So tell us about the ball talk. What’s that all about?
[00:38:36.540] – Speaker 2
Yeah, sure. So a Ball Talk was a bit of a passion project that I started with a good friend called Paulina Lanio. Look her up. She’s brilliant, honestly. I love her. I admire her. I think she’s brilliant. And so we were both working for the same company, and Paulina actually is the person who brought the idea to me. She knew that I kind of have these ambitions and have this curiosity as well. And I also was quite an outspoken person in the workplace about opportunities, about gender, about all of these kind of different workplace kind of culture topics. And we kind of got to a point where we’d started our careers. So, you know, we’ve done the internship, we’d had all of this support and this quite clear path that was laid out for us. But then we’ve got to a point where it’s not even a mid management level, but almost that kind of level where maybe we weren’t sure if we wanted to stay within the discipline. We weren’t sure how to take the next step. And when we spoke about that with friends. We put a survey out there as well. A lot of people felt that way and namely women.
[00:39:58.240] – Speaker 2
That was something that we really found, is that women found it really hard to champion themselves in the workplace to really understand their value. I mean, we could talk about imposter syndrome until forever, but there was just these different things that we found. A lot of our friends were also kind of going through and the easiest thing to do when you’re stuck is to talk about it and to be open and honest about it. And so we decided to create this community called a bulb talk. It lasted a couple of months and in the end we didn’t carry on with it just because life kind of got in the way, but it was really enjoyable. We did like monthly workshops where we would touch on different subjects. Like the first one was literally about understanding your value and just breaking it down in such a logical way that no one can really argue. We’d found that sometimes when we approached managers about salary raises or promotions, those conversations are challenging and uncomfortable at the best of times. And I think if you don’t go into those conversations with confidence and with this awareness of kind of who you are and where you want to go, you can really easily either kind of be manipulated or maybe told just the right phrase to almost keep you quiet, to not bring it up again.
[00:41:22.860] – Speaker 2
And so we kind of wanted to fight that a little bit and go against that and say, hey, we’re actually really valuable people within the company. I don’t want to say assets because that just is a bit more than that with people. We bring value and if we leave, you’re not actually going to really struggle to find someone else, but you will understand the value that we brought and it would be a sad place to get to that point and not have anything that happened kind of before. So yes, that was one, we talked about impostor syndrome as well in another one and it was really interesting because there’s this article actually, I think that kind of went a little bit viral that was published in the Harvard Business Review and it was called Stop telling women that they’ve got impostor Syndrome. And essentially the author of that article was positioning it in the fact that workplaces have been developed typically for men, corporate, we’re talking corporate here they’ve been developed with men in mind, with how they work, with how they function, with how competitive they are. Like there’s lots of different attributes that we can kind of differentiate between the genders and women just don’t naturally sometimes have a place in it or are as comfortable working the system in that same way.
[00:42:47.790] – Speaker 2
Like we tend to kind of have the approach of like, if I do a good job, good things will kind of come to me. That’s what we’ve always been taught, right? Like, you do this thing well, you will be rewarded for your good behaviour. Whereas men are tend to be I know I’m making a lot of generalisations here, but tend to be a bit more proactive. They kind of like the competition kind of aspect of things and they will put themselves forwards and they have the audacity. We see it. Even at the beginning of careers, men will go in and negotiate their salary from the GetGo, whereas women will be like, oh, thank you for giving me this salary, I’ll prove my worth and then I’ll come to you. And so already we’re not on an equal playing field. And so what this author was saying in this article was actually, women are entering the workplace and are as ambitious at the beginning as men, but all of the system essentially kind of means that they can’t navigate it as easily or as well and it’s just not really made for us. I’m saying that with inverted comments for people that aren’t watching, but don’t worry.
[00:43:59.380] – Speaker 1
About the generalisations, we’re going to click this up and make you sound like a horrific Manhattan misogynist. Don’t worry about that, that’s fine.
[00:44:07.030] – Speaker 2
Yeah, but that’s kind of and actually having that point of view of knowing, like, actually, it’s not an individual problem, it’s not me not being confident enough or it’s not me not shouting enough about my achievements, because that was also something that I found really frustrating. When I would speak to managers, they would tell me, oh, maybe you just need to be a bit more serious. Why are you telling me to be a bit more serious? Because I smile. Like, that was generally a comment that was made to me. For me to be able to move up in the workplace, that is insane to me. All because I am agreeable, because I’m a positive person in general. That isn’t a negative trait and that isn’t a bad thing and it’s not something I should be adapting for the workplace. If anything, it’s an asset. And so it’s about understanding that the system wasn’t built for us very much like we see it, with ethnic minorities also entering the workplace, or anyone with any kind of almost like protected characteristic. The workplace is made for straight white men. Like, that’s what it’s really been built for.
[00:45:20.940] – Speaker 2
So the further you are away from that, the harder it’s going to be to really progress in those places. In a sense, I’ve really rambled on about it, but that’s kind of what that article was saying is like, we don’t have imposter syndrome. Workplaces need to change to adapt to how we work best.
[00:45:39.960] – Speaker 1
If I thought you were rambling, I would have interrupted a movie subject. It was great to listen to, so please don’t apologise. Every time you look at research around the workplace about, I think, minorities and women are probably the two areas I’ve looked at the most. But the similar studies of CVS or resumes for the American listeners being submitted, one with a really obvious ethnic minority name, one with a very obvious white British name, exactly the same CV. Which one gets shortlisted? It’s the white guy all the time. You do the same thing, but with women who get shortlisted, the men all the time as well. Not all percentage wise. When you do it at scale, it’s a huge difference that you see. So this is something that’s important in the workplace, that people are talking about this and are trying to make a difference and make a change. Which probably brings us to what? Your work? Not your work at Via Generation, the whole ethos of VG. So tell us, you said the mission led and about raising awareness of underrepresented groups. But how does that work? And let’s be honest, how does that work alongside making money?
[00:46:51.340] – Speaker 1
Because if a business doesn’t make money, it’s either a charity or it’s not going to be a business for very long. So how do those two things work together?
[00:46:57.860] – Speaker 2
Sure. So a quick kind of background for you, because I think it helps, it makes sense as to why we’re mission led. Our CEO, Fabio and Barlow used to work for a large SEO platform and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, he kind of, I think, along with a lot of black people in the workplace, were a bit like, something needs to change here, something needs to happen. I think we were all affected in the workplace and wanted to kind of contribute towards the cause. And something that had bothered Fabio in his career, he was traditionally kind of like a CSM for search platforms. Is that a lot of the clients that he dealt with, none of them were black? Like, none of them. And he’d been in it for, like, at least five years and he was like, that doesn’t make sense to me. And he was working for global companies as well, so he was like that. I mean, you see them a lot more maybe in the States, but otherwise, in general, he just really didn’t see them. So he carried out some research and in July 2020, when he looked at the top so his specialism, obviously, is SEO.
[00:48:15.690] – Speaker 2
We got to put that one in there. So he looked at top kind of ranking companies in the UK. He looked at ten different industries and he looked at the 100 top ranking companies in those industries. Only two of those companies. So two out 1000 were black owned. Which is insane if you look at the proportion of black people in the UK. And even if you dig it down to like, that in the UK yeah. But even if you look down and dig down into kind of, like, the proportion of black entrepreneurs, it still doesn’t make sense that so few are ranking. And so he saw this gap where he was like black founders or companies run by black founders are not getting the same opportunities and access to things like software, to things like advice or expertise as perhaps like their white counterparts. And so that’s essentially how wider generation came about. It was I want to tackle this problem. And so yeah, so that was kind of our ethos. From there we developed two underrepresented founders because we did find, if we’re talking from a commercial perspective, a lot of the companies that we were reaching out to, unfortunately they just didn’t have the budget.
[00:49:35.880] – Speaker 2
Like we kind of had an idea that that was the case. And also when you’re talking about a discipline like SEO where you’re asking really people to invest about twelve months of money upfront without guaranteed results, it’s a big risk if already like TV advertising. But the worst deal, it’s not cheap. And so we had found a way to make it cheaper but it was still quite unaccessible. And so from a commercial standpoint, for us to survive as a business, survive as a bootstrapped business, that made it a lot more difficult. So we really wanted to extend that. And also it makes sense that if our ethos is to help those kind of founders that usually don’t get a look in, let’s just spread that to the different communities as well. And also it means that we can stay a lot truer to our mission. Obviously we leave with the fact that we’re mission there and then we get asked about our stats and it doesn’t look great if we actually can’t stuck them up. But yeah, in the commercialisation we also saw that at one point we weren’t making enough money and that was kind of the hard truth of it.
[00:50:45.130] – Speaker 2
And so we said hey, let’s open up our client roster with this idea that we feed money back in. And so we can then provide either like free workshops, resources, partner with other organisations that are targeting these communities and really help people get at least their first steps into it. Because sometimes people don’t even know if it’s five pronged, how many prongs there are. But there’s quite different, like a few different ways to approach it. There’s one, the issue of education. Some people just don’t know enough about it. They don’t understand the complexities of it. And we call it a fairly new discipline. I think digital marketing in general we can kind of put in that boat, right? People think maybe if I just like do it once it’s enough, I don’t have to be that consistent with it. Or you know, I saw this video on YouTube and that will help me and yeah, sure, that will maybe get your first kind of step your foot in the door. But with such a rapidly progressive and evolving discipline, it is really important to have experts that can be like, hey, I’ve heard about this new Google update and it’s really important that we update our website accordingly.
[00:52:01.910] – Speaker 2
So there’s that as well. People not having that awareness budget is kind of like one of the biggest reasons they don’t have enough money. And that routes back to like, black businesses not getting funding. Like, we can look at those stats as well. Like, compared to their counterparts, black businesses are not getting nearly as much money, which means they cannot afford the resources, the tools, the teams that other people can. And so essentially that gap just keeps getting bigger, which is a little bit depressing when you look at it. But we kind of want to be there and say, hey, we really want to support you in that. So we do things like free workshops, we do things like mentorships, we attend specific events that are targeting those communities where we really try and diversify the services that we offer. We really try to be as flexible as we can to cater to these companies and to make it work. And then I think also another thing that we’ve really taken upon ourselves is to shout out about it in the industry. Like, we’re not the biggest company, we’re not the richest company by any means, but if we can maybe get other agencies in the industry to be aware of the problem, maybe they can do a bit of a reach out.
[00:53:17.080] – Speaker 2
Maybe they can provide a few of those sort of services or give discounts on their products or softwares and things like that. So, yeah, that’s kind of how we’ve.
[00:53:26.460] – Speaker 1
Approached it so far in terms of making some noise. Fabian and I are going to be on stage at Brighton SEO in March or April 23. I can see.
[00:53:35.850] – Speaker 2
Is this an exclusive?
[00:53:37.530] – Speaker 1
Exclusive reveal? Fabio, myself and Azeem. Azeem’s last name is Digital Asks, I think, if you know that. So myself, Fabio and Azim, we’ve got three presentations, but we’re kind of in the same slot and we’re going to kind of talk about strategy and tactics. It’s all been stitched together around this sort of theme as well. So it’s a bit early. It’s November when we’re recording this, and this isn’t happening until March or April. So I haven’t even planned and prepped anything yet, but we’re not roughly that’s okay. But it’s about raising awareness and sharing knowledge and kind of putting all these things together. So I think it’s a really interesting approach that violate generation take. And I also like the fact that it survived the commercial reality of running an agency, right, is that sometimes you do have to go, is this a compromise? No, actually, it’s a way to help fund doing what we want to do in our mission. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a capitalist or not, right? If you don’t have money, you got.
[00:54:41.560] – Speaker 2
To eat while you’ve got to be realistic about it. And it was something we spoke to enough black businesses as well, black business owners, where they would be so interested and they’re so into it. And then you get to the conversation on price, and we’re trying to take it as far as we can, but at the same time, we’re an agency with 15 people on full time salaries that we’re trying to pay a decent wage as well. We don’t want to compromise too much from our side because, you know, we do kind of preach the diversity and quality inclusion ethos. And it’s important that as much as we preach it externally and provide something to our clients, it’s important that we’re able to kind of reflect that internally. And that was, I think, also another part of VG that when Fabio first presented the idea that I really loved, is that we also make a point of maybe giving opportunities to people that wouldn’t typically kind of get a foot in when it comes to marketing. I think marketing is a hard industry to break into, especially these days, where you do have, for example, you see platforms on LinkedIn where people will kind of upload the portfolio of what they’ve done and they’re at uni and they’ve never worked for anyone, but they’ve kind of taken it a point.
[00:56:00.490] – Speaker 2
They’ve discovered that marketing is their passion, which is brilliant, I’m really happy for them, but not everyone gets that privilege, essentially, of knowing what your passion is. A lot of us kind of have to work our way through and find our way, and it’s a lot of trial and error, but trial and error is an expensive thing to engage in. And if you don’t have that kind of safety ranking, like the internship that I did, I speak about that a lot. I was getting paid not enough. It was not covering my rent kind of thing. And I knew that going in, and I specifically had savings for that reason. I saved up money to be able to do an internship to get in. And like, that’s already still coming from a place of privilege from my end. So for someone who really has no idea, who actually could be really skilled or really creative and have all of these things, but they need to earn money or they don’t have the time. It’s not given the time. That others would because they looked at a company, they’ve created a case study, or they’ve done something super creative, and they’ve made an incredible resume.
[00:57:11.920] – Speaker 2
And all of these things not everyone has afforded that luxury. And so it was important for us to cater to those people. So, you know, we’ve had quite a few apprentices come through VG. We hired a lot of people that don’t have degrees, for example, or we don’t have specific marketing experience previously. And we’re really taking it, taking them in on their willingness to learn, on the skills that they can show us that they already have, that they’re willing. To develop because and I truly believe it kind of applies to a lot of jobs. I mean, obviously, maybe the higher you go into the seniority, you can’t just, you know, apply to any odd job, but a lot of jobs, it’s the skills that you bring to it and then you get all your training. If it’s a good company that has a good onboarding Practise, you are being taught everything you need to know in hopefully the first two weeks months that you join a company. So really it’s about how do I apply the skills that I’ve learnt previously, that I’ve picked up previously, that doesn’t necessarily have to come from an academic background or specific marketing experience and how do I apply it to the situation that I’m in now?
[00:58:24.840] – Speaker 2
And that was something that was also really important to us.
[00:58:28.440] – Speaker 1
Yeah, curiosity is a big thing as well, isn’t it?
[00:58:30.970] – Speaker 2
You mentioned absolutely.
[00:58:32.620] – Speaker 1
Being able to and wanting to learn new things is something that’s really important, I think, when you’re certainly entering the workplace, that desire to learn more things and add more strings to your ball as you go, because you don’t always know what you’re after as soon as you walk into it.
[00:58:49.310] – Speaker 2
Yeah, for sure.
[00:58:50.730] – Speaker 1
So I’ve blown way over the time limit and realise that you might even be able to for another meeting. I apologise for that, but I’ve got a couple of wrap up questions that I ask everyone. So, other than listening to this wonderful podcast, where else do you go for your information to stay on top of the marketing industry? Are you a book reader? Are you a blog reader? Are you a podcast listener? Do you do all of those? What would you recommend?
[00:59:12.710] – Speaker 2
I would say LinkedIn is probably my biggest resource. I’ve learned the most of LinkedIn. I’d say Twitter is quite a good one, but I kind of really have this thing between work life balance that is part of the reason why I live in Barcelona. I saw what London was. I understood that you kind of give up your life and soul if you’re trying to make a career in London. And it was just not something I wanted to be a part of. And insane, they appreciate work life balance. So I try things that I use for fun. So I do use Twitter on a more personal basis and I try not to get too involved on a professional basis, but that’s why I like LinkedIn, because LinkedIn is really like my professional dashboard. So I’d say definitely that in certain communities, the marketing meet up, I think is a gem. Like, a real gem. When I was really doing lots of webinars, I was just so impressed by the engagement that they get in those webinars and in those workshops and the people that come on and the conversations that happen and networking that happens behind the scenes.
[01:00:26.670] – Speaker 2
I think that part is great, given that I’m from an event background. I love to preach an event. I think events are really valuable because I also think, given that we are in a very digital world, I’m not great at actually absorbing information from a computer, like reading something on my laptop. I don’t absorb as much of the information as I would if I’m actually having a conversation with someone. And I would love to say books, but honestly, I don’t even have enough time to personally read. I’ve got a really impressive bookshelf with lots of really lovely books that are.
[01:01:05.770] – Speaker 1
Just the ones to impress anyone who comes down the apartment. I’ve just look at all these books that I’ve never read.
[01:01:11.740] – Speaker 2
Yeah, exactly. I think those are kind of like my main resources, I would say.
[01:01:17.110] – Speaker 1
Cool. No good result. I did the marketing meetup in Manchester, presented there. Really good events, really well put together. I like that. So my last question, then, before I let you go and get back to your day, what one question do you usually get asked on podcasts that I haven’t asked you today?
[01:01:37.090] – Speaker 2
You know what? You’re the first pass. I’ve come on too, so, yeah, I’m usually on the other side, so I don’t know if I have an actual answer to that question. Is that disappointing?
[01:01:52.920] – Speaker 1
Hugely so. Hugely so. That’s all right, it doesn’t matter. You’re going now, so you don’t have to worry about it. You’ve ruined my day. Thank you very much. Noemie, thank you for your time. It’s been brilliant. Your details of LinkedIn are in the show notes. If anybody wants to contact and get in touch, please do. But thank you very much for your time.
[01:02:09.420] – Speaker 2
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Great.