Marketing leadership

Ian Ewart, Head of Products, Services & Marketing at Coutts, discusses what marketing needs to do for a company to change and grow.

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Highlights from the interview:

Marketing as the agent of change

The primary role of marketing in our organization is as an agent of change, which means as an agent of delivery. If marketing is not driving the change agenda, then either the agenda is wrong or the marketing is not effective. What do I mean by that? I mean that marketing ought to be working to the agenda of things that are important to the organization, whether it's the organization's credo or the prioritization that's taking place. Marketing should be driving that agenda and making sure that it gets delivered.

A lot of that will involve internal communication, which means helping people understand what needs to happen. I think it's become clear to increasing numbers of managers that, on most projects, there is no silver bullet. You need to deploy a range of skills and a range of communication and engagement opportunities. Because of this, marketing is ideally placed to help the organization evolve.

Leveraging data to drive the growth agenda

Probably the most satisfying aspect of the chief marketing officer's role is the agenda that you own, which is all about growth. That growth agenda gives you permission to do all sorts of interesting projects. It enables you to take the brand into different areas, such as product development and targeting new segments of clients. That research and development aspect of any chief marketing officer's role is something that should give them immense satisfaction, because it's taking them to what comes next.

Data and having the relevant metrics for your industry are absolutely key to understanding this. I don't think KPIs should be set for three or five years at a time; the world moves too fast for that. You need to be constantly reassessing, and asking, “What is important to me? What is important to my clients?” You need to be making sure that you have better data than your competitors. Once you've got the better data, you need the better insight and then you need to be better at operationalizing that, and taking action on the back of those data. I see far too many examples of data that don't go anywhere and just sit there and that's just a cost.

Making change happen

When I look at my own career and experience, my number one tip would be to work in an integrated way. There are no prizes for trying to do it on your own and you need to bring your colleagues along with you. The best way to do that is through communication.

The second tip is the old mantra of communicate, communicate, communicate. You can never do enough of that. So tell people what you're going to do, then do it, then tell them what you've done. This is fairly simple, common knowledge, but is not necessarily common practice. There's much more engagement required.

The third tip is not to underestimate the passive-resistance agenda that exists within individuals. It may be important for people at the top of the organization, but is it really that important and urgent for everybody else? You're competing with all their own priorities and you can never underestimate the need to make sure that the investment throughout the organization is thorough.

Transforming data into action

We live in privileged times and we get tons of data. Not all of those data are really management information, though, so we have to be rigorous with the way we examine the data. This means that we need to purpose the data and ask some key questions. “What is it we want to achieve? What is it that we're working on?” I think of it in three buckets. So I have a team that looks at new segments, new business opportunities, and new product development. I have another team that looks at existing clients and levels of client satisfaction, and does some of the things I would almost characterise as defining the service relationship. That's all about fulfilment.

Then a third team works closely with my finance partners to actually understand issues of margin protection. Understanding profitability would be the best way of characterizing that. Short-cycle test and learn is what shows you whether this is an interesting insight, or whether you're actually seeing the beginning of a trend.

If you can identify the trends early then that's really insightful intelligence because if you're identifying the trend before your competitors are, you can act on it. But if you do nothing with the insight, if it just sits in your drawer or on your shelf, it was never really insight.

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