Claire Lewis

Claire Lewis – Bringing a marketing strategy to life

We delved into the creative world that is marketing through the eyes of Claire Lewis, Marketing Director. Claire talks openly about the resources and tactics she deploys to bring a marketing strategy to life and why she feels it’s better to make a decision and learn from your mistakes than let fear hold you back.

What do you believe are the most important factors in building a successful team?

In essence it starts with a good balance of skills and knowledge but ultimately is about the team dynamic. You can have the best mix of skills and expertise but the team have to gel to really succeed. A team is much more than the sum of its parts.

You might think you’ve found on paper what you believe to be the perfect candidate but if the person doesn’t fit the company’s culture or current team dynamics, no matter how good their skills are, they won’t be able to thrive or add value. It’s a balancing act finding the right skills, knowledge and characteristics.

Once you have found the right people it’s about providing the right environment for them to succeed.

Investing time and effort into someone’s induction is important. Provide a clear direction in terms of expectations, take them through the strategy and integrate them into the team. Allow natural bonds and friendships to form so that when times are tough, the team pull together and support one another.

How do you elevate a team to the next level and ensure you achieve your strategy?

Empowerment, encouragement and trust. It’s easy to say but many of us find it hard to do. I hope I provide my team with a clear vision and ambitious but realistic goals. Then it’s up to us as a team to work out how we achieve these. From here it’s about keeping the team on track and when the team feel the fear of change supporting them, believing in them and recognising the small wins as well as the big ones.

What advice would you give to a business looking to take the next step in its marketing growth plans?

With so many pressures one of the most difficult things to do is to do is to find the time to take a step back, breathe and gain perspective. The marketing environment is incredibly dynamic and fast paced by nature so it’s easy to get caught in a reactive cycle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however to ensure a balance, you need to use the core periods around your planning cycle to take that step back, get out of the office and find time to think, predict and plan.

Bring the team into the process and ask yourselves: Where have we come from? Where is the market going? Where are we trying to get to? How will we get there? Map key milestones to work towards.

If you’re looking for a quick fix to a big problem you’re likely to be disappointed. Most strategies such as changing your brand position or target audience take a long time to realise. Review quarterly, if you check your progress any sooner you’ll end up panicking and possibly undoing all your hard work. Don’t underestimate the part courage plays in your team’s success.

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake because the only thing that you can be sure of is if you do nothing, you’ll learn nothing.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing the creative work in-house or via agencies?

From a personal point of view, my ultimate aim is to keep as many functions in-house as possible. However this isn’t always possible or practical.

There are areas when an agency is essential, for example purchasing media. An agency will have greater buying power and ability to negotiate deals than an SMB.

How do you choose an agency to suit your business?

Make sure they have proven experience with brands, markets and industry sectors relevant to your own organisation. Crucially, their culture and ethos needs to complement yours so that you can both challenge and critique without misunderstanding or bad feeling.

Choosing an agency is essentially no different from recruiting a new team member. It is easy to forget that, like any employee they need investment, other than the financial one. It is all too easy to expect them to perform because you’ve paid them a fee but we know that doesn’t work for individuals so why would it be any different for an agency? There needs to be respect, trust and a sense of “we’re in this together”.

One final but important note, make sure you meet your account team before committing. The team who have won your business might not be the team who will manage it post pitch so check before you sign.

For a company ready to recruit its first marketing post, what are the key skills they should look for?

For any business moving forward online marketing is key. You’re already on the back foot if you don’t have someone in the business who knows paid search. Of course, you can outsource to an agency and there are some great ones out there but no agency will understand your business and products like your team do so investing in that skill and experience for me is essential. There’s so much more to search than having someone who can go into a tool and bid. It requires a deeper understanding of marketing and buying behaviour. They need to get the most from keywords and ad creative, be able to analyse performance and understand the relationship between first visit and winning visit. If you can find someone who can bring all these elements together you should keep hold of them as they will prove to be an absolute treasure.

“Strip everything back and you’re left with your strongest asset, your team. Talent, passion, and courage are an unbeatable recipe.”

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