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 fail than let fear hold you back.

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

Skills and experience are key to fulfilling current and future business needs. If you’re recruiting someone new, it’s worth picturing an ideal skill set and using this to create a job description. Then, take a step back and evaluate which of these skills are essential right now and which can be taught over time.

You might think you’ve found on paper what you believe to a perfect fit but the great thing about marketing is its subjectivity. If the person doesn’t fit with 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.

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

Refer back to the most successful team you’ve worked in and the manager who led that team to draw inspiration from. Marketing is such a creative environment that you need to mix it up or it can get a bit stale.

You can never spend too much time on someone’s induction. Invest time providing clear direction, take them through the strategy and integrate them into the team. Encourage team social activities to allow those natural bonds and friendships to form so that when times are tough, the team will pull together.

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

A typical SMB might cover online and offline marketing, internal communications, brand and presales website. With so much to focus on, the most difficult thing to do that’s also key is to take a step back, breathe and regain perspective. The marketing environment and pace are incredibly dynamic by nature with things changing all the time. It’s easy to get stuck into a cycle of ‘we’ve got to keep doing something’ but you’re in danger of always being very reactive. To balance this out, you need to use the core periods around your planning cycle to take that step away, get out of the office and find time to think.

Bring the team into the thinking process in an offsite meeting to address: Where have we come from? Where are we trying to get to? How will we get there? Where is the market going? Map key milestones to work towards and celebrate successes so far. It’s easy to keep moving forward but you need to congratulate yourselves for a job well done.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, you’re likely to be disappointed. Most strategies like changing your brand position or target audience take a long time and if you look for progress more frequently than quarterly you’ll end up panicking yourself. Make a decision and stick with it. You need to be patient and strict with yourself. Keep to the milestones, have courage in your convictions. Don’t underestimate the part courage plays alongside focus.

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

From a personal point of view, the ultimate aim should be to keep as many functions in-house as possible. This includes paid search and analysis, print planning and generally retaining control over what you do and how you do it. The exception to this is purchasing media space where an agency will have greater buying power and ability to negotiate deals.

The simple truth is that no agency will adore your company as much as the people in your business. Agencies can produce effective, efficient solutions but they’ll never be passionate if they’re not dedicated to your brand.

Of course, doing the work in-house relies on being able to recruit the right talent. For an SMB that’s well located, there’s definitely the opportunity to grow a well-resourced team helping to build cost efficiencies.  Utilising the knowledge of trusted media partners though like Google and Hitwise can build experience within the team and offer valuable insight.

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 but not so specific that they will come in with pre-conceived ideas. Crucially, your culture and ethos need to complement theirs to a degree where challenge and critique are comfortable and productive.

Fasthosts culture is passionate and ambitious.  Unattainable high standards that derive from a desire to be the best make us our own harshest critics. For an aggressive agency to come in heavy handed with their opinions would be damaging and counterproductive. More suited is an agency who can offer sound advice, talk us through their ideas with clear rational and identify opportunities to drive the business forward. There is a diverse agency culture to choose from but doing your research doesn’t mean you’re home and dry. The agency much like the organisation is only as successful as the people within it so if you’re not assigned an effective account team, they won’t be able to deliver the results.

Strip everything back and you’re left with your strongest asset, your people. If they’re passionate and have the right support, it’s an unbeatable recipe.

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 would never hurt. There’s so much more to paid search than having someone who can go into a tool and bid. It requires a deeper understanding of marketing, wider business impact and people behaviour. They need to get the most from key words and the tracking of them, understand first term and winning term searches and possess great budgeting skills. 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.

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