Marketers are at the forefront of growth, innovation and creativity in our companies. With this comes great responsibility: to be the loudspeaker for the customer and inspire colleagues to go the extra mile to serve and delight customers.
To achieve this, there are a few golden rules that have certainly helped to guide me.
Start from the ‘inside out’…
Particularly in the service businesses, it is vital that everyone is pulling in the same direction and is clear on what "great" looks like. That’s why I truly believe in the importance of building marketing campaigns from the "inside out".
You need to engage your staff first and make sure they have fully bought into your objectives and plans. After all, if it doesn’t excite and inspire your own people, how can you expect it to excite anyone else?
From our staff’s commitment to upskilling and training around online safety with our NSPCC partnership to their support for the England rugby team throughout O2’s sponsorship, I’ve been blown away by how our people’s skills and commitment come to the fore when they’re passionate about what we’re trying to achieve.
…by engaging, not selling
Something I was told years ago when I was at Diageo has always stuck with me: "It’s not enough to be right, you’ve got to bring people with you as well."
This comes down to the difference between selling and engaging. Selling means taking your idea to key stakeholders, telling them about it and then ticking them off your list. Engaging means bringing the idea to stakeholders, getting their input and building on it to create shared ownership of that idea.
There is a quote from author Sarah MacLean that summarises this for me perfectly, "The best partnerships aren’t dependent on a mere common goal but on a shared path of equality, desire and no small amount of passion."
Make marketing more accessible
In our mission to engage, jargon is often our worst enemy. Strip out the lingo and talk in language everyone can understand: from the boardroom to the stockroom to the checkout. Marketing shouldn’t be a foreign language.
Connected doesn’t mean interested
It’s no secret that we’re a smartphone nation, hooked on our devices like never before. But, as marketers, we face new challenges – starting with gaining customers’ attention.
Yes, consumers are more connected than ever and that enables us to reach them in more ways. But it means our competitors have that access too. Before consumers have even made it to work, they’ve been bombarded by hundreds of messages across different touchpoints, making it harder to ensure that messages are actually heard.
To make an impact, we have to start asking how we can play a broader role that customers actively choose to engage with.
Focus on people, and the products will take care of themselves
It has always been my belief that, to build brand advocacy, we have to focus less on marketing products or services, and more on customers’ needs. And in what might seem a counter-intuitive statement coming from the marketing director of a tech company, to build a genuine relationship with customers you can’t rely on digital interactions alone.
A face-to-face interaction can be just as powerful. The human touch is still hard to replace. I recently heard about an appointment that one of our gurus – our free in-store advisors – had with a customer to top up his mobile dongle.
What began as simple technical assistance culminated in the guru helping the man contact his family in Zimbabwe. He hadn’t been able to get in touch with them for 18 years. With just a smartphone, a dongle and the right support, we helped that customer cross a 7,500-mile divide.
Be a positive force for change
For me, leadership has always been about capturing the hearts and minds of people with a clear vision and giving them the confidence to take risks and achieve that vision.
Bold marketing leadership is no different. It is about setting the big targets and playing to win; finding the killer insights to unlock growth; rallying the entire organisation behind what may seem like a scary proposition; and empowering your team and agencies to deliver it.
You can’t achieve this without giving off a positive energy.
Nina Bibby is chief marketing officer at O2. She was previously at Barclaycard, where she oversaw innovations such as Bespoke Offers. Before that, Bibby was senior vicepresident of global brand management at InterContinental Hotels Group.