Read time: 15 minutes
Read time: 15 minutes
In this episode, we talk about some of the challenges marketing teams faced going into lockdown: new business models, value proportions that were adapted, and how businesses have to pivot to meet customers’ new needs. We also touch on topics like togetherness, budgets, and tips and tricks for running virtual events.
We are joined by three most talented and experienced marketing executives from three different industries and three different regions – Julija Noskova, VP Marketing at Softchoice, Fraser McNaughton, Chief Marketing Officer at Grant Thornton, and Richard Parker, MD and Chief Marketing Officer at EMEA and APAC at State Street Bank.
Listen to the podcast for the conversation with leaders from across the world to discuss the forces, opportunities, and challenges that are shaping the future of sales and marketing.
Lee Hackett: 00:00:07 Hi everyone. Welcome to the B2B Game Changers podcast. I’m your host Lee Hackett. B2B Game Changers is the result of my hunger to help all companies of shapes and sizes unlock the value in their business. This podcast is my attempt to synthesize what I have learned in the process of working with some of the most successful companies and individuals in the world. We’ll be featuring leaders from across the world to discuss the forces, opportunities, and challenges that are shaping the future of sales and marketing.
Lee Hackett: 00:00:39 My guests this week are Julija Noskova, VP of Marketing at Softchoice. Softchoice is one of the largest IT solutions in North America, a really fast-growing business. I’ve known Julija for a while, she’s a marketeer who’s really passionate about innovation, really understanding the new opportunities to sell in digital so I’m really excited about what she’s going to bring to this episode.
So, my second guest is Richard Parker, MD and institutional Head of Marketing for EMEA and APAC at State Street Bank. State Street Bank need no introduction, one of the oldest banks in the world, and Richard is a seasoned professional in really connecting the business requirements and the business goals to marketing to achieve that growth.
My third and final guest is Fraser McNaughton. Fraser is the Chief Marketing Officer at Grant Thornton, one of the largest professional service firms in the world. Fraser’s chief marketing officer in Australia and he really brings business development and modern marketing together and is someone who really does understand how those two things need to work in sync to get a great result.
So, the purpose of this episode was I thought it’d be really interesting, and it certainly turned out that way, to explore some tough topics with three of probably the most talented and experienced marketing executives that I know globally and to do this in three different industries, three different regions, and to talk about the future of marketing and talk about topics such as the challenges that have recently faced marketing with COVID and other challenges and how they’ve deal with that with their teams, how they’ve operated the different ways of operating. We touched on things like togetherness and can that be kept post the crisis which is really interesting and something I am particularly passionate about.
We also talked about really practical things like what’s working and what’s not. Julija touches on virtual events and what Softchoice is doing in North America, we even talked about budgets. So, I think this is going to be an episode that adds a tonne of value if you’re in marketing or sales. If you’re in one of these industries, you’re going to find this really interesting and, as always, you know, really detailed show notes. And we’re going to also create a short guide, summarizing the kind of tips and tricks that these super talented individuals come across on the podcast.
So, enjoy, and make sure you use that content and hopefully it provides a lot of value.
Lee Hackett: 00:03:50 So as per my style, I think to go forward, you have to go a little bit backwards, and certainly when I was talking to you all at the beginning of this year about 2020, I don’t think COVID was in the priority list for any of us. So, I thought an interesting topic to start with was when COVID happened … And I think Julija, you and I, I was actually with you quite early on in the crisis. I think I left Toronto to come back to London. I think it was about a week before lock-down. But what were the challenges that your teams faced going into lock-down from a marketing perspective, because each of your businesses would operate differently? But what were the kind of challenges that you faced?
Julija Noskova: 00:04:34 Yeah, you’re right, you just reminded me. I forgot that you were there just a week before. It was in March and we were discussing what was happening in the UK.
I think the first one, the problem for us was, or the challenge was how do we even keep everybody connected? I have a large marketing team, and at first, it’s like, how are we going to be working remotely? I think as everybody else, right? But luckily, we were able to figure it out pretty quickly, because we are in technology sector and that’s what we do for our clients.
And I’d say that the most important and the biggest challenge for us was really pivoting everything, pivoting our entire marketing, our entire strategy in a matter of two, three weeks. And just getting into the completely different way of marketing, completely different way of reaching out to our customers, and enabling sales. So that was the biggest challenge for us.
Lee Hackett: 00:05:25 Yeah. No, definitely. I don’t think when we were having dinner in Toronto, I definitely don’t think it was going to turn out like it did, but there you go. Richard, yourself? What were your challenges and what were the challenges that you faced, because obviously you’ve got a team right across EMEA, yeah?
Richard Parker: 00:05:38 Yeah no, I’ve got a team across EMEA and APAC. It was a challenge first of all for the team to adapt to working remotely. The London team is very close and it’s a very interactive team, we’re normally very hands on, on a day to day basis. And also, with our sales partners as well, so that was kind of a big change that we had to make.
But then I think secondly, it was really almost turning off the marketing programs that we had in market. Because it was a crisis like no other, because it was a humanitarian crisis, it was inappropriate to be doing some of the marketing activity that we were doing. And we almost had to switch to become a communications team, overnight, to inform our clients and prospects of what we were thinking about the market, how things were going to pan out, the impact on their investments, as a kind of a first order priority. So, it was going back to basics of making sure that we’re handholding the client base and continuing to build that trust. So, it was a complete 180 for the team, and that was almost overnight to do that.
Lee Hackett: 00:06:46 No absolutely. I think that’s an interesting topic I want to explore more on, in terms of how the themes and content and tactics, either went dark or changed. But Fraser, thanks for joining us from Sydney. So, what was your outlook there?
Fraser McNaughton: 00:07:00 Probably much the same to Richard’s, to be honest. That day, I’ll never forget because it happened to fall on the day of my 10-year anniversary with my wife. We were down in Tasmania for celebrations and then all of a sudden, boom, I was on the phone for 14 hours, trying to work out what we were going to do. And we as a company moved really quickly to get our people safe, first, and make a decision in closing offices.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:07:01 And then very similar to Richard, it was away from doing what we were doing in terms of trying to win new business. It was more about, okay, client experience, client first, how do we help our clients navigate the complexities of the information that’s coming in right now? And taking away probably some of the stresses and strains that they were feeling, and how do they cut through and get to the information that matters most. And honestly, for the first six, seven, eight weeks, that’s all we were doing. We were taking government announcements and simplifying them for the benefit of our clients.
Lee Hackett: 00:07:53 Absolutely. One of the things that I’m interested in was … Julija, I know you’ve got a very big team and I think that the majority of those are located on one site or certainly one campus in Toronto. Richard, I know your team’s spread, and Fraser, I know your teams predominately in Australia. What were operations like? Because that shift from particularly creative teams operating in a particular way, all being in the same room, a process of putting campaigns or content together, was that more difficult or was it kind of easier, because of everyone kind of had to do it? Everyone knew we had to get this right, we need to deliver the content, it needs to be good. What was the operations like, and the challenges that come with that?
Richard Parker: 00:08:38 From my perspective, for the actual team, it was actually relatively straightforward, because I’ve got a relatively thin team that’s kind of spread globally. So, we’re used to having a lot of contact on the phone, less so video conference, but certainly on the phone. So that was easier. I think the biggest impact was having our business partners working remotely as well. So, we’re very much used to working with local stakeholders and understanding intrinsically what they want from us, but all of a sudden, they disappeared. And so, changing that relationship and making sure that the teams stayed connected to those stakeholders and other business leaders, both in sales and in our business, and investments, was key.
Richard Parker: 00:09:29 And that was difficult as well, because they were being crushed by the client side, in terms of incoming inquiries, incoming inquiries, whereas we were kind of always hassling them from our side saying, “What do you want? What do you need? What do you need?” So, for them to find the time to then interact with us to give us enough intelligence to then go away and do something in the early couple of weeks was challenging.
Richard Parker: 00:09:54 Over time, it sounds like a little bit like Fraser, we got a process in place where we effectively had a weekly webinar for our whole client base, and a weekly communications cycle that kind of overcame that to a certain extent.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:10:11 Well, I wouldn’t say it was standing out. Again, I knew that our team would react the way they reacted, and the way they reacted was it was all hands-on deck. There was no panic. It was as if a crisis infused them, quite frankly, which I think, quite frankly, marketing teams, BD teams around the world perform better in times of pressure and crisis. And absolutely no doubt, for the majority of us, will never work through a crisis like this again.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:10:35 And what really got me from a professional services point of view was how quickly our partners on, if you like, the client facing side of the business, reacted to work in tandem with us. Normally, that can be struggle. Normally, we are pushing as a marketing team to make things happen. But all through this period, just how together we, as a marketing team, BD team, and our partners, have worked seamlessly for the benefit of our clients, it’s actually been really inspiring.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:11:06 And the trick is for us now is how do we maintain that momentum as we trickle into what will become, dare I say it, a horrible phrase, the new normal? But the momentum is the piece for leaders, I reckon is the challenge going forward.
Lee Hackett: 00:11:19 Yeah. No definitely. Do you think that attitude, that kind of togetherness, because that definitely resonates with me, do you think that can be maintained? Because from a human aspect, what I noticed, even in our own business and talking to you guys and other customers, there’s lots to be learned here. But that togetherness, and everyone kind of dropped the ego, let’s keep on topic in terms of the sales and marketing things that go on. Do you think once we do get back to a new normal and all the kind of pressures of life, and recessions, and all of these kind of kick in, do you think those things will come back? Or do you think there’s a possibility we can maintain some of that goodness that we got?
Julija Noskova: 00:12:01 I certainly hope that we maintain that. I think we had a very similar experience to Fraser’s, where the sales and marketing really got very quickly much better aligned, quicker coming together. And I think it was all about what are we doing for the customers? It wasn’t about selling, it was about helping, and what do we have in our kitbag. Luckily, we’re in the area of technology where this was very necessary to help people set up remote work. And there was a lot of opportunity to help.
Julija Noskova: 00:12:38 And so then there wasn’t what is sales doing, what is marketing doing, it was what are we doing together. So, I certainly hope that that is going to stay, at least it helped break some barriers between sales and marketing. And I think going into the future, I hope the future is coming soon without the crisis and COVID-19, but I think that’s going to only help unite sales and marketing.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:13:05 Crazy! I couldn’t agree more. I think probably the question I would ask in reverse Lee, would be, if for some reason we see it going back the way, why is that happening, quite frankly, from where we’ve got to? Our clients are now demanding a different kind of approach. I’m getting asked on a daily basis, I need to pick up the phone to a client or a prospect, how do I do that in the new virtual environment? What do I talk to them about? And this is where the power of marketing and having those insights and the data become really to the fore, because in the virtual environment, people have less time. They don’t have time for a coffee, catch up, or just a chat. They want to engage with you on something that’s genuinely meaningful.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:13:45 And what we’re talking about here is true client experience. Something that I think companies in the past have pandered to, it’s been a phrase, it’s been something they feel they’ve had to do to tick a box, now we’re talking in real life now about what true client experience means. And true client experience means that you’ll engage with clients and with prospects on things that interest them at the right time. And to do that, you need the technology, you need the insights and the data, to tell you when that is the right time, and what other things you should be speaking about. That’s client experience.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:14:17 And I’m really hoping that for us who get that, it’s easy enough. But for the rest of the business that take a longer time to get there, and that’s fair enough, but we’ve got to get there quicker for the benefit of clients, because there’s companies out there that do it really well, and they’ll steal a march. And unless you’re there or you’re not.
Lee Hackett: 00:14:35 I think Julija, you said it, and we’re all kind of articulating it in different ways. I know Richard, you, the shift was how do we help now. I think for me, marketing is about helping our customers get the jobs done that they need to get done, so helping them be better. That’s what marketing is, or certainly should be, and COVID kind of focused that.
Lee Hackett: 00:15:02 Even the content that I absorb, whether it’d be from you guys or other businesses, I could see the change. I could see it being from actually just talking about us and what we’re doing well, and what the product is, and how good it is, actually to how can we help you. And I really, really hope that sticks, I have my doubts if I’m honest, but I really, really hope that does stick. Richard, your thoughts?
Richard Parker: 00:15:30 Yeah, I’m totally on side with that. I think traditionally, in my industry, with B2B financial products, it’s very much being a relationship sell. And like Fraser was saying, it’s we’ll meet for a coffee, we’ll meet for a chat, we’ll go to physical events and conferences and get together and have a beer, and then talk about what your needs are. And to a certain extent, although marketing facilitates a lot of that, marketing’s kind of frozen out a little bit from that discussion over what the real needs are.
Richard Parker: 00:16:08 Now, it’s a different environment and it’s virtual, and you’ve got to pick up the phone and have a conversation. It’s a bit more challenging. It is, what are you going to say? What are those client concerns that you’re going to connect on to complete that client experience? And they need something, they need that bit of content. They need that facilitated either, by a webinar or digitally. So, I think some of that has changed for the better.
Richard Parker: 00:16:36 I’m with you in terms of whether it will last for the medium to long term. I think elements of it will, and I think it’s incumbent on us, over the next three to six months to make sure that we kind of institutionalize that as much as possible, and also get the metrics in place to actually prove how successful it can be, in terms of working in this way, rather than sliding back into the relationship sale, and events being almost the most important part of the mix, which it was, in my industry. I’m kind of blessed at the moment that they’re gone, in actual fact, because we can move on and focus on other parts of the mix and prove their value to sales and sell that too.
Julija Noskova: 00:17:26 My question would be, or more of a statement I guess, is that this is a huge compelling event that united everybody. Because in our industry, Lee, you were saying that there is a lot of like here’s what we do, and here’s what we can help you with, we’re always looking for a compelling event. And in normal world, everybody is at different stages of their maturity, different stages of what they need, different stages of technology implementations, and so it’s always hard to find that one compelling event.
Julija Noskova: 00:18:03 And I think with COVID, it’s easier to find that compelling event, everybody is in the same state of mind. And so, that’s why I think you see that a lot of the content that is coming out from us, or from anybody, is really focused on helping people with the immediate need, because we all know what the immediate need is.
Julija Noskova: 00:18:25 And so, I’m thinking ahead and how we keep that going, in terms of always being in that state of thinking ahead and being relevant to the customer. And is that going to be harder when this one major compelling event is gone? I think it will be. But through all of our tactics, whether it’s events or other tactics, we need to keep that in mind. And it’s up to us, as Richard is saying, that I think it’s going to be harder.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:18:56 Julija, it’s really interesting, because this is something we’re grappling with as well in Australia. The compelling event was COVID. I’m lucky to live in a country that seems to have handled it incredibly well, compared to other countries in the world. We had 104 deaths, total, and it’s tragic, but at the same time when you look elsewhere, especially the country I come from, which is a small country and there’s 5000 deaths, our country has handled it really well.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:19:22 And what we’re finding is, what we were initially doing was what we call crisis communications, how we’re helping clients through a crisis. And you mentioned the word pivot before, which you’re hearing more and more, which is an interesting word, because it’s marketing very quickly or pivoting to something else. And Australia, we’re pivoting away from COVID, to pivot to recession and how we’ll be dealing with the recession that we now find ourselves in, which is very different.
Fraser McNaught.on: 00:19:50 It’s a result of COVID, but it’s a very different set of needs, it’s a very different conversation. And at that point, now we’re thinking about, okay, well yeah, the client’s first, the prospect’s first, what are they suffering from, what are their issues? But at the same time, how do we align our offerings with what they need? So, it’s not a hard sell, but it’s actually providing value through conversations. And that’s a pivot.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:20:15 We’ll be going through this period, and then it’s beyond recession, because hopefully the recession in Australia is not going to last long, so what does that mean? And then we’re pivoting yet again. Normally, I’d like to think professional services marketing, we have longer periods of time to do different campaigns. We’re now working on something that can change in an absolute heartbeat over the coming days, and weeks, and months.
Julija Noskova: 00:20:38 Yeah, we had over the course of what, since March, three months, a number of different campaigns coming out, because we designed this model, kind of a four-phase model that thinks about business continuity, stability, efficiency, and then recovery. And this is what everybody, all organizations are going through, what you were talking about, right? So, at first it were how do I just stabilize my business? How do I ensure the continuity of my operations?
Julija Noskova: 00:21:07 Then everybody started to think, okay, recession is coming, I need to save money, and how do we take costs out of business? And now everybody is talking about well, getting back to normal, but normal is no longer the normal, right? It’s the next normal that everybody needs to design and build for themselves. And it’s accelerating the digital transformation that organizations have been going through. I think we all noticed how if you digitized your business then this is where you really, you would survive, and many organizations aren’t surviving, unfortunately.
Julija Noskova: 00:21:41 And so for all of that, we had to launch different content, different sales enablement, different campaigns, different communication. And so, to your point, it’s like it’s literally every second week, pivoting and trying to deliver that relevancy to the market.
Lee Hackett: 00:21:58 Do you think in terms of the way, a possible strategy to adopt, to cover that off? Because we’ve had COVID, we’ve also had the diversity issues, Black Lives Matter, and all these quite difficult topics to handle and communicate on. And I want to touch on internal comms as well in a second. But the importance of having a narrative, an arc to that approach in terms of content, because it kind of comes back to the priorities are, this month, we have to do this number, so let’s actually just get after that particular campaign, where we could try as marketeers in terms of just lay out that journey for the customer, lay out that narrative for the customer, and it’s a way of trying to cope with those compelling events as we go through, so it’s a consistent approach. Any thoughts on that, Julija?
Julija Noskova: 00:22:53 Well, from the customer journey perspective, like I was saying, we were thinking with COVID, what are the most compelling and pressing needs of organizations, literally in the moment. Like, what are they going to be now? And what are they going to be in the next three months? And it’s hard from the executional perspective to be maintaining that constant relevancy, I would say, because we’re operating across the US and Canada, and we have 600 salespeople across the organization, and 300 of which are actually on the phone. And now people buy differently. Now, everybody’s on the phone and on video, and so, catering to the entire customer journey, I’d say it’s still a challenge.
Julija Noskova: 00:23:43 And so, for us, thinking around the different phases that different organizations are in, I think now it’s sort of like personas. It’s how, from the marketing perspective, you think, okay, who are the personas you’re selling, what are they worried about, and then the different industries, the different segments you’re selling, what they’re worried about. I think it’s kind of all blended right now.
Julija Noskova: 00:24:05 There is a bit more of a mass marketing for us than very, very targeted marketing, because we feel that everybody’s feeling the same pain. And really lining up those phases and trying to understand, and helping sales understand where their customers are, whether they’re trying to find ways still to be stabilizing their operations, or saving money, or they’re continuing on digital path and digital transformation, and helping them really bring the right content, the right tools, the right conversations to the forefront.
Lee Hackett: 00:24:39 Definitely. Having that joined up approach from what marketing are talking about in terms of your comms, but also then what the sales team or what the sales narrative is, which is for me also massively important. But Fraser, Richard, any comments on that?
Richard Parker: 00:24:53 Post the crisis period, I think it’s interesting that all three industries have done almost a similar thing. There was a crisis period that was all about communication and maintaining that trust. And then, trying to think about what’s the process you now go through to almost get back on the horse and start talking about what’s next. So we’ve had a good focus on what’s next in after the market draw-down, so where should investors be looking, and some core themes.
Richard Parker: 00:25:25 But I also think that we’ve had huge interest in things where the world doesn’t stop. And by that, I mean when there’s regulatory changes forcing our client’s hand in something. There’s some regulatory change in the US around pensions, and that was hugely engaging for our clients, because although COVID happened, that piece of legislation being implemented didn’t stop. So, there was still a need to go out and engage clients on that. And that’s happening as well in Europe now around climate and climate investing, and some of the regulatory change there.
Richard Parker: 00:26:02 So it’s almost as if the crisis, it’s still ongoing, but people are almost going back to that normal day job and saying, “Actually, what’s impacting us from a regulatory perspective, from an investment’s perspective? Where’s our return profile?” And so, it’s that slightly awkward business as usual, but obviously it’s not usual by any stretch of the imagination.
Richard Parker: 00:26:28 So I think that’s one of the things we’re coming to grips with. And as you get deeper and deeper into the crisis, and I think we had this in finance with the global financial crisis, that the crisis itself becomes the normality and its ongoing. And who knows how long this is going to run for, or the recession is going to run for post-COVID?
Fraser McNaughton: 00:26:49 The challenge for me, you were talking about internal comms and that balance of content that is focused on crisis to what you offer and that can support clients, but also what companies stand for. And we’re in a period, in my opinion, it’s incredible, quite frankly. We’re seeing Black Lives Matter; we’re seeing other people who feel aggrieved about certain opinions that they have come to the fore. People have very strong opinions and certain companies, not my industry thankfully, but other industries are having to react to that by changing the names of their products, for example.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:27:23 But we all have to be really cognizant of it, and working out when you’ve got thin marketing teams, and thin budgets, what is it that you invest in during these periods. Are you investing in bringing dollars through the door? Are you investing and making sure your brand is seen in the right way? Are you invested in making sure your people feel proud of your brand? It’s a challenge and it’s going to be a bigger challenge for organizations over the next 24, 36, five years, 10 years’ time. That’s just bigger, because budgets aren’t going to go up, that’s quite clear. It’s finding the balance. And I think for me, as a marketing leader, that’s something that is well in my mind at the moment, about how you strike that balance, and I don’t have the answer.
Lee Hackett: 00:28:03 We’re definitely going to come onto budgets, because that’s definitely one we should talk about. And I think interested to talk it around tactics, which I think … And what I want to know from you guys is what’s working, I’m sure it’s all virtual, and what’s working in your business, and the people who listen to this podcast, what can they learn from that. So, the internal comms piece; Richard, Julija, any thoughts on that, in terms of how you handled it and how you’re going to handle it going forward?
Julija Noskova: 00:28:29 Yeah, so from the internal communication’s perspective, we are in crisis mode, and my team also introduced internal comms and it was a completely different beast. And its sort of a jump in right away into maintaining, continuing to maintain our culture and employee engagement in a very different way, when everybody is working remotely. And it’s an organization of, again, expanding across the US and Canada, and now, we’re in such unprecedented times, right? It’s COVID, but also the social crisis.
Julija Noskova: 00:29:06 And so, we did many different things really from the get-go around how we encourage open and transparent communications. So, we typically run the monthly Orange Nation Life, we call them, where it’s executives and other people around our organization share what’s happening. And so, we made those communications more frequent. So the Orange Nation Life has continued to introduce the Orange Nation Connect ran by different teams on a weekly basis.
Julija Noskova: 00:29:41 We introduced different social events that would be happening during the day, and then also at night, because one of the considerations that we had was that it’s hard for people to operate at home. Like, I have two kids at home, and it’s always, the struggle is that hey, it’s difficult to work during the day with all the other things happening at home. But the reality is that a lot of people live alone, and in the lock-down, they have nothing to do at home, at night. So we introduced virtual comedy shows, and virtual talent shows, and virtual wine tasting and other things to support the employees through this hard time.
Julija Noskova: 00:30:25 And because at Softchoice for us, organizational culture is so important. It is important for everybody, all organizations, but for us it’s we take care of each other and we take care of our employees first. Those are our values, and so thinking about how we can do it more effectively was super important for us, for sure.
Lee Hackett: 00:30:49 Definitely, and I’ve seen some of those things as well. So I’ve seen some of those things from your virtual talent shows and stuff like that, it was fantastic.
Julija Noskova: 00:30:57 Yeah, I didn’t know. I didn’t know that all those people had all the talent. Even on my team we did … It’s amazing actually what you learn, because of the frequency of communication, you see what people can do now. You learn so much more on a personal level.
Lee Hackett: 00:31:14 Did I not tell you that at the end of this podcast that’s what we’re going to do.
Julija Noskova: 00:31:16 Okay.
Lee Hackett: 00:31:21 Richard, sorry?
Richard Parker: 00:31:22 Building on that, I don’t have direct responsibility for any internal communications, but I think it really gave the opportunity for companies to just connect in a different way with their employees, because normally internal communications can tend to be a little bit dry around org announcements, and business strategy, and all of that stuff, which is still kind of vital. But I think, using that pivot word again, we kind of pivoted to from an internal comms perspective, and it was very much about the welfare of the employee and how they were getting on, and making sure that they were talking to their manager, taking time out of their day, acknowledging the challenges of having children at home, et cetera, et cetera.
Richard Parker: 00:32:06 So it was much more of a caring internal comms message that came through. And I think it was also a great leveller to see some of our executives just wearing open neck tops and just in their studies, et cetera, et cetera, with the dog in the background, that they’re real people, normal people. So that’s all I’d say about internal comms. I think it really did break down some barriers.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:32:34 Ironically, Richard, I’ve just had to turn my camera off there as a sleepy four-year-old wandered into my room for a cuddle and wondering why I was shouting. So, isn’t that just an example of the new world that we’re in?
Lee Hackett: 00:32:49 Isn’t it funny how that is acceptable now, where it just wasn’t before? No matter what country, no matter what region, nationality, whatever, cultural, that kind of etiquette was just … Everyone was, if you were doing a call and you were at home, you were kind of really cognizant of who was around, right? And for me, that’s definitely one of the things we need to keep. That needs to stick because it’s just a sensible approach, and just a more relaxed approach to what is a very difficult situation.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:33:21 Lee, it was only a year ago, maybe 18 months, that we were witnessing the video on BBC of the guy getting interviewed and the son, the wife pulling out, and that’s because he felt it wasn’t appropriate. And I think that just shows you in such a short period of time that you know what? That’s just the way it is now. I’m now doing meetings every day with bobs on legs, dogs on legs. It’s a new world.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:33:46 And you know what? It’s not affecting output. In fact, I thought I’ve never seen output as good, quite frankly, as what we’re getting. I’m seeing it’s more creative, I think people are safer. I think the big one that I’m hearing, because Sydney’s horrific to get in and out of work because we live in a harbour, the fact that people don’t have to commute to get to work is actually adding to the output that we’re getting. So, for me, it’s just a wonderful thing in many ways through a pretty dire situation.
Julija Noskova: 00:34:14 It brings people closer together. I think one of the positive outcomes of this is that we are closer as a team and just working in these conditions. Well, we always use video, so we were constantly operating in a face-to-face environment. But just with kids and family, or having walking meetings, or the meetings on the back yard, and just being more people and human, right? So, it’s a different type of connection. I think that people learn different sides of each other, which just makes it better.
Lee Hackett: 00:34:56 Completely agree. Definitely want to talk about tactics, and as I said earlier, I think they’re going to be virtual. Although, funny story, I was with a … Well, two funny stories which lead into this. But one, I was with a CRO, talking to a CRO yesterday, chief revenue officer, and he’s already planning, or they’re already planning to get back to face-to-face meetings, as soon as possible, to get their business rolling again, is how he articulated it to me. But I want to tie the conversation around tactics around budget, because it’s very, very relevant.
Lee Hackett: 00:35:23 And again, I was on a call with about 50 CEOs. I was invited on; I won’t say what it was. And we did a poll, and this is about a month ago, and the poll was, your 2020 targets … I think the question was, are you going to reduce your budgets forecast for the year? So, what your plan was. And I think it was 100%, no. The sales are the sales. We’ve got to hit our numbers no matter what. And then the second question was are you going to reduce budgets? Yes.
Lee Hackett: 00:35:50 So you kind of got this situation where it’s 50% of the budget but 100% of the return. And in regard to it, in your own business, obviously nothing specific, but how is the business looking at budgets, how are looking at budgets? How is that changing the tactics that you deploy? And my second question to add to that, what are the tactics that you’re finding really successful? And that could just be from engagement, like we talked about. I’m not really talking about return on investment, or deals, or whatever that might be. But what’s working? Julija?
Julija Noskova: 00:36:24 Well, you are certainly right. So, the sales quotas, the sales budget is not going down for us, 100%. The marketing budget, we haven’t seen a huge decrease, but yes, we’re looking at some reduction, or operating with smaller budgets. But of course, the expectations are the same, so what do we do?
Julija Noskova: 00:36:48 First of all, everybody, I think we all operate now in the digital environment. There isn’t anything face-to-face happening. And Richard, you were mentioning the reliance on face-to-face events. We are also very much of an events-driven marketing, and we ran in the past, 80 to 100 events a year across Canada and the US, and of different types, whether they were the strategy type of events, or boot camps, or all kinds of different events. And of course, we also did webinars as parallel tactic, and now we had to virtualize everything.
Julija Noskova: 00:37:28 So we introduced now a Rapid Response Series, which we were running, was two webinars a week, and over the past so many weeks, of course we had over 20 or 30 webinars, which we had over a 1000 people, or sorry, 1000s of people attending actually. And then one big success that we had, was with our virtual discovery series, which was sort of a conference. It’s a day-long event that we put together with our partners. And it was the same type of experience that you would go into a full day conference, which with expositions, your vendor booths, your keynotes, workshops, and put together an event like that. And we saw 2000 people registering for it, 50% actually attending, people spending on average, two, two and a half hours in that conference. And so, a ton of engagement.
Julija Noskova: 00:38:32 And I find that when it’s topical and now people are looking for answers to their most pressing problems and challenges, then we see a lot of that digital and virtual type of execution is really working. It’s working for us.
Lee Hackett: 00:38:50 Definitely. Richard?
Richard Parker: 00:38:52 Yeah, so I think for us, I think the sales targets have remained the same. The marketing budgets, we had an initial bit of a period of stress where we thought they were going to be reduced. So, we were being very cautious early on, in terms of what we were spending. But in actual fact, the reduction in marketing budgets has really been quite minimal. And I think that’s largely offset by the fact that we’re no longer doing physical events, which tend to be a lot more expensive anyway. So, there’s a bit of a buffer there.
Richard Parker: 00:39:39 In terms of the tactics that we’re using, early on as a communication’s method, we were using email and webinars. And webinars were successful early on, and I think that was because people were absolutely hungry for information, but also lock-downed themselves, so you had a bit more of a static audience. As we’ve noticed over the past few weeks, where things have been a little bit more normalized and people can leave their house and they’re probably not so much focused on the crisis, then we’ve found webinars is a tough tactic, because I think the marketplace is really oversubscribed. I mean, if you consider there’s upwards of 50 asset managers in Europe, all trying to reach the same clients. You can pick any one day and there’s quite a few webinars planned, at any moment in time.
Richard Parker: 00:40:31 So we’ve really changed to working with our media partners, to using third party promotion, so using solace emails with media partners, content placement with media partners. We’re doing a lot of our own email, we still find that that’s the best way to reach an audience, as long as you’ve got the right content behind that. And we’re using social, we’re using LinkedIn as our primary social media outlet.
Richard Parker: 00:41:18 So it’s almost forced us to, like I said earlier, move away from the physical events and conferences and do more on the digital side. And of course, there’s more measuring in that, so it suits us down to a T, that we’re able to do that.
Lee Hackett: 00:41:26 Fraser?
Fraser McNaughton: 00:41:28 Tactically, it’s been a massive hallelujah, quite frankly. For years, we’ve been trying to push our company in a very different way, and it’s been a struggle to try and get them to see the value. And a fair point is we’re trying to get people to take the leap of faith. But all of a sudden, we’ve obviously gone from physical events to virtual events, because we had to, and amazingly how easy, our people, our partners have embraced that.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:41:54 And to Julija’s point, we’ve gone from an average attended event of about 60 to 70, to a webinar of 1000, overnight. I mean, its mind blowing, and the confidence building it gives, not just for our team, but for the business as a whole when they see that, and they see the reaction that it gets from people is quite incredible.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:42:11 And I have to say, our decision to invest in digital when we did … Thank the Lord, quite frankly … ahead of this sort of crisis, because when data’s pushing out NQLs every day, and you’re taking that to the business, it’s justifying the value that we bring as a team. Well, when it’s gold you don’t have to convince anyone. And I do worry for companies that haven’t invested yet and are trying to get that story over right now. That’s going to be a difficult one.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:42:41 From a budget perspective, and very much aligned, Lee, nothing’s changed at the moment, but we’re very practical here, as we don’t know what’s coming, quite frankly. We’re hanging in there at the moment. We expect there’ll be a deep dive in revenue across Australia in the last quarter of this calendar year, that’s the expectation. How quick the recovery means, well, there’s different views on that, and that will dictate what happens to our budget.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:43:09 But I’m really confident, no matter what happens that the value that our business has from our team, and the need to ensure that we’re still communicating with our clients, we’re still providing insights to prospects, and we’re right behind the business to help them grow, I’m very hopeful and very confident that our own budgets will remain pretty much intact going forward.
Lee Hackett: 00:43:33 Completely agree with you, digitization and having the infrastructure in place, you can see that already. And businesses that do have that or did have that infrastructure have been able to maintain. I think completely agree. I think on the virtual events, one of the things I’m interested in is … And Julija, if it’s okay, I’ll put the link in the show notes to your full day virtual event, because I know I’ve seen some images of that. And everyone listening to the podcast should go and take a look at that. I think it’s phenomenal.
Lee Hackett: 00:44:00 I think the question I have; do we see that sticking? Is that going to stick, because there’s a lot of time and effort to get that up running? And it would be great, I think from a business perspective for us all, if it does. Or do we see maybe a hybrid model? Because I think some of the events that I’ve seem being organized for 2021, let’s keep the virtual because we can grow the numbers, but we’ll also plan to have an element of it shift back to face-to-face. What do you predict the trend to be there?
Julija Noskova: 00:44:33 I would say that the hybrid model is probably going to be the model going forward. People are getting also tired out of just doing everything virtual. Similarly, you’ve probably seen some articles of how just video communications, people are tiring out of that. So, I think there is that need, always need for personal connection. But definitely, digitizing marketing, and Fraser I’m completely with you, I think now it’s actually the time to show the value of digital and digitizing everything, whether it’s your events, or whether or it’s just really investing more in other digital tactics, is the way to go.
Julija Noskova: 00:45:20 The way that we’ve seen too, is that I think content and execution goes, of course hand in hand together. And what we’ve seen is that a huge surge in content consumption with the proper content strategy, as we’ve put out a number of different blogs to support all of our events and topics that we’re talking about. We see people are reading a lot more, going to our website a lot more. So digital really works, but I think in terms of the events going into 2021, or later in the year of 2021, we’ll probably end up with a hybrid model.
Lee Hackett: 00:46:00 Fraser? Richard?
Fraser McNaughton: 00:46:02 I’d say hybrid for sure, and for all the reasons that Julija’s just given. I would also add, I think it’ll be different by industry to an extent. But we’ll go back to physical face-to-face events. But I doubt we’ll ever go back to large scale events. I think we will absolutely go down to boardroom style events, where we are delivering insights, we’re introducing prospects to clients that can share experiences, how they’re dealing with risks and opportunities.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:46:31 I think clients now are looking for that kind of value and insight and they’re expecting it from our advisors. So I’m not so sure mass works for professional services firms and a lot of B2B firms going forward, I’m not sure. But I certainly think those smaller, tailored, bespoke content events are definitely going to be on the table. So, breakfasts, small lunches, something that they can do in their day, without taking time away, is probably the way forward for us, for sure.
Richard Parker: 00:47:01 I think from our perspective it will definitely be hybrid. I think one of the challenges that we’ve seen with webinars and so forth, and those larger events, is it tends to still be broadcast. And as what Fraser was saying, that’s not necessarily what our clients are looking for. What they like about the physical events is that it’s more of a two-way interaction, even if that’s just in the breakout sessions, or during a coffee break.
Richard Parker: 00:47:31 So we’re actually trying, in the autumn, to actually do more smaller virtual round table events, where you’ve got kind of upwards of 10 or so clients. We’re looking to see how easy it is to foster that kind of feeling online. I can see if that works, we’ll certainly do that, because we have a lot of our subject matter experts have to travel from the States or from the Far East to speak to our clients. So, there’s kind of a cost efficiency on that as well.
Richard Parker: 00:48:11 And I don’t think it’s going to be a couple of years until people are really traveling the way they did pre-COVID. I think that’s one thing that’s going to change, so connecting subject matter experts to your clients, is something we just need to bear in mind.
Lee Hackett: 00:48:28 Yeah. No definitely. I think also that hybrid model, that face-to-face being smaller, but also, that face-to-face event can also being much more digital as well, in terms of interactive, and I think that’s a tremendous opportunity.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:48:43 I think this is also where you’ve got to know your client. I think this is where the CX component comes real to the fore as well. I will speak from our experience. Our typical client is a CFO, and they might feel that larger events go against the grain of their personalities, as it does for accountants in our business who don’t naturally take to networking, for example. So larger events don’t fit, so why do we keep doing them? Whereas technical, insight led, this is just changing in tax legislation, well, actually, that’s something that they would tune into, if we did it on a webinar that they could also tune into any time of the day to catch up.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:49:27 This is now where I think marketing teams have to, again we’re going to use this word pivot, and be really, really clever about what is the message they’re trying to get across, and what’s the best vertical to get it across and put more thought into, actually, should this be digital or should this be face-to-face? And if it is face-to-face, what does that look like?
Fraser McNaughton: 00:49:48 So this is the opportunity to change everything, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not the ideal position, but I also feel it’s a position that was coming down the track anyway in maybe five years’ time, that all of a sudden has landed on our door, five years earlier than we expected. And we’re here, and then we have to adapt.
Richard Parker: 00:50:07 Acceleration is the key word, we touched on it earlier, in that people have been forced into this situation. So, a lot of our similar client base to Fraser, in terms of CIOs, they’re not natural extroverts, perhaps. But now everyone’s almost been forced into this virtual environment and speaking on a video conference and meeting new people on video conferences. Now, that seems the normal, and that’s what we’ve got to probably keep close, and just make sure that we don’t slip back into the old physical events, because the whole world is more used to this environment now, and having dogs wandering in, kids wandering in, and being a little bit more personal. So, I think it’s just making sure that we keep on challenging and keep on doing that.
Lee Hackett: 00:51:01 Completely. Now look, I’m conscious of time, so I’m going to kind of just wrap it up a little bit. I’m going to throw you a curve ball in terms of, if there was one recommendation you would give to marketers. And I asked you three guys to come on this podcast and do this for a reason, because I believe your three individuals are at the top of the game, in three different industries, in three different regions globally. So, it’s quite rare. And we probably wouldn’t have done this if COVID was here, so its kind of plays back into that.
Lee Hackett: 00:51:37 But what’s the one recommendation you would give to marketing and your peers? And what’s the one thing you hope sticks, so from a change that’s happened because of this? And what’s the one thing you hope sticks? And that could be from a personal perspective or from the business perspective. Shall I go first, and I’ll give you mine, and that’ll give you guys time to think?
Lee Hackett: 00:52:03 But I think that, from a marketing perspective, the one lesson, the one recommendation I would give would be that to really make that where we come together as a team with sales. And you guys know me, you know I’m passionate about this, is that marketing can’t make an impact without sales. It cannot do it on its own. And if marketing can take that responsibility to let’s say, put their arms around sales and say, “Come on. Let’s really, really now think about the customer. When we kind of get back to normal, let’s stick to what we’ve been doing, because it’s going to work much better.”
Lee Hackett: 00:52:42 And the one thing I hope sticks is what we kind of touched on before, which is from a personal perspective, where we can do this kind of thing and the doors can open, and the kids can run in, and the dogs can jump up, and that sticks. Because I think this is a human crisis, there’s no doubt about it. We’re talking about it from a business perspective, but I think there’s lots of things that have changed, but I think that for me is a really good one.
Julija Noskova: 00:53:08 I like that one, Lee. I would say … I mean, there are so many things that I think we all learned through this, but one thing that’s important is agility, for marketing. We were able to react fast; I think it’s hard. But we, we had to reorganize how we operated, building tiger teams, and just executing rapidly, and thinking about how to make marketing really agile. And I think it’s super critical. So, agility would be my recommendation, finding ways to be agile and finding ways to focus. So, when you have focus, you can be more agile. And then I think that greater connection between sales and marketing will come also, naturally.
Julija Noskova: 00:54:01 And then what would stick? I think I hope that the empathy that marketing brings to the table, Lee. Now, from the empathetic perspective how we develop content, or how we communicate how we respect what people want to see, and how they want to consume content. And also, internally, that empathy, I hope that stays.
Lee Hackett: 00:54:28 Absolutely. Completely agree. Completely agree with that 100%. Fraser, Richard, who wants to go next?
Richard Parker: 00:54:33 I think there’s some real consistent themes here. But really the working relationship with distribution I think, or for sales, for us, is key, and maintaining that. I think the way they need us now, more than ever, is something that we’ve got to capitalize on, and we’ve got to continually prove our value with metrics there, to make sure they understand what we’re doing, and just to solidify that relationship.
Richard Parker: 00:55:10 And then in terms of the other part of the question, I think it’s really accelerating digitalization, so not slipping back to where we are. There will be kind of a hybrid of physical and virtual. But really, we know this is the right path, and we’ve known it’s the right path for a number of years, like Fraser was saying and Julija’s been saying. But actually, this has given us an opportunity to accelerate things, and to test and to learn, and to bring an element of the sales organization along with us. So I think it’s kind of keeping our foot to the floor on that digital acceleration would be the thing that I would really want to keep.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:55:53 You know what I loved about this period is just boldness, not just from my own team, but from other companies that I’m seeing. They’ve just been bold or doing things differently. They’re taking a chance, and I guess there’s a wee bit of try and fail in that as well, and I love that. And I think for many marketing BD teams we kind of lost that along the way, we’ve gone safe. And what a time to be bold and try something different. So, I would just love to see that boldness continue and challenge the norm. The best things come out when people are given the opportunity to do that. So, I’d love to see that continue.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:56:27 What would I not change? The human aspect has been just fantastic, I have to say. I’m someone that travels a lot, as you know, Lee, whether it’s around Australia and occasionally globally, or in the region. The realization now that maybe I don’t need to travel as much and I get to spend a lot more time with my family and my kids is something that I just obviously took for granted and now I don’t, because I’ve spent that much time with them. So, if I’m feeling like that, I can imagine many others are feeling that as well. And finding that work-life balance through this period has been a real gem, quite frankly, and I don’t want to lose that going forward. I think it’s really important.
Lee Hackett: 00:57:11 Completely. I think one of the things I hoped from this podcast would be that we would get some consistent themes, because thinking about marketing, thinking about sales, but we got, again, three different industries, three different regions, all in the same peer group, but really, really, really common themes, right the way through that. And I think that for me is the biggest takeaway and what I hoped we would get, and I would agree with everything you guys have said.
Lee Hackett: 00:57:39 Look, I want to wrap it up by saying thanks, obviously. I’m conscious of the different time zones and Fraser’s got to definitely get to bed. I know that, being in Sydney. But one by one … There’s going to be really detailed show notes. It’s going to be packed full of your details, your job roles, LinkedIn, URLs, the companies you work for, some of the best work that I think you’ve done. Fraser’s got an amazing preference centre. We’re getting a bit a technical here. And some of Richards stuff, and the same. So, I’m going to pack the show notes full of that, because I think that’s the resource that … What I want from these podcasts is for it to be a resource, so you can listen, you can watch, but then you can also take away a lot of information and go and use it. But for the audio and for the video, if people want to reach out to you, how’s the best to contact you? Julija, do you want to go first? What’s the best route?
Julija Noskova: 00:58:30 Yeah, LinkedIn is the best route, for sure. Just send me a request or a message.
Lee Hackett: 00:58:37 Cool. Fraser?
Fraser McNaughton: 00:58:38 Yeah, same, LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter. I tend to use Twitter for my football commentary. So, Fraser McNaughton. So, feel free to watch, if you want to learn more about Glasgow Rangers. But LinkedIn, is generally the easiest way to go.
Richard Parker: 00:58:53 And for me, it would be a bit older school, email is fine for me.
Lee Hackett: 00:58:58 We’ll put it in there. But guys, really appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time. We’ll make sure the show notes get distributed as soon as possible. But really appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
Richard Parker: 00:59:08 Thank you very much.
Julija Noskova: 00:59:09 Thank you very much.
Fraser McNaughton: 00:59:10 Thanks everyone.
Lee Hackett: 00:59:14 You can find all of this information and more on blueprintx.com, where you will find high quality show notes and other great stuff. And you can also sign up for my weekly update on all interesting things I have found that week in sales and marketing. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.
As Vice President of Marketing, Julija Noskova is responsible for Softchoice’s marketing strategy; product, services and partner marketing; demand generation and sales enablement. She also oversees Softchoice’s brand and communications team, which is responsible for all corporate communications, public relations, translation and creative design. With more than 20 years of global solutions and product marketing experience, Julija has a proven track record of driving business results through innovative campaigns and building high-performance teams across a variety of industries. Prior to Softchoice, she led cloud product marketing at TELUS and was responsible for taking to market their award-winning hybrid IT services. She also held a variety of senior leadership roles with SunGard Financial Systems, MTS Allstream and Amdocs. Julija lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.
Fraser McNaughton is the Chief Marketing Officer at Grant Thornton Australia. Based in Sydney he leads a national team of highly experienced and enthusiastic marketing, sales, and communications professionals, together, responsible for defining and delivering Grant Thornton’s go to market vision, strategy and objectives.
Fraser is an experienced and intuitive marketing and sales professional who, as a member of Grant Thornton’s executive team, has a particular passion for improving client interactions as a driver of better client experiences and the foundation to brand loyalty and sustainable revenue growth. He has over 25 years experience and a proven record of achievement in the professional services, financial markets, insurance and digital media industries.
Fraser is also currently acting President at ICON APAC, a network of over 2000 B2B professionals working as marketers, sales leaders, business developers, customer engagement specialists and communicators, from sectors as diverse as accounting, legal, engineering, property and architecture, technology, management and more.
Outside of work Fraser enjoys quality time with his family and prolonging his football career as long as he can.
Richard John Parker
Richard is a Managing Director at State Street Global Advisors, Global Head of Institutional Marketing, and a member of SSGA’s Senior Leadership Team. He is responsible for all strategic and tactical marketing for the Institutional, Defined Contributions and Cash businesses. Major responsibilities include: branding & advertising, communications, content creation & educational marketing, direct marketing, website marketing, public relations, event strategy, and CRM tool maintenance. He joined SSGA in September 2011.
Prior to joining State Street Global Advisors, Richard was Head of Marketing at Man Investments, the world’s leading independent alternative investment manager, based near Zurich, Switzerland. He had direct responsibility for the promotion of Man Investments and associated investment managers at both a corporate and product level. The role involved the development, implementation and regular review of the marketing strategy with both sales and investment management. Richard was a member of Man’s Global Sales & Marketing Committee. Prior to joining Man Investments Richard was a Vice President at Citi where he worked for 3 years in an institutional marketing role. Before joining Citi Richard worked at LeggMason in a client facing and sales capacity.
Richard holds a BSc from Loughborough University, England.
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