What’s It Like To Be A Part-Time Marketing Director?
Big ideas, early wins and staff support; what else do our part-time marketing directors need to make a difference to businesses – and how does a typical day in the office look?
Peter Neve, technology marketing specialist
Peter says “diplomacy is a big part of my role. We get involved with companies and have to tell those around us what we really think, and get others to recognise the issues being faced without shooting ourselves in the foot.”
To make his relationships with businesses work, Peter has to choose the order in which he tackles issues carefully. He has to build credibility so that he can prove that a part-time marketing director is worth having on board, and can be trusted to identify and deliver the right changes at senior level.
“People expect marketing to go in and say ‘oh, we need to rebrand you’,” Peter says, “but to me that isn’t often the case. HPD Software needed to build up their lead generation and pipeline by totally redesigning their sales process and website. I waited a year before I mentioned a rebrand; when I did suggest it I got instant thanks. If I’d have gone in on day one I’d never have got that sort of buy-in. Those around me would have asked ‘why on earth should we spend the money doing it?’. After a year, HPD were so confident about the strategy we were pursuing together that the team were happy to accept it.”
Not all businesses share this attitude, though. In one case, Peter spent two months with a business, and realised that “although we knew what the problems were, the solutions I proposed weren’t accepted and I ended up writing lots of reports rather than implementing anything. Sales were declining but the team still didn’t want to bite the bullet and make changes. In the end we mutually agreed that it wasn’t getting anywhere, which was a shame. It was a fantastic business, a profitable business, but it didn’t have the guts to do things differently.”
These days, he knows that the key to long term success is an early, concrete achievement. “I’ve just started at MBA. I realised we didn’t have customer testimonials or logos on any of our marketing material, so in the first week we set up an incentive scheme to start collecting testimonials and logo-use approval so we could start to improve credibility. The managing director thought that was brilliant and said “why haven’t we done this before?” If you get something like that done in the first week, then you’ve kicked off something that’s got some life to it and people start to see the benefits very quickly.”
Carolyn Graham, marketing comms expert
For Carolyn, being a part-time marketing director demands clinical organisation. “I keep a separate notebook for each business, that way I can be on-top of everything for all my businesses at any time. My teams know which day of the week I’ll be working with them – they know that I’ll check my emails and speak to them on other days of the week, but broadly speaking I make sure I get to the stage each week where I can say ‘I’m happy to park that for a week now’. It all comes down to using my time as efficiently as possible.”
Part of this, says Carolyn, is making sure that she’s doing the right kind of work. “It’s better that you’re doing more higher-level thinking and planning. Sometimes I’m sitting there and writing an email on someone’s behalf, and that’s fine – but if I can involve a colleague, I can be passing on my skills and experience at the same time. I do prefer to sit in a business’ offices when I’m working, too: you get so much from just being there and seeing the business operating around you. It’s like osmosis – information going through and into you – which I wouldn’t get if I was sitting at home working remotely.”
Carolyn’s efficiency is improved further by access to a community of peers. “I’ve worked with businesses in the past that I’ve independently consulted to – it’s fine but you’re very isolated; it’s just you. The great thing with The Marketing Centre is that we really are part of a bigger group, a support network – you’re not just one person in there with the entire burden and pressure on your shoulders. I’m always chatting to my regional director or the other marketing directors, asking for recommendations or bouncing ideas off them as third parties. Whatever the issue is, there’s someone who’s done it before, who has experience of what you’re trying to do that can point you in the right direction.”
Nicola Webb, professional services specialist
Like Carolyn,Nicola focuses on making the most of her time. Without an in-house marketing exec or junior to move projects along in their absence, a part-time marketing director can end up spending six to eight days strategizing, she says. When a director is only present for one day each week, six to eight weeks can lapse before these plans are executed.
Despite their diversity, Nicola believes the businesses she works in ultimately have similar needs. They need to establish how they can grow and devise a plan; they need to set up CRM systems that give them useful feedback; and they often need to redesign websites and sales portals based on feedback. For the most part, Nicola says, businesses need to meet these needs with in-house staff. She offers a new perspective and can direct strategy – but, like Peter, she knows it’s all about how to help them to make change a reality.
“A lot of small companies, particularly owner-managed businesses, lose sight of the wood for the trees,” Nicola explains. “I’m just sitting them down and going back to basics. In one business I had to overcome a lot of resistance to doing customer satisfaction interviews, because the owner only had six customers who knew him well. I said ‘I guarantee I’ll find you one new piece of work and I may save one client relationship’, and that’s exactly what happened. “One client wanted to break into a new type of e-commerce and didn’t know we provided the necessary software. After making them aware of our other services, we got the new commission. Another didn’t get along with his account manager at our business. He did, however, like working with another colleague who’d handled his account previously. We swapped his account to the named account manager, and it saved the customer relationship, plus £150,000 of lost turnover, and a new piece of business worth £80,000. We were a £1.5 million turnover company, so that was important. It’s fantastic making a difference.”
If you’re interested in how our other directors work, read more about our team here.