Reality check: marketing is the most important part of business, so what now?

Marketing chats with Ansell director of marketing Mitch Mackey, who’s currently undergoing a project of transformation, connecting the dots across the organisation to build a seamless customer experience. The complete ownership of which, he says, belong to the marketing team.

Ask someone who doesn’t work in our industry to describe what marketing does, it’s more than likely they’ll barely scratch the surface. Increasingly so, marketing is blending into the background, becoming invisible, and yet more essential than ever. Marketing has come to own every moment of contact with customers; to whom, more than product or sales, marketing is the business – the only side they’re likely to see, anyway.

Undergoing a project dubbed ‘Transformation of Ourselves’ is Ansell, with marketing director Mitch Mackey at the helm. Mackey’s current mission involves a minor overhaul of the marketing and service front end, getting the marketing automation and content management “really humming” with Marketo and refreshing the ‘distributor partner portal’.

Ansell’s primary business involves the distribution of industry, medical and surgical protective equipment such as gloves and face masks. To many, the Ansell brand is still most well known for its condom business, which it sold in 2017.

Marketing caught up with Mackey earlier in the year at Adobe Symposium in Sydney to learn more about the changing marketing function at Ansell, how Ansell handles data as both a B2B and B2C organisation and shifting tides in marketing leadership in Australia.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Marketing: Is marketing the most important function in the organisation of today?

Mitch Mackey, marketing director at Ansell: Yes, undoubtedly. 

Mitch Mackey 150The most important role hasn’t changed, that’s the chief executive, whoever that is. That person needs to set the tone and provide the leadership and engagement. Typically that role is occupied with keeping the board happy and trying to drive the share price north (if it’s a publicly listed company). 

If the chief executive is not providing genuine leadership – in terms of customer experience management – they may be delivering lip service or talking the talk. The people that have to walk it – the role that needs to step up – is marketing, clearly. 

This may mean marketing is no longer [represented by] the chief marketing officer but the chief customer officer or chief revenue officer instead (because it’s all really about revenue). Perhaps it combines sales, marketing and IT into one team, with those core roles reporting to that one person. Marketing has to claim the mandate to, if not own, then definitely influence the end-to-end customer experience. 

If you’re running, for example, a net promoter, sentiment measurement program and it’s showing that service delivery is a problem or that product quality is a concern, then marketing has to dive in there, marketing has to have visibility and say, ‘hey, we’re doing a great job on the marketing side. We’re promising blue skies – the sales guys are executing, they’re bringing in the business and converting it – but on the delivery side, customer service is screwing up because of inconsistencies and problems with their systems and processes’.

Marketing has to be aware, challenge, lead, provide authority and remind people that we’re here for the customer. 

If we don’t deliver value to the customer, they won’t be prepared to pay for our service – then we’re screwed, we don’t have a business. Increasingly today, as we all know, customers can defect at the drop of a hat. 

Even in B2B you can suffer the death of a thousand cuts. They may not turn you off immediately, but they’ll drift away from you. If [customers] don’t feel a sense of engagement and trust, if they ask sales and customer service the same question and get different answers, if there’s inconsistent information and messaging on the website – before you know it, trust is evaporating and your customers are just treating you as a commodity supplier; suddenly, all they want to talk about is price.

Ansell works in both B2B and B2C. How does that impact the handling of data within the organisation?

Data management for any business – whether it’s B2B, B2C, human-to-human or, as Adobe would say, business-to-everyone – is mission critical. You have to have a commitment from everyone in the business to own and have some accountability for maintaining the accuracy of your data. Understanding how many unique records you have – obviously you don’t want duplicates and triplicates – and that everyone in the business that touches data in your central source of truth, ideally, your one pivotal CRM system. If they’re seeing that there are data problems, they’re then taking ownership and initiative to fix them. They’re seeing that there are actions taken to clean up, to maintain, to ensure there’s consistency in your data, that you have the right level of contacts attached to an account.

If they’re dealing with a major healthcare hospital account, for example, you don’t just have one or two contacts in CRM attached to that account, because that means that’s all you can market to! You only have two names!

Maybe it’s a huge public hospital group with 50 people who influence decision making and buying. That means we need to have those 50 names as contacts in our CRM attached to that account, and that needs to be current – the titles need to be right, the email addresses need to be correct. If there are gaps, if there are missing phone numbers for example, what are we doing about it? Is there a routine set up? Is there a workflow in our CRM to say, ‘hey, of the 50 contacts we have attached to this important account, 25 of them are incomplete’? Can we set up a set up tasks for the sales and customer service people who own that account? Use tools like LinkedIn Navigator to validate the data. What kind of commitment do we have to maintaining the data?

It’s a very big challenge, it requires good leadership and attention to detail – which a lot of marketers are not that good at, me included.

Why do you say that?

Marketing generally attracts people who are interested in the big picture, the blue sky, the vision, the engineering of great brand campaigns. That’s got more to do with creativity, less to do with attention to detail.

You’ve got to get that left and right brain combination happening. Marketing, in the past, has been a lot more art than science – now it’s a mix of both. You can argue whether it’s more science or art now – I think it’s a mix of both. You’ve got to have a great sense of creativity, engineer compelling, differentiated brand propositions and you have to be authentic. You have to be able to match a marketer up with the delivery, the experience. It’s got to be synchronised, there’s no point making inauthentic, overall optimistic promises with your marketing messaging if your delivery is flawed and the experience is sub-optimal.

A great example is the banks. In recent years the banks have spent a fortune on brand campaigns with mainstream creative agencies in Sydney and Melbourne, but they haven’t been delivering, as the Royal Commission highlighted. There’s a massive disconnect. 

You come to conferences like [Adobe Symposium] and see these senior marketers from major banks stand up and say, ‘we’re doing all these great things, and we have these major campaigns, it’s all wonderful’. NAB is a good example – Andrew Thorburn, the disgraced chief executive – it’s semi-criminal behaviour, appalling. Nothing to do with the values [NAB] was espousing publicly or in its brand campaigns. A total disconnect with KPIs based on a ‘we have to squeeze the lemon’ attitude.

‘We’re demanding significant growth targets from all of our branches, and all these branch workers have to sell more, more often, to as many people as possible regardless of whether they need it or not or can afford it or not’. That disconnect is problematic, and it’s left the banks, in particular, open to all these fintechs that are jumping up. They all see it as a massive trust issue. If some of these smarter, leaner, more agile, more trusting, more open, more transparent financial services – businesses starting almost from scratch but with smart tech – can get their act together, they could really take a big chunk out of the traditional bank business, which has been dominated by the big four for too long.

Related: How the royal banking commission and diminished trust is putting the squeeze on marketing budgets »

Atm four

You mentioned earlier this balance between science and art in marketing. To be a thriving marketer today, you have to have a base level of data skills, programmatic auctioning skills, creative competencies – how is a marketing leader meant to hire someone with the all those capabilities out of the box? What should they be looking for in the marketing talent pool of today?

The analogy I like is: you have to be the conductor of the orchestra. It doesn’t mean you have to know how to play all the instruments, but you do have to know what the instruments do and how to get them in sync. [Marketers] have to provide that leadership for the orchestra and acknowledge that if your players are committed or engaged, you’re not going to make beautiful music. You’re going to make a racket and nobody is going to be happy.

You do need to have that conductor mentality and you do need to understand what it means to get an orchestra working together – what that means in terms of leadership and what it means in terms of getting people into a positive flow – where they’re not getting stressed and freaked out, but they’re not getting bored and disengaged either.

When hiring, you’re looking for smarts, solution-orientated, positive people. You’re also looking for specialists, for example, someone who can drive a marketing automation application, who has a commitment to learn, to the deep knowledge that’s necessary to really drive a Marketo tool properly. If you don’t have that, it’s just an expensive email blasting solution, you might as well go for a solution like MailChimp.

Don’t buy Salesforce unless you’re fully committed to leveraging that Salesforce platform – if you’re not, go buy an open-source Sugar CRM solution, and you’ll save yourself a lot of money. You won’t get anywhere near the business value out of it, but you won’t be spending a lot of money for functionality you don’t use. You need to be able to recruit specialists on the marketing side that can operate at the intersection of business and technology – business technology that is, not IT people.

Maybe you can retrain people, and you need to provide the stimulation and challenge for them, because otherwise they leave. They get bored, they get approached and seduced by other businesses. They need to have the confidence to make mistakes and fail, but not to make the same mistake twice – okay maybe twice, but three times is a problem. Keep learning, keep moving forward.

The author of the article attended Adobe Symposium in June 2019 as a guest of Adobe.

Further Reading:

Image credit:Austin Distel

Josh Loh
BY Josh Loh ON 20 September 2019
Josh Loh is assistant editor at MarketingMag.com.au