Episode 83: What makes a great marketing leader?
- 12 October 2023
How to bring the best out of your marketing team
This podcast will:
- Reveal how to empower your team to bring new insights to your company
- Identify the styles of leadership concomitant with business success
- Demonstrate the dangers of micromanagement and strongarm leadership
Sophie Peterson 00:03
Welcome to the CIM Marketing Podcast. The contents and views expressed by individuals in the CIM Marketing Podcast are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the companies they work for. We hope you enjoy the episode.
Ben Walker 00:19
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the CIM Marketing Podcast, the second of our new season as summer morphs into autumn and to mark the changing seasons, we have a great guest with us today. Mr. Jasper Martens, who is Chief Marketing Officer at Pension Bee, and he's gonna be grappling with a really interesting topic is what makes a great marketing leader. How are you Jasper?
Jasper Martens 00:44
Doing very well thanks Ben.
Ben Walker 00:46
Leadership is is an interesting one, I congratulate you on taking this on. Because it's a bit of a sort of amorphous concept at times, isn't it leadership and being a leader? What do we mean? Do you think when we talk about leadership, when we talk about be a great marketing leader? Is it someone who just heads up a department like yourself? Or is it something else?
Jasper Martens 01:06
But that would be the lazy route wouldn't it? Just be at the top of some sort of like a reporting line three or whatever. Fortunately, in my opinion, that means something completely different. Yes, you might be a line manager of somebody. But actually, the reality is, in order to achieve a great thing in marketing, you've got to work with great people. So on one hand, you've got the ambition or a mission from the company you work for, especially if you are brand side. But then on the other side, you work with a great group of people you've hopefully hired, got to know start working with, and they've got ambitions and growth trajectories, too. So for me, it's always been how do you bring those two together? So something that aligns to the goals of the company that the company tried to achieve? And what do the people that work for you are trying to achieve to if you can align them by working with them, inspiring them, empowering them can then automatically you will lead the company and the team into the right direction. So that's how I would look at it.
Ben Walker 02:13
That's an interesting way of looking at it. Because what you're talking about is a leadership as an enabler, you're aligning the wants of your people with the wants of the firm, you're empowering people to do stuff, and then they will go ahead and do it. It's not that, I suppose in the sort of military concept of a leader is the is the guy or the lady at the front? Who has a whole bunch of people following them doing what they tell them to do. Your analysis of it, your paradigm of leadership is something rather different, isn't it?
Jasper Martens 02:41
To give you an example, with regards to a Pension Bee is, of course, we have to set goals, we have to set targets. Where do we want to be as a company at the end of 2024? That's a discussion we're going to have with the team next week in our marketing off site. The goals are there we can we can talk with the team in terms of how many customers we want to acquire how much a way we want to have, do we want to increase the AUA per customer? Do we want their customers to move more pension books per account to offer to us, therefore selling us the main provider of choice, so you can present them with particular goals, but the company ideally would like to achieve, don't enforce them actually then ask for feedback, like do you think this is realistic? How can we achieve those, and people will - and again, if you empower people, and they feel that they can actually come back with, I think we should do it this way, or generally believe we run it this way, it could go this way that people feel like they're included, they're empowered to actually start making some bold decisions in the product, or in the marketing mix, or in anything they do. That, for me feels like a great starting point. Because on the other side, if you do it much more on the military bases, we've got to get to that point at the end of 2024 no matter what I think you probably will, you know, the wheels might come off the waggon I think in the process, if it's unrealistic, or it's just doesn't make any sense. So me it's always been, yes, you set some goals. And I will I will work with our management team in terms of what those goals are, and then present them to the team and say, Could we do this? And if so how? Then you get that feedback. And that's for me feels like a much more natural way. And that's how we've always done as at Pension Bee.
Ben Walker 04:37
There's a military phrase about boots on the ground, isn't there? You know, it's a sort of numbers game of how much power manpower or woman power you've got on the ground and the field of battle or wherever but you're actually doing something rather different. You're tapping in to the resources of your team tapping into their brains getting their insight and convening and collating all of those insights, so they become insights for the company,
Jasper Martens 04:59
But I'm not hiring boots, I'm hiring brains. Yeah, that's the whole point. That's the points we're paying people to think. I would like that my boss would hire me to think. Right. So it's about how would you do it? Challenge them. That's what makes marketing jobs and financial services also, like actually really exciting because you can't just be on autopilot and just execute. Even as junior roles we do ask people to use their brains and think, and guess what turns out to be people are much happier as a result probably will stick around for longer than the machine in that sense will be much more or much more running like clockwork.
Ben Walker 05:40
Now, it's interesting, the audience can't see this because we're an audio product. But Jasper is sitting here with a beaming smile on his face thinking about how the leadership paradigm works at Pension Bee. You're obviously a leader there, you're one of the one of the leaders there. But you're looking for other leaders, presumably in your business and looking to develop other leaders even is that possible is that something that you can do or is a leadership something is born with that sort of inherent in human beings, some are leaders and some aren't, is.
Jasper Martens 06:12
I believe it's a mixed mixture of both, I think there is unique, there needs to be something some people are just naturally, much better in understanding, working with others to achieve a particular goal and work collaboratively and support them than others. And that's okay, too. Not everybody should have to be a leader. Like if we had a planet full of managers or leaders, that was pretty quite concerning. But you also should not be doing and think, oh, naturally, he or she is a great leader. Here's a team, good luck, it needs to come with some training, for sure. And it also needs to be embedded in the right culture sets. So at Pension B, we work with a couple of core company values, such as innovation, love, and honesty, simplicity, etc. And explaining them in a particular way. So making sure that people fit in that culture, give them some training, every manager eventually, for example, will be in a manager training, and also will have buddies and mentors helping them. So I've been a mentor of some new managers in the company too in the past. And I have also had help from others in the company in terms of helping me to become a better a better leader in that sense. But I do think there is something around some people are just much more naturally prone to helping well, being a leader and helping others to achieve their goals.
Ben Walker 07:39
It's interesting, because you've sort of paused it probably subconsciously, I don't know, maybe deliberately into three groups, people who are who are great for want of a better word executive doers, they're not necessarily leaders necessarily want to be leaders, leaders of the second group, you also mentioned a third group managers, leadership and management often gets lumped together doesn't is one Yeah. Is it one thing? Are they two separate things?
Jasper Martens 08:03
I do actually make that mistake. Thanks for calling me out. Ben. I do. You can you don't have to be a manager to be a leader? For sure. But I do think, you know, ultimately, when you manage a team and in my case, at Pension Bee, I do manage a team of fantastic marketeers, the managing that for me, it's more kind of like the the clockwork elements, where it's reporting lines, annual reviews, etc. But a leader is going much more further than that, and much more around how can I help you to achieve your goals? And yeah, I wouldn't say that's necessarily the same.
Ben Walker 08:45
It's interesting, isn't it? So since leaders have to do some management, usually not always. And most managers will probably have to do some leadership, usually, but not always. But the two disciplines are quite different in what the demand of marketers, what's some of the best examples you've seen of leadership in your career.
Jasper Martens 09:05
I've seen quite a lot of bad examples, but I've seen also fortunately, some really great examples. And in my previous role, there have been some people throughout my career, especially when I came to London, I started as an as a sales executive in 2009. Digital Marketing, I had some digital marketing roles before I moved from Amsterdam to London. And I that's the first time I actually end up in a slightly bigger organisation was still kind of startup scale up type of way, but it was sizeable team. And the then chief marketing officer, Aleister Douglas, who is now the CEO of Totally Money quite liked, because he always asked the question, what would you do? How do you think you could achieve this looking at the channel you own or the project you own, so I felt exactly like he enabled me to be more successful than the role I was doing? So that That's a really good starting point. He wasn't a micromanager as well. This is somebody who wants to kind of like, tell me exactly what to do and how to do it. And then if he did it, then you get like, Oh, let me just do it because I can do it better it is he was very much hands off and an enabler for me to be successful.
Ben Walker 10:17
If leadership is about being first and foremost, an enabler and empowerer of people. Micromanagement actually militates against that, doesn't it? What you're doing is you're telling people in detail exactly what they need to do. You're not enabling, you're not empowering. This guy's there's a model of the opposite that he's what he's doing is empowering and enabling. He's not micromanaging. So there's an interesting lesson there for marketers,
Jasper Martens 10:40
I'd love to be being led by Alistair at the time. And I know many in the team did. I'd say the phrase people leave managers, not companies think it's a good one, because most people will leave a micromanager. Yeah, most people don't leave an inspired leader. If you see in a team, a lot of people leaving there all the time. Wow, don't place bets. But I would say that is probably due to micromanagement that, for me was a good learning point. The other leader that I respect and admire was the then CEO of Simply Business, which is Jason Stockwords. Not all of the things you always agree with. But one of the things that I really liked about what he was doing there is that he again, He enables people to learn, and to be their best self at the time. That was, for example, during the first television ads campaign. I've never done that before. I was a digital marketeer, I actually went as I progressed in my career above the line, so I started to explore TV, out of home and some other channels.
Ben Walker 11:51
Did you find it daunting when you made that move, right? And he helped you find it less daunting, presumably?
Jasper Martens 11:57
yes, he had a marketing background. And therefore he was able to support me. And I also made mistakes. And he allowed me to make small enough mistakes to learn from it so that the project was derailed. I quite like that. So somebody who enables you to learn something to be successful. So I would say those two people at the time were quite special people. And I would say my, my current manager, actually, of my current leader, our CEO of Pension Bee, Romi Savova, is one of those people that leads the company by doing exactly that. Like I've learned so much in my journey at Pension Bee, from the moment I joined them, when there were only five people in the room. And now a company with over 200 people public company, and every step along the way, leading by example, has been quite inspiring. So I think those are three people, I'd say great leaders for me that I actually personally know.
Ben Walker 12:52
So the three leaders you've cited, obviously, all have slightly different styles. And there are many styles of leadership, some of them are very easy to define a very obvious of the worldview of the leader, some are more subtle. What sort of styles of leadership have you encountered in your career? And how do you think they have changed or have had to change? Over the years?
Jasper Martens 13:13
I've worked with leaders that were very top down. So I would say, you know, dictatorial leadership was maybe the wrong word. But you probably know what I mean, you like almost like army style. So I think that's disappearing. Yeah, absolutely disappearing. And I think the enabler, it's, it's a leadership style, that I it's just the one that has always been there. But I think it's only becoming even more important. Now, one of the reasons that I think that's happening is we've have COVID. And people who rely on their team to be in an office so they can look at them as like, this is my team. And they are working really hard. And that's the kind of like, I'm the manager, and they work really hard. They find themselves a little bit exposed during COVID. Because they were all working from home. And if you are an enabler, and you work with your team, you care about your team. So this is the other thing. There's a quite a lot of there used to be that used to be a shift. I remember, in working in the city that you didn't talk about your personal life, you didn't talk about your career and everything about your personal life, etc, etc. That was separate from the work. I think that's kind of like disappearing because as a leader, you do care about the people that work for you, that work with you. And therefore that that allows you for them to be more successful. So I think there's been quite a shift, and COVID made it only more exposed that people who were still in that old mindsets. Well what was actually the added value, if they were just dictum, dictatorial, kind of like looking looking at their team and their structures, but actually, if you keep working with people and you enable them, you can do that. In an office, we can also do that when they're remote.
Ben Walker 15:03
That's interesting. So we've sort of gone through sort of three phases aren't the marketing, one we was it was mostly not entirely office based, but mostly office based pre COVID. We obviously went through a couple of years where it was no office, we weren't allowed to come into offices for, for the past 18 months to two years. And we've now gone back in genreally, most agencies, most marketing departments have gone back into sort of hybrid model, there were people in two or three days a week, but what you're saying is that in that period, when we were all having to work from home, and indeed, the latter period, where hybrid has become the main model, the enabling style of leadership has come to the fore, because if you're an enabler, if you're an empower, you don't need to be physically sat next to people in a room in order to lead them. Whereas the old style, let's not call it the dictator, but I know what you're getting out, let's call it a strong leader. He or she preferred to have what they considered perhaps to be their rank and file around them. But this is the era you're saying, if the enabler.
Jasper Martens 16:11
Yeah, also, Ben if you are asking people to come back to the office for like four or five days a week, you are not an enabler, you're very old fashioned leader, because you have to rely on presenting them like people needing to be in the office. If you are an enabler, you actually care about the people that are your team that you work with. And guess what happens if you care about them, then you understand that some of them have stairs, you start with a young family, they've got two young children they've got they need to pick up children from school from nursery. Others will thrive when they have at least two days a week, just solitude time to get a script out or get get some work out. And therefore, if you know them, you care about them, they feel they're being cared about, then guess what happens, bringing them back full time to the office is probably going to be counterproductive, because you're making it very hard for them to live a decent and high quality of life, because they have to do you know, but John's getting all of this stuff around a second, you also know asking them what the best solution for them would be for them to be successful. So we don't do mandated to going back to the office. But most of my team will be in at least two days a week, one or two days a week for sure. Because on those days, they know if I go in this is when I have a brainstorm session with my fellow colleagues. This is when I do a project, this is where we set up this is where we get creative. And then on other days they can execute. And that's not - I don't need to ask them for them to do that they cannot protect themselves. And that's just when you know, your people, you know, the people you work with anybody who says oh, we now need to come in four days a week, they just don't know what's going on with their people. And frankly, they just don't care about their people. And therefore, they will leave, they will engage less productive.
Ben Walker 18:04
It's interesting a couple of things on that. Firstly, it's amazing how many marketers I speak to nowadays who voluntarily go into the office for two or three days a week, because of what they want to see their friends and colleagues and have that brainstorming. But it's not something that's mandated, it's something they themselves have done from the bottom up, rather than been told from the top down. Point about not knowing there was an interesting statistic, I remember vaguely from the COVID period is that when suddenly, you know, everyone had to work from home and everybody from the CMO to the CEO in cases had to suddenly join teams calls and what have you online, many C suite realise that they knew nothing at all about the personal lives of their people. They didn't know whether they were married. In some instances, they certainly didn't know how many children they had, what the ages of their children were what their family circumstances were. Suddenly they knew everything about them. They knew what their house looked like, they often met their cat because she walked across the screen when they were doing it. And they certainly found out about their children, because children will often interrupt and suddenly they do hear a little bit about the hubbub of daily life. And actually, it really brought down to lots of leaders that they didn't know that much about their staff. And therefore, as you say, if they don't know about their staff circumstances, how can they know what is going to work best for their staff in terms of enabling them? So in many ways, there was there was a lot of upside about it, and people suddenly became much more aware of their people as people.
Jasper Martens 19:28
Yeah, knowing more about the team you work with, and therefore actually knowing their circumstances and how and and helping them to be successful self Surprise, surprise, you get also a team from all walks of life, because not everybody fits in one moulds. So if you do care about a diverse a team from all walks of life, then this is also a really important thing. Naturally, you will have a much more diverse team, just asking people what's worked best for them and then meshing them against the goals you've you've set them probably is the right call.
Ben Walker 20:06
It's a core point of leadership actually isn't it isn't what works best for you. So you can do your best for me. It's an interesting paradigm. And it's a good paradigm.
Sophie Peterson 20:16
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Ben Walker 20:28
Jasper you're a very modest guy, let's talk about you for a bit we haven't talked about you, we haven't talked much about Pension Bee, and Pension Bee is a pensions app or consolidation app or service that you can put your pensions into if you've got a number of them, which many people have, particularly when they get later in the careers and they've had a number of jobs. It's an interesting brand. It's quite an exciting brand. As a CMO, yourself as a leader in a brand in financial services, what challenges of leadership do you find that you encounter? And how do you overcome them?
Jasper Martens 21:01
It has changed over time. I think the main challenge has always been how do I build a product that people actually trust? So first of all, the first challenge was, how do we explain it to customers that actually, you can actually do this, and it brings so many benefits, that you don't lose track of your pensions, you can all combine them into one new plan that you can manage on your phone, getting that message across, but then later on, it was more also around but actually, do you trust Pension Bee as a brand? Like will it be around tomorrow? Yes or no. So challenges come and go.
Jasper Martens 21:36
Throughout the years, when we started Pension Bee in 2015, with just a few people till now, being a public company, challenges come and go. And, interestingly, is that first of all, challenges in your marketing team changes, challenges in your leadership also changes. So especially hiring people at the start, you want to have people you work with that are very versatile, because you don't have departments, you just have a few people. And now we've got a much larger team. And actually, we've got sub teams now, whether that's a content team or an acquisition team, so you're looking for more specialists along the line. So that has been the challenge. And most people that joined Pension Bee in the team are still here. So we've got quite a lot of people who are still here after all of these years, what is their career progression? But what do they want to achieve in the next couple of years? And is it aligned with how the company is moving? So some of the generalist or some of the people who started in the junior role and are actually quite senior. So that's been quite a challenge. And then on top of that, marketing is an ever changing beast, when we started Pension Bee, Instagram was our biggest acquisition channel. But today is it's probably installed campaigns for it's probably one of our top campaigns paid search. And also TikTok for example, which didn't exist in 2015. So marketeers constantly need to learn and adapt about the changing landscape in terms of how we attract and retain our customers and make them very happy. So the company is changing very rapidly. So the roles change very rapidly from generalists to more specialist roles and or more senior roles. How do you do that seconds, how we reach customers, acquire them, and retain them also changes. And in the fast moving company like Pension Bee, that is a challenge and a half.
Ben Walker 23:39
So was the key finding some sort of universal truths or universal mantras that you can hold on to as a leader is interesting point you make about specialists and regulations change as technology advances, you got to demand you've got to need a whole bunch of new specialists who perhaps you don't share their expertise. By definition, they're specialists. So you don't have an immediate connection with them as a leader when you've got a sort of ever more diverse set of colleagues, are there some sort of universal truths and universal mantras that you can hold on to as a leader, which apply equally to all.
Jasper Martens 24:12
There's always two questions I ask. First of all, this is the challenge. If you were me, what would you do? To ask them that directly? To me not being lazy and ask them to do my job, but it's more around, especially when it's a specialist. On their point of view, if you were in my shoes what kind of decision would you take? How would you approach this? Seconds, understanding where they are in their journey and where they want to grow into and actually asking them the question, this is the problem. This is the goal. How do you think we should solve this? Those are two questions you want to ask. So you ask people to come up with like, how would you do it?
Ben Walker 24:54
It's a great question to ask, isn't it how would you get to this goal? How do you suggest we get to this goal that's inclusive, it's an enabling language. And it's a sort of universal way that you can lead a very diverse team. I don't
Jasper Martens 25:08
I don't have to put my commander hat on and say, Okay, this is how we're going to do it. How are we going to do it? How do you think we should do it? And they haven't done it before. But all these brain switched on will deliver excellent results,
Ben Walker 25:26
you get your people to help you and to help the company with their insights and their and as you say, their brains, not their boots. Do you think there's a leader you've got the opportunity to actually change organisations to create a positive change in organisations, if we use the right tools and techniques?
Jasper Martens 25:43
I think it yes, you can. So the, to give you to give you an example, in the journey of Pension Bee, especially in the first few years, acquiring customers and growing at scale and growing is very important. So your marketing team, the rest of the organisation is very much designed around that goal of getting as many customers as you possibly can. profitable customers, of course. But there is also now a point in time where that is still, although still important. Our retention eventually is 97%. So 97% retention rate is very high. Now in wealth management, it is usually quite high. But this is this, we were very fortunate with that. But it also means that we need to keep our customers engaged, and of course, very happy that we can help them build a happy retirement. So what will happen is that you start to look at specialists that look more at retaining customers, customer happiness, customer panels, customer communication, rather than just acquiring customers, because you can consolidate where that should be and that was. So advocating that we actually need a team really looking after that. I mean, I've been quite vocal about it in the organisation, and then you work with, you know, your design and product team, you work with the management team. And we've got now a multidisciplinary team. That's all around team customer experience. So we've got a team around customer growth, and we've got a team around customer experience. Those things weren't born overnight. And it wasn't me saying we need one team and that team and that's coming now. But as a leader, you can you can highlight the new challenges that you're facing as an organisation. As a team, or as a leader, you can set goals around, I want to keep the retention rate as high as it is right now I do not want that to drop. So who do we need? And how are we going to do this? So you can drive those changes through our two organisations. And I'm very happy how the teams are now set up.
Ben Walker 27:56
What about sort of social goods like being more sustainable or more more inclusive? Also, they can translate as we know, into business advantage as well. But is that something leaders can do and should do? Or is it something that should be done by separate sort of bodies and organisations? Oh, god? No.
Jasper Martens 28:11
I mean, as much as you want somebody dedicated to the organisation who looks after ensuring that we've got a diverse team from all walks of life. Because let's face it, if you've got that team representing the society, you probably will build up, provide a service or build a product that helps that society moving forwards. If it was only Jasper's types, building a better product you can believe in maybe only the Jasper's would believe in that and we don't want that for sure. So that's the kind of thing you want. However, you can't have a Head of Diversity and Inclusivity achieving that that's not how you're going to move the needle. So at Pension Bee, we as management team, as leaders, as from the management team, we are organisers of initiatives that help to champion diversity and inclusion in the company. So me as an openly gay man, very happy to organise our LGBT+ month in June with my other colleague and, you know, I did a panel of like other members of the community in the company telling their lived experiences for example. So me doing that panel me organising that me working with panellist. I think that's really important. Is it my job? No, it isn't. But is it important? Oh, yes, it is.
Ben Walker 29:36
Can you bring it about? It's not necessarily it may it may not be part of your job description, but you have the agency to make those things happen as a CMO and you will, you should, you should perhaps use them.
Jasper Martens 29:48
And me doing that. Just doing that in the organisation. It hopefully inspires by all of our colleagues to be more accepted and more To more inclusive, one, two, if people want to be more open about that they are from the community, it's good to see a senior leader, just being very happy and open and comfortable about it. You know, those things really matter. So whether that is Black History Month, whether it's LGBT month pride month in June, throughout the year, everybody in our management team will work on initiatives that they also feel very close to and want to help to. I think that's important. And that should not be left to ahead of inclusivity or diversity. You know, they only can be successful if we are again, enabling them to do their job very best. And for us to be the role models, otherwise, just a token job. And we don't want token jobs.
Ben Walker 30:47
We certainly do not want to token jobs in marketing or anywhere else. Jasper it's been a great session. But before you go, I'm going to put you on the spot with one final question. It's 2023, nearly 2024 I suppose if you give us a couple of months. If you're going into the business today, or even as you are today, what sort of leader do you yourself want to follow?
Jasper Martens 31:12
I want to follow a leader that asks me to think asks me to solve a problem. Or asks me to take on the challenge, or get as close to the goal we want to achieve, asking me not dictating what I should be doing. My ideal leader is somebody who I don't feel I need to tell to sorry I'm half an hour late muttering I got stuck on a train. A leader that will trust me, that's no matter when or what I do, as long as I can be my very best self and meet the company goals. So people that care about me, but they don't look over my shoulder all the time, if you know what I mean. So micromanagers leaders of today and ideal leader of today should not be a micromanager. If you micromanager then something is seriously off. You're insecure or you don't have the connection or whatever the reason is, I certainly would run for the hills if I had somebody who was like that. So an ideal leader for me is the opposite. And will work with me on being successful for myself and the company.
Ben Walker 32:26
That's interesting that the great advice that I'm sure your desires are shared by the majority of our audience and there's some great tips for being a leader. And also for being a follower. If you are someone who is being led to try and think what you want from your leader and trying to find a leader like Jasper and the people that he cited today. It's been a great session. Jasper, thank you very much indeed for attending. It's been fascinating. I find it fascinating. I'm sure our audience will find it fascinating. It's been great having you and I hope that you will come back on the CIM Podcast very soon.
Jasper Martens 32:57
Thanks for having me, Ben.
Sophie Peterson 33:01
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