Episode 1

Talking Strategy with Jenna Tiffany

Show Notes

In this episode I’m joined by Jenna Tiffany, founder and strategy director at Let’sTalk Strategy, a digital marketing consultancy.

Jenna’s Links:

Jacques Links:


Jacques: [00:00:08] Welcome to, the marketing operations podcast.

Joining me on this episode is Jenna Tiffany, the founder and strategy director at let’sTalk Strategy.

Hi Jenna, thanks for joining me today. So let’s start with how you got to where you are. What tools you like to use? Spectacular campaigns you’ve run spectacular screw ups. Cause we’ve all done those when it comes to marketing technology or really just anything.

Jenna: [00:00:35] Yeah, sure. No, that’s good. Yeah. So starting with, how did I get to where I am today? I did kind of like quite a traditional route. what I would class as college traditional route. So I studied marketing at university. I did actually do a joint course where I did marketing and dance because I actually wanted to become a professional dancer When I first started and I got accepted into London contemporary school of dance after university, but I got a really bad injury. And so I had to defer it and then it was just getting to a point where I just don’t think my body’s going to cope with this.

So I still went down the creative route of marketing thing but I did do a joint degree course. It was, quite a unique thing at university of Sunderland where they would do the two subjects together. so yeah, I studied that and then I went into marketing, working at an architectural ironmongers, which was literally just me. They’ve never done any marketing before, so it was really thrown in at the deep end, but also, trying to show the value of marketing when you’ve just come out of university, its pretty hard expectation.

Jacques: [00:01:45] I guess with one of those first roles. If you don’t have any kind of mentor or anyone showing you the ropes, you have to build your skills. That was very much how I first went into marketing was I got an internship and suddenly I’m doing all the marketing and I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing or the right way to do it. And suddenly I’m responsible for this whole area.

Jenna: [00:02:05] Yeah, I was gonna say, I think that’s a really good thing though, because then if you’re up for the challenge, it really pushes you and makes you want to know more because you have to, otherwise, you’re just going to really like silo yourself into maybe one or two channels and it might not work and there’s a lot of pressure riding on you there to make it successful.

Yeah, totally agree. I think, it’s probably quite a saving grace in some respects because it was a very challenging industry it was to architects and construction organizations. But I did everything from the website, to actually sending out special packages and marketing collateral that we were sending and actually printing and physically posting those as well.

So it was a good kind of grounding level for the whole of the whole marketing mix. And then from there I moved on to a wholesaling company that actually sold cake decoration. So it was very much a factory orientated environment and it was incredible their operation, because they took orders by fax - and this isn’t that long ago and my whole kind of role, and the reason why they had my role was to bring a digital marketer in, to transform their business effectively and to be able to accept orders via their website. Which you think, okay, that sounds pretty straightforward, but they had two and a half thousand different product types. It didn’t have any images, didn’t have any product categories didn’t have any product naming that could be used - it’s like real core starting point from getting a business online in a really rudimentary traditional way

Jacques: [00:03:48] It’s not even a marketing job at this point. It’s literally a whole amalgamation of being a developer. If you need to build a website, you need to, be a product manager to manage this kind of digital product. You need to build a database of products. You need to build all the SKUs.

You need to have all the imagery. It’s both really exciting and really scary I can imagine if you join a company and suddenly you have to build this whole thing from the start.

Jenna: [00:04:13] don’t really looking back now. I think I just didn’t. I knew the scale of it, but I probably didn’t quite what needed to be done. And it was a real, so I was fortunate enough to have budgets, get an agency and see the website side of things, but that, you know, that was my sole responsibility to make sure that they deliver what the company wanted but also they had a really good, IT team, I mean, they were small, it was like three people, but they were really good. The biggest challenge out of the whole thing was bringing the whole business together because I had to effectively train the call center staff on how to accept those orders online, so that they didn’t feel that kind of out of place or put out the job. Cause they were actually going through taking orders on the phone, taking them through fax.

And here I am coming in all shiny and new talking about a website, you know, that was, I think that was my biggest challenge that gave me such a good grounding in stakeholder management.

Jacques: [00:05:11] I suppose it’d be called a digital transformation now. So it’s taking a business that operated from a fax model, which is crazy to me, and bringing it completely digitally and. Completely transforming the way the business operated. so yeah, a real, it’s not even a marketing job at that stage.

You’re kind of doing a digital transformation

Jenna: [00:05:30] Yeah, pretty much before it became that thing, you know, and I mean hats off to them for seeing the opportunity because they were ahead of their entire industry for this and really quite amazing - so I was there for nine months. And then kind of like when that project was done, it was just maintenance for me and as you can probably tell by now I really like a challenge considering my first two jobs. So yeah, I then moved on, to, Northern rock or what was Northern rock as a savings website manager. And that in itself is just a really crazy time because I joined, as one of the final, last recruitment drives that they had.

So I joined and then they stopped recruiting altogether. Then there was, problems with the bank and the banking system itself, and just a real, really challenging environment and really fast paced, so much pressure. I was looking after saving website and they didn’t even have a CMS at the time.

So unlike when I think about this, now, it really isn’t sane that I even had to do this. I would have to use an Excel spreadsheet, take a screenshot of the webpage, where the savings rate had changed or any of the copy had changed, manually type that into the spreadsheet, highlight with arrows. And then brief that to the it department who would hard code those changes into the website.

And this would happen two, three times a day, saving rates are changing all the time. And going back to your point, earlier of like biggest kind of mishap. there was one time where I got the rate wrong. I read it from, so I would get sent a real long spreadsheet of all these different rates and you’d have mortgage rates, savings rates, and so on.

And it had the expiry dates on and I read the wrong line. So I picked this rate, briefed it into IT, got updated on the website and it was the wrong savings rate.

Jacques: [00:07:31] Is there no compliance process through any of this? I mean, I’ve worked in FinTech and, I guess I was in the more aggressive kind of a spread betting kind of world. So regulatory compliance was top of mind for anything we did. But it seems crazy that, any business would operate in a way where, or particularly any bank would operate in a way where a mistake like that could even happen.

Jenna: [00:07:55] Yeah. So I think, very much down to manual error there was a huge legal compliance. if the T’s and C’s were changing, if there was any new marketing copy, but because it’s just a rate change, nothing else has changed. So that really, this was normally seem to be a little error of that, but obviously you got a lot of people involved, manually going in updating this.

But it did mean that they got fined because it had been up for half a day. But you know what? It was a real, it was a real turning point, I think for the team and the organization to just look at this and think this is not a process that is sustainable, and we know it’s needed to be done for quite a long time.

Now we need to prioritize it. and so I was involved then, and they spent a quarter of a million on doing their new savings websites so it was a really great project to look at how they could automate that whole system. Good came out of it, but yeah definitely not a great time for me as a recent graduate kind of third job in.

Jacques: [00:08:58] I guess this must’ve been like pre - cause when did they go under, was that 2007 or 2008? Maybe actually 2008, 2009.

Jenna: [00:09:06] Yeah, so round about that time, 2008, 2009. You know, it was just a very, it was a very difficult time actually, because it was hard to see people that you’d worked with being taken into a room getting told they got made redundant and that would be happening, every day.

Jacques: [00:09:25] I guess that’s probably something that is very common right now in the current environment, we find ourselves in. I know that I’ve worked. I mean, the previous company I was at, for my most recent one, there were large teams being made, either furloughed or being made redundant. and it’s not a nice atmosphere to kind of be involved in.

Jenna: [00:09:44] No, it’s really, it’s really hard. I think that’s a bit of, most people. Do you think they forget about it? I think we don’t want to think about it. It is, it has such a knock-on unmotivating atmosphere. And it’s really difficult because you don’t want to say the wrong thing either.

Jacques: [00:10:00] You have to sympathize with the people who remain there as well. And obviously you sympathize with the people who are being, let go, because their situations terrible, but the people who are somehow remaining and having to live with the fact that, you know, their, their job is secure, why them.

You know, that kind of stuff is, it’s very difficult to kind of, I guess, sympathize with that kind of situation and the kind of stress and the strain that comes with being put in that situation as well.

Jenna: [00:10:26] Yeah. And it’s, having to then just get up and leave is so difficult for anybody. And that’s not to say, I’ve seen some really amazing people lose their jobs and you just think, wow. And yeah, I think it really makes you stop and think and just, it just, yeah, all around. It’s just really difficult situation.

And it was quite a, it was quite a grounding situation to be in. And it really made me question. Is this what I want to be doing for a long period of time, because am I going to be that devastated if I lost my job here, or, I need to really do something. If I’ve got a short period of time, I need to make the most of it because I don’t know if it’s going to exist for that long.

Now, my parents’ mindset is I’d be in a job for 20-30 years, for the rest of your life, from the age of 16 onwards. And I saw my dad get made redundant in a really, awful awfully handled way, he’d been there for 25 years and just forgotten about.

And I watched that when I was at university and I thought, no, I want to make sure that what I’m doing, I really enjoy. But also that I get the most out of it as much as the company gets most out of me out of me being an employee.

Jacques: [00:11:39] Do you think that’s something that’s probably generational as in our generation are. I don’t know about other people, but I’ve been made redundant a number of times. And I imagine it’s something that people in our generation have to now accept as being part of what happens at work.

So it’s, it’s very weird to think,, like your father’s example, who. Had that job security of 25 years. And it was terminated in a terrible way for us. It’s maybe we have two, three years security sometimes, and sometimes not even that. The resilience it builds in people now, in terms of we need to think for ourselves, we need to think about ourselves in terms of. Maybe we need to change jobs more often than people previously would or otherwise. I don’t really know.

Jenna: [00:12:30] Yeah, I think you’re right on that. I think it’s generational. I also think in a digital industry, you probably see a lot more movement of people in jobs. Early on in my career, I was moving jobs every year and a half.

You wanted to grow your skillset, and you wanted a different challenge.

You wanted to explore another industry. And so you did that and yeah, of course, people frown upon and they still do today, which I will never understand. when someone’s looking at a CV and why have you moved around so much naturally no that’s a different way to look at that.

Okay, what was the reason for you wanting a new challenge? Because actually you could have outgrown the previous jobs. Nowhere further to go, but it just wasn’t challenging enough, it, wasn’t making you want to get up in the morning and like really get going with energy. I think it’s a really healthy thing to be moving around particularly early on in your career for a year, year and a half. If it is giving you a different angle, a different perspective, a different challenge.

I think it’s both generational and industry led entirely. I think digital changes so quickly, and marketing as well that we need to be moving around quite regularly to keep on top of it.

Jacques: [00:13:37] Digital changes really quickly. But I think one thing you probably know, because you do a lot of marketing strategy is that actually fundamentally marketing hasn’t really changed in since marketing started really, we’re still preying upon the same psychological heuristics in terms of, anchoring and all these things. And maybe the channel or the particular tactic we use might change. And, that changes very often, but fundamentally what we do in marketing hasn’t changed for a very long time. And it’s very interesting to think about how our jobs are so focused on this technology, but actually what we do stays the same.

Jenna: [00:14:13] The fundamental basics of marketing hasn’t changed. The tactics and the channels that you mentioned. Yeah, of course that’s something that’s constantly evolving. It’s really interesting that you mentioned that because I’m actually writing a book about marketing strategy and I’m at my final manuscript stage, my God, thank God. Really exciting. And my whole, my whole passion for writing, it was to try and give a practical informed view of what marketing strategy actually is, because I think there’s such a misconception even now between strategy and tactics and a lot of misspoken concepts about strategy and tactics that just creates such a blurred view.

And I think organizations think they have a strategy, but actually all they’ve done is define the tactics.

Jacques: [00:15:11] What would you define strategy as being?

Jenna: [00:15:13] Strategy is the what, where and why of what you’re doing. And the tactics is the how. So unless you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be able to determine how you’re going to do that.

Jacques: [00:15:32] We tend to focus and I think this is kind of the problem with a lot of digital. We tend to focus, so squarely within our own specification within the technology that we know that we lose sight of why we’re doing something and we just focus on how we’re doing it.

And you see that with email and other channels all the time. You know where for, for email, where we talk about, you know, we need to send a newsletter, we need to send something. Why are we sending that? And often we lose track of why are we trying to reengage these people? What value does an email open or an email click bring to the business?

And we’re so fixated on this short term, how we’re doing things. So it’s really interesting to, hear what you’re working on. I’m definitely going to be reading that book.

Jenna: [00:16:17] Thanks. yeah, it’s gone. The publishing dates gone back a little just because of COVID. So it will be released next May, 2021. I’m fortunate to have really amazing publisher. So I’m very excited to get it out. It’s been a long time in the making a couple of years now. And for me, it’s, I’ve got new frameworks in there to really just try and., Simplify the process because actually strategy typically is looked at, as something takes a really long time to do. It’s really complicated. And then when you’ve done it’s just going to be this like huge manual. That’s just going to go into a drawer and never be looked at again and actually strategy doesn’t need to be a, that complicated. Yes, it should be researched and informed, but it should be something that the whole business gets involved in. Not just the marketing department.

I think that’s very much a missing piece in many companies today.

Jacques: [00:17:11] I think, and this is coming from my own experience. And I ran some surveys on Twitter and within the email geeks, Slack community. So I asked what percentage of people had actually studied marketing in terms of people who work in email marketing. What percentage of them have a formal background in marketing?

And it was quite interesting because about 70% had no formal qualifications. So a lot of these people are, and myself included. We, we learn by doing things and we lose sight of all of this great knowledge that has existed and been written just because we studied other things. And so it’s really interesting to think how that can be improved, what we can learn.

Because I think that kind of leads to the short sightedness that you kind of, I think, probably see in your day to day work in terms of strategy not being done correctly in a lot and a lot of places just because people don’t necessarily know the correct way to do it.

Jenna: [00:18:10] It’s really interesting that though because actually it gives such a nice and unique perspective on where everyone’s coming from all different backgrounds, which is why I think email particularly, the email community is just so vibrant. so much to offer. Cause it’s such a great mix of people and skillsets.

Yeah, I typically see. A lot of clients, either misinterpreting strategy or well, I tend to get the reaction of is, yeah, we know we need to have a plan but don’t spend that much time on it. So can you do that really quickly? And then we want to get onto the tactical part. Like it needs to be the other way around because the tactic bit can actually be pretty quick.

If you have, if it’s informed and you’ve done your research and you know what you’re going to be doing, because the strategy basically outlines all of that for you.

Jacques: [00:18:58] I guess it sets kind of the targets. That each of those tactics are aiming for. It’s crazy how many times I’ve worked in marketing businesses where we’ve had no formal strategy. Everyone is just coming up with our own little tactics and they have KPIs, but they’re not necessarily informed by any kind of overarching broad strategy.

Jenna: [00:19:20] Yeah. And that’s where that short termism comes in and we need to put more offers, and we need to do more sales, and we need to do more discounts because. The, overarching business objective, hasn’t been aligned to the marketing objectives and therefore it’s really difficult to demonstrate the value that marketing brings if you don’t align it to the business.

Jacques: [00:19:41] I think a great example of that is, I don’t know if you subscribed to ASOS emails, but over the last, I guess, couple of years, all I’ve received from them. Daily. Is emails with discounts. And now I only associate ASOS with discounts. And that is solely the responsibility of the marketing team who have devalued the brand in my eyes.

I don’t know whether that’s their plan or their strategy, but that’s certainly the outcome that has happened from years and years of being blasted with discount, discount, discount, sale, discount.

Jenna: [00:20:15] And it’s such a, I’ve spoken about this a few times. It’s really interesting. When you get the perspective, from your email customers, to your social media customers, to your actual customers, that don’t receive either because the perception of all three would be so different based on all what you send, particularly if your customers, aren’t, they’re not involved in all three of those kinds of categories. And it’s, it’s really interesting, I think there’s a real challenge right now of organizations causing long-term damage to their brands in a time now where it’s really very much panic marketing.

Where they feel they need to be saying something and they need to make sales. So they’d just go straight in there with a with offers. We’ve also got black Friday coming up, looks like it’s going to be a month long this year now. And that all sounds great for getting some numbers on the spreadsheet to say, right? Yes, we’ve got some sales coming in, but when you then look at the long term impact, six months later, you start to realize how much damage that’s caused.

That short term activity. and it’s a great example that you have of ASOS because they had such a brilliant brand, a couple of years, ago really brilliant, prestigious, you knew what you were getting from there. Positioning was really clear, and and they’ve completely diluted that with short term tactics.

Jacques: [00:21:36] Why do you think that is? Why do you think brands are turning to this short termism?

Jenna: [00:21:42] A lack of understanding strategy, I think is the biggest reason. I think not understanding it, not seeing the value that a strategy can bring. And that is really what I’m hoping my book will show marketers that, do you know what it doesn’t have to be this arduous process? It will give you instant, quick wins.

You can have a quick win short term plan. That is part of a bigger, long term strategy piece. And that doesn’t mean it has to be, five years because who knows what’s happening in six months’ time let alone that at the moment. But there’s still, there still needs to be that planning approach. If you’re constantly in the ad hoc cycle of what we’re doing today, what we’re doing tomorrow, that’s constant firefighting that is really difficult to get out of is wears your marketing team out really quickly.

Unmotivated people start to lose the direction. The business starts to just, wander along as people changing decisions all the time and ad-hoc plan. And that is all because there’s a lack of strategy, which can also be stemmed from a lack of vision, a lack of structure. There’s a lot of different things within the business that can have a big impact on the success of strategy.

Jacques: [00:23:01] Do you think some of this is also potentially tied to, you know, we were talking previously around people just move around a lot more now, in terms of their career, do you think there could be at least within, the executive suite? could that kind of source of this lack of long-term thinking within a business.

Jenna: [00:23:20] Potentially, I’m not, I don’t I’m not too sure on that. I think the short termism, has really stemmed from the massive increase in development in tech and how quickly that has changed. And. That gives a kind of instant need for business to keep up, although, some don’t and then sadly cease to exist because they just don’t keep up with technology.

But alongside that there’s customer expectations are changing, all the time.

So, if businesses are with that short termism trying to keep up. I can see how you get into that cycle of constant flux, where you’re constantly changing all the time and haven’t really got, that clear definition of what you do or where you’re going, what your ambition is.

I also think there’s it also depends on what industry, there are times when to be constantly changing needs to happen because you’re looking to be sold, within the next year or so then you might need do things that from outside. Looks a little bit crazy. But Internally, that’s a reason, but then again, you’d have your plan and your vision and your strategy there.

I just think the generalness is just it’s. I think it’s just pure short sightedness at times. I think actually it’s not being able to assess a value, and not been able to assess that damage, that it has not only to their business, but also to their customer base, because, it’s like going to pizza express.

I doubt anybody sits there now and pays full price. And I’ve sat in there myself and started looking for a voucher, thinking, I’m probably going to get 30% off this bill. Why not try and find one, but it’s educating the customer then to a point where no one would ever pay full price for their pizza anymore. And then the damage is already done, then they can’t get out of that cycle unless they reduce their list price.

Jacques: [00:25:19] Even then, I guess people would still, because they’re so used to seeing a discount would be chasing this discount.

Jenna: [00:25:26] Yeah. And then it’s a question of, okay, is that the type of customer that you really want, but to do that, you’ve got to, you have to take a hit temporarily. To get long-term gain. I see, a lot of organizations aren’t willing and can’t, I can’t actually not in a position to test that out, to try that out.

No, it really takes some perseverance and some strength to say, do you know what we need to stop this now, because actually our customer isn’t this type of customer who’s also is always discounting wanting discounts, but we want to go for the long term, not so price conscious customer. To do that, to do that switch is a gradual process.

And what typically happens, in my experience they get about halfway through and then, the senior leadership team the owners decide actually, no, do you know what? We just need to just go back to discounts. Let’s just go back.

Jacques: [00:26:22] It’s I guess the panic sets in when they start seeing the revenue fall.

Jenna: [00:26:28] Yeah, and they start seeing revenue fall, but then you think, how much profit is eaten away giving all those discounts. And that’s the bit that I don’t feel. And I’ve never really seen true analysis on that in organizations that are heavily discounting

Jacques: [00:26:47] So on the analysis piece, do you feel that marketing teams are well equipped to deal with data or at least the quantity of data they collect? I know from my own experience, I’m not a statistician. I can read a spreadsheet, but I’m, I suppose there’s a lot of stats that are just outside my knowledge.

I don’t know how to do them. And I feel like working in some teams that I’ve worked in, that has been kind of a common thread across everyone. We all want to look at data, but we don’t necessarily know what we’re looking at or why we’re looking at it or what were to get out of that data. Do you think that’s something that is common in other teams?

Jenna: [00:27:28] Yes. Really interesting. The data piece. I think typically I feel like there’s a general fear of data. Of looking, really trying to analyze data. it’s a, it is a skill. It’s a skill to be able to go in and analyze data. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really amazing data analysts.

It’s a two-person skill where the data analyst, is really good at number crunching and they love it now. That’s what they love to look at spreadsheets full of numbers, unbelievably so. I love data, but that’s getting a little bit too far but then yeah, but then you have, the marketeer who, and typically it’s strategists that would then come in and say this is a question I have.

What does this mean? And does this correlate with this? And okay so if that number comes out there, does that mean that this happened? And being able to guide the data analyst into seeing what those insights actually mean. And that I think is the biggest gap. So, we have amazing data analysts we’ve got amazing strategists sometimes the two just don’t work well together. I’ve seen it quite a bit. It’s almost making the data analysts be commercially minded, which is really difficult because they’re into the numbers.

Jacques: [00:28:51] That’s what I was going to say is that you have data analysts, who lose the context of the data they’re looking at and without that context, they don’t necessarily know what to be looking for and why something might be important And that’s definitely something I’ve experienced a s well is that, I’ve worked with analysts who are amazing. Like they are so talented, but without the insight of why a campaign was run, what we’re trying to promote, why we’re trying to promote it, they lose sight of what is potentially important. And that’s not to say that they don’t surface hugely valuable insights because of course they do.

But there is that gap between strategy and data that is very evident, I think, in a lot of businesses these days.

Jenna: [00:29:37] And I think that gap will only start to, there’s AI and machine learning has a part to play within this to help the data analyst analyse more data than a human could do in a lifetime. In minutes, in some cases. But it still needs that human to be able to pull out the right context that you just mentioned for the company, the customers and product and so on.

And it still needs the marketeer’s intervention in that. I think whilst the technology is definitely there, and I’ve seen some really amazing things with other clients using AI machine learning. There’s still that gap of being able to ask the right question, the most relevant right question to really glean the insight, because you can have all the data in the world but if you can’t analyse that from a strategic standpoint when you can’t analyse it from a data analyst standpoint of being able to keep that context and not just look at the number, then you’ve really got no, there’s no value there You lose the value piece of the data. it ends up just being a number without any kind of no story around it.

Jacques: [00:30:53] There’s that thing about the marketer being a storyteller. and I guess this is where that becomes interesting because we need to use these insights that we gleaned from these numbers to tell a story and whether that story is to our customers or whether it’s to internal stakeholders, we still need to be able to tell that story.

Jenna: [00:31:12] And inform future decisions, ideally, and stop doing things that don’t work, do more things that do work and test things that actually the data’s telling us this is going to be pretty. This could be a good opportunity for us and having that to back up decisions being made.

Jacques: [00:31:31] I guess sometimes it can be quite scary and the opposite direction where you’ve been working on something, and actually it turns out it doesn’t work and it’s not bringing the results that you had expected or hoped for. I guess it can be quite scary to turn around and realize that it wasn’t wasted time because you learned something, but it’s something you now have to start again from zero. I guess that kind of speaks to the resilience that you sometimes find within marketing teams, where people are able to switch and to change things and to learn from their mistakes. I think that’s quite a fun thing I’ve seen a lot of marketing teams I’ve worked with do.

Jenna: [00:32:09] Yeah, definitely. I think that’s really, that’s the creative part, of marketing. Some things are gonna work very well, other things aren’t but it doesn’t mean it’s wasted budget, wasted time. Cause you’ve got a really good learning and understanding from that. And I think that’s a bit when the short termism that marketers lose out on, they lose out on those valuable learnings and insights that helps inform future activity.

And for me, those are the bits that you really want to home in on. Those are the hidden gems to uncover. Because that’s what, so you’re going to make the marketing better for your particular type of audience.

Jacques: [00:32:48] So when you work with the client to help them with their marketing strategy, how does your process work? How do you come into these organizations and make these big kind of strategic changes for them?

Jenna: [00:32:59] It really varies in terms of how that looks. So, my agency LetsTalk Strategy has a team of 10, and, it depends on whether it’s a particular channel or its overall business, marketing strategy, whether or not they have an existing one or they want something new. I’ve taken for example a client I recently worked with where I actually worked on a consultancy basis. I don’t tend to do that as much anymore, because it doesn’t give me enough time to run my agency but during times of COVID. It was a really good opportunity to work for a technology startup. They have been operating for four years. They had done marketing, in their own words, didn’t really know what they were doing

Jacques: [00:33:43] Scarily honest.

Jenna: [00:33:45] Yeah, scarily, honest, but good, refreshing to hear that. And they needed someone to come in and pull their marketing activity together. Not only from a planning perspective as it turned out when I then joined, but actually everything, from budgeting to structure, to people, to processes, to automation, just basically everything, which was a great challenge to tackle. So, my kind of first starting point with every client and, really was very crucial for this one was to understand what are they trying to achieve? What is your goal and ambition? And typically, I’d speak to the CEO. And then the different, leadership team. What I then start to identify and it’s just an informal chat what I start to identify is that there’s inconsistencies on where everyone thinks the business is going. So that’s problem. Number one. And then I speak to the marketing teams. So, I speak to the different members, generally chat with them. What do you think is going really well?

What do you really hate about doing your job and like having a, quite an honest conversation, because you want to ask to get those things out pretty quickly, because it starts to identify that actually there’s a problem either in the process, in the marketing team or in the company itself, or actually in how they’ve been conducting marketing.

And I’d like to just get all of that out on the table pretty quickly. Particularly when it’s a full marketing piece like this, so that you can really hit the ground running because clients want to see changes. They want to see improvements. They want to see results really quickly. And then once I’ve got all of that together, I then conduct my own kind of thoughts and like a SWOT really on the structure and the team.

And what I think about the marketing. And find out all about their processes, what they, how they currently do things. Some things, it’s just mind boggling You think, why are you doing it that way? And I’m really trying to identify what are those key challenges? And for them their key ones where they didn’t have a clear vision and didn’t have a clear product. Their structure and team didn’t fit the business for where they wanted to actually go for what we then established was their vision. Which, that’s a big rub in a marketing team and, I’m fair in some instances where actually the roles completely changed, the expectations changed.

Their other challenge is that they just didn’t have a plan. So, because they felt that they didn’t really know what their, and their own words, what they were doing with marketing or marketing is this thing over there. And then they were changing their mind every couple of days of what they wanted to do. So, the team who then established the structure is not working the roles and responsibilities have changed.

Are then getting told to do different things every two days. So, start to see then, okay, this is eating away at any of your potential marketing success. No matter what I recommend you to do, if you don’t sort these issues out here, it would just be the same problem.

So that was my starting point with them and then making sure that there’s processes in play.

Just not anything that’s arduous, but so that if you do something that’s quite repetitive or needs to be done, every week or every month, that is clearly defined efficient as can possibly be processed. And if it can be automated then that’s what it needs to be automated.

Jacques: [00:37:27] So it sounds like actually, so you look after the strategy side of things, but actually you’re coming into businesses and making changes to the as a whole, in some cases which is really interesting, Because I guess there it’s a more full kind of consultancy at that stage.

Jenna: [00:37:49] It depends really on what their challenge is, but yeah, a strategy doesn’t operate, marketing doesn’t operate in a vacuum. So, it can’t be that successful if there’s all these other missing parts and all of that there was just about marketing and the senior leadership team. But then of course, there’s other departments that feed into that as well.

So, if the marketing team aren’t fully clear of what the product does, then, there needs to be better communication between the product team and the marketing team. And so how do we make that better? so I, yeah, I suppose I come in like real top level and look at everything because even with the best strategy in the world, if the rest of the business isn’t bought in, or they’re not all going in the same direction or there’s barriers and challenges and there’s conflicts going on then the marketing strategy won’t be as successful as it could be to the business. So, I come in from that angle and sometimes it is purely, we need to improve our email marketing, we’d like a content strategy and that’s different. That’s really channel orientated, but I still want to know what the vision is of the business. What’s the ambition? So that we’re aligned with that and same objectives. but what was particularly interesting with this, client was just, getting that immediate buy-in because, I would say it is quite rare, but I think it comes to a point where you have no other choice.

Jacques: [00:39:22] Yeah, absolutely. And I guess if they’ve gone to the effort to hire you, they must realize that they need to change something.

Jenna: [00:39:28] Yeah, I think that’s probably the biggest hurdle for me to overcome that challenge was just the scale and how much time these things take to embed. It’s not just a case of just bringing in a new team or creating a new structure or bringing in some new processes. Those things have to be embedded to become BAU.

And that isn’t something that can happen in two weeks. And all of this, has been done remotely during COVID, which I’m used to working remotely. Probably you know, obviously not in these circumstances, but for other teams and departments, they’re not, you know, some people really do not operate well working from home they like to be in the office.

And so, you have to really factor that in as well. In terms of timing, timescales.

Jacques: [00:40:18] In terms of marketing that there’s a whole extra layer of complexity that I’ve experienced, which is how do you handle data? Particularly GDPR is now a thing has been for a while. How do you handle complex customer data? is the business kind of digitally ready in terms of, do they have a CRM?

Do they have the adequate marketing automation tools, do they have adequate ways to protect PII? and I mean, I’ve seen a lot of businesses still just sharing CSVs around with email addresses and names and lots of stuff that’s very sensitive that shouldn’t be shared. And in many cases, this is happening to, you know, people have their own devices they’re not necessarily using a work laptop or work computer. so that’s a whole extra fun layer of challenge, that, I guess we’ve all uncovered over since February, March.

Jenna: [00:41:07] It’s brilliant that you bring that up because I haven’t seen anyone talk about this yet, but everybody’s using their own machines at home. In an environment that can’t be securely locked down in a sense of how it would be in an office. And I haven’t seen anyone talk about this yet.

Jacques: [00:41:26] I recently joined a cybersecurity company, so I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot. I know that our content team have written about this particular challenge recently, because it’s a very common one now. But it’s, I mean, there was an incident with Klarna a few days ago where they were processing people’s data that they shouldn’t have been, for marketing purposes and these things do happen. and that’s probably the least of our worries I guess in terms of privacy and security and handling PII.

Jenna: [00:41:56] Yeah, I think I really had my eyes opened probably in the last four months in how often organizations. The majority I would probably say are still sending CSV files without password encryption.

Now I’ve had to with that client in particular actually you know I’ve had to create a whole documented process of what happened, you know, an incident report, how this came to be, how we tried to resolve it, how they’ve resolved it you know who’s been affected, and just trying to educate other companies that you shouldn’t be accepting anything that’s like this without password encryption, you know, it should be sent securely.

And I’m really quite amazed at how that’s still happening and how we overcome that I’m not too sure because I’m just some some things you know, I’m just completely dumbfounded that it’s still not just standard procedure. And I completely appreciate, you know, that were all operating in really, difficult circumstances at times. I understand that things happen. I completely get that when it then becomes. when it’s not a standard question you know, two years later that’s a big problem.

Jacques: [00:43:18] I guess it comes down to the digital transformation we were talking about earlier in that. Businesses maybe haven’t adopted the tools they should. Maybe they’re not using a CRM when they should, maybe they haven’t identified clear processes on how to handle customer data. Maybe the teams aren’t trained properly to use the tools that they have.

And I’ve worked in businesses without CRMs and when you’re doing email, that is a gigantic pain in the arse to say the least. But, yeah, it’s interesting to think, you know, how is this data being processed? Who’s looking at it. Who’s got copies of it. because under the GDPR, we should be making sure that we know all these things.

Jenna: [00:43:55] Yeah, I think the biggest challenge with GDPR is that It’s an upfront cost for a company to implement these changes. Now I’m not saying that it’s not a valid cost because of course it is. But at this moment in time, I just cannot see many organizations wanting to spend time and commit spend that could have been used elsewhere.

To implement these processes. Granted they should have been done two years ago, but I think that’s probably the biggest stumbling block from the very beginning in that there should have been some incentive. Unfortunately it’s kind of the world that we operate in and that there probably needed to be some form of grant or support or some more online training, you know, like how HMRC handle the whole coronavirus furlough scheme with regular updates, You know, it’s constantly spoken about same approach for GDPR. We wouldn’t be talking about this today I don’t think.

Jacques: [00:44:56] I believe the ICO might have probably around March may have said, they were not going to be focusing on businesses that are working from home because they understand the complexities of handling customer data in these circumstances. their approach and I could be wrong here, but their approach may have been to. turn the other cheek, to these things happening, which you know, is good from a business perspective, bad, from a personal perspective.

Jenna: [00:45:23] Yeah, this should be, it should be standard business practice. I think really the ICO should be looking at why it’s not standard business practice, because ultimately, I’ve seen lots of really good positive things come out of GDPR.

I do think there is generally a reasonable awareness of GDPR. I think consumers, particularly are very aware of signing up and will hold brands responsible that aren’t doing it. And I think that’s you know, that’s really positive because consumers outside of marketing, like my mum, for example, had no idea the amount of access of data analysis that we have as marketeers.

So, I feel like that’s a real moving point. But yeah, always kind of come at it from a consumer’s perspective and I still, my emails getting signed up to things I didn’t sign up for. So, I feel like this is an ideal time to have a really good turning point. it shouldn’t be, but it becomes like almost a distinguishing factor from an organization that really does take data seriously and respects data and goes out of their way to make sure that they are as robust as possible. Mistakes happen. It’s how are we, how we react to that and the processes that you had in place to try to prevent that is what, customers see through any that says, you know, we’re really sorry, but then does nothing to try and make that better for the future.

Jacques: [00:46:49] I guess cookies are probably one of the ways that people are most familiar with the GDPR and every website you visit will have a cookie banner. It will be confusing. You’ll probably hit accept without knowing what you’re accepting. if you do check what you’re accepting, you’ll probably be confused because there’s a million toggles to switch.

They may be on, they may be off, you don’t know what you’re doing. I think whoever cracks the issue of cookieless marketing, and I don’t know what that looks like to crack that is going to be building something very interesting from a marketing perspective.

Jenna: [00:47:23] Yeah, it’s a really interesting space that. And I don’t feel that the cookie policy it’s become a, just becoming an annoyance when you go into a website, unfortunately, and the approach to GDPR in some respects has also been similar in finding consent. If you’re using an out of EU website where there’s lots of popups now, and that isn’t the best user experience, but then is this because there’s just such a knowledge gap between, the politicians and the lawmakers and, the actual people that are working in these industries in marketing and technology. Now, you only have to see that the interviews, of Congress with Amazon and Facebook and Google to see the knowledge gap is just huge. You know, these, these laws are dated within like three, four months.

That whole kind of process just quick enough. I don’t think this is, it’s quite a big challenge that I think we’ll start to see maybe quite a few more changes in the next year.

Jacques: [00:48:27] I’m still waiting for the ICO to publish their guidance on direct marketing. I know they published a draft earlier this year, which was interesting because it really crystallized some of the thinking around how to handle cookies, while things like analytics should be by consent only. And consent does not mean hitting accept on a banner that you’re not going to read. it’s very interesting what they’re thinking, but until they enforce it, obviously it’s kind of almost redundant because businesses won’t change unless they need to.

Jenna: [00:48:56] Yeah, it’s only, it almost becomes best practice, doesn’t it? But that’s like the bare minimum that you should be looking at doing to be legally compliant. It’s a really interesting space. I think consumers will be, will demand more. I think we can already start to see that.

Jacques: [00:49:14] Have you seen more demand from a strategic point of view of businesses asking how to comply with these things?

Jenna: [00:49:20] Yeah, I have actually, I have seen this. There’s a lot more conversations about GDPR, a lot more conversations of how should we be handing data. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all recommendations are implemented because that’s a different scenario. But, you know, there’s good, healthy conversation.

I’ve had really good conversations with sales teams as well in particular. Where there is a lot of data being handled there and good checking in times when, is it okay do this? And, what about if I do this? And, as I always say to all clients put yourself in the shoes of that particular person of that customer, imagine that’s you. Do a reversal and think. Okay. And that, and you know, you’re about to do this with that person’s data. And that’s you, how would you feel about that?

Jacques: [00:50:12] I had a fantastic example of this this morning, there was a data enrichment company who sent me an email, saying they were gonna send me cakes, but I just had to give them my address. From one point of view I love cake, from a second point of view, their business is selling data and they’re asking me for my home address so I declined that one because I don’t particularly want them having it if they’re in the business of selling it.

Jenna: [00:50:40] No, that’s a, that’s a really imaginative approach though. They must know that you love cake from someone

Jacques: [00:50:48] I don’t know that they were even looking to collect the data to sell it. They may very well be looking to just send me cake.

Jenna: [00:50:53] You should test out and see.

Jacques: [00:50:55] Yeah, I’m wearing my tinfoil hat right now. I think.

Jenna: [00:50:57] Yeah, I still, you know, I’m amazed at how many emails I get about, we have this amazing data that you can buy that we source from here, and I’m like, just come on. Just do a quick search, you know, maybe just on LinkedIn, and you’ll see that I’m not going to be interested in that. There’s still a lot of them.

You’re almost, almost became, you know, the PPI of insurance claims. No GDPR. And we’re still yet to see that. But you know, it’s interesting what you’re saying about the ICO potentially being a little bit more lenient. I think, you know, one sentence and stand up. I just say that just quite a negative repercussion Because when do you stop being lenient? When do you start being the rulemakers again and stop being lenient?

Jacques: [00:51:45] I guess there were those fines, is it with Marriot and British Airways, that are still not being chased or paid. And they were in the hundreds of millions.

Jenna: [00:51:52] Oh, so they still haven’t been paid.

Jacques: [00:51:54] No. Um, and I think they’re indefinitely not going to be paid. Which is crazy because these new amounts they were fining businesses but they’re yet to actually action them.

Jenna: [00:52:05] Well, this is it, you know, the law is only as powerful as the enforcement. So if there is no enforcement or there seem to be just headlines and no real action, businesses will just think, well, you know, they got away with it, so I’m willing to take that risk. Which is a shame for the consumer at the end of the day really.

Jacques: [00:52:25] Yeah. And I guess we wear our marketing hats, but we’re also consumers. And we have to think about who has access to our data as well.

Jenna: [00:52:34] Completely, totally agree. I always, passion is about making the experience for the consumer the best it could possibly be without being disruptive. And I don’t know if you’ve been watching anything on YouTube lately, but wow there is a lot of adverts now.

Jacques: [00:52:52] YouTube is the website that made me finally use an adblocker because it was a combination of a lot of adverts and none of them being relevant to my interests, but I’d listen to some drum and bass and would get an advert for Justin Bieber. And it’s just like, no, this is not what I want to see right now. Or ever really.

Jenna: [00:53:14] Yeah. You know, like we’ve been just watching old sitcoms and things like that. And there was just adverts coming in within its like they’re all timed. So it must be within like, I don’t know, 15 minutes, an advert will come in about playing this game, it’s like play now. It’s like now? Because I was like halfway through watching something and I’m not a gamer. So no, that’s not for me. I completely agree. Its, just so, I wonder if, when you login and you have an account, if it’s a different experience. Yeah, it’s the ads are absolutely insane right now on YouTube. I’ve seen a lot of people comment about it.

That’s very disruptive though. It could be much a more enhanced experience before and at the end, you know, or right in the middle about something that is related to what you’re watching too then of course brilliant that’s an amazing thing to do.

Jacques: [00:53:59] Or even, I guess, helping larger channels do in video content, so it’s not even an ad, it’s just part of the video you’re watching.

Jenna: [00:54:07] Yeah, exactly. Get more creative with it.

Jacques: [00:54:10] There’s a new lawsuit that came out, I guess, last month against Salesforce and Oracle, I believe, for their, their ad platforms. in that they’re collecting data from tens of thousands of websites about consumers building these profiles for ad targeting without the knowledge or consent of the people who are having their data collected.

Jenna: [00:54:32] Is that not what Facebook does every day.

Jacques: [00:54:35] Oh yeah, of course, but it’s, I guess it’s easier to target other businesses than Facebook right now.

Jenna: [00:54:41] I guess I, haven’t got to seen that about Salesforce and Oracle. That’s interesting, kind of piece and you know Facebook for me is I right at the core of all of that, um this watch this space moment because, Facebook is so powerful now it’s almost too late to try to regulate that. Really interesting time.

Jacques: [00:55:03] There was that new report published by a committee in the US which was about kind of needing to break up these big technology companies in the US. So certainly, things are, I want to say happening. They’re not happening, whether that actually materializes and turns into something. We’ll see. but it’s certainly interesting both in the EU and the US that people are talking about breaking up Amazon. They’re talking about breaking up Google and Facebook and Microsoft and all these gigantic companies that I think we lose sight of just how much they know about us.

Jenna: [00:55:39] Yeah. And especially with smart devices. And, you know, your fridge, knowing what you buy. And, Amazon Alexa, listening in to conversations, even when you’ve told her to turn off now and, you know, smart Hoovers that are mapping your floor space, you know, it’s and having a smart doorbell that will see who goes in and out of your house all the time.

Jacques: [00:56:07] Yeah, that records even passersby.

Jenna: [00:56:10] Yeah. I’ve seen loads of footage of, in America of bears going past and things like that. But, um, yeah, you know, that’s a whole other level and kind of goes back to like what we were saying earlier, you know, that knowledge gap is growing. And it’s getting really, really big cause it’s this kind of evolution and technology and the smart devices is something that’s taken quite a while to have a wide adoption, but now anything that’s new that’s made typically will have a smart device in it, whether it’s Amazon or Google.

And I don’t really think that consumers fully understand that. I don’t think they’re fully educated, and you know what Alexa actually records and stores and where that goes. it’s another layer, and another level to thinking about GDPR and data too. That’s another topic, another type of data set start then mapping all that together. That’s an incredible amount of information.

Jacques: [00:57:11] On the knowledge gap side of things, how do you think we, we can fix that in marketing teams in terms of, you know, it’s, it’s very easy for someone to just copy and paste a tracking script and put it into Google tag manager. How do you think we fix the knowledge gap in terms of, you know, helping that person who is doing that thing, knowing what the repercussions of that particular action are in terms of what data has been collected.

Jenna: [00:57:35] Yeah, I think there has to be like a willingness to learn, and unfortunately I think for a number of marketers, it’s self-study, you know, in your own time, it’s not necessarily something that the company has supported either financially or by time there’s some really good short, online courses. Um, like the IDM have a really great GDPR certificate and it’s all completely online.

It gives you such a good grounding of all the things you should be thinking about when you’re handling data to comply with GDPR. And it is really good. I think that is such a brilliant starting point. Just have that awareness just question, okay, what am I doing now with that actually comply with this and to start that conversation.

And then it’s a case of really trying to keep on, keep up to date with that. But I don’t, I don’t, I don’t really know what the winning formula is. I think it’s a really difficult space to keep up to date with. Its constantly changing there’s things there that you said about that, I didn’t, I didn’t know about, um, I’m fortunate to be a member of the DMA email council where regularly these things are brought up and highlighted.

And there is a legal hub that tries to showcase on a regular basis and, and, um, some pointers really in the right direction. And making that you’re legally compliant. Because there’s also PECR as well. There isn’t just GDPR and not many people talking about PECR, it doesn’t have that level of awareness as the GDPR.

Jacques: [00:59:07] And I guess this is where the, the direct marketing guidance that the ICO will be hopefully publishing soon comes in because it mixes PECR with GDPR and informs, you know, what is a soft opt in? How does that work under GDPR? It’s not consent. Um, at least what their guidance was saying that draft guidance was saying is it’s you’re not collecting consent. If you’re operating under something like a soft opt in its legitimate interest. What does that mean? And it’s, it’s very interesting to think about how those two regulations interact.

Jenna: [00:59:40] Yeah. And I think that, I mean, that would be incredibly useful. For marketers to have some form of guidance and handbook almost to go back to and refer back to as, and when you know that moment arises, because you might learn about that today. So actually, relevant right here and now. the bit, that’s not. There isn’t that go-to guide right now, and that has to come from the regulators really.

Um, and that’s that really is probably one of the biggest missing pieces.

Jacques: [01:00:13] It’s, it’s a lack of guidance and it’s, I don’t want to say a lack of interest from a marketer’s perspective, but a lot of them see it as an obstacle. Um, to them being able to deliver what they’re being told that they need to deliver on a daily basis. Um, because you know, one of my, I want to call it my personal crusade because it’s sort of is.

Is email tracking. And email tracking operates in a, in a view without consent, without legitimate interest. It has done without, in most cases telling anyone that’s happening, how does that fit within the framework of what we’re doing. And in some cases, you know, I’ve spoken to many email marketers.

They don’t want to know about it. They don’t want to think about it. The sky is falling on their head if they suddenly lose this tracking, which in many cases is understandable because it’s the only way they can prove that they are doing the work that they need to be doing.

Jenna: [01:01:06] Yes, it’s really, it’s an interesting topic that, um, I’ve had lots of mixed reactions and, uh, actually wrote a piece for Only Influencers about that has tried to, you know, it was kind of just remove the taboo, I think really. And Kind of opened the bonnet and started to change things around, not to say that they’re necessarily going to be successful in that, but it was a very bold approach and very clearly about tracking and pixel tracking and in particular, which is what I was very interested in.

Yeah. I’ve spoken to a lot of email marketers, Elliot Ross in particular has a really good kind of perspective in thinking about actually. Surely, you know, the ISPs is, can do something more sophisticated here. Surely, they could also be helping to drive this forward, which I completely agree with.

Jacques: [01:02:00] The thing right now with ISPs is, is that I can very much want to not track someone, but actually within the tools that I use, that’s not an option. Even if I don’t want to track them and the customer or the recipient doesn’t want to be tracked, the only way to not track them is to not send them an email. So that is a big technological challenge.

Jenna: [01:02:20] Yeah. So, there’s yeah, the ISP, not one of those. who’ll you know, enable you to be able to do that. There’s such a, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be something that we should be talking about and. I feel that it’s a conversation that yes is a difficult one to have completely. And it’s an important one to have, because I do feel that we’re all hiding behind that completely.

I don’t think that I’ve ever seen any openly clear we’re going to be tracking you part in the consent ever. And I don’t think consumers really realise that that’s what’s happening. You tend to see that reaction when there’s too much personalization to the point where it feels creepy. And that is why. Because they don’t realize they’re being tracked.

That, you know, that’s the cause of that don’t realize the amount of information that they’ve shared directly or indirectly, and that all of that’s been mapped together. yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting. I did, I I’ve tried to stimulate some kind of more like, kind of just some momentum with this conversation.

And this was all pre COVID and then obviously COVID happened. So, it’s been difficult, but there is a group of people in the email industry, um, that have similar perceptions to you. There’s other people that think, well, do you know what? We just couldn’t lose that. And that’s what we need. We need, we need all those different opinions to come together so that we can have some form of recommendation of how we could combat this Because I think as an, as an industry, We should be helping to drive that forward rather than just waiting for so many complaints that either it gets removed all together, and there’s just nothing or, you know, it just continues as it is. And we will just kind of hide behind it and don’t want to talk about it.

And I think that isn’t really the email community that we are.

Jacques: [01:04:17] No. And I think the risk is that if we don’t do anything about it, someone will do something about it for us. And it won’t be what we want to see.

Jenna: [01:04:24] Exactly. I agree. So, yeah I think, I mean, that’s you and I help pick that up I think there is a group of people, very interested across UK, Europe and the States as well, which I think is really important because it is global and we need to get technology providers also bought into that. But just starting to have that conversation as difficult as it might be, as challenging as it might be, you know, probably all hate each other afterwards, at least we’ve had you know, that open conversation, because that’s how, that’s how things change.

That’s how things improve. Like we can do better, I think.

And I think there is a real passion to be really quite open about it. But if we’re limited in that we can’t turn it off anyway. Then already that’s a massive barrier to being open with that tracking.

Jacques: [01:05:13] I think probably on, on that very positive note, we maybe having to call it a day, thank you so much for taking the time. I really, really appreciate it.