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Podcast episode 2: The future of the marketing function

We talk about our business model, what we believe the future of marketing (and business) looks like and why our business is 80% dumb luck.

Transcription Episode 2: The future of the marketing function

We use AI to record and transcribe our podcasts, so while we give it a whizz through to make sure there's nothing shockingly wrong, the below is our verbatim conversation so it might get a little odd to read in places...


Richard Johnson, David Coghlan

David Coghlan 0:02 Hi, everybody and welcome to Episode Two of the Inspired Marketing group podcast. My name is David Coghlan, and I'm joined by my co founder, Richard. Richard Johnson 0:12 Hello. David Coghlan 0:14 So if you watched the first podcast or listened to it, you'll know that was about who the hell we are. So hopefully you know who the hell we are now. But we thought it would be helpful if we told you a bit more about what we do, how it works, how we came to create the Inspired Marketing group. And I guess the sort of exam question for today's podcast is, what's our view on the future of the marketing function? Or what does the marketing function of the future look like? Because that's what we've been trying to address with the Inspired Marketing Group. So, to wind right back, let's start with a bit of the origin story and where this business concept came from. It was driven pretty much by what Richard and I, in conversation, were thinking about in terms of what our futures might look like. We were both working at Robin Hood energy, and we were starting to think about what might be next, what might we do next? Did we want to stay in corporate land? Did we want to go and get another job? Or we both sort of toyed with the idea of striking out on our own. But I guess there were a few things as we were having this conversation that really came out as kind of fundamentals that we wanted to be true, whatever the outcome was. And that was; We wanted to do the work we love. As a client side marketer you do a bit of everything and actually, it's quite draining. So we really wanted to focus on the stuff we really loved. We wanted to work with great people. We've spent longer than we care to think about in meetings trying to convince stakeholders and colleagues that they should invest in this piece of marketing activity, or this or this, trying to get buy in to marketing activity. We really wanted to work with businesses and with organizations that just get marketing. They understand it drives growth, that it needs commitment and investment, but it's a driver of the business rather than a cost centre. We had these sorts of conversations and I know a big one for you was commuting. Richard Johnson 2:27 Yeah. 100%. I would spend hours in a car traveling sometimes, two hours to and from work and I always thought in the back of my mind, it was not necessary. And we've had those conversations that we’ve talked about quite a lot before like, “you’re marketing, you two boys can work from home one day a week” but the world needed to change. I wanted to be far more productive with my time by being based at home, and, yeah now the world has changed, which really helped us crystallise the model. I guess we went through what we wanted to do and in our mind we knew it would work. But we knew there were going to be some barriers when we would pitch the concept, or describe this business. We knew that when we spoke to businesses about what we were going to do, they’d say “That's brilliant. But…” There was always going to be that but. Just in terms of, “You're not in the office.” And the world changed in many different ways in March, and... say your phrase cos I like it. David Coghlan 3:42 Ha ha yeah, I mean, so obviously, March when COVID hit was just outrageous and everybody was shifting to work from home. But my fundamental belief is with every really successful business, it all boils down to three things. 10% is a brilliant idea. I'll let you decide whether you think The Inspired Marketing Group is a brilliant idea. I think it's pretty good. But whether it's brilliant or not, we'll find out. 10% is hard work. And again, I know Richard and I, we're going to work our asses off And you can stay what you think, but for me 80% of what makes a really successful businesses is dumb luck. Like I said, as horrific as the COVID-19 epidemic has been, for us at The Inspired Group it’s actually been our dumb luck. So like you said, Richard, we expected to spend a whole bunch of our time having conversations with people that either went nowhere or were circular in terms of “Okay, guys, I think it could work, I'd like to bring some people in with you, but I like people in my business, I want to be able to see the whites of their eyes. I want to make sure that they're working.” And obviously, over the past year, that door has just been blown wide open. From our personal experience at Robin Hood energy, in the space of three weeks a 150 person call centre went from being 100% desk based in two offices in Nottingham, to being 100% remote and working from home. If that wasn't mandatory or kind of enforced, then that change just would have never, ever happened. We know that the change for businesses has been absolutely fundamental, but it's also been fundamental for us as individuals and I guess some of the things that we demanded that we would want from a business if we set something up, are actually being reflected by everybody. Everybody wants more flexibility, everybody wants to be able to do the work they love, do it when they want, do it how they want. And obviously with the changing work patterns and being able to work remotely, it's really opened people's eyes to the fact that now they could work really differently. Richard Johnson 6:09 What I was gonna say about that, and to kind of crystallise that in a very succinct sentence, What really matters to a business: Deadlines and output matter to businesses, not location. COVID has proven that model completely. You could be sat on a beach in Cornwall, as long as those outputs are quality, on time, and delivered within the scope, it doesn't matter where you are. And it's been proven. And I guess the other side of that is, we wanted that, but what do businesses actually want? When we were sat on the other side, within an in house marketing function, we were faced with these challenges in terms of, “okay, I've got a short term problem, what do I do? Well, I can't recruit for a short term problem. If I can recruit, I can go down the traditional contracting route but I can't get a contractor in for three months, or two months because they want 6 or 12 month contracts.” And recruitment’s a gamble. My expectation about what I want isn't matched by my budget and all of this stuff is going around in your head. And this is where the model of the Inspired Marketing group came from. And we lived and breathed that within the business we worked in and we’ve found a different way of actually solving that problem. And that's the essence of the Inspired Marketing group and where it came from. I'll leave you to give that in a concise sentence. David Coghlan 7:47 Sure. So out of all of that, if I was going to describe The inspired Marketing Group, and we've been thrashing this around, but if you're going to describe The Inspired Marketing Group it's a subscription based marketing function. We provide a wide multidisciplinary community of experts who can drop into your business exactly when you need them and where you need them. And there's no long term commitment. It's this sort of subscription model, which gives businesses and people, us, complete flexibility to do the work we love, do it when we want, to deliver great work on time for clients. It really does make everybody a winner. Richard Johnson 8:38 And subscriptions are not new. subscriptions are happening left, right and centre. So, we have a subscription based model with Adobe. And you know, we have subscription based models with music streaming services. We have leases for want of a better word with mobile phones, with computer equipment. And we do that because we want the ability to turn off, turn it on, not have the sunk cost within a business and all the associated costs of repairs or whatever that looks like. And in a weird way, that's the same with employees in the fact that, paying somebody a wage of £30,000 isn't a wage of £30,000 by the time you add on costs on, it's a lot more than that. And in reality, businesses needs ebb and flow. And actually why pay for people? Why pay for a marketing function? Why pay for a pay per click specialist, when actually you only run an acquisition campaign twice a year? So what is that person doing outside of that time? Probably stuff which is outside of their specialism and probably stuff they don't really want to do in the first place. We went through that in a PR perspective, when we tried to build a business case to get a PR person in. It was like, brilliant, we could have got a PR person. But actually, outside of doing that traditional PR we might have lumped SEO into them. Just to keep them busy. That's not what they want to do and that's not optimal for business. So this whole idea of having expandable and collapsible teams, which move with your business and are dynamic is what we craved, as in house marketers, and it absolutely now works, where, you can almost align your team around your marketing plan. It works and we’re finding that from the conversations we're having. David Coghlan 10:33 Yeah, and I guess that's the thing. It's the macro change in attitudes and behavior in terms of how they want to resource, or how businesses want to resource themselves. You want those expertise, but you want them on and off when you want them. And I guess the other thing which is, one of the core things that we were talking about when we first kicked this idea around working with great people. So we've now made that one of our pillars, we've got values or pillars that underpin our business, and one of them is being community led. So already, in just three months, we're almost three months old now Rich! Richard Johnson 11:18 Yep! David Coghlan 11:20 But in three months we’ve assembled a community of marketing experts across every discipline; from graphic design, back end developers, we've got copywriters, we've got brand strategists, we've got PR people, so we've already got really broad, but deep expertise in each of those functions. Which is available on/off as and when clients need it. And that's growing all the time, we interviewed another applicant just before this session. So the community is growing and growing. When Richard and I were in a marketing role as a head of or marketing director, we would have a team around us, and then we would bring in agencies and specialists and we’d conduct that orchestra. Now, what we can do is we can parachute into a business, we can conduct the orchestra from within our group and we can drop those skills in and out of the business absolutely when the client needs them. It means that the folkthat we're dropping in there, they're coming in to do exactly the job that they love. They're getting to work with some brilliant brands, they're getting to do it whenever they want, whether that's in the evenings when they put the kids to bed or early in the morning, they might want to work in a cafe or at home. It's absolutely working for everybody, being able to support our community, get them work, help them work with clients that maybe they couldn't access on their own, because we've got a larger group corporate structure that we can deploy. Yeah, it's really working for our clients and it's also working for our community. Richard Johnson 13:12 The two things I want to pick up on that is actually almost the model of how we work. And then almost like the USP of the community as well, because I think that's really, really important. So in terms of how we work with businesses, we try and distill that down into three distinct ways of working which in a nutshell they are: Do It Yourself, Done With You or Done For You. If we take them in that order, if you have an existing marketing team, this isn't about replacing your marketing team, it is about actually what you may need is some strategic guidance, some coaching, mentoring or whatever that looks like. We can come in as The Inspired Marketing Group, you can do it yourself, but we can provide the inspiration, the guidance, the strategy about how you can achieve what you want to achieve. We'll help monitor, work with your team to achieve that, but in essence, you do it yourself. 1 David Coghlan 14:08 Yeah, and we've got a client that we're working with like that, i’m doing some proposition stuff, I'm coming up with the concept but the marketing team are doing it. They're executing it, I'm helping to drive that. Richard Johnson 14:22 Yep. And equally, we've got another client, actually we’ve probably got a client in each one of these working models. So I’m working with another client, they have an existing market team, but they have a bandwidth issue in the fact that they've got a new acquisition, they haven't got the capacity to do what they need to do. So they’ve brought us in to do the thinking, to do the creativity around how they can execute this campaign, the messaging the copy, the development of the landing page, the lead flows and all of that kind of stuff. But in essence, what we then do is, once it’s been signed off, we hand it over to their team and they implement it. So they'll build the emails, they'll build the landing pages. But the hard graft, if you want to call it that has been done by us. So we've the grunt work, they literally just bring it to market. And that could also just be a specialist role, we just bring somebody in, who is a specialist in SEO or something that you need to help your team. So we can furnish your team with talent. The final one is ‘Done For You’, where you may not have a marketing team, but you want one but you can't afford one for whatever reason that is or the person you want, you can't get your business. We're working with another client where we've come in and Dave’s actually working as a part time Marketing Director to set the strategy, set the vision - ‘brilliant love all of that but who will execute?’ Well actually, we can bring in people to do that for you. And that's on a three month rolling contract and actually that flexes and changes. So we've been through one three months, we've just renewed, but actually the team we're delivering within that business has changed because the needs have changed. And actually that goes back to the nutshell of what we're trying to achieve, if you had hired those three people permanently, after three months, you want to change direction of the business, not the strategy, just what you need and you can't because you've got three people. The model just allows complete flexibility to businesses. So that's the model, which I think works, anything to add Dave?, David Coghlan 16:41 No that’s perfect. I mean, that's it right, it’s that flexibility, complete dynamism. You know, no long contracts. Yeah, and it works for everybody. Richard Johnson 16:51 And the other one for me is about the community. So we work with marketing businesses, or ex-client side marketers who've set up their own business. And that may be because they were doing lots of stuff, but they’ve turned around and said, ‘You know what, I don't like strategy. I just want to write copy. That's what sets my soul on fire.’ Then they're in this big, wide world of trying to generate leads, so we work with these businesses to help fill their days. And crucially, to us the difference here is, you've almost got three models or working employment models, you've got; The full time, in house, You've got contractors, You've got our kind of model Contractors are typically looking for six to 12 months contract, which provides them with financial security. The businesses we're looking for, don't necessarily want that. If they've got capacity, and you need that, then we can deliver that, but the majority of our community members are looking for variety. One to two days of doing what they love within multiple businesses. And that's where the flexibility completely builds for everybody. Because they get the flexibility of multiple clients and multiple source of inspiration at work. You as a business don't need to sign a six month contract with one contractor. You just get them when you need them. Going back to one of our values, honesty, we have these conversations daily. Someone will come to us and say ‘We need somebody five days a week.’ Do you? Do you actually need them five days a week? Because actually, we think what you want could be done in three. And we in effect lose out. But it goes back to one of our core values about honesty in that we will much sooner deliver what we can rather than just taking what we can take, for want of a better word. David Coghlan 18:54 Yeah, but similarly, and I think the honesty thing is important as well, because, I think you talked about this, where businesses will have values and they'll write stuff on the wall and honesty is always one of these things. Where they say ‘we’re honest with each other, with our clients or customers blah blah blah’ but It's lip service, right. I think for us it’s what we call radical honesty, which is something which we want to be embedded in everything we do and how we talk with prospects, with clients, with our community with everything. Everybody knows what's happening. The one example, we had the other day where a prospect came to us, they wanted this, this this, this this, we said, okay, and you've got 10k to spend. I don't think what you want, you're going to be able to have for that money. And it's not a case of we're trying to get more money out of the client, we could take the 10 grand off them, but we'd know in the back of our heads that it wouldn't deliver what the client wanted, so much better to have that conversation upfront. Look for everything that you want, i’m not sure your budget is enough, or maybe we're just not the right people to work with you. But if you wanted this, then then maybe we could deliver that? But at least the client knows and they can make a decision. And then in the end, the client decided to go and do something else. But you know, we would much rather operate as humans, be honest with people and open and transparent, tell them what the situation is rather than just taking money. We're not in this to make millions of bucks. We're here to earn the money that we deserve, like all of our experts, pay them the money they deserve. Richard Johnson 20:41 I want to do stuff I love. That's what I want to do. It would be quite easy to take that brief, take the 10 grand and just go ‘ oh well it didn’t deliver.’ Ethically, that doesn't sit with me. That's not the business we are and like you say, much better to be honest, and lose that contract at that initial conversation stage than take the money. You're gonna lose anyway, because you'll take that money, and they'll never come back anyway. So why not just be honest, because we're all humans at the end of the day. David Coghlan 21:16 So yeah, while we're talking about our values. So we've had the Radical Honesty, we've had the Community Led and Fanatical, I think you mentioned this earlier actually Rich. Marketing lights a fire in us and we want to do the stuff that lights a fire in us and also for our community, we want people to come and work with us who love what they do. Absolutely love it. And similarly for our clients, we want to work with clients that absolutely love what they do, they get jump out of bed every day, they're really excited about their business, about what they can achieve, the things they can do. We love working with people who are passionate. And that's really important for us, because if you care, then we'll care. And when we care, we'll go above and beyond and we'll love delivering results. And like Richard said, if we can do work that we love, for people we like, who doesn't want that right?

Richard Johnson 22:14 Do you know what I love? The fact that when you start talking about marketing, you visibly, you start talking quicker and passionately about it. Ha ha And that's it, that’s the thing. We love it. This reminds me of a different story, and this probably goes way off kilter, but it always reminds me of when we were at a different company and one of the MDs said, ‘I watch people walk down the path to a job interview. And I immediately decide whether I'm going to give them the job’. Because if they’re sauntering along and they’re a bit eurgh… then they haven't got the pace and the guile and it's not about running into the office, but you've got to have something about you. And actually, that's what we do with our community. Our community isn't a free for all. We cultivate it, we interview people who want to join our community. And we want to see the passion. Because if you're passionate about what you do, you'll actually deliver. Deliver for the customer and the customer will come back. Everybody wins in that. Yep fanatical about marketing. That's probably the biggest feedback I get; ‘God, you love it don’t you?’ Ha ha Yeah. And that's what we want our community to be like. And equally, you don't need to love marketing as a CEO for us to work with you. You just need to know that it plays a fundamental part in your business growth and survival. And then we can bring that passion for you. David Coghlan 23:44 I guess that neatly segues into our fourth and final pillar or value, which is ‘We Inspire. Hopefully, you can see how we're trying to inspire you, nspire you with this. We're trying to excite you about stuff. We also try to excite our clients, we try to get people thinking differently about how they can do things creatively, how can we deliver amazing results, how they can do things differently. We want to think laterally, we want things to be exciting and interested because I don't get out of bed to do the same thing every day, I get out of bed to do something which inspires me, which interests me, which excites me. Richard Johnson 24:28 And I guess to be honest, one last thing from me I think we've got a great proposition. And in fact, I know it is because actually the feedback we're getting from the people who are on boarded, the clients we're talking to at the moment, they all completely get it. A one off project, a longer term ownership of a deliverable like an acquisition campaign, whether it's coaching or mentoring for your rising star. Whatever that looks like even, a longer term, ‘We need a head of marketing in our business for six to 12 months.’ We’ve got people who love marketing, who can help deliver for your business so yeah, get in touch. From a community point of view as well, all of these great freelance marketeers who are taking their first steps into self employment, the community is there to help, support, guide. Nobody has to figure this freelance world out alone. Join the community, sharing is the motto within there, people sharing business tips. The conversation we had before this, ‘I’ve just had to write websites terms.’ You don't need to, we've got some. Just just use them as your base copy, change them. That's what we're trying to create in this community. So it's great for businesses. And it's great for freelance marketeers, David Coghlan 25:54 Super. So that's it, that's basically what we believe the market function should look like. We would love to hear what you think, whether you agree, whether you think we've got a brilliant idea or whether we've got a dumb idea, let us know. And we'd love to hear from you. Make sure you subscribe on YouTube or Apple... or the other one, what’s it called? Ha ha ha Android! The Play Store. I'm an apple fanboy, sorry, sorry, sorry. Yes, wherever you get your podcasts, get subscribed it'd be great to hear from you. If you're a client and you'd like to speak to us about maybe working with us then visit and if you are a marketing expert in any field, again, get in touch fill in the form. Tell us a little bit about you and then Richard and I will schedule a call and have a chat and see if you're a good fit for the group. Thank you for your time, Richard it's great to chat as always, and we'll see you on the next one. Take care.


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