Talk marketing Tuesdays 001 - Ed Carr
Agency veteran Ed Carr sharing everything you need to know before you engage a marketing agency.
Martin: Good afternoon Mr Carr.
Ed: Good afternoon Mr Henley.
Martin: How are you?
All the better having been told by you it’s out with anger and in with love or was it the other way around was it out with love and in with anger; because we are talking about marketing.
It’s in with anger – out with love.
Martin: Okay good, so I wanted to talk to you about marketing as you know I’m on this mission with my what the series, what on earth is going on with marketing and how do people do better with marketing. So I thought who do I know who has the most experience of anything and then who do I know who has the most experience of marketing and I thought of you Mr Carr. So I thought we should have a conversation so where we should start …
Ed: Your memory is playing tricks with you Martin mate you’ve been away for too long it’s that BaI beer.
Martin: It’s not the Bali beer, you have lots of experience of marketing I’m sure. So give us a sense of how you are qualified to talk to us about marketing? What is your experience? You look like you’ve had a lot of experience.
Ed: Yeah, but that’s only because I’m so old, by the time you get to my age you know you’re like the age of Noah. OK, look, in short order my background in marketing is I went to art school, went to St Martins and they taught me how to how to communicate, how to be guideful how to persuade. Then I left and worked up in london in the 1970s and 80s and I started a small agency in the 90s. I then moved in to the world of the internet, a group of us formed one of the early adopter internet companies led by marketing not by techies and we did really well for about six years. We worked for the corporates, had a couple of really big clients and moved away from the internet when the big agencies jumped on it. We were early adopters so we really cleaned up in terms of excellent clients, we really respected them we did lots of work.
Then I built an agency up where we specialised in strategy and print and web so we integrated it all. I stopped all that about 10 years ago, I stopped exclusively supplying clients with marketing skills and now I do it for my own businesses. That’s possibly another question a bit later on in this. Does that, is that summarise it for you Martin?
Martin: Yes. Now because you called your business the brand group and because you went to art school I always thought that you were a brand agency.
Ed: Yeah, but you were, well I called myself Brand Group because I wanted to distinguish what I do from people just doing copywriting, or just doing print, or just doing web the brand. For me, and this goes back to the art school days, the brand is the beating heart of the business. It starts with that logo, it starts with understanding every single bit about the company at a visceral, emotional level and that’s where the brand starts. So we build a brand and then build out from that with the online work, with the print advertising, with the brochures, with the exhibitions, with the conferences. Calling yourself Brand Group gave you the capacity to speak to somebody almost within the board level. You were you were the peripatetic marketing in-house and that’s what I wanted. I operate best when I understand the heart of the business, now whether that makes any sense as an answer I don’t know, but it certainly makes sense to me because I don’t want to work with clients that don’t have the same passion about marketing as I do which means I have a very restricted client base because I’m not to everybody’s taste. If you don’t understand how important your brand is right down to the last full stop and have the capacity to work around that brand then you’re not gonna work well with me.
Martin: OK so that makes sense, so not just design – the whole of marketing marketing strategy.
Ed: Absolutely yeah.
Martin: When did you start that business?
Ed: I started that business in about 2000/2001 so some time back yes.
Martin: And now you have a couple of clients that you work with but you’re extraordinarily selective about who you work with?
I’m really super selective. I don’t want I want clients to select me, because they have to understand what I do, I’m not a genius, but I do believe I do it pretty well. I want to select my clients. I think one of the faults of marketing is that we make decisions about who we work for and our clients choose us on a whim. I think the the difficulty of being a marketeer is to find the clients you want to work with but from the client side, the buying side it’s equally difficult for them to find who’s going to work best for them. It’s a bewilderingly short and failed process. The choice if you’re on the client side, the choice of who you choose is largely restricted to people that you know or those that you are recommended to speak to and some that you find on the internet. Most companies don’t go through the really long, arduous due diligence process of choosing their marketing supplier, their agency, their online agency or their strategist.
What you want is a long-term relationship with that marketing company because in the end they should know more about the marketing of your business than you do. If you get it right, and I got it right once or twice, I would become the person that the interns and the newly arrived people in the marketing department were sent along to my office to learn about my clients business because I knew more about the marketing of that company than they did. That’s exactly the right relationship, because you are at the front end doing all the work you can describe it in intrinsic detail you’re not just managing it you’re creating it.
Martin: OK, so there’s two things there I’m going to forget the second one but the first one is like, other than selling agencies like when I talk to businesses who need to do marketing I think the primary, the best, there’s lots of good reasons, but the reason you want really effective marketing happening in your business is so that you can be selective about who you sell to. If for example you have one lead a month coming into your business then you’ve got no choice, you better sell to that to that lead. If you’ve got 100 leads and you only need five new clients then you can start being very fussy about who it is that you work with. So I think that’s a good reason for doing marketing.
The second thing, a long-term relationship, of course, of course it needs to be a long-term relationship if it works. What they reckon is that the average lifespan of a digital marketing customer in London is three months. How is that serving anyone? You go in, you’re there for three months, you’ve had enough you end the relationship after three months. I think it’s entirely right what you’re saying. There was something else that I wanted to say …they are not selective because as you were saying it’s bewildering. It is bewildering because the way people think about marketing and specifically the way people sell marketing is shit.
So that annoys me. Yeah, yeah, so yeah so what I think is that is marketing people’s fault.
Ed: I think marketing people have led their clients to believe that it’s some sort of magical, super sexy process that only marketing people understand and it’s not. Marketing is an extremely easy thing to do in terms of its principles and we can talk about the formula if you want to in this conversation. But it’s really difficult to find people that can apply that formula in a communication sense. People who understand how to use colour, how to use words, how to use sales funnels. You talk about marketing but really only companies like Coca-cola – they’re doing marketing. A smaller company is really doing lead generation, most small companies they talk about marketing what they really want is leads. There’s a really big distinction between those two, if you’re marketing in a, you know, a soft way, if you’ve got lots of PR happening, if you’ve got huge numbers going out into your online marketing and it’s about the brand, it’s about perpetual contact of your brand with your customers that’s marketing. Lead generation is what most of the SME’s are trying to do. Does that make sense?
Martin: Yes, that makes perfect sense. The way I used to tell people about this, when I was selling marketing is that its a little bit like selling gym membership. When you first talk to them they are hugely enthused, and they’re ready to commit, and they’re ready to do everything they need to do but the truth is three weeks later they’d rather stay at home and eat cake.
Martin: And that is exacerbated by the message, the marketing message, that you’re putting out – it’s a big secret, it’s a big mystery it’s a big, you know, this is the biggest secret. It’s perpetuated by marketing people. The thing I think about marketing is that marketing is wholly necessary. Essentially, if you aren’t doing sales and marketing in your business you don’t have a business. You might be in a very privileged situation where you’re at the end of your career and you don’t need any new customers, that’s absolutely fine, but that isn’t running a business. I define marketing as finding, winning and keeping customers profitably – if you’re not doing that you are essentially not in business. So tell me Ed how do you feel about marketing?
Ed: I think it’s the devil’s work, I think it is done by charlatans and scav hounds and it is a series of perpetuated, artificial conversations that generally ignore all the potential that real marketing has to communicate. It shouldn’t be called marketing, it should be called communicating because marketing infers a degree of manipulation.
Ed: If you think about what marketing does, in its essence marketing can sell anything to anybody and the proof of that is that it sells people cigarettes. No-one who smokes thinks it’s doing them any good – they still buy it. Marketing sells them alcohol, no-one that drinks believes that’s doing anybody any good but marketing persuades people to go out and drink alcohol, it sells them cars they don’t need because somehow marketing persuades people that they need these things.
Marketing in its essence, marketing doesn’t sell you a product it sells you a better version of yourself. Once the client understands that that’s what they’re selling and they get it, the agency can participate in that, that’s what you’re selling to whoever. The customer is whomever B2C, B2B – marketing sells them a better version of themselves. Once you get that on board and get that in your head and talk to your client about the reality of what you’re selling that establishes value, value that you deliver to your client. It gives them a real understanding from you of what you’re doing. If you want to talk about the techniques that you apply, this you know yeah the D times V, plus FS overcomes R – you know that one?
No, well let me, oh let me tell you. OK if anyone is going to watch any bit of our conversations and all the other rambling nonsense that we do they can forget all that if they watch this bit and take this onboard, this is the bit that’s happening to you every single day you’re being marketed to. D is dissatisfaction and you can persuade people they are dissatisfied with whatever it is; with their car, with their clothes, with the brands they wear, the beer they drink, the fags they smoke – you can persuade anyone they’re dissatisfied. And then you’ve got dissatisfaction that’s D, times V. V is vision, imagine all those dissatisfactions being taken away by what I’m going to give you so with V you explore the vision of what it would mean if you smoked those cigarettes, drank that beer, drove that car, wore those clothes – with V paint that vision and then FS. FS is first steps, the first step is to go out and buy my beer, go out and smoke those fags, go out and buy that car. All of that overcomes resistance because we’re all resistant in some way or other. We don’t want to spend the money or we have some doubt. If you go back through that marketing chain, the deeper you can persuade somebody they’re dissatisfied and the higher you can elevate that vision of what they will become and be if they buy what you’re selling and the first step is just to buy it, all of that will overcome their resistance.
You think of any advert you’ve ever seen, anything on telly, anything in the cinema, anything off the page, anything on TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube – every single piece of marketing is doing the same thing – it’s telling you as a human being you’ll be better as a consequence of buying this thing. That’s it. You’ve just you just run through all the ads you’ve ever seen on telly, anyone watching this is thinking about what they’ve watched recently, what they’ve seen in mags, what they’ve seen on YouTube. Marketing simply works to that formula and the sooner, as a marketing person, you tell your client that’s what you’re going to do, the client’s happy with that because they understand every single time you present something that you are performing within that formula, so they know that they’re spending the money with the right person and they also understand the techniques that you’re applying when you present your work. When you present a suite of advertising they know what it is, they’ve already got in their heads the fact that this is the form in which it’s going to work. That’s what marketing does every single day of the week.
Martin: OK, here’s the question; you say marketing does that, I’m not entirely confident that it does. I wasn’t familiar with that formulation, but I’m familiar with those ideas – if that’s the case and that’s what marketing is good at; why is marketing so bad at selling itself? Because if you talk to any business type person they will tell you the first thing you stop investing in during a recession is marketing, marketing is a waste of money blah blah blah. Nobody gets the value of marketing, whilst all of those business people are probably the least satisfied people on the planet in terms of the performance of their business, in terms of sales and profits. Why is marketing so shit at selling itself?
Ed: Because it doesn’t tell people the truth. The truth is that which I’ve just described. When I go to see client’s now I walk in and I say what’s the problem? Which bit of the business isn’t working? Why am I here? and I explain my D times V plus FS overcomes R. I explain that is what I’m going to do for them. But I won’t do it for them if I don’t agree with their product and, I won’t do it for them if I don’t like them, and I won’t do it for them if I don’t think they’re going to appreciate the value I can bring to them.
Now that’s me repelling clients but mostly I can do that because I don’t have an agency anymore, I don’t have the overheads. I hire people in to do all the bits that I need done so I can say that, happily I don’t have to drive a sales machine to keep people sitting at desks, you know, offices with lots of pot plants and expensive bits and bobs.
My potential clients, they’ve got two problems. They’ve got the problem of not generating enough leads which is bad enough on its own, which is really causing problems in the company because they’re not gonna have as much money as they want. Then their second problem which is bewildering is who the freaking heck do I choose to do this job which is so important because I haven’t got enough money in my company. Then you go to the third problem which is I need to find someone that’s really good, but they’re going to cost me more money than I can afford to pay because I’ve don’t have enough money because my business isn’t doing what it should be in the way of marketing. So yeah, marketing miss-sells itself because it believes that it can pull the wool over its customers eyes and if it didn’t do that, if it just said this is what I know, this is what I’ve done, this is what I can prove and if you want to work with me I will charge you this money because this is what it’s gonna cost to see your business change. Most people don’t do that. I think marketing people undersell themselves. If they are any good they really ought to be able to say up front; this is exactly what I’m charging, this is my delivery, this is the job and finish money and I won’t do it for any less because I know I’m going to add value to your business. When I’ve stopped doing this it’ll go on working.
Marketing people undersell themselves a) by not telling truth and b) by not charging enough, because if you don’t charge enough you don’t get good people. I run an agency and I try to get the best I can afford and you’ve seen the same thing and the people you’ve used on the supply side if you don’t make enough money in your business to hire good people your business doesn’t last. Does that answer the question?
No, it doesn’t. So, why don’t marketing agencies just tell clients the truth? I think they can’t deliver. I think that customers in their businesses think it’s impossible for them to be generating the leads and the agencies think it’s impossible for them to be generating the leads and so they lie. if they get three months out the relationship they’re happy they’ll go lie to the next client and they’ll get better and better at lying. I’ve got a different rationale. My rationale with clients to talk to them about cost of customer acquisition. I tell them you are spending time and energy and money already on acquiring customers. The purpose of me being here, because I want to get beyond the lead, because leads are also bullshit, it’s got to be about sales – so my mission in being here is to increase the number of leads you generate, decrease the cost of those leads, increase the number of conversions and increase profitability. That’s what a client should be interested in.
That works beautifully because then you say you sit down with a fag packet and you ask; how much do you spend on sales? how much do you spend on marketing? how much do you spend on cars, computers blah blah all of that stuff, print, all of that and how many new customers are you generating each year. That will give them, in a second, their customer cost of customer acquisition. Then you can tell them, there you go hey ho, your cost of customer acquisition is six thousand pounds per customer you’re generating four thousand pounds per customer you’re selling yourself out of business already. That’s kind of my rationale. I think I’m probably not a practical person but maybe I’m a little bit more of a practical market marketer than a than a designer type marketer I think theres quite a difference.
So that’s why lie because they don’t know how they’re going to get that work done, because that actually relies on response, it relies on somebody outside looking at the offering and saying that makes me feel bad, I want to feel better, can these people make me feel better. Marketing companies aren’t doing that, they’re too busy bullshitting customers.
I think you’re absolutely right, I really do. I know that you and I have spoken as before about the huge amount of mystery around marketing and it doesn’t have to be like that. What you’ve just described is incredibly important to a customer because they have to understand what you will do, you’re very analytical in the stuff that you do. when you go to work you can give them that CPA, the cost per acquisition, you will talk about CPA, if they’ve never heard it before then you’re going to explain it to them and that is on the balance sheet the end of every month boom that’s your CPA yes, yes.
Martin: Literally, business people will be all excited, I’ve got a 20% margin well actually your cost of customer acquisition is 25% so you are selling yourself out of business. You know that is exactly what’s going on most often. Okay good so what did I want to ask you?
For me effective marketing is just having the right product and then landing the right message on the right person at the right time. So that’s the process I’m thinking about and offering which fits in with what you’re saying because the message then is probably you’re not as happy as you should be, you could be happier, that that kind of messaging.
So, what is your recommendation then if if I am a small business and I’m dissatisfied with the performance of my business and I am looking to improve my business through marketing and sales what would your recommendation be?
Ed: Know that you can afford to buy the best you can get.
That’s it for a small company. Are you are you talking about SME’s with five people 10 people 15, or a sole trade or a what because it’s all different to each of those?
Martin: I think that if it’s a sole trader then god help them, yeah, especially now. You have to have time, energy and money to invest. If you don’t have that then, you know, go to networking meetings and do whatever you can but make sure you do whatever you can. Internationally they reckon that the average cost of customer acquisition is 30% of turnover. If you’re a sole trader then my advice would be to spend a third of your week making sure you have customers. This then ties into the other end of marketing which is about the pricing and all of these things. Any business should know that they need their customers to generate the money they need to do the marketing so that’s my advice at the very low end.
Ed: Terrifying message there. When you walk into a company and say spend that amount of money to keep your company viable, they must be shitting themselves and rightly so.
Martin: If they’re not spending that amount of money already to sustain themselves, they’re probably doing it already, but if they’re not then, you know, I’m probably better at repelling clients than you. I just I just quote them stupid amounts of money and they go away.
Ed, We should go into business together, we’d have no clients at all 🙂
Martin: I’m down to one, its OK, I’ve got a lot of time for photography and chatting to people like you.
The thing is the sooner they get that message, and there’s lots of messages in that like be the most expensive in your market. What I mean is; do you want to sell a Robin Reliant or do you want to sell a Rolls Royce? because if you want to sell a Rolls Royce you better make sure you’re charging to build the Rolls Royce. That’s that my message to them and if they don’t understand that marketing is about buying customers, the sooner they understand that the better off their business will be.
Ed: Part of the answer to your question, which I haven’t successfully answered at all is that people make the decision about who they will hire to do their marketing, unless they’re a big international and they go through the agency process, most SME’s and small companies make a decision about marketing with very very little information; either intuitively within themselves about what marketing is or information they get from outside. They may ask a colleague oh I need marketing in my widget business who have you used in your sprocket business, but the sprockets are different from the widgets so the person asking the question is asking the wrong person. The question, the second thing about choosing a marketing agency is really what we’re trying to get towards. The second part of choosing who you’re going to work with is getting it right. Your stats about the the revolving door, three months with an agency is an absolute dereliction of duty from both sides primarily from the client who’s doing the hiring, they haven’t bothered to put graft, work in to find out what they’re buying. The exposure time spent by a client choosing their supplier ought to be 20 times longer than what they’re currently doing. I remember going around pitching for work – I’d have an hour’s meeting with somebody, I’d produce a report, send it back and expect that to get me business. The attrition, and it did, well it did, but it got me the wrong kind of business. What can you tell in that hour; would you would you choose to spend five years of your life doing something that’s critical to your business on the basis of one hour’s worth of exposure. I know people buy houses in half an hour but here I’m talking about personal relationships.
Martin: This is where we’re coming to the fault of customers because, when you and I were doing all those talks for Sussex Enterprise breakfasts and we were talking to 100 people every other week I would go and see those people and one of them sat me down, he’d seen me talk for 15 minutes, and he’s like you’re gonna have to work pretty hard not to work for me based on 15 minutes of me pitching some, whatever it was at the time.
It’s a completely subjective decision, it isn’t objective at all and the way that clients engage with agencies, certainly my experience, is that it is always a subjective experience. They buy a dog and they want to bark themselves, you know so it’s like, no we want it like this, I want it like this and you’re like well then why the fuck am I here. Do you know what I mean? It’s like I’m massively skilled, if you’ve got a checklist of things that need to be done get onto Upwork and find yourself an Indian or a Bulgarian person and get them to do it for five dollars an hour. Do that you know what I mean? You’re absolutely right but it doesn’t matter how objective a process it is if you invite a parade of shit show agencies in to come and bullshit you about what they’re gonna do, how could you possibly make an objective decision?
This is the dire situation that marketing is in is that what the fuck, literally what the fuck. You need marketing in your business, you need it and there’s there’s no answer. You’re in the way of it, the people who supply the service are in the way of it.
Ed: You know what there’s this thing isn’t there, people believe that their relationships with their nearest dearest loved ones wives, mistresses, children are special things, of course it’s all about trust. It’s all about that openness and transparency which yields a proper relationship. People don’t carry those innate human qualities into the relationships they have when they go to work, but that’s what drives a good relationship that’s what makes it work. But I had to run the agency, I took on clients, I’m not going to name them but I took on clients and I thought what are they on about, he doesn’t value, he or she doesn’t value what we’re doing. They’ve got no idea that we’re still here at three in the morning producing the stuff to make sure it’s perfect all they do is try and drive the price down.
I mean, what kind of relationship have you or I ever had in our lives where we have tried continually, I’m assuming it’s not an abusive relationship, to abuse the relationship and yet people when they hire marketeers persist in trying to drive down the price, increase the quality. The best marketing relationships are where there is an absolute even flow of equitable people, talking about equitable things. if you’re supplying marketing your clients demands are the most important thing you can ever have and that’s for every single one of your clients and you can’t do that; you need to have fewer clients to do that. If you’re the client you need to be super important to your marketing agency, you need to know that if you phoned up and said I’m taking the work away from you that’s going to hurt but also as an agency you need to be able to say to your client, you know what I just don’t think this is working at the moment. Why isn’t it working? The CPA might be all right for you but it doesn’t work back at base just because. You and I both know, I won’t name the guy, but we worked way back in the day with a guy that would go into work in the week between Christmas and New Year. He’d sit down at his desk, look through the books, he’d check out the clients and he’d find the six worst performing clients on his books. He’d phone them up in the first week of January and he’d say you know what it’s not working, I don’t know why it’s not working but it’s best for you if we stop. Like, you know it’s not you, it’s me, it’s best for you if you take your business elsewhere. He did that and his business absolutely rocked because of the time he freed up, because all those clients were the ones, you know the 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of the clients cause eighty percent of the problems. They were the ones that were the ball ache, they were the ones that were phoning up at six in the evening saying I need my work done by tomorrow so you need to keep all your staff back.
That’s not a durable relationship, it is broken as soon as either side does that to each other. So, back to your question – people need to be honest as marketeers to their clients about what they can do but their clients also need to be honest about why they’re choosing that marketeer. Is it because, you know, people choose things for the most ridiculous reasons, because we know, the sexy account executives of either gender. When I had account executives they had to be on it, on it, and we did that intentionally. We would train our account executives the psychology of body language to make sure that we got that client because I had to feed them.
Martin: Let’s not go there because I don’t think we’ve got time today but also staff are a freaking nightmare, just to do the work, is just a disaster.
Ed: Yeah, we’ll have a chat about that because that’s interesting for the clients that we want and the clients that we’ve had and the clients we might get. It’s really important that they know how the marketing is being organised, they need to know the internal workings of how you are delivering the stuff you promised.
I think they need to get it, I think the relationship has to be that good there has to be a huge amount of trust.
Martin: The things that I’ve done most recently where I’ve been most successful are where I’ve had the most space just to get on and do what needs to be done. That is is gold dust because otherwise you’re right you’ve got the customer on the phone, the client on the phone every 20 minutes – what’s up with this what’s up with that. It doesn’t work and that basically comes down to this distrust but that comes around to why are marketing people spending so much time bullshitting their customers?
Ed: Martin question for you would you rather be paid you on a job and finish or a retainer?
Martin: I don’t know if there is such thing as job and finish. I think for me marketing is an ongoing investment and and really there’s no mystery to it just do the freaking work. Just do the thing, like post where you need to post, put the content on your site, do the events, do the press, do the whatever, do the networking, do the freaking work – that’s the secret of marketing that nobody wants to tell you. So I don’t think there’s such thing as a job and finish, I’m not going to get involved in building a website for anyone anymore. What I want to be doing is what I did with a customer recently, tripling their turnover in two years. I want the customer coming back to me saying Martin I want to give you more money because look what you did with that with that amount of money that we gave you in the first instance. Did that client come back and say that? No. Are they gone? Yeah.
Ed: Yes of course it’s not it’s such a great shame that clients that you’ve had, I’ve had and that you want – they don’t get the chance to witness these kind of conversations but they should.
Martin: That’s why we’re having this conversation.
Ed: That’s exactly right. The thing that you want to say to your client, if they’re a client that you want that you want to work with that you can really make the difference in their company and you know that and recognise it. From the first meeting onwards you’ve got a good idea of the change you can make you basically want to say to the client I’m a freaking genius, I can absolutely do this and say it to them and be convinced that you’re right. Of course you can never say that to a client because they will think you’re mad. But there are clients that you want to work with where you absolutely, you just know. I’ve tried it, I’ve said to clients this isn’t just about you choosing me, I’m going to choose you and I want to work with you because your interesting.
It doesn’t work with everybody because some people are confronted and conflicted by that sort of honesty but if that’s the way you’re going to conduct your business, you as a supplier, then that’s the way it’s going to leach out again if you try to be anything other than that which you are naturally, it won’t work. If after three months, if you’re naturally a kind of an emotive person that needs to get in someone’s head to make sure you’re getting it right but you don’t reveal that in your first meeting, it takes them three months to get it, you’re going to get sacked after three months. So get it out on meeting one if you really think that you can make a difference be passionate about it, absolutely nail it so that by you by the time you finish that meeting the client doesn’t want to work with anybody else because you have got under their skin but you don’t want to do that with everybody because you end up with the wrong clients. Again, from the client side, they need to get that. They need to understand marketing isn’t just an engineering process, it does have the D,V,FS,R, the principles. How those principles are applied, the content creation that drives the success of that process is something that a client ought to be able to understand at the level of it being produced. That degree of honesty can convert the client, or the potential client, from reluctance to a client and an ongoing client. The client doesn’t want to invest in you and lose you in three months because they’ve got to go through the process again. You don’t want to invest in them and lose them in three months. You’re right there’s a lot of people that bullshit that goes on around it, clear the bullshit away and you have a proper working relationship and you’ve got a lovely marriage.
Martin: Did I make it clear enough, I definitely don’t want any clients.
Ed: Oh absolutely crystal and the way this conversation is going you and me mate we’re going to be stacking shelves down at Lidls in a couple of months time. Well you’ll be in Bali down at the beach. I’ll be on a bench somewhere on the south coast. I think partly because, certainly for me, being stricken in age, I’ve got to a point where I actually care so much I don’t care about the stuff I don’t need to care about. I don’t need everything, I don’t need every client in the world to be happy and I don’t require 30 people at desks to feel a sense of status. I just need to know I’m doing good work with good people and I know I’m saying this about me but I know you well enough Mr Henley to know that although you’re a very exuberant personality, you actually hide a lot of your real skills from your clients. I don’t think they know what, and you can quote this, I don’t think they know the difference you’re gonna make for them. They just need to trust you more.
Martin: Well, I mean it’s gone now because now I’m blowing the lid off the whole the whole thing, I’m pulling back the curtain I’m like this is this is all the shot they say, this is what it actually means, this is why it’s important, this is why you should do it. Hopefully, if I have to pitch a client ever again because they’ll all become educated in marketing and they’ll know how to do it right and they’ll want do it right, and they’ll be much more successful. That’s my new mission, I don’t want a client, I want to fix the broken marketing that’s what I want to do.
On that note there’s a guy advertising on Youtube, an english guy and he must be about 24 and his pitch is basically did you know that businesses will pay you between one and two thousand dollars a month to do their marketing? did you know that you don’t even need to know how to do marketing? did you know that if you had 10 clients that would be 120 000 a year did you know that if you had 20 clients that would be 240 000 a year; and you don’t even have to do the work. What is that? What is that? I’ve had 20 clients, it’s a freaking nightmare, who wants 20 clients? It’s just insane. So that’s my question then, what is your advice to anyone who’s thinking about starting a marketing agency?
Ed: Don’t. That’s my advice unless you want to have your heart broken and you believe in the power of what you do and it’s important to you that your belief in that power means that you work for worthy businesses and do a brilliant job, then don’t start a marketing agency. Be an individual that sells that and collect people around you that can help you in that endeavour. Don’t build a company that relies upon having offices keep your overheads lean and low. If you’re a person that doesn’t give a monkey’s about anything and you want to make a pile of money then marketing is the right place to be, it’s absolutely the right place to be because there is one sucker client born every minute and because the client is in the same degree of self-delusion and artifice as their supplier. They absolutely deserve each other, go on, start your agency pack it full of pretty people that know sweet fanny adams, get them all to go out there and flog it for you and you will make money. You and I both know a lot of people that have piled it high, sold it expensive and they’ve done financially very well. So if you have to start an agency be very very clear what you want out of it, do you want to change the world do you want to bring about positive change for your clients, do you want to make a lot of money or just subsist. You have to know what your aim is otherwise you will be a rudderless ship and you’ll end up in the wrong place.
Martin: I thought you might go another way with that but that’s okay we’ll come back to the way I thought you would go which is what my recommendation would be. When you take on a client the mission is to fix the riddle of how to market effectively; what is the right product? who are the right targets? what are the right messages? where are the right places to put those messages. That is the mission, to fix that piece of the puzzle and once that’s fixed then it’s just an ongoing do it, do it, do it, do it, do it. Basically are you saying if you have no morals whatsoever, your morals are in the gutter, then start a marketing agency you can make a lot of money?
I launched myself out of bed for nine years when I was running the Effective Marketing Company, I thought I was changing the world and after nine years I’m like – I haven’t even touched this, I’m not even getting close.
So here’s what I thought you might say, which is the direction that you’ve gone since you’ve stopped the marketing agency proper, which is developing your own businesses and marketing your own products. It seems to me, if you’re good at marketing why would you do it for somebody else. If you want to get yourself a product and market it for yourself.
Ed: But that’s a brave decision to make isn’t it? Because if you’re good at marketing that means you’re probably not good at anything else so if you’re gonna run your own business but you’re the marketing person you need to bring people around you that will support you in running that business. But I know you me and a third party about how many years ago? probably 15 years ago we took the afternoon off and we sat down of an afternoon, Friday afternoon, a lovely old country hotel, teas, coffee’s, all very nice, a couple of bourbon biscuits and we said to each other what the freaking, what the fuck are we doing because we’re going to go back to our offices this afternoon and work there on a Friday night until about eight o’clock to get finished for clients. What is the essential difference between us and our clients and the essential difference was that we created value for the client but none for ourselves. We created value which they then benefited from for many, many years years if not decades afterwards and we would have to find another client. We looked around the piece and said well what can we do that would give us a chance to own our own businesses. I’ve moved off into other areas where I’ve used my marketing skills, working with very well chosen colleagues so that they can do the work that they do, which I don’t understand, financial processes etc. You’re much more of a process man than me but I’ve managed to create a couple of businesses that I’m very pleased with, but that’s not a decision for everybody. Some people are really happy just to be the marketing person but I wanted to invest in my own business, whatever skills I have in that business, building the brand, building the reputation rather than continually investing in somebody else’s. I don’t recommend that as a path for everyone because it means you’re the business owner and that brings a whole load of new complexities to your life.
Martin: Yeah, but we’re talking about people who might start a marketing agency. Now the thing is, my recommendation for everyone is the only point of having a business is to have something that increases in value so that at some point in the future somebody will sit down and write you a big fat cheque for it, otherwise if you don’t want that then you might as well just be employed. I think the thing about marketing is obviously, you didn’t start three or four businesses whatever it is, in one go – it’s a full-time job until you’ve worked out that formula, that part of the puzzle like what the product is, it’s a full-time job, it’s not done until that’s done. That would be my recommendation to anyone, I’m with you one hundred percent if you have the morals of an alleycat go rape people for their marketing budgets, you will do very well. If you are interested in yourself and having something that’s valuable in the future and you’re good at marketing don’t start a marketing agency, be employed. If you want to do something for yourself, find a product – you know how to do that if you’re good at marketing, find people who are looking to spend money on that thing, that makes so much more sense to me. Even when we had that conversation 15 years ago, I’m like yeah, I’m just going to go and do that, I didn’t do it. I soldiered on for another whatever it was eight, seven, six, five years whatever it was. I know the other guy who was there is still soldiering on with marketing.
Ed: You need to tell people more that you’re a genius. I’m going to be very frank with you, you need to go out there and tell people that. I remember those those mornings you referred to, when you and I used to go out and do the rubber chicken tour, talking to people about marketing. I’d stumble onto the stage, bewildered, full of coffee, with eyes crossed and be weak, falling over and you come bounding on energy, content, analysis, proper process and I’ve watched you with bewilderment, I’m thinking how can he be that good, bloody half past six in the morning. 50 people in the room, none of them wanted to be there. I’m going to sing your praises mate because you do a colossal job for your clients but it’s hard for you to say that to a client. Next time you’ve got a client you want send them to me and I’ll tell them how good you are.
Martin: Okay I’ll do that, but there’s no such thing as a client I want. I am absolutely, perfectly happy where I am, I am going to change the world and I’m going to be involved in marketing and I’m just going to let people know exactly what the score is so they can go and do marketing for themselves and they can be successful in their businesses. This is my revolution, this is this is what’s going on here.
Ed: I’ll come back to your question about what should you do if you want to start a marketing agency. I would repeat the thing about clarity, understand what you want out of it, understand right down to a kind of core, visceral level – do I just want a pile of cash? a huge amount of sex? or do I want to change the world in a more philosophical way. Be true to whatever it is you’ve decided to do, don’t misrepresent yourself or the business that you’re getting into. You can choose on a spectrum if you’re going to be an absolute angel or an absolute devil. Choose where you sit and then deliver, deliver, deliver – don’t change in the middle don’t go from an angel to a devil devil to an angel it’s just confusing.
Martin: Clarity, right. I think that’s good, advice I wouldn’t recommend my worst enemy to start a marketing agency.
Ed: I’d recommend my worst enemy any day of the week because that would be a way of crippling them, they would be bust in every single way – financially, morally, spiritually, humanly bust; its a grim, grim business. Back to your question about charlatans, schmutter hounds, snake oil salesman are marketeers and clients should never forget that you’re talking to a snake oil salesman. If you’re a client, watch what this person does when they’re talking to you; if they shift their body language so that their left hand is on the table but they move that to the right hand on the table you, as a client, you can deceive them. If you then mirror that body language they think that you are agreeing with them that’s how marketeers are not only deceiving the clients, they’re deceiving the clients.
Martin: Yes, yes and this is this is where it goes. Right so we’ve got about nine minutes, I don’t know how much battery I’ve got left, but can we do another one of these about the process? You said that you wanted to talk about.
Ed: I’d love, I’d love to. That’s probably me asking you questions though because when I was running the agency my job was creative head so the process was left to other people but the process is is what drove it.
Martin: I want to ask you now, what is your take on the global world health/economic situation? How should marketers, if they’re in-house or they are agencies, or they are business owners, how should people be responding to what’s going on right now?
Ed: Is it their responsibility to do so? Sorry to answer a question with a question but I watched a marketeer a couple of years ago in an open forum to a room full of people say that the three most exciting words they’d ever heard in marketing; I’m thinking, here we go this is going to be the thing that’s going to change the world, this is the bit where people engage themselves with a new honesty, this is the bit where people get to understand that they don’t need to be deceived by the things they don’t need. This person said the three most exciting words they’d ever heard in the world of marketing and advertising were “rinse and repeat.” Because a plastic bottle full of shampoo was used twice as fast, they didn’t actually need to wash their hair anymore, their hair was washed, twice the stuff, the gunk, the plastic. You know I say this as a fellow with no hair so it’s irrelevant, the gunk in the plastic pot was got through twice as fast so the agency that came up with rinse and repeat did a great job for their client and a shit job for the world because the plastic bottles ended up in the sea more quickly, the soap went down the drain more quickly.
Ed: What was the question yes what was the question again the question was how do I think marketers should be responding to what’s going on in the world currently?
Martin: There’s a whole other conversation we could have about the ethical thing of marketing; are we selling stuff that people don’t need. Of course we can have that conversation another time, but basically I think the world is fucking itself right now.
Martin: What would your recommendation be to anyone who is a business owner, or a marketer, or a salesperson, what should they be doing right now?
Ed: Well, first off, decide if it matters to you a lot of people decide that’s not my problem, you know, I’m doing all right I’ve got the things I want why would I bother to change if I have all the things I want. Are you suggesting people should have more of a social conscience is that your underlying ….
Martin: No, we’re definitely going in two different directions. In 2008 I presented at Brighton City College just after the recession. It was one of my barnstorming, it was probably my crowning glory as a speaker, and it was basically – they say no one expected this but the newspapers were talking about it for three years blah blah blah, more millionaires created in a recession than any other time blah blah. It was the time that the keep calm and carry-on signs had come out, that was a good news story – they were turning over 300k a month or something. So I ended up saying to them that my advice is not to keep calm and carry on my advice is get excited and kick arse. That was my response because with the way I see these things, because I lived in South Africa for a period of time, the British economy is like the teacups at the fun fair, nothing really exciting ever happens and there’s no opportunity on the tea cups people are getting snogged on the waltzer. That’s what’s going on now. So I don’t know if you had a particular view, should people be doing more marketing. I know I’ve given you the answer that I wanted you to give me.
Ed: You’ve given me such a broad question, should people be doing more marketing? I’m afraid that breaks down into about a million different variables because of course it depends on what your business is as to whether you should or not. If you are a marketeer I think the central point of what you were saying is that there is always opportunity clients need marketing and customers need to understand what they’re buying. One of the things that people find hard to grasp is change, a lot of us are resistant to change but if you embrace change what’s happened with COVID, you don’t need to look any further than what’s happened to a company like Zoom. We’re using zoom now we may have used before but this situation has put on 240% on its share value they’ve put on 300 staff, it’s a massively changing company because it’s taken advantage of this opportunity.
As a marketeer look for new opportunities, you can decide what the ethics morality or any any other part of that is but if you want to do marketing there will be a stack of opportunities for you out there regardless of whether you want to do good or do good or not.
And marketing really is is enticing change all the time, it’s inviting somebody to change from what they were buying before to what it is you want them to buy so they give up one brand to come to your client’s brand. As a marketeer that’s incredibly exciting if what you want to do is work super, super hard there’s plenty of clients out there. If you could persuade them you’re the fellow to do it they will they will engage you, there’s always continual work.
Martin: I think the thing is that, I mean we could have a whole conversation about this, but in these situations there is opportunity. Your competitors will be going out of business, their customers will be looking for suppliers. If you take my broad kind of definition of what marketing as an activity is, deciding on products, finding targets or identifying markets, landing the right messages on the right people at the right time – that’s what all of marketing is. I think it’s interesting, Facebook shares have gone up, Zoom shares have gone up. The market’s shifted all of a sudden and there’s opportunity in that for people you know.
So yeah, that’s kind of what I think. I also think that there should be some ethics in marketing I don’t think we should be selling shit to people they don’t need, that’s what I think. You know I’m a revolutionary communist, we’re going to have to have another conversation about that on another channel it’s not appropriate here.4
ED: You are certainly looking like the revolutionary communist with the lovely beard. Look at you basing yourself on cuban leaders. I’m not going to argue against your discussion about ethics. There’s another underlying point about change and where we’re going and what’s happening in COVID because we’re recording this good listener on Thursday the 17th of September 2020 and we’re, as you know if you’re in it, and you ought to understand this if you are watching in five years time – we’re at the end of an extraordinary catastrophe in terms of what’s happening in 2020, but we’ll start a new reality. Now here’s a nasty little thing just to just to round out the last few minutes of our conversation, the earth has seen at least five extinctions, possibly six, because the extinction that happened before the dinosaurs was about global warming caused by volcanic activity about 250 million years ago from the Thursday the 17th of September, and the global activity of the volcanoes caused so much co2 that the earth warmed to the point where it wiped out the dominant species of the day that then allowed another species to rise and that was dinosaurs, which in turn were wiped out then by the meteor. Now, if you want to talk about ethics, whether that’s a problem for a marketing person or not is for them to decide but what we seem to be doing with a great deal of success at the moment is causing the seventh extinction, the difficulty is that it could well be. You don’t expect that from a marketeer do you?
Martin: Well they should all be feeling dissatisfied now they better go out and buy some shit.
Ed: martin may I don’t know if we’re out of time but I’ll tell you what this is the kind of conversation that most marketing people ought to have, don’t have and most clients ought to watch and be a part of.
Martin: They should, and they should like, and they should subscribe and they should follow and they should do all of that stuff – maybe they should go buy my course. Ed this has been such a pleasure, thank you so much I knew this would be good.
Ed: Thank you, you are the man, every time. Look how can we do this again? I’ve loved it.
Martin: Yeah, well let’s, I’ve only got four or five people on my list that I want to talk to so maybe I’ll be back to you in like six weeks.
Ed: whenever yeah I’ll be in anticipation Martin.
Martin: You are an absolute legend, let’s draw a line cheers Ed I’ll speak to you again soon.
Ed: All the best, you take, care see you
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