It's probably cliche to say, but the past few months have been truly transitional, evolutionary, and (frankly) a little crazy for our Marketing Team. Each year, this team balances campaign on top of campaign on top of product releases on top of some more campaigns. And this year, we added the Kentico Kontent rebrand into the mix.
I'm Stephen Griffin, originally from Ireland but living in the Czech Republic for the last five years. Four and a half of those have been with Kentico. And I'm the VP of Global Marketing at Kentico.
How did you first find out about Kentico?
I heard about Kentico when I was searching for a job in the Czech Republic. As an English speaker living here, I figured I wouldn’t have many opportunities for work. But then Kentico popped up in my searches, and it seemed like a great option.
What has your journey been like with Kentico?
It's been a bit of a crazy ride, really. I started as a copywriter in Kentico and have moved through a few positions before ending up as the VP of Marketing. I spent time as a Product Marketing Manager, a Marketing Communications Team Leader, and an overall Marketing Team Leader.
In all that time here, what have you found to be the best thing about Kentico?
The people. It might sound like the cheesy, easy answer, but it really is the truth. I have had some pretty exciting jobs in the past, including being a full-time football coach (“soccer”, for the Americans out there). Football is my first love, but even that job never compared to the people and culture in Kentico.
What is Kentico—in one word?
Team. I've played and coached football, and everything is about the team. If one person struggled, everyone struggled. But you have to find a way through it. You have 90 minutes to do all you can to get the result.
I never thought such an environment could be seen in a company the size of Kentico. But it is here. We have limited time to make sure we deliver what our customers need, and I often see that everyone rallies together to get things done. Again, a cheesy answer, but it surprises me quite a lot to see the solutions people come up with to help customers.
What's the most difficult aspect of your job? The most rewarding?
The most difficult part is trying to slow time. There just never seems to be enough time in the day to get through all the work, and I often wish that I could just slow time to get through things.
The most rewarding thing for me is to see the results—to see the number of leads, opportunities, and deals we get. In the end, marketing is here to get the word out to people, and if I see increases in the numbers, it means we are doing a good job.
Now onto some marketing stuff—what makes a good marketing team?
I think there are a number of factors, but if I were to narrow it down, I would say a marketing team needs to understand the customer, it needs to be creative, and finally, it needs to be fun. It can be stressful looking at the results and trying to make sure that we promote the product that our developers invested months of time and energy into, so without a sense of humor and fun, I think the activities and messages going out to potential customers would be boring and unsuccessful.
Is there a specific quality or characteristic you think every marketer should have?
I think in the past, most people would have said that marketers need to be creative, innovative, and need to think outside the box. But now, I would say that every marketer needs to be analytical. You can be as creative as you want, but if you can't analyze the impact you have on the customer or the business, then how can you know you are doing things right?
Over the years, was there a marketing trend you saw that really fell flat?
I'm not sure any marketing trend ever falls flat. I think most trends occur for a good reason and, to a certain extent, they all make an expected impact, but circumstances sometimes dictate that it won’t continue.
However, internally, we definitely had one trend that I think didn't work for us, and that was Agile Marketing. I won’t go into the details, but it was just not a process that worked for us and it has taken a long time to adapt and rethink the approach to get some level of it working. (There happen to be some blog posts about the subject, written by me, if you’re morbidly curious: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Since I wrote these blogs, we have settled on a Scrumban approach that is working quite well now, but it took many years.)
Do you have a favorite marketing campaign?
Have I mentioned I love football? It was my passion growing up, and I was lucky enough to play with some great players and coach some wonderful talent, too. So one marketing campaign that really captured my attention was from the early 2000s called “The Cage” by Nike. It was a TV ad and, for me, it is my first real memory of influencer marketing.
They had a host of international superstars from around the world, and they played football with no rules—just fun, like kids do on the street—and I just remember all my friends and I playing day in and day out to try repeating what they did in that commercial. Nike football in that period really boomed. It was incredible.
What is the thing about your team that you’re proudest of?
The thing that I am proudest of is to see the team mature. A lot of people started in some junior positions and, over time, have grown into fantastic professionals and matured into wonderful colleagues and friends. I think it is great that, at Kentico, we give people the opportunity to start young and grow their career, and I am very proud to see so many people be successful in that.
How about that Kentico Kontent rebrand?
The Kentico Kontent rebrand was a very unique challenge. We spent a number of months (maybe even years) developing a strong brand for Kentico Cloud, as it was known before this rebrand, but during that time, the product and market evolved a lot. So, as a company, we decided we needed a big-bang rebrand delivered quickly.
I’ll save you the details (there are no “lessons learned” blog posts out yet), but in July, we set ourselves a challenge to deliver a new enterprise-level website by September 16, in time for Kentico Connections. Although we outsourced some development and graphic design work for the website, we had a huge amount of work to do internally on updating the brand across all channels—Google ad campaigns, collaterals, social channels, email campaigns, newsletters, all external resources, and so much more all needed to be updated.
And, as we wanted a big-bang release, it all had to be prepared but launched simultaneously on September 16. It took a lot of planning, meetings, discussions, and ultimately a lot of teamwork and trust in each other to know that each person would solve their specific tasks. And all this had to be balanced with our regular work while also preparing for our Kentico Connections conferences. Through hard work, we made and launched an entirely new brand on schedule.
What’s the biggest challenge facing marketers today?
The old phrase of “The customer is always right” has probably evolved over time. I see it now as “The customer is always first”. And I think that is a big challenge for marketers today. Customers no longer need to walk into a physical store — everything is available online, and a customer can come to your store whenever and however they wish. And if you can’t cater to their needs, they will just go somewhere else.
Every business needs to make sure they put the customer needs first. Forget about your fancy website with your favorite color, font type, or advertising the products you like. Think about what your customer wants, think about what they like, and offer every customer the personal touch that makes them stay loyal to you. Your website needs to represent you but in the end, it has to serve the needs of your customer, not you.
Where do you see marketing moving in the next 15 years?
I don’t think marketing ever changes. New channels, technologies, and needs emerge, but the underlying premise remains the same: Give your customer what they want, when they want it.
What marketers need to do, however, is keep up with the customer. Be ready for any new emerging channels or devices. Future-proof your business with adaptable technologies that can easily support the next platform or voice assistant or IoT device or whatever else might come our way. Speak to your customers, get to know them, understand them, listen to them, and then analyze all the information you have about them.
To really offer the best marketing, you need to make every individual customer feel special—offer them a one-of-a-kind experience because you understand them so well, and you sure as hell better be up to speed with the technologies that your customers want to use because they won’t wait around for you to catch up.
Any final piece of advice for young, eager marketing teams?
The best advice I can give to any marketing team, whether young or experienced, is to get analytical. Everyone, and I mean everyone, thinks they can do marketing—it’s only writing some blogs and sending some social media, right? Well, this is where marketing gets tough.
From C-level down or from Sales, or from any other department, everyone will try to tell you how to do your job. The only thing you and your company should focus on is the data. There is so much more to marketing now, and the data can tell you where to invest more or where changes need to be made. Ever-changing Google algorithms, ever-advancing social media channels, various A/B testing options, and many other things need to be understood and implemented to make an impact these days.
And that’s not to mention the ever-evolving customer needs that you absolutely must understand if you want to stand any chance of being successful. Collect as much data as possible, analyze it repeatedly, and act on that data. Everyone will have an opinion on your job, but the data never lies.