Life as Marketing Director within eCommerce

If you are wondering what it takes to become a Marketing Director or if you are wondering about what life as a Marketing Director within eCommerce is really like, we caught up with Matt Parker, Marketing Director at The Present Finder, to get his perspective…

If you are working towards this or are thinking of adding one to your team, wondering what one might look for in an employer: We have gathered all the facts for you.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far?

Matt Parker

Matt Parker: I started my career working in Product Management with Poole Bay Holdings Ltd, a leading B2B marketer of First Aid and Health & Safety products. Initially a catalogue focussed company, we recognised that Google Adwords presented a massive opportunity to rapidly add scale to the business and adopted a strategy of rapidly launching niche websites supported by significant PPC activity. My career progressed rapidly as the company grew and when I moved on in 2016, I was employed as Commercial Director, responsible for online and offline marketing activity for over 30 separate business units.

After 12 years of marketing bandages and no smoking signs and developing a wealth of Direct and Online marketing knowledge, I jumped at the chance to join The Present Finder as Marketing Director. Although we still employ more traditional marketing techniques such as direct mail, The Present Finder is very much an eCommerce company first and foremost. We retail unusual, unique varied and fun gifts with a specific emphasis on items that appeal to Great British sensibilities, our sense of humour and traditions.

ADLIB: What (soft and/or hard) skills do you see as most valuable for those wanting to become a leader within your field?
Matt Parker: Always start and finish with your customers. Ensure that you understand their needs and wants inside out and aim to delight them at every stage of their interactions with your company. The latest developments in eCommerce platforms will always help you serve your customers better, with the right products and tailored offerings but the first step should always be understanding what makes them tick. I always find it surprising when I meet people who talk about their latest technological breakthrough but cannot speak with authority about who their customers actually are. Break it down, brainstorm it and create customer boards. Get them up on the wall so everybody involved in Marketing is on the same page. Take the time to talk to your customers and listen to what they have to say about your products and services.

Know your numbers inside out. How many new customers do you need to achieve your growth targets? How many lapsed customers do you need to reactivate? What is the reorder rate for retained customers? Always base customer recruitment targets on the customer’s Lifetime Value (LTV). Calculate investment in this area on the likelihood of new customers becoming repeat customers along with their projected spend over their lifetime. Financial Directors in particular love these types of solid metrics but it is surprising how many senior marketers do not know the LTV of their customers or their cost of acquisition.

Know the tech that your customers are using. Many organisations still focus on their desktop sites when the reality is that mobile is growing at a much faster rate in general. It is all too easy to focus on desktop when most of us are sitting in front of a screen all day but the reality is likely very different. Drill into at Analytics to see which platforms your customers are hitting most frequently, whether there are any patterns in time of day and how this has changed over time. The Present Finder’s conversion rates really accelerated when we took notice of this and completely redeveloped our mobile offering.

Test Test Test! If you are not testing, making improvements and testing again, then you can be sure your competitors are. Constant improvement to site content and listening to your customer’s experience of your site and developing online tests can really accelerate growth. The best results will generally come from simple tests that think big rather than “meek-tweeks” and the compound effect of carefully considered tests can be really significant.

Keep it fresh and think creatively. As marketing positions become more senior, it is all too easy to become bogged down in eCommerce metrics at the expense of thinking creatively. While Analytics is an incredibly useful tool, give yourself a little sense check once in a while. If you are spending more than 50% of your time drilling into metrics and making tweaks on the fly, then your creative juices could be in danger of drying up! Leave the metrics to one side for a while, focus on the bigger picture rather than the detail and what will really make you stand out. All teams need a leader who can provide solid targets based on metrics, but they will come to love you if you can do this while really contributing to the creative effort.

ADLIB: What 3 tips would you give someone to ensure that their skills and knowledge remain top notch?
Matt Parker: Download The Kindle App and Read Kevin Hillstrom’s Books – If like me, you are all about the data, then Kevin Hillstrom’s articles and books provide amazing inspiration. They force you to think laterally and apply dramatic changes to your marketing and merchandising efforts. I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin Hillstrom talk at a recent Direct Marketing summit and it was the most inspirational business speech I have heard in a very long time. The man knows his stuff!

Join Professional Bodies, Attend Events and Network – You never know where it might lead. It could be a gem from a keynote speaker that ignites a spark, a new supplier who can revitalise an area of your marketing effort or even an opportunity for you to speak at future events. Attending industry events is essential for anyone who wants to stay ahead and keep on top in a fast changing environment. They can also build up great leads for PR and backlinks to your website(s).

Keep on Top of Changing PR Trends – Gift Guides and magazine features are still important to our business but it is essential to think outside of the box in order to obtain great back links from news sites with high trustflow scores. It is often no longer enough to send out product centric releases in the hope that a journalist or blogger might bite. We are all fighting for very limited space in an infinite online arena and must recognise that the PR game has changed.

ADLIB: Where do you feel is the biggest skills gap which limits or could limit future potential growth of an eCommerce business?
Matt Parker: Good developers are like gold dust! Having an amazing developer on your immediate team or your external team is essential to growing an eCommerce business. They are, however, increasingly hard to come by and in the words of our Digital Marketing Manager “A good developer is worth 5 or 6 mediocre developers and they don’t come cheap”. The rise of coding bootcamps such as Maker’s Assembly and General Assembly really highlight the challenge that eCommerce companies will have when recruiting talented developers in future.

ADLIB: What do you see as the most important things to consider when choosing an employer?
Matt Parker: Never under estimate the importance of company culture when considering a role or an employer. Take a look at Glassdoor during the recruitment process but take it with a pinch of salt. Remember that negative reviews could simply be from disgruntled past employees and may not be an accurate or fair representation. As with all metrics, you need a representative cross section.

If you make it through to interview, be true to yourself and trust your gut. I recall getting to a third stage interview for an exciting new role where I asked the panel to describe the culture of the company to me. When I was met with surprised faces followed by wry grins and finally a response of “Very much sink or swim”, I knew it wasn’t the kind of inspiring and supportive environment that I would thrive in.

Always try to research or ask about the company’s mission and vision and whether they have one. If this is lacking then it is less likely that your prospective employer will have clear organisational objectives. This in turn makes it more difficult for a senior marketer to develop robust marketing strategies that will bring growth in sales and profitability.


Thank you Matt for sharing!

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