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  • Writer's pictureLucas Bergmans

How to build a culture of effectiveness

Updated: Jan 4

A key foundation for success for scale-ups is to take steps towards a culture of effectiveness as early as possible. While this can be challenging, rest assured it’s also often very challenging to create and maintain this in large, established brands and businesses too.

To explore this further and to get an expert view on how to build a culture of effectiveness, I spoke to Nick Milne from Marketing Effectiveness consultancy Go Ignite on what he’s learned from working in large, established complex businesses like O2 as well as with start-ups like Cazoo.

Welcome, Nick. Let's start by giving us a bit of an introduction to you, your career highlights and what you do at Go Ignite today.

Hi, I’m Nick Milne and I run Go Ignite Consulting. We are a Marketing Effectiveness consultancy. If I was going to be a little bit funky with that, I'd call us 'effectiveness changemakers' rather than a consultancy, because what we do is we really get under the skin of organisations, marketing organisations, and understand how they drive decision making, what they're trying to achieve, and then work through any blockers and the strategies needed to overcome those blockers. So as a marketing organisation, you can deliver what you're supposed to be delivering back to the business. I think that's a really interesting approach, which not many people are doing. It’s based on experience that I have client-side and agency-side where effectiveness used to just be an econometrics programme or a scorecard. And it's not, it's more than that. It's about people. It's about process. It's about a load of things which I'm sure we will dive into.

What do you mean by a culture of effectiveness?

Effectiveness isn't just an analytics programme or a data programme. It's around how you work together as a marketing organisation to deliver the right insight at the right time to help with decision making. So that marketing organisations can achieve their goals. We've focused over the last three years on effectiveness culture and we have a definition and a framework. We talk about effectiveness being the business value added from the process of marketing activities, and that's made easier by people, data, tools and measurement and having a strong, clear focus. So, when we talk about culture, we are talking about what are you achieving in the business and what value you're creating. And then it's about the enablers of focus: process, people, data, tools and measurement.  These make it either a strong and healthy culture or it can be a struggle, and people can get in the way and politics can get in the way. Impartial or incomplete evidence can get in the way. And so the culture is about overcoming all of that.

So what are the biggest challenges that different kinds of clients and businesses face when they try and get to that place of having a strong culture of effectiveness?

I think there's been a transition over the last couple of years where we're seeing a lot more people and a lot more brands understanding what effectiveness means and there's a lot of really good conversation around effectiveness strategy within organisations. What we're seeing now is the next phase of that and the challenge then becomes, how do you take all this great intelligence of effectiveness - so the likes of the Binet & Field’s ‘The Long & Short of It’ and the idea of a 60:40 split between long and short term spend - and make that work for you as an organisation. So, the next challenge we're really seeing is about tackling ways of working and making effectiveness part of everyone's day jobs, rather than it being a bespoke thing, which sits to the side of everything else that goes on in the marketing organisation. We're seeing a lot more brands and agencies thinking about how you do effectiveness rather than just the intelligence that it creates.

So you've touched briefly on econometrics. In simple terms what is econometrics, and why is it important?

I'm not an econometrician. But I have been a heavy user of econometrics and I would describe it as that type of analytics which helps you identify the incremental uplift from marketing activity and that's the first thing. The second thing is it then puts that incremental uplift in the context of all your other business drivers, so that it starts to bring you together from an organisational understanding of what's the right lever to pull at the right time. Where do you put your marketing investment? And what's the expected outcome you should get from that?

This blog is aimed at scale-ups and start-ups who will be doing a lot of these things for the first time. We first met when I was at Cazoo and we were very keen to get econometrics off the ground as soon as we could. The biggest challenge we had was just a lack of history of trading data. We could just about kick it off after about two and a half years. But within that data set, there had been a global pandemic, huge amount of shifts and changes within the automotive category, partly initiated by Cazoo, and it's a complex business model. I think we made a good start, but it was really difficult. Is that what you see in in other kind of scale-ups and new businesses? What are the specific challenges for those kinds of businesses? And do they need to aspire to do something as stretching as full econometrics? Or are there other things that they can do to drive their understanding of effectiveness?

It's a really interesting challenge. And I know for Cazoo, it's a journey to get to that point to see two to three years of trading to get that understanding of what the impact of marketing is as a totality. It's quite easy to look at performance marketing and really work out what that is doing. It's a lot harder than to build in brand impact alongside that. So, I think the one thing that I stress for any start-up or someone in a position of high growth is that you shouldn’t think of effectiveness solely as econometrics. Yes, you're trying to build that ROI picture over time. But there are some other things that you can do. To help build to that step of knowing when as an organisation you can then deliver econometrics and build out a really clear understanding of what is working and what isn't working from a linear perspective and building a conversation around that. I think one of the benefits of start-ups and high-growth organisations is that level of integration and collaboration can be quite different to those within a big brand. So that's a real strength where you can then start to play into the fact that Finance is really aligned with Marketing, there are no gaps there. You see the CFO and CMO form a really powerful combination at the board. If you can control the conversation around performance and provide a strong narrative, which you can then build ROI into when the time is right, then that's actually quite a good step. Other brands that are more established really struggle with that. Then there are things that you can do to make that easier. So firstly, having a really clear, articulated measurement framework, that evidences how consumers are changing their thoughts and feelings around you as a brand, their engagement with you and their purchases from you. And if you can articulate within that framework which ones are more long-term measures, and which ones are more short term measures, then it gives you that framework for the conversation. Then you can start to build out test and learn programmes that show that if I do this, what's been the impact across the right elements of the framework? And I think if you start there, and control the conversation around that, then it puts you into a really strong position. Once you are able to then bring in the more scientific econometrics programmes, which help add a level of robustness, by then you've created this culture which is less about opinion around what's working, and more around the facts and evidence of what's working and what's not.

That’s great. As you say, it's best to get opinion off the table and use data as much as possible. So, Nick, what I'd love to hear is your top three tips for any scale-ups when it comes to getting better at marketing effectiveness.

The first one is not to feel that you need to be an established brand to start your effectiveness journey. The advantage that you have is visibility and alignment across the organisation. Play to that and build effectiveness out with that strong foundation.

Secondly, start that journey and control the conversation. Define what success looks like for you on your effectiveness journey. Where do you get to in year one, where do you get to in year two? So that broadly across the organisation finance are clear, marketing is clear the P&L is clear, operations are clear around what are you doing and how it's delivering and how you're identifying value for you.

The third one would be having that single point of accountability for effectiveness so that you've got control around the programmes and the evidence being created rather than pockets of intelligence being created and sometimes being in conflict with each other.

Really helpful, thanks. And do you have a mistake that you think that people should avoid in that journey? 

Yes. I don't think effectiveness is just about the data or is just about the analytics. I learned that when I set up the effectiveness in O2 and Telefonica (major UK telecomms business) The biggest success we had was taking the opinion off the table, but our time wasn't spent delivering data and analytics capabilities. Our time was spent politicking and influencing people and trying to make sure you've got a clear view of what the business is trying to do and articulate. So, don't make the mistake of being so insular around what data you don’t have or what programme of analytics. Make sure you work on trying to bring your Marketing colleagues and Finance together.

Great advice, thanks Nick!

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