Leaders in Marketing: Simon Swan

25th Sept 2017
Simon Swan is Head of Digital Marketing at the Met Office. Recently he has introduced a digital academy to help support the Met Office’s digital transformation agenda. Leading organisations have been invited to speak and Simon has run digital marketing training sessions within the organisation through workshops and seminars. Previously Simon has worked at sports retail start-ups, including Kitbag.com.

What should marketers be paying more attention to that they currently are not?

SS: Stop jumping straight into the shiny tactics and start with understanding your audience and what your objective is.

Get away from your desk and spreadsheets and go and spend time with your users. Many of us in digital are consumed by data and assumptions.

Spending time with your audience and really understanding what their motivations are as well as their reasons for choosing your brand (or not) will provide you with some of the best insights. A great book to read is Moment of Clarity by Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen.

What are marketers currently paying too much attention to, that they really don’t need to care about that much?

SS: Having to be building their brand and strategy using every single new tactic. Start with your audience and where they are. Build your measurement plan from there.

How did you end up working in marketing?

SS: After leaving Uni, I moved to London and worked for Carphone Warehouse, launching their interactive tv channels on Sky Open. It was a great experience working for a fast-growing organisation. After 3 years I moved into the world of start-ups, working mainly in sports retail.

If you were starting your career again tomorrow, what would you do?

SS: I’d like to think I would follow a similar path. I was fortunate to learn a broad set of skills working in start-ups. There is nowhere to hide and you’re really having to deliver. One of the skills I acquired was the ability to learn from mistakes and identify the gaps where I could add value to organisations.

Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. Marketing and the tactics now available will forever change and it requires a mindset that needs all professional marketers to keep training, online learning and reinventing what they do. Always ensure you are delivering value and can visualise opportunities the competition cannot.

What’s the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done in marketing?

SS: There have been quite a few successes in start-ups where you’re given the creative freedom to think differently about how to differentiate your brand from the competition. We worked with a number of national campaigns that helped build the brands from nothing such as working with Coca Cola, Sports Relief and ESPN Soccernet.

Working for start-ups, you have minimal budgets to spend. A lot of the time it was down to hard graft and also building strategic relationships with organisations to get them to choose you rather than established players in the market. I learnt a lot from this approach when you start with £0!

I also enjoy mentoring and building teams whether in start-ups or where I currently work. Providing my own knowledge to the team and also empowering the team to use their initiative and creativity in identifying new opportunities

Which books should every marketer read?

SS: Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur – Derek Sivers

Choose Yourself – James Altucher

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Stephen Pressfield

Throughout your career, who stands out as particularly impressive among the marketers that you have come into contact with?

SS: I have a lot of respect for marketers who have identified a niche or reinvented their position to build a brand. I learnt a lot from Chris Gibson, one of the founders of Kitbag.com and Charles Dunstone, founder of Carphone Warehouse.

They both had a vision in very different organisations and had the leadership to take the organisations with them and disrupt existing markets.

Could you characterise your own distinctive approach to marketing in a few words?

SS: Building from a sound framework and identifying the gaps in the market.

In crowded market places, I think it’s essential for marketers to apply a strategic framework that can be used as a guide. Understanding your audience, the segment you are looking to attract, how you plan to target them and the position you have is essential.

Only then start to apply the tactical elements. Too often we’re seeing brands jumping straight into the tactics and expecting short term results when in fact, they have forgotten the traditional elements.

Leaders in marketing questionnaire

Read more answers from marketing leaders elsewhere on our blog. You can also find out how Amigo enables marketers to become leaders in their organisations by eliminating the marketing execution gap.

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