1. What inspired you to pursue a career that embraces marketing?

I started out in sales but I’ve always had a creative mindset. I feel like marketing is an outlet that enables me to bring multiple skillsets together because you need to be a people person, to understand what motivates and inspires people, you need to have creative flair to be able to tell that story in an engaging way, you need to be able to write well and you need business acumen and commerciality. I think marketers are often underrated, but successful marketers have to have quite a broad set of skills.

2. What are the biggest challenges currently facing your marketing team?

Pace of change and upskilling resource. Apex Group is a very unique place to work and the growth trajectory is unprecedented in the industry - we’re talking from 2,000 to 12,000 people in five years. That growth is predominantly driven by M&A so the product mix is constantly expanding and it’s our job to explain that not only to the market, but to our employees too. The demands on the team and pressure to deliver results continually increase through an ever-expanding number of stakeholders and we have to be able to execute and strategise at the same time. When you have a marketing team that used to work well within a 2,000-person business, growing and developing them in their own roles at the speed required for the business, while also delivering innovation and successful marketing campaigns, is a big challenge.

3. Science vs Art: With scientific data-driven marketing at one end of the spectrum and genius creative ideas at the other - which side do you lean towards?

It’s an interesting question because I’m a storyteller at heart but particularly in a high growth environment in the financial services sector, you have to be scientific – so I don’t think it’s an option but to be able to do both. To be able to demonstrate the value of marketing in the financial services space you need to be able to talk the language of those around you – so I would say I probably lean into the data and science as it enables me to explain the value of the ‘art’ or creative part of marketing. A demonstrable ROI equals growth in budget to spend on creative, so you can’t have one without the other in my opinion.

4. In marketing, when is it ok to rely on A.I. and when do you think you definitely ‘need a human’?

I’m really intrigued by ChatGPT. When I first heard of it my instinct was to bat it away as a phase and a tool that probably was clever but in practice wouldn’t work. Having seen what it can deliver I’m surprisingly impressed. Given the pace of change and demand on the team, I am considering ChatGPT to support  the content team in driving efficiencies; it’s always easier to edit something that’s already been written than to start from scratch, so in that sense I think A.I is amazing. 

I’m also a huge believer in insights driven marketing, so I think machine learning is fantastic and is something we try to build into our processes wherever we can. A.I. can give us amazing behavioural insights that make us better marketers, but it can’t do the whole job. Take company culture for example, it’s something quite intangible – it’s something we feel, rather than see or read – it’s the same for the essence of a brand. So, we will always need that human interaction I just think we can take efficiencies and support from A.I. to free up marketers from manual and repetitive tasks to focus on value-add activities and make what we do, even better.

5. How is your approach to marketing affected by times of economic turbulence and increased cost of living?

In B2B financial services, macro factors such as economic turbulence, market volatility, interest rates etc. impact everything we do – however in our space it’s really important not to be reactive and to maintain a sense of calm and reassurance. We comment on market movements all the time and share insights with our clients as we are immersed in this day to day. In the current environment of inflation, interest rate rises and financial services institutions under pressure, it’s our role to support our clients through any challenges they might be facing and not add to the panic by using alarmist content as click bait. It’s important to us to have authenticity behind how we market our business, a large element of that is about trust and consistency, so we’re much more likely to focus on direct to client comms at a time like this.

6. How do you adapt a business and marketing strategy to embrace the latest trends and keep ahead of the competition?

I think firstly you need to work at a company that has innovation as part of its ethos. That’s why I’ve been at Apex Group for nearly nine years, every year, month, and day is different. We’re constantly growing, innovating, looking for new ways to do things – and that allows me to do the same. From a marketing strategy perspective, I have no interest in copying our competitors. We want to be different. We see ourselves as a disruptive and are brave and bold with our business and marketing choices. What keeps us ahead of competitors is never being satisfied, we can always improve on everything we do as a business and as a marketing team. It’s a high-performance culture and that keeps us driving for innovation and looking for new, better and more interesting and efficient ways of doing things all the time.

7. What role does your company’s purpose and environmental strategy play within your marketing strategy? 

Huge. I see a lot of companies talk about purpose, but I personally won’t put anything into our marketing messaging that I don’t absolutely know we can stand behind. People see through “green” or “purpose washing” so it has to be authentic. When it comes to the environment we are a genuine market leader due to our Founder & CEO having a real passion for it, and have been the first to do various things in our industry such as offsetting our lifetime of emissions and bringing our new innovative ESG products to support our clients on almost a monthly basis. We also have a really strong and vocal stance on women’s empowerment and economic independence and have launched various initiatives that actually take action in supporting female progression within the industry – which is something I feel personally really passionate about. For a successful CSR/ESG strategy, you need leaders within the business to drive the purpose and then employees and clients get excited and rally around it. In 2023 it’s not enough to have great service, that’s a given – but outside of that, why would anyone care? It’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it. That’s why having an authentic purpose and being clear on that purpose , is essential.

8. How important is storytelling when maximising your customers’ engagement with a campaign?

The importance of storytelling really depends on the aim of the campaign. I don’t think there is always a necessity to have major brand and creative campaign if the objective is simple. One of our most successful campaigns from a lead generation perspective last year was very pragmatic and practical around the launch of a new fund structure in a particular jurisdiction. Marketers can sometimes fall into the trap of overengineering the creative and actually overcomplicating the message. Clearly if we’re doing a campaign that relates to our purpose or something that lends itself more to a narrative it’s different – but you need to understand the objective of the campaign to decide how much of that needs to be built in other whether actually simple is better.

9. Creative agencies rail against the time and resource spent working on pitches to win accounts: is there a realistic, fair alternative to the pitch process?

Apex Group is relatively unique and I’m sure some suppliers enjoy dealing with us and others not so much. We need everything at 100mph so big, long pitches from agencies don’t really work for us either. We want to get to the deliverables, timeframe and cost as soon as we can as we don’t have time to spend languishing on those kinds of things. That can frustrate some agencies and others adapt to it so I would tend to agree that too much time spent on pitches is probably unnecessary. However, it does really depend on who they’re pitching to!

10. From a marketing perspective, what’s coming up for your brand or business in 2023?

More growth, more innovation and more opportunity. 2023 is our 20th year in business so along with everything else we need to achieve around brand evolutions, integrations, demand generation, content, tech innovation etc. we will be spending time knitting together that purpose piece and celebrating two decades in business. We will expect more acquisitions, more product launches and more people – but it’s an exciting year for the business and for the marketing and comms team. As a team we will continue to focus on being agile, integrated marketing campaigns, data and tech innovation and insights – all while doing the day job!

11. If there’s one thing you know about marketing it is…?

Probably the most underrated but well-connected and influential function within a business.

Little Grey Cells is Tim Healey’s weekly profile interview platform where leading marketers share their valuable insights and experience, presented by Worth Your While.

Outsourced Marketing Director and best-selling author Tim Healey collaborates with senior marketers to help them have more time, less stress and clearer marketing strategies through his consultancy Shoot 4 The Moon Ltd. Book your meeting.

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