Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with with Chris Willman, EMEA marketing strategy lead and marketing director:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi everyone and welcome back to The Content Mix. I’m Carlota Pico, your host for today’s show, and I’m excited to introduce Chris Willman, who is EMEA marketing strategy lead and marketing director at RSA Security on top of author of “The Entrepreneurs Marketing Manual.” Welcome, Chris, and thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Chris Willman 0:39
My pleasure.

Carlota Pico 0:41
Well the pleasure is ours. Okay, Chris, so let’s start off with a little bit of background information. How did you get to where you are today?

Chris Willman 0:48
It’s been a bit of a kind of roundabout journey to get to where I am today, but in a weird way, a very structured way. I did my degree in marketing some 15+ years ago, and spent a lot of time in, in agencies to start with and cut my teeth at the likes of Dixon stores groups, so PC World and Currys for those in the UK and others in EMEA will probably be familiar as well. Spent some time within the likes of Ingram Micro distribution, and very specifically roles that were not more traditional kind of marketing, more to refine, I suppose my my kind of commercial brain and that side of my skill set. And then since then, really have spent a lot of time in very traditional marketing kind of strategy and execution roles with the likes of Kaspersky, who at the time were the world’s largest privately held security company and last four, four and a half years with the good folks of RSA Security.

Carlota Pico 1:45
Okay, and tell us more about RSA Security—what is it?

Chris Willman 1:50
RSA is probably better known in the b2b world. We are a security identity risk management organization. We’ve been around—I’m probably going to get this very wrong—but somewhere not far from 40 odd years now. We kind of pioneered a lot in encryption technology and algorithms related to that. And we now work with I think 93% of the Fortune 500. And so basically big enterprises, we have some amazing customers that we work with on security and risk management, and a whole host of technologies in those different spaces.

Carlota Pico 2:26
Okay, you said that you started your career off around 15 years ago now?

Chris Willman 2:31
Something like that. Yeah.

Carlota Pico 2:32
Okay, what about, what have you had to unlearn about marketing over the years?

Chris Willman 2:40
I think quite honestly, the easiest answer that is almost unlearn everything I did the week before, because like, we all know marketing changes so quickly, right? If we cling to old ideas too much, and you know, we claim to things that were successful 12 months ago, and kind of pigeon hole ourselves into that way of thinking, it’s so easy to kind of get stuck into a routine way of doing things and not maybe kind of expand your thinking and look for creative ways of doing stuff. So for me, it’s, you know, don’t forget everything. Don’t forget that the goodness that you’ve got from previous programs and campaigns and strategies and results. But you know, I’m always at least trying to keep a fresh perspective on stuff. So maybe don’t unlearn but try not to cling too preciously to some of this stuff, right?

Carlota Pico 3:32
Okay, spinning off of that response, what have been some of your most memorable marketing moments to date?

Chris Willman 3:40
So I mean, I’ve had the pleasure of working for some pretty amazing organizations. You know RSA, as I said, we’ve got some awesome customers. Kaspersky was a fantastic business to work for. Ingram Micro—largest privately held distribution organization at the time and you know, I’ve been been able to really do some some great stuff, but in a weird way, my employers would probably kind of hate me to say it, but actually some of that stuff I’ve really got the most out of has been outside of that work. The last three, four or five years, I’ve done quite a lot of work with small businesses and startups and kind of helping them to build their own marketing strategy. It’s something I’ve really found actually, I’ve got quite a lot of enjoyment out of personally, a lot of satisfaction out of doing and, you know, the things that really stand out for me have been being able to work with small business owners or folks who don’t get marketing necessarily, you know, these are enhanced by you know—my book is called “The Entrepreneurs Marketing Manual,” because it’s marketing to the non marketer, basically. It’s the folks that you know, have an amazing idea or amazing concept for how to really excite a customer but don’t know how to translate that to marketing. So some of my, the stuff I love the most, quite honestly, has been with helping some smaller businesses kind of shape their own marketing strategy. When you see that almost kind of a lightbulb moment when they go, you know what, actually this isn’t, this isn’t rocket science. This isn’t some kind of mythical dark art that marketing can sometimes be perceived as or others, maybe think it’s a bit fluffy, you know? When they get actually how to build a really strategic plan, and know how to kind of optimize for ROI. You’re saying that so many small business owners don’t know how to look at this kind of really ROI-centric model. And that’s the stuff that I’ve loved doing. It’s combining kind of, you know, strategy with a little bit of creative execution at the same time.

Carlota Pico 5:37
What are the first steps towards creating an ROI centric model?

Chris Willman 5:43
It’s simple, quite honestly—just know why the hell you’re doing in the first place. Like for me, there’s nothing worse than starting out with trying to build a marketing strategy that almost leads with the tactics. Like if you go off and you know, we’ve all been in converations or meetings where someone said, “Look, I think we should do an event, we should do a digital program or should do a social media campaign,” or such and such, and, you know, you’ve kind of put the cart before the horse in that instance. ROI only ends up normally really delivering when you start with building out really defined tangible objectives at the start, map those to really what the customer cares about, not what the organization cares about. You know, we all want to sell more, we all want to drive new revenues, we all want to increase market share, but the customer doesn’t care about that. You have to start with those clearly defined objectives, map them to the customer’s real values and actually measure everything along the way and test. You know, we’ve all got better I think A/B testing stuff and actually being a little more strategic in that stuff, but it comes down to constant tweaking and optimization and tracking and everything along the way.

Carlota Pico 7:01
Okay, what about any tools? Do you use any tools to track the performance of your content and your marketing activities?

Chris Willman 7:09
Sure, I mean, we’ve used—we currently use Pardot, we’ve used Marketo as well. We also have tools like SalesLoft as well, that helps us with with some of our outreach, and 6sense, as well has given us some really powerful intelligence. I’ll be completely honest, I am a bit of a geek when it comes to Microsoft Excel. And fundamentally the manipulation of data for me, there’s not much that’s more effective sometimes that actually extracting information out and using something as almost as rudimentary as Excel to actually start to see some patterns and stuff like that. Some of the tools I mentioned honestly are amazingly powerful. You know, I think most corporate organizations these days are embracing these kind of things as well as other things like HubSpot, and so on, but I, I love playing around with data as well. It’s that kind of that analytical part of my brain that you know, sometimes it’s the easiest way to immerse yourself and really start to see patterns and trends.

Carlota Pico 8:04
Okay, excellent. So as a man who wears many hats, I mean, you’re marketing consultant, your marketing director, you’re an author of a book. I read on your LinkedIn profile that you’re going to be releasing a new book soon, as well. Is that correct?

Chris Willman 8:18

Carlota Pico 8:18
Do you want to give us more information about that?

Chris Willman 8:21
Yeah. So my first book literally came about because I started doing this work with small businesses, helping them you know, speaking at events with like The Federation of Small Businesses and helping kind of coach their members on marketing. And long story short that transpired into a book. I had never thought I could write about before and sort of saw it as a challenge. My next book is called “The Marketing Mentor.” Well, that’s what it’s currently called. Who knows, you know, we’ll test that before we release it and check that that’s all good. That book really, quite honestly is a similar kind of conversation—it’s making marketing engaging for the non-marketer. You know, it’s taking some of the great strategies that you know, global kind of mega brands, and really established corporates use, and kind of condensing that and almost putting it through a bit of a filter and making it into actionable strategies that small business can learn from. And, you know, I think it’s easy to get bogged down, if you’re a small business trying to learn more about marketing, to really get confused all the jargon and the technologies and the—honestly—people trying to sound smarter than they are. I’ve done it before as well. And you know, that’s that’s really what I like talking about that’s what that the next book is about. It’s taking great thinking from kind of corporate rock stars, you know, the Apples, the Nikes, the Coca Cola, some of the organizations even I’ve learned from as well in my time and, and distilling that into concepts and strategies that are genuinely relatable and that, you know, a small business or a startup can utilize for themselves.

Carlota Pico 9:59
Okay. Excellent. You use some of the major buzzwords at the moment—relatable, easy simple. It’s like a CX dream.

Chris Willman 10:10

Carlota Pico 10:11
Chris, what is your day-to-day look like now? I mean, you do so many different things—can you break down your your daily activities?

Chris Willman 10:19
Quite honestly, one of the things I love most about the job I do is I mean, I pride myself on being probably a marketing generalist. I wouldn’t say my skill set lies in one area more than another. And the thing I get a kick out of so much is my role allows me to be pretty diverse in what I do. If you kind of chop me in half, one half is this analytical thinking, one half is hopefully a little more creative, and my role allows me to embrace both sides of that, you know, it’s delivering everything from kind of the overall strategy and building out the whole marketing plan for the reasons I look after, and working with other teams across the business as well to then almost kind of rolling my sleeves up and getting on with the execution of everything from digital events and programs and campaigns and liaising with other teams in the business and social and PR to, obviously pre-COVID things like physical events and stuff that was going on there and really trying to embrace particularly recently, a very ABM driven mindset. ABM is, I think kind of become the de facto for most b2b businesses. We’ve certainly got a lot better at it. And you know, it’s something we’ve really tried to embrace. So kind of whatever I’m doing almost ties back to account based marketing and ABM and really trying to make sure that actually, what we’re doing ultimately relates to the organizations that we want to talk to, and relate to them in a way that’s appropriate to that. So yeah, you know, every day is different, and that’s what gets me up early in the morning.

Carlota Pico 11:50
Okay, well, you mentioned the scary word COVID-19. It’s a word that I think everybody hates. What major questions have you asked yourself about marketing during the global pandemic?

Chris Willman 12:04
So I think we all had to pivot incredibly quickly. You know, back in January, February of our financial year—RSA starts in February—so we were kind of just starting to get into the swing of this year and started to execute plans. And, you know, it’s the ability to be able to pivot and change your plan very, very quickly, and actually know that, you know, it kind of goes back to what I was saying before around—if you stick to a plan too rigidly, and you end up kind of struggling, right? And we learned that more than more than ever before, that that ability to react very, very quickly and be as agile as possible, meant that actually we were able to…you know, I work for a business that happens to have technologies that were incredibly powerful to organizations. So helping with things like remote working and operational risk and business resiliency. They’re things that RSA, absolutely, you know, dominates multiple markets in. So, we were fortuitous in many ways that we’re able to help a ton of customers. But we still had to be quick to react, to make sure that we can have a relevant conversation in a relevant way. And that quite honestly is the biggest thing I’ve probably taken over the last six months. You know, if you’re too slow to act, if you’re too rigid, rigid and set in a plan, you miss the mark or, you know, you lose an opportunity.

Carlota Pico 13:26
Okay, so how did you make that happen? What questions did you ask yourself to make those pivots?

Chris Willman 13:33
So I think it came back to really getting what the customer cared about, you know, we were having multiple conversations at a very strategic level. You know, we were talking around quite complex technologies and solutions. And you know, we covered a bunch of different markets. But ultimately, we had to really think, you know, in this current climate, what is the true value that the customer cares about, and how do we relate that to our marketing? And make that as authentic and generous as possible because you know, it’s easy to almost be an ambulance chaser and kind of go after an issue or you know, a challenge and do it in a way that a customer is not gonna respect. And that was the biggest thing—it was it was taking that kind of methodology with a whole bunch of genuine authenticity. And I think we really did do it in the right way and have to, not just because I worked for the business, but I think we we offered a lot of value. And you know, that genuine approach meant that we were able to really give some value to our customers. And ultimately, that’s what they care about. You know, it’s building trust, building relationships that… Yeah, the conversations maybe we were having before that we paused now, by building that trust and that rapport and that engagement and some of the stuff we’ve done, we’ve probably built enough goodwill that we can then come back and have those conversations when those businesses are ready to have them—not try and kind of force a square peg in a round hole.

Carlota Pico 14:59
So the questions that you were asking yourself were really about your customers feelings and their emotions, like what do they need right now? What are they going to value? What is the right time to offer them this type of product? How can they relate to that product? Those simple questions that really tapped into their insecurities, because COVID-19 caused a lot of emotions, a lot of companies to fold and also a lot of companies not really knowing what to do next, or where to go to next. So your approach was really about thinking about how they think.

Chris Willman 15:32
Yeah, that’s exactly right. And, you know, I think most organizations have been for the last six months and probably will be for the next 6,12,18 months, or however long this goes on for, and maybe even beyond. You know, they’re worried about being able to make sure they can keep the lights on in their organizations, that they can keep all of their employees and their staff in the business and not have to let people go. So you know, going around and trying to have a conversation that doesn’t reflect that and kind of, you know, representative of the current state of things, it just doesn’t work. So, yeah, RSA, I have to say, have really done it in the right way, and we’ve, helped a lot of organizations and it’s been great to be part of that.

Carlota Pico 16:14
Excellent. Excellent. Okay. So let’s say you could do anything in this world. Would you still do marketing?

Chris Willman 16:22
You know what I think, at least for the next maybe 10/15 years, yeah. This is, as you said at the start marketing changes so often that I don’t see this getting kind of boring anytime soon, you know. I think it has the ability to evolve so much that there’s enough on the horizon almost next week, next month, next year. You know, if we look at the introduction of new technologies and how we can utilize things like AI and that kind of thing more, you know, for me, it’s great to be part of that. You know, marketing when it really works, makes a genuine difference for business, you know, when you’re able to do it in a way that fundamentally kind of almost acts as the glue to so many different parts of a business. I love that. And again, kind of going back to what I said: I love working with other smaller businesses as well, that you can actually help them to understand how they can better invest time and money and stuff like that—I love what I do. Quite honestly, you know, I get up at 5am most mornings—I’m an early riser—but I do it, actually because you know what, okay I am awake, but I kind of look forward to getting on with the day in many ways. So I think for the next 10/15 years, yeah, absolutely. And beyond that, I don’t know. Yeah, there’s…life’s too short for me to think too much about you know, giving up 40 years, 50 years of a lifetime only to then retire at the end of it. Let’s let’s try and do that a bit sooner. Who knows?

Carlota Pico 17:52
Okay, well on that note, we are going to be moving into our set of rapid fire questions. To get this section started off, I’d like to ask you about your source of inspiration. So a professional role model or an influencer that you really admire?

Chris Willman 18:08
Yeah, I think influencer… it’s such a word of the minute, and there’s so many folks out there. And I love some of the folks out there that are really doing a great job of that in the marketing space right now. Gary Vaynerchuk—great example—you know, Gary Vee. You love him or you hate him. But actually, the guy’s got a million ideas, and he’s not afraid to try and whilst I don’t always agree with everything he says, I love that he’s just bold enough to have a go and get stuck in and try new ideas and try and innovate and I find that admirable. Some of the other folks like Simon Sinek, great, really interesting concepts. And it’s those kind of folks, I love their content and hearing what they’re got to say and learning from some of their ideas.

Carlota Pico 18:56
Gary actually said the other day that it’s more important to interview talent according to the qualities that they can offer, rather than the skills that they can offer because skills you can train for; you can train for different skills, right? You can educate yourself on different tools. Which leads me to my next question, actually, what type of qualities would you look for in a new hire, within a marketing role, of course ?

Chris Willman 19:21
I think actually, as much as possible, similar to you just you just sort of described and, you know, because everything does change so quickly, it’s attitudes that make a big difference. You know, people can learn new skills or how to embrace new technologies, but attitude makes such a big difference. And you know, you need to be able to come in and ingratiate as part of a team. You know, organizations are not made up of individuals, they’re made up of teams, and it’s about the fundamentally, the thing that stands out. So it’s hard to maybe kind of nail down a personality sometimes in an interview, but you know, if you can get that right, that’s what makes the difference. People can always learn new disciplines or ways of doing things and you know, that’s that’s part of having multiple different skill sets, right? But if you get the the attitude, right, you tend to find things succeeded a lot better.

Carlota Pico 20:16
Okay, excellent. And now about the resources that you use. So what resources—so for example, publications, books, your own books, groups, communities, what are your go to resources when it comes to being informed or getting new information about certain topics?

Chris Willman 20:34
I mean, LinkedIn, let’s be honest, is a kind of de facto platform that we’re using more and more. You know, it’s become this enormous resource of constantly updated content. I love being able to almost log on every day and see people sharing new ideas and content and stuff like that. It’s fantastic. I am a self described audiobook kind of “junkie.” I am never away from my phone when I can help it with it with a pair headphones, and I spent a huge amount of time listening to audiobooks. I kind of got into the habit about two and a half years ago. And I think when I checked my stats on listening time, it kind of made me think that maybe I should probably take the headphones off and talk to my fiance a bit more than I’m doing clearly.

Carlota Pico 21:19
Okay, and to finish this section off, I’d like to ask you about your favorite app at the moment.

Chris Willman 21:24
It’s probably tied into that last question, and the app for me is Audible. It’s audiobooks in your pocket. It’s the ability to listen to amazing content absolutely anywhere. You know, Spotify has a ton of podcasts on it, and I love that, but for me, audible is amazing information resources, books, thoughts, you know, on any subject imaginable in my pocket that if I’m sat the car, I’ve got 20 minutes of downtime to get to somewhere, audiobooks straight away. So for me, it’s my favorite app, absolutely.

Carlota Pico 21:56
Okay, excellent. Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I look forward to reading your book that will be coming out when?

Chris Willman 22:06
Fingers crossed in probably about two to three months now.

Carlota Pico 22:10
Okay, excellent. It’ll be available on Amazon as well?

Chris Willman 22:14
It will indeed, yeah.

Carlota Pico 22:15
Awesome. Well, thanks again for joining us on The Content Mix.

Chris Willman 22:18
Thanks for having me. I really enjoyed the chat.

Carlota Pico 22:19
Well, the pleasure has been mine, and to everybody listening in today, thank you for joining us on The Content Mix. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews just like this one every day, so keep on tuning in. Thanks again, have a fantastic day and see you next time. Bye!

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