I was delighted recently to get the opportunity to feature in the Marketing Institute's Day in the Life series....
What does Grant Marketing & Communications do?
I established Grant Marketing & Communications in late 2016 initially providing consultancy services to professional services firms and B2B organisations but I've found a demand from other sectors, for example not-for-profits, hospitality and healthcare. Put simply, I help organisations to professionalise their marketing and communications approach by developing plans that work.
I like to explain the service offering under three headings.
One being strategic marketing (brand, sponsorship, events, digital, outsourcing). Secondly, internal & external communications and finally critical projects such as mergers, office openings, brand awareness campaigns etc.
What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
I spent 18 years leading the national marketing team of business advisory firm, Grant Thornton Ireland. I was hired as the first marketing person in the firm specifically with the purpose of developing a marketing culture beginning with the basics such as applying the global brand consistently. Over the years as marketing became embedded as a key function within the business I had the opportunity to hone my skills across the whole marketing spectrum including, branding, strategy, digital marketing, event management, internal and external communications, sponsorship management………..all the while growing the team to ensure a national presence.
With the phenomenal growth the firm experienced over the years I worked on major projects such as numerous mergers, sponsorships of the Newstalk Breakfast Business Show and the development of the Grant Thornton 5K Corporate Run Series meaning the role was hectic, challenging, rewarding but never boring! I was lucky to work with and learn from key influencers within the sector.
In early 2016 I began to have itchy feet and felt I wanted a new personal challenge and Grant Marketing & Communications was born. No regrets so far.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
It takes time to adapt to working outside of a corporate structure so learning to be disciplined with your time when working in your "home office" can initially be a challenge. However, once you find your rhythm and a routine it falls into place.
As a business owner, the critical challenge is to build your brand: to get your name out there. Your experience stands to you a lot, as do opportunities like being on the judging panel for the Irish Accountancy Awards, but essentially the challenge is to deliver a consistently high standard of work for clients, resulting in establishing a good reputation, then positive word of mouth conversations flow.
Marketing within professional services brings unique challenges and experiences compared to other marketing roles. In professional services, marketing is often viewed as a cost, it's non-fee earning and is often grouped in with support services such as IT, HR or Finance. Demonstrating how marketing should be a key function of the business, how it can impact the bottom line and support the overall strategy can be challenging. Working with clients to develop and implement effective strategies which deliver results and ultimately impact fee income is the reward for the challenges.
Overall, I think being driven to succeed with the business helps to overcome most challenges you face.
What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
I believe in any marketing role you need to be a skilled organiser, project manager and communicator.
As a consultant I need to be adaptable and responsive and ensure my clients trust that I understand their needs and their business. This is particularly important where the marketing function is outsourced to me - the aim is to work in partnership with my clients.
Running your business with honesty and integrity means organisations have the confidence to invest in your expertise. Getting that right means word-of-mouth, as my most common source of business, is kept alive.
Describe a typical working day.
Does anyone in marketing ever say every day is the same? For me some days are spent at the desk managing various client projects; from developing a communication plan for a piece of thought leadership, monitoring clients' social media platforms or progressing a client care programme.
Other days can involve being on site with a client to update/report on a project such as a marketing audit or brand review, working through an improvement plan, delivering training or perhaps agreeing key priorities for the coming months.
If I'm out and about I try to use my time as effectively as possible so I'll general arrange to meet contacts or referrers either side of client meetings.
What do you love most about your role?
The obvious answer is being my own boss but apart from that it is the opportunity to work with companies across different sectors. Initially the plan was to focus on the professional services sector - a natural fit for my skill set and experience - but the desire to develop a professional marketing and communication approach is not just confined to accountancy and law firms.
As I mentioned already, I've worked on projects within different sectors and I find learning about those industries and their nuances is hugely interesting and adds another string to the bow.
Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
Who knows! At the moment I'm concentrating on delivering a high standard of work to my existing clients and growing my network to expand my base which may in time require me to recruit.
As I continue to develop my networks I find myself referring work to fellow self-employed consultants with specific niche expertise and they regularly reciprocate. This work stream and support structure is unexpected bonus of being self-employed and is something I would like to see grow as it allows me the opportunity to collaborate on large, multifaceted projects.
To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
I'm fortunate enough to have a tight group of friends and former colleagues who have excelled in their own fields and who are there as a sounding board – a useful source offering a different perspective. Some of them are also consultants which really helps when facing the more practical highs and lows of self-employment.
My late Dad always instilled a strong work ethic; he was a leader in his field, taking pride in his work with a sharp eye for detail, valuing integrity but never suffering fools gladly. My company logo is actually his signature – a nod to him and hopefully a good luck charm for the continued success of the business.