Digital AF - Episode 6: What It Really Takes To Be A High-Level Marketing Manager

Episode 6
Episode 6
In today’s episode of Digital AF, we dive deep into what it really takes to be a high-level marketing manager. Listen to April’s lived experience running a big brand, from dealing with the gravity of multi-million dollar sales targets to resurrecting a brand, managing key stakeholders, a small plane, and even a natural disaster. This is a story you do not want to miss.
In today’s episode of Digital AF, we dive deep into what it really takes to be a high-level marketing manager. Listen to April’s lived experience running a big brand, from dealing with the gravity of multi-million dollar sales targets to resurrecting a brand, managing key stakeholders, a small plane, and even a natural disaster. This is a story you do not want to miss.
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Brendan (00:00):

Welcome to Digital AF. In this week's episode, we dive deep to know what it really takes to be a high-level marketing manager. From dealing with the gravity of multimillion-dollar sales targets to resurrecting a brand, managing key stakeholders, a small plane, and even a natural disaster. We draw on April's lived experience running a big brand. This is a story you do not want to miss. Buckle up people, you're in for a ride.

Speaker 2 (00:21):

Digital AF, the Digital Marketing Podcast that features real conversations from those who live and breathe the digital agency life. April Ford Digital Agency shares their tips, tricks, and exposes the truth about what works and what doesn't. Welcome to Digital AF. Let's get into it.

Brendan (00:49):

Welcome to Digital AF. I'm your host, Brendan Ford and joining me is my better half, business partner, and true brains behind the operation, April Ford.

April (00:56):

Hello, thanks for having me in my own podcast studio.

Brendan (00:59):

You're welcome. My pleasure. So, April, how does it feel to be on the other side of the table?

April (01:03):

It's good. I don't have to write any notes, great.

Brendan (01:07):

So, this week we're talking about what it's like to be a high-level marketing manager.

April (01:11):

Yes.

Brendan (01:11):

And I thought one of the best ways to share that with the listeners, is to maybe go through your past experience. In particular, maybe your last big consulting gig before you started the agency.

April (01:22):

Yes.

Brendan (01:22):

So, do you want to tell me, first of all, what was the company? Or, maybe if we don't talk about companies, what was the type of business, or the type of the industry you were in?

April (01:30):

So, technically I was selling manufactured homes in a manufactured home park.

Brendan (01:37):

Which sounds so sexy.

April (01:37):

Otherwise, known, or marketed as villages, or villages perfect for over 50s living.

Brendan (01:42):

Why are they over 50s villages?

April (01:44):

Well, that's how they're marketed, but technically you can't discriminate on age. So, ours was perfect for over 50s, not an over 50s villages.

Brendan (01:53):

Right, but when you started, was it an over 50s village?

April (01:55):

Yeah.

Brendan (01:56):

And then, you had to change it to be politically correct?

April (01:58):

Well, we had to change it, because you can't discriminate. And technically, the council approval was on paper for an over 50s village-

Brendan (02:06):

Oh.

April (02:06):

But, we can't discriminate for age. So, it's perfect for over 50s.

Brendan (02:09):

Yeah. So, it's a property development. How many homes?

April (02:12):

I think, 270, maybe.

Brendan (02:16):

Yeah. 270, 280, something like that.

April (02:19):

Yeah, something like that.

Brendan (02:19):

But, you can't borrow on them, right? You got to pay cash.

April (02:21):

Yes. So, full cash. There's no option to borrow, because the banks will not lend on it, because technically you own the house, the physical house, but you do not own the land.

Brendan (02:31):

Right.

April (02:32):

Technically, you lease the land.

Brendan (02:39):

Right. So, you're convincing boomers-

April (02:39):

People in their 50s and over. Yes.

Brendan (02:41):

... to buy something where they don't own the land, but they're going to spend what, a half million bucks on a house?

April (02:45):

Yeah. Anywhere from 320 to the 600s-

Brendan (02:52):

Right.

April (02:52):

On a house that-

Brendan (02:52):

That's legally relocatable, but practically, immovable.

April (02:55):

Yeah. I mean, we've heard of home park owners, who have lifted houses up to prove that they can be moved.

Brendan (03:02):

But, we're talking slab on the ground, right?

April (03:04):

Yeah.

Brendan (03:04):

Yeah.

April (03:05):

Specific, so it depends.

Brendan (03:07):

Yeah. And so, this development was in a regional Queensland location?

April (03:10):

Yes.

Brendan (03:10):

Yeah.

April (03:11):

I definitely would consider it regional.

Brendan (03:13):

Obviously, I know a little bit about the story, but if we start at the beginning, you got involved as a consultant for CRM, or something originally.

April (03:21):

Yeah. So, originally I was engaged to help with their lead generation and customer relationship management software.

Brendan (03:28):

Yeah.

April (03:28):

And then, ended up taking on slowly, more and more projects and ended up being their sales... We had a sales manager, I was the marketing manager, but I was heavily responsible, or I was responsible to the board, with my general manager, for the performance of our sales team.

Brendan (03:44):

Yeah. So, you had sales KPIs that you had to manage?

April (03:48):

Yes. I had KPIs, which I had to report to the board and to shareholders.

Brendan (03:51):

So, a little bit of scope creep from going in originally, to put a CRM in place, and then ending up running the thing.

April (03:56):

Yes.

Brendan (03:56):

How long was the contract for? Or, how long was the gig for? How long did you work there for?

April (04:00):

Two to three years, I'd say.

Brendan (04:02):

Yeah, okay.

April (04:02):

Yeah.

Brendan (04:02):

What did your typical day look like?

April (04:05):

Depends, if I was going to the site, or not. So, we went to the site, or me and my general manager would go to site, two out of the five days a week. The other two days we had an office where we are, here on thecoast. So, the other couple of days, sorry. And we'd work from that office. So, we'd work remotely, mainly because my job was dealing with suppliers and dealing with the sales team, for transactions and reporting. So-

Brendan (04:30):

That site was what? Four hours away?

April (04:32):

No. So, a bit like two and a half.

Brendan (04:33):

Two and a half hours drive.

April (04:34):

Yeah, two and a half hours drive. So, we'd drive up there and back, two days a week.

Brendan (04:39):

Right.

April (04:39):

And then, we'd fly sometimes.

Brendan (04:41):

Right. So, just clarity sake, when you say you'd fly-

April (04:41):

Yup.

Brendan (04:41):

Had your own plane?

April (04:41):

We had a plane, yes.

Brendan (04:45):

Right.

April (04:45):

We had access to one of our shareholders.

Brendan (04:48):

So, how long was the flight?

April (04:50):

I don't know. 30 minutes, 20 minutes.

Brendan (04:51):

Oh, good. Four hours in a car, 20 minutes in a plane.

April (04:54):

Yeah, it was more efficient in timing, which meant I could spend an additional say, four hours on-site with my team, rather than travelling, which was very useful for both my general manager and I, because we were both dealing with different things and you'd get there and you'd be on your feet pretty much the whole time, because you had sales meetings, and then you were looking at display homes, and then you were reviewing stages and you were looking at stages and all that type of stuff. So, those flights added just a lot of efficiency to our time.

Brendan (05:23):

Yeah. So, when you arrived with this company, when you started the gig, what was the state of play?

April (05:29):

Oh, so they've just come out of... So, we'd all just come out of GFC and the Queensland floods. So, I am sharing my age a little bit here. They were a couple of years out of those things, but we were still dealing with the ramifications of that. Like we all did in business and-

Brendan (05:45):

Because it was in an area that was heavily affected by the floods.

April (05:47):

Yeah, very heavily affected and still to this day, is impacted by floods.

Brendan (05:51):

So, what was the market perception of the brand when you were there, or the development?

April (05:55):

Well, it had stalled. So, I would have people that would come to my open days and they're like, "I didn't even realise you had houses built here." Because, they had launched in and around that GFC time, or potentially beforehand, or I can't quite remember. But yeah, sales just plummeted from there and I don't know why, and I don't know who the previous people were that would... Like, who the previous marketing managers and stuff. It wasn't an easy product to sell.

Brendan (06:24):

Yeah. Because you couldn't borrow on it. And it was an-

April (06:26):

Yeah, but also just-

Brendan (06:27):

People thought was underwater.

April (06:28):

Yeah. And also, circumstantially, I think, there's so many moving parts to the product that you're selling. So, I think one of the biggest things we did, was brought it all together and it felt like a process and a system, rather than it being, the sales team over here, the builders over there, the admin team somewhere else completely.

Brendan (06:51):

So, if we think of the priorities, when you first started-

April (06:51):

Yes.

Brendan (06:51):

User, so customer experience, and customer journey was a big, big part of that.

April (06:53):

Yeah, 100%. So, my background's real estate and commercial real estate, as well as Residential Real Estate. And I walked into an organization that were receiving leads. So, lead flow was never quite the issue, because of the type of product we were selling. It was a yes, manufactured home parks, or over 50s villages are everywhere. However, we had a really unique point of difference.

Brendan (07:17):

Yeah.

April (07:18):

So, that was never really the issue, which shocked me after coming out of real estate, because they'd get, say, 40 inquiries in a month, or something. I came out of real estate where, you might get two inquiries a week on a property.

Brendan (07:30):

Yeah, this was at a time when the market was depressed as well.

April (07:32):

Yeah, very different to what we are experiencing now. So, to have salespeople sit there going, "The leads aren't worth following up." I was quite shocked. So yeah, so we implemented a CRM system which allowed some automation to happen.

Brendan (07:47):

Yeah.

April (07:48):

And-

Brendan (07:49):

What system did you use?

April (07:50):

We used Infusionsoft at the time, which was my background.It's called Keap-

Brendan (07:54):

Keap, yeah.

April (07:55):

Yeah. Which is one of the first, that had the automation, if you think of the click funnel people that we deal with, it segmented people and it allowed us to send them onto different customer journeys.

Brendan (08:09):

If we pull out all those cliche market speak, automation and funnel and all that stuff. The reality was, is you took a sales process, which was a practical physical process. And then, you recreated that using aCRM in an automated fashion. So, effectively, you automated through a CRM, a practical process.

April (08:30):

Yes.

Brendan (08:31):

For sales management, lead generation, lead nurture.

April (08:33):

Yeah, I mean over time, it turned into sales management. Then, over time it turned into financial reporting as well. But, initially, it was put in place so they could track the leads that were coming in. So, we could do email marketing to them and invite them to events, all that type of stuff. And over time, it evolved how we used it and how we relied on it. So,I'm a big believer in, if you're investing in an asset, how else can it be used across the business? So, I was asked for data for valuations, I was able to pull all the sales prices and the land sizes, so they could pull valuations.

Brendan (09:06):

Yeah. So, you had all that data in there.

April (09:08):

Yeah. Over time, we had all of that data entered. So, my reporting became automated in the end.

Brendan (09:18):

So, when you first started, you put a CRM in place, and you automated the lead capturing. So, hang on, you were saying you had heaps of leads when you first came in.

April (09:22):

Yes.

Brendan (09:23):

Where were they going?

April (09:24):

Into probably some random spreadsheet.

Brendan (09:28):

Right.

April (09:28):

So, it was printed off, and then written again and whatnot, but it wasn't systemised, I suppose.

Brendan (09:33):

Yeah.

April (09:33):

And there was no way for us to know, if someone was away, had they been followed up, or anything like that. And it wasn't just the email marketing side of things, I'm a big believer in physically sending something to someone as well. So, it allowed us to send brochures out to people.

Brendan (09:49):

So, for every inquiry that came in on a property-

April (09:51):

Yes.

Brendan (09:51):

You sent a brochure-

April (09:51):

Yes.

Brendan (09:51):

Out in the mail.

April (09:51):

Physical pack, yup.

Brendan (09:54):

Yes.

April (09:54):

And also, the ability to access that online as well. So...

Brendan (10:00):

And this is some of the mechanical stuff you were doing, but ultimately, if we switched it up a year and just talked about the brand side of things.

April (10:06):

Yup.

Brendan (10:06):

What was the market perception of the development at the time, having just come into GFC and the floods?

April (10:11):

Oh, that, it potentially had-

Brendan (10:13):

Wasn't doing so well.

April (10:14):

Yeah. So, people didn't even know that they had started building-

Brendan (10:18):

Right.

April (10:18):

They didn't know what had happened to the brand.

Brendan (10:20):

There was already what? How many homes? 50 homes, or something.

April (10:22):

There was one stage that was already near completion when I started. So, maybe 20 homes.

Brendan (10:27):

Yeah. So, whilst in the background, you've got all this mechanical marketing stuff going on, and procedures and processes and systems, what were you doing from a brand perspective?

April (10:36):

So, we invested quite heavily into digital.

Brendan (10:39):

Yeah.

April (10:39):

We went all into digital. Essentially, they had been spending money on TV and radio and a lot of-

Brendan (10:47):

Traditional.

April (10:48):

Yeah, traditional media, which has its place. We had directional billboards, which we still had until the end. And I still think, they still have a couple now. Couple of publications, which are really relevant for that industry, which, you wouldn't not advertise in.

Brendan (11:02):

Yeah.

April (11:02):

However, based on that inquiry that was coming in and the type of people that we were marketing to, we invested into digital quite significantly.

Brendan (11:11):

And when you say digital, what do you mean? As in Google ads? Facebook ads?

April (11:14):

So, Facebook ads.

Brendan (11:15):

Yeah.

April (11:16):

Instagram, wasn't a thing then-

Brendan (11:18):

Yeah.

April (11:18):

And Google ads.

Brendan (11:20):

Yes. And content?

April (11:21):

Yeah. So, initially, we started with just advertising.

Brendan (11:24):

Yeah.

April (11:24):

But, I introduced content, because I was sick of people coming to the open day telling me that they didn't know that there were houses built in and whatnot. So, what I used content for, was to tell the story of the brand and what was happening, introducing new residents, "This dog lives with these people at this house and it's playing in the dog park and all that type of stuff." Really nice, touchy-feely, genuine content.

Brendan (11:52):

Yeah, really authentic to what the brand was.

April (11:53):

Yeah. Super authentic to show that, it was a real living thing. And then, we used advertising for more direct sales to generate inquiries.

Brendan (12:00):

So, how many leads a month were you getting?

April (12:02):

Depends on the time of year, I'd go from 350 to 700.

Brendan (12:06):

Inquiries a month-

April (12:08):

Yes, yes.

Brendan (12:08):

And the sales team, how many people?

April (12:10):

Three, with three receptionists.

Brendan (12:11):

Three salespeople.

April (12:12):

Yes.

Brendan (12:13):

Between 350 and 700 leads a month and three receptionists-

April (12:17):

Yes.

Brendan (12:17):

And 280 odd homes over, how long was that? Three, four years, five years?

April (12:21):

I was there for maybe, three. I left just as the last stage was going to sale.

Brendan (12:26):

So, it's a pretty big volume pretty quickly.

April (12:28):

Yes.

Brendan (12:31):

Lots of homes, especially when you can't borrow on them.

April (12:32):

Yeah. I mean, you have a lot of leads that went nowhere. It was the nature of that product and the niche market that we were marketing to there. We were lucky that the type of niche product that we had, was really specific and that industry, as soon as they see someone like something that is relevant to that niche, they just pounce on it and inquire. So, you have a lot of time wasters, I suppose. However, for me I just don't believe in that. I think, every inquiry you should treat with respect and whether they are looking for now... A lot of people would look for two years time away as well.

Brendan (13:05):

Okay.

April (13:05):

Because they had to plan for the transaction, you couldn't finance it, it's not like they were running out of stock, like, we were competing against other villages as well.

Brendan (13:16):

Yeah.

April (13:16):

So, there was a long decision-making process.

Brendan (13:20):

So, you weren't viewing people who weren't ready to transact and called today. You were actually looking at those buyers that are a year, or two, three down track.

April (13:28):

Yeah. Anywhere from six months, to two or three years, because these people were travelling a lot and they'd made life decisions to go do those things. They're like, "Oh, our plan is to go travel here for 12 months, and then we're going to come back and we're going to make a decision." So, that's a future opportunity, or a future lead, or someone that we should be talking to in 12 months' time.

Brendan (13:50):

It's quite a unique belief and attitude towards what most people deem as a time-waster.

April (13:55):

Yeah. I mean, I think I have a different view of future sales than what a lot of people do. I wasn't directly selling. So, what we put in place, didn't rely on the salesperson to make that call in six months, the system automated those tasks. We made it really easy to be reminded to make those phone calls, the ongoing marketing that we put in place, would just churn those people out anyway and turn them over time into active, instead of just, looking at it passively and thinking about it over time, they would basically self-service themselves-

Brendan (14:31):

Yeah.

April (14:31):

Into a purchaser.

Brendan (14:38):

So, you got in, you put the right systems and processes in place, particularly in CRM, lead capture, lead nurture.

April (14:40):

Yeah. And the reporting. So, we narrowed our... I think, the thing that made the most difference was obviously the automation of the CRM, but also our focus and what we spoke about on a regular basis.

Brendan (14:50):

Right.

April (14:50):

So, I put sales meeting structures in place, so I could forecast sales because essentially that was part of my role inside the business with the board.

Brendan (14:58):

So, hang on. So, the board... You had a KPI for how many sales you had to hit, that you were responsible for to the board. Why was it reporting so critical to that?

April (15:08):

So, reporting was critical, because obviously, we had aboard and we had shareholders.

Brendan (15:11):

Yeah.

April (15:12):

We also had to plan for future investment into the development.

Brendan (15:16):

Yeah.

April (15:16):

So, we had to know when to build the next stage, because obviously, we needed to have stock available. So, you have cash flow issues, not issues, but that's just part of our-

Brendan (15:25):

You got to manage cash flow.

April (15:26):

Yeah, you've got to manage cash flow. You've got to manage stock availability. There's no point in having all these purchases, if you don't have stock. And so, part of the role was not only managing the sale, but managing the stock levels, and then the future stock levels as well.

Brendan (15:41):

Yeah.

April (15:42):

When they originally, launched the concept, they thought a lot of people would pull money out of Super to buy these houses.

Brendan (15:49):

Which, no one ever did.

April (15:49):

Which, I did not have one person pull money out of Super, to purchase one of these houses.

Brendan (15:54):

Right.

April (15:54):

99% of them had a family home that they'd lived in for their whole life, basically. And they were coming from regional locations too. So, they weren't coming out of a Metro. Very rarely, were they coming out of a Metro location, nor were they coming from the neighbouring suburbs either.

Brendan (16:12):

Right.

April (16:12):

So-

Brendan (16:16):

Well, there were no neighbouring suburbs.

April (16:16):

There were neighbouring suburbs, but I sold houses twice as expensive as the average sale in those neighbouring suburbs. So-

Brendan (16:23):

We'll talk about that in a second. I want to come back to that later.

April (16:25):

So, one thing that, I like to not control my sales, but I like to do everything I can for my transactions.

Brendan (16:34):

De-risk them.

April (16:34):

Yeah, de-risk it. So, I was ultimately responsible. However, these people would often have to sell their home, before they were able to purchase and sign a contract with us.

Brendan (16:43):

So, subject to sale?

April (16:44):

Yes. Because, like I said, the bank could not finance anything, based on the nature of the purchase. So, we put in a process which helped us, de-risk the subject to sale contract that we would put in place.

Brendan (16:57):

What was that?

April (16:59):

So, we'd run a valuation on their property.

Brendan (17:01):

So, you, as the developer-

April (17:03):

Yes.

Brendan (17:03):

Would get a valuation at your cost, would get a valuation done on the buyer's home.

April (17:09):

Yes.

Brendan (17:10):

For what purpose?

April (17:10):

So, one, the client knew their financial position and also we could work with them in generating a solution. The reason why we offered that. So, it was offered, you didn't have to do it, but if you wanted to sign a subject to sale contract, that was the process to relay.

Brendan (17:28):

Yeah. So, that was a prerequisite of subject to sale?

April (17:30):

Correct.

Brendan (17:31):

And the valuation didn't include any emotional attachment value?

April (17:34):

No, no. So, the reason why we put that in place, was we were relying on local agents-

Brendan (17:40):

Right.

April (17:40):

Who were selling the houses for our clients, essentially. And none of them can appropriately price a property.

Brendan (17:49):

Yeah. Well, it comes with its challenges.

April (17:50):

Yeah. So, I couldn't put the fate of my position and the success of my position in the hands of someone that I had zero impact on and control-

Brendan (18:00):

Mm.

April (18:00):

Which, sounds very controlling. But, it just de-risked it, for the business basically. And so, what we did was we'd offer them a valuation, if they agreed to list within a certain percentage of that valuation, the next step was we would communicate with that agent.

Brendan (18:14):

Right.

April (18:15):

So, we'd essentially sales manage the agent. And the reason why we do that, is so we knew what the activity was like. So, if say they had listed the house, within the valuation price point and they weren't having inspections, we knew that there would be a problem, because what I was able to do then, if they went through that process, I could take that potential transaction, or that contract and put it into my sales forecasting.

Brendan (18:41):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

April (18:41):

So, I knew that I would have an unconditional contract within a three to four month time.

Brendan (18:51):

Yeah. So, when you were cash flow forecasting for the board, based on your reporting-

April (18:51):

Yeah.

Brendan (18:52):

You were forecasting based on fairly, solid deals. It wasn't-

April (18:56):

Yeah.

Brendan (18:56):

Pie in the sky, wishful thinking-

April (18:58):

Correct, yeah.

Brendan (18:58):

So-

April (18:59):

And then, I would pay for professional photography as well. So, I knew if it was priced right. And it was positioned right-

Brendan (19:05):

Yeah.

April (19:06):

99% of the time, the transaction worked. In the three years, I only had one that did not work out.

Brendan (19:11):

So, you did the agent's job for them, basically. You priced it, using a valuer, then you paid to have photography done. So, at least it was priced right. So, the agent just had a properly priced property that was presented well, all they had to do was just close the deal?

April (19:24):

Basically, yes.

Brendan (19:25):

Yeah, right. Which meant you got the deal?

April (19:27):

Which means we got the deal, yeah. So, part of our sales package, our sales meetings and whatnot, we would actually talk about the activity that, that person was having on the sale of their personal property. So, I could make some decisions around, do I take that out of the forecast? Or, do I keep it in there? What's that agent got to say? Have they got people coming through? Have they had any offers? So-

Brendan (19:52):

So, you weren't just managing your own deals. You were managing the deals of the buyers who were buying through you?

April (19:58):

Well, essentially that was managing my deal, but yes.

Brendan (20:04):

Yeah. So, you were managing two lots of transactions, effectively?

April (20:04):

Yeah. Because, one would lead to the other.

Brendan (20:04):

Right.

April (20:06):

And we couldn't ignore the subject to sale buyers, because that was 80%, 90% of the buyers that we were dealing with. So, it was such a big chunk of people to not pay attention to and put something solid in place.So, I could correctly forecast. And so, we're not living in this pie in the sky land, because at the end of the day, the salespeople and God bless them, they will always be like, "Yeah, no, they've said that they'll sell it. And they're going to list it properly and whatnot-"

Brendan (20:38):

“It'll be fine?”

April (20:38):

“It'll be fine.” But then, at the end of the day, I was the one that had to report to the board-

Brendan (20:42):

Right.

April (20:43):

In the end.

Brendan (20:44):

And so, you talk about that, like there's a lot of gravity weighing on the responsibility of hitting those targets.

April (20:50):

Yes.

Brendan (20:51):

And you mentioned cash flow forecasting before.

April (20:54):

Yes.

Brendan (20:54):

Normally, that's something CFO's doing.

April (20:56):

Yes.

Brendan (20:56):

So, what input did you have on cash flow forecasting?

April (20:59):

Well, one, I hated hearing that... I couldn't build a stage, or something along those lines or-

Brendan (21:06):

Because, you wanted to get it quicker?

April (21:07):

Well, I had sales targets to hit. So, if stock wasn't available, then I couldn't hit my sales target.

Brendan (21:13):

Right.

April (21:13):

So, the other thing we put in place... So, not only did we put in place processes to generate the sale and when you generate that sale, it's only half the transaction, because it's just the contract to actually pour a slab and build a house.

Brendan (21:28):

Right.

April (21:29):

Then, you've got to finish the contract and finish building the property as well.

Brendan (21:32):

Mm.

April (21:33):

So, you get that final settle transaction. So, there's two parts to that transaction. And so, the other side of it was pulling back how long it would take to build a house and the part-

Brendan (21:43):

Pull back, reducing the-

April (21:44):

Reducing the time, yes. So, we worked really hard on that as well. And so, if I could change my build time from 18 weeks to 16 weeks to14 weeks, that's quite a substantial amount of time, which impacts your cash flow and your forecasting and your ability to build sooner rather than later.

Brendan (22:04):

So, as your role in marketing management, you're actually figuring out ways to reduce the build time, so that you could then, sell houses quicker and have more stock to sell. So, you could hit your KPIs better?

April (22:17):

Yeah. Because, as far as I was concerned, it was part of the sales process and what was happening was, my sales team were responsible for the whole transaction, from yes, signing a contract to finishing the build. So, you get constantly into... I'd watch them, I'd watch these people come in and ask questions about a tile to my salesperson, who's telling me that they're too busy to call back these leads. So, we split that process out, so we had a customer service person. So, once the transaction happened, the customer service person would act as the liaison between the builder and us-

Brendan (22:50):

Right.

April (22:50):

And them. Though, you've got that extra support, because there was a lot of work that had to be done after the contract's signed. It's not like, "Yes, see you in three months." They've got to make selections, and then selections run out of stock. So, you've got to give them other options. There are always things that are out of everyone's control, that need to be discussed. You've got to sign off on stages, to the point where we were... Because, it was still a build contract, technically. So, we would then run inspections to make sure the builder was appropriately hitting their stages. So, we could invoice on the day of that stage being hit, to manage the cash flow, if that made sense.

Brendan (23:33):

Yeah, to try and bring it forward.

April (23:34):

To bring it forward, yes.

Brendan (23:35):

Yeah. And pretty wild to think, is that someone who originally got involved just to sort a CRM system out, then ends up cash flow forecasting to speed up-

April (23:45):

Well, helping with cash flow-

Brendan (23:46):

Yeah.

April (23:47):

Forecasting, yeah. I mean, I don't want to touch the spreadsheet, but I had someone else do it and I would look at it to go, "Yeah, I need money here, or I need a house here." So, if I wasn't hitting sales targets, for whatever reason, because something's fallen through, do we build a spec? How do we fill that hole? So, it was very important to be able to hit and exceed those targets.

Brendan (24:07):

Cause you were living and dying by those KPIs?

April (24:11):

Yeah. So, that was my focus at all times. So, we worked with agencies to deliver everything else, which was great.

Brendan (24:16):

Yeah.

April (24:17):

Agencies and contractors. So, I was the only end upwards of close to $1 million in marketing. And so, we had agencies that we partnered with, which were great, so I trusted them and we were across everything. But then, that gave me the time as a marketing person who was responsible for sales transactions, to really understand the business and make those little 1% changes that actually had a big impact over time.

Brendan (24:43):

Yeah. And so, I mean, it's a crazy story as it is, but I think it's important to reflect on how that brand came about as well, because you mentioned before, a really unique point of difference. We won't go into the specifics of exactly what that was, but it took a bloke who was really passionate about an element of lifestyle.

April (25:02):

Yeah.

Brendan (25:02):

Travel.

April (25:02):

Yeah.

Brendan (25:03):

Who then came up with this concept to build this over 50s village specifically around that. Who is just a... Obviously, you and I know him very well and he's just the nicest guy on the planet.

April (25:13):

He's a visionary. So, I think the reason why, outside of what I do now, it's the most fun I've ever had. Which sounds weird, when you're talking about over 50s village, but it was actually the most fun, because we were a high performing team, we were cranking.

Brendan (25:28):

Yeah.

April (25:29):

But, to have someone who believes in the product and the highest of quality possible, within budgets and stuff like that. To have that as well, makes you realise that, you are not afraid to ask a question, or you're not afraid to pitch an idea, or you're not afraid to think out of the box, because that's what's encouraged. So, even to the point of, I got there one day and I got sick of looking at the bromeliad, it's in one of the pots. So, we changed all of it to be flowers. And it sounds so simple, but it was such an ethos of the founder and a major shareholder that, that was such a big part of the ethos of the brand-

Brendan (26:07):

Was the gardens?

April (26:09):

Was the gardens.

Brendan (26:09):

Yeah, right.

April (26:10):

And so, if I walked past the garden that I didn't think was reflective of that, I was able to have a chat to the gardeners and go, "Hey guys, can we do something here? Because, it doesn't quite match," which is pretty cool.

Brendan (26:22):

Yeah, it's awesome.

April (26:23):

Yeah.

Brendan (26:23):

And you're right. I mean, a visionary is a really appropriate word for that CEO and founder of that brand. How do you then manage that though? Bigger than life personality, the most passionate person on the planet?

April (26:35):

With numbers.

Brendan (26:35):

You manage him with numbers?

April (26:35):

Yes.

Brendan (26:36):

And so, what happens when they've got a wild idea?

April (26:39):

You bring it back to the sales.

Brendan (26:40):

Right.

April (26:42):

It all comes back to numbers.

Brendan (26:44):

Yeah.

April (26:44):

At the end of the day, that's what we're there for. And we had budgets and we had to stick to those budgets. And often, money was taken out of my budget, to be spent on something that was a wild idea. And that was just part of it. And I had to find that money somewhere. So, to be able to work with someone like that, who thinks differently, that it allows you to think a little bit differently and put your ideas forward for the better of the business and the brand and the customers and the staff and all of that type of stuff.

Brendan (27:12):

But, because you had that unconditional and just, unequivocal focus on hitting the numbers and it wasn't just, "We hit our numbers, our job's done." It was, that's a minimum requirement of my position.

April (27:22):

Yeah.

Brendan (27:22):

That's the way you viewed it. So, that was a minimum not-

April (27:25):

And I think, the other thing is I think, what was really important, which I, on reflection, I really appreciate. And I didn't quite notice it at the time, because I have worked in businesses where it's like,"We want to hit $10 million this year." And as a marketing person, you're like, "How the hell am I meant to get us to 10 million?" There's no tangible step. Whereas, I had an amount of transactions I had to do. So, it wasn't about the dollar figure, even though, we had minimum-

Brendan (27:52):

Well, each dollar figure represented, call it half million bucks, right?

April (27:55):

Yeah. But, we had minimum standards, so it wasn't about cutting deals to get the transaction. But, I had to hit a certain amount of transactions a month.

Brendan (28:04):

Yeah.

April (28:05):

Within a budget. But, it was all about the sales number. It wasn't about the value of the sale. And I-

Brendan (28:11):

So, for the marketing manager, you had a tangible goal of this number of sales.

April (28:16):

Yeah, yeah. Which then, allowed you to focus and where's that next deal coming from? Who are we talking to? What can we do? What do we need to do to help this person move forward?

Brendan (28:27):

And I guess, the interesting thing about that, is because you had such a track record of deliveries. Well, it wasn't like you hit your numbers one month, you didn't the next, and you made some excuses. You hit them month in, month out-

April (28:38):

I had to. There wasn't an option to not hit it. And if I didn't hit it, I had to make it up the following months. So-

Brendan (28:46):

When you say had to-

April (28:47):

Yeah.

Brendan (28:47):

Are we talking legally, financially? Morally?

April (28:51):

Well, I was a contractor.

Brendan (28:52):

Yeah.

April (28:52):

So, as far as I can say-

Brendan (28:54):

You're only as good as your last month.

April (28:56):

Yeah. So, I would live three months in advance, in my sales forecasting.

Brendan (28:59):

Yeah.

April (29:00):

And I was pretty spot on.

Brendan (29:01):

And so, when you then, had to have a hard conversation with the CEO, do you feel that because you'd earned the right to speak up, both in front of the CEO and the board for that matter, you were able to speak with confidence because you had the track record of hitting those numbers and they listened?

April (29:17):

And I knew the numbers.

Brendan (29:18):

Yeah.

April (29:18):

The biggest thing is knowing the numbers. So, you've got to be able to hit the numbers and know the numbers and the reasons why we're not hitting numbers. So, even at AGMs, I was the person that presented the performance of the sales and marketing to all of the shareholders.

Brendan (29:35):

Yeah.

April (29:36):

So-

Brendan (29:36):

And the stakes are pretty high. You had people’s life savings in that thing, right?

April (29:40):

Correct, yeah. So, the first time they did it to me, they told me in the plane, I was giving this-

Brendan (29:45):

Oh, they dumped it on you.

April (29:46):

Yeah, they dumped it on me. Which is fine, because I knew my numbers. I knew what I was going to hit for the year. I knew what my inquiry rates were at. I knew, because of what we did that month, the same month, the year prior, I knew if we were on track, or off track. So, for me, the numbers just rolled off my tongue.

Brendan (30:02):

So, despite reporting to a board, which is obviously a very, C-suite type position, you were extremely hands on though. You were walking around site saying, "Those plants, aren't the right-

April (30:12):

Well, not like that-

Brendan (30:12):

Species.

April (30:13):

But, yes. Well, not the-

Brendan (30:16):

Rip them out and burn them and replace them.

April (30:17):

Well, it'd be more of a discussion with the team.

Brendan (30:19):

Right. Is that a bit like how you and I have a debate?

April (30:22):

No. So, it's a bit more forward-

Brendan (30:24):

Right.

April (30:24):

Than our debates.

Brendan (30:25):

So, as a high-level marketing manager, you are reporting to a board, you are hitting your KPIs as a minimum requirement, month in, month out, you're dealing with millions of dollars in media spend, and you are driving three, or four hours there, three, or four hours back, couple times a week, taking the company plane at other times. How many hours a week were you doing?

April (30:48):

A lot. I lived and breathed it.

Brendan (30:48):

80, 70?

April (30:48):

Yeah, maybe. Yeah.

Brendan (30:48):

Yeah. It's a blur.

April (30:49):

I'd spend most of my days talking to my sales manager and my sales team.

Brendan (30:52):

Yeah.

April (30:52):

Or, I'd be in meetings, or I'd have to run something past my general manager, or we were trying to close out a deal. So, I was lucky I had the ability to sign off on deals as well if we were negotiating on something.

Brendan (31:06):

You also had a really supportive GM.

April (31:09):

Yeah, 100%-

Brendan (31:10):

Who-

April (31:10):

100%.

Brendan (31:11):

Both of you were totally on the same page.

April (31:13):

Yeah.

Brendan (31:14):

What you were working towards.

April (31:16):

Yeah. We had a goal we were working towards and that never really shook. So, to the point where he couldn't not hit his next stage, because it would impact my sales too much. So, just as much as I was responsible for the sales, he was responsible for giving me the stock.

Brendan (31:34):

Yeah.

April (31:34):

And so, every week I would forecast when I need new stock.

Brendan (31:38):

So, you had to rely on each other?

April (31:40):

We had to rely on each other. And I still, to this day, every week I would print off a map of my village and I would mark off, what's sold? What's sitting at unconditional? What's conditional? And then, I would count up each stage. I couldn't work out a better way to do some numbers that I had to put in my head.

Brendan (31:58):

Yeah.

April (31:58):

Because sometimes you just need a visual representation and it was far cheaper than hiring a big development company to build me an interactive map. But, that would be a way that I could actually visualize it and show, it because some people are visual more than anything, or so I could forecast.

Brendan (32:15):

Was it glamorous?

April (32:16):

No.

Brendan (32:18):

You’re talking about planes?

April (32:18):

It was so hot. Oh, my God. I've just never been so hot in all of my life, all the time. No, it wasn't glamorous.

Brendan (32:24):

But, you're saying-

April (32:25):

It's so fun.

Brendan (32:25):

Yeah. So, you're saying, you had the most fun you ever had.

April (32:28):

Yeah, I'd eat McDonald's every time we were up there, because what else would you eat? It's just, the safest thing to eat. And it was just so hot, all the time. So, that was one of my biggest things. I was driving around in golf carts and you're in Hi-Vis and you're wearing helmets and you're wearing closed-in shoes in 35-degree heat.

Brendan (32:52):

Is this where your love of softserves comes from?

April (32:53):

Yeah, probably. He'd get in the car so exhausted. Because, it's so humid. So, you were just completely zapped of any energy. And then, you'd be on the phone, or you'd be talking to each other about work for the two hours on the way back as well, because you hadn't been able to talk to your general manager and run, what your instructions were that day, past him. But yeah, no, it was lots of fun.

Brendan (33:16):

So, it wasn't glamorous, you're working 80 hours a week.

April (33:19):

Yeah.

Brendan (33:19):

Having the most fun of your life.

April (33:20):

Yes.

Brendan (33:20):

Would you do it again?

April (33:21):

Yeah, I think I would.

Brendan (33:22):

So, for those listeners who might be marketing managers, or aspiring marketing managers, coordinators, or whatnot, or they could be business owners even, wondering, "How come my marketing manager can't do that?" Because I think we've got to be fair here. You were remunerated extremely well for that. You had very, very big KPIs.

April (33:42):

I was remunerated, because I was able to ask for that remuneration, based on the focus that I put in place. No one asked me to do that stuff. It was just over time.

Brendan (33:52):

So, all the things... I mean, like I said, you went in there to set up a CRM, but you ended up cash flow forecasting for capital works.

April (33:59):

Yeah.

Brendan (34:00):

And because you knew the numbers. And because, you could report them, because you hit KPIs, you earned the right to ask for what you wanted to be paid.

April (34:06):

Yeah.

Brendan (34:07):

But, you had the runs on the ball to do it?

April (34:08):

Yeah, correct. But, if my CEO-

Brendan (34:11):

Yeah.

April (34:11):

Called me on a Sunday-

Brendan (34:13):

You answered-

April (34:13):

I answer.

Brendan (34:14):

Yeah.

April (34:15):

If someone calls me at 6 AM, you answer.

Brendan (34:18):

So, is there such thing as a high-level lifestyle marketing manager? No? I guess the reason why I asked that, is because I think a lot of people might hear the glamorous side to marketing conferences and being on a plane every different day of the week and drinking wine at lunch and all that stuff. But, the reality is that, if you want to earn the big bucks-

April (34:38):

Yes.

Brendan (34:39):

Then, you work your absolute guts out for it.

April (34:41):

I think, there's plenty of opportunity to earn, as a marketing person. Whether, that's a digital marketing manager, or a social media person, as long as you're adding value back to the business. And I think, somehow it got lost where marketing is responsible for sales-

Brendan (34:57):

But, you took that responsibility on.

April (34:57):

Yeah, but we had to link it together, because it obviously links, one equates to the other-

Brendan (35:03):

Yeah.

April (35:03):

Right? And often, we see marketing and sales are against each other when, as marketing people, we should be talking to our salespeople to know what questions are we being asked? What objections are we receiving? What resources do you need? All of those things, to make sure that they're prepared and able to do the best that they can. And there are no excuses.

Brendan (35:39):

So, in other words, when they're viewed as two separate departments, they get to blame one another. But, when they're viewed as two departments working together, they have to be ultimately accountable to one another?

April (35:39):

Yeah. And I also think, business owners don't realise that marketing should actually, be related to the sales. So, I find it really odd, as an agency owner now, we deal with marketing people and they're obsessed with what a word is in the social media content, which I get it from a brand perspective. But, you know what? It's not going to move the needle for sales.

Brendan (36:01):

Yeah.

April (36:01):

That one word.

Brendan (36:02):

So, they're focusing on the wrong thing?

April (36:04):

Well, they've not been taught to focus on anything else.The expectation's not there, when marketing should be reflecting sales, it should be reflecting leads into the business. There's a place for tone of voice and all that type of stuff. But, at the end of the day, we're here to make money and generate transactions, whatever that is. So, I find it really complexing that the things that people focus on in marketing, when there are bigger problems, or bigger opportunities out there to be chasing, and you can rely on your agencies to be helping you with things. But, sometimes, it feels like an us vs them. Whereas, in my experience when you have the agency and you're working with them and you are being innovative as a marketing person, because what you're thinking is around what you are being told about sales, rather than it being a word you don't like, which no one's really going to notice. It's just a different focus and it's a different way of thinking.

Brendan (37:07):

So, do you think that's one of the differentiators between someone who's almost stuck in this micromanagement of marketing, which is creating limitations on their own?

April (37:16):

Well, I think you've got those people, because they like that. They're not-

Brendan (37:20):

But, compared to a high-level marketing manager, who's literally doing everything, from having a hand in cash flow forecasting, to reporting to a board, to managing a million bucks in advertising.

April (37:33):

Yes.

Brendan (37:34):

I mean, there are much, much bigger picture things, when you've got a GM saying, "I need to find 6 million bucks for the next round of capital works to occur."

April (37:43):

Yeah.

Brendan (37:43):

You weren't bogged down with the spelling of a particular word, because of a-

April (37:47):

Well, I had an agency, who I knew would do the right thing and would be doing as well as they could, in the circumstances that they werein.

Brendan (37:56):

So, to elevate yourself, you brought in the right suppliers to help you do that.

April (38:00):

Yeah, I couldn't do it. I couldn't do all of those things.

Brendan (38:02):

Yeah. And so-

April (38:03):

I was too busy.

Brendan (38:04):

Well, that's an interesting point, right? So, as a business owner, I'm sitting here going, "Well, I want my marketing manager to be just as engaged as April was, when she was running that project. "But, to do that, you've also got to keep in mind the amount of money that was spent on it and the resources that were then, allocated to you, to deliver what you were tasked to do, was obviously high as well. It wasn't given to-

April (38:27):

We had a cost per transaction, for marketing.

Brendan (38:29):

Right. That's what came back to the cost per transaction.

April (38:31):

Yeah. Sorry, that's how our budgets were worked out. And-

Brendan (38:37):

Yeah. So, the owner didn't pluck a figure and go, "You got 50K a month to spend." It was-

April (38:38):

I'm sure it was in the beginning.

Brendan (38:40):

Yeah.

April (38:40):

But then, over time we were actually able to go, "Okay, so this is the cost that I need to generate a transaction and that cost isn't just one Facebook lead. It's all of the events that you have, and the printing that you have, and the ambassadorship that you have, and the gardening that you do, and the parking that you create, and all of those things. So, we had worked out a cost per transaction, which then allowed me... So, the more transactions I was doing, the more marketing budget I had to spend.

Brendan (39:14):

Oh, okay. Yeah, I got you. So, it was almost like reverse-engineered in a way where-

April (39:17):

Yeah.

Brendan (39:18):

There was an agreement on how much you could spend per sale. And then, if you got more sales, you have more money to spend, okay.

April (39:23):

Yeah.

Brendan (39:23):

So, I guess to try and summarise this a little bit and give the listeners a few takeaways. If you are the marketing manager, or the employee, or the consultant, what are your number one, or two bits of advice? If you're in that position and you want to be at that high level?

April (39:39):

So, you have to want to understand the business. So, it's not just about the area that you operate in. So, that general curiosity about how things work, how they link together, how it impacts each other. So, there's that curiosity of why, how, when, whatnot. And then, the conversations that you're having with your manager, or the business owner, or something along those lines. I would love someone to come to me and go, "I've got this lead generation idea. What do you think?"

Brendan (40:10):

So, in other words, show some-

April (40:12):

Initiative.

Brendan (40:13):

Thoughtful initiative.

April (40:14):

Yeah. So, there's understanding the business.

Brendan (40:17):

Yeah.

April (40:17):

And the problems that the business faces and the problems that each role faces as well because each role will face different problems. The salespeople will be sick of leads that are not qualified enough.

Brendan (40:27):

Yeah.

April (40:28):

And the reason why they're sick of it, is they're only paid on the sale. So, they don't care about the people that are going to buy in two years' time. They don't give a shit about it. They care about what's in front of them for the next 30 days, that's it. So, as a marketing person, you go, "Okay, well, how do I generate that person back? Or, how do I look after that person, so they turn into a transaction in two years time." So, you have to understand each role in the business, what happens? How the business functions? To then, be able to provide recommendations and pitch ideas on how to move forward.

April (40:57):

It's not just about going, "Oh, we could just doTV." It's actually understanding, what are the 1% things that you can do, to propel the business forward? Which, will help with your marketing budgets and improve your marketing budgets and improve the outcomes of the marketing that you're doing. And then, also understanding, within reason, whether it's the financial position of the business, or what's the sales targets for the business. So, instead of going 10 million, it might go, "We need 100 sales this year. Well, what are we at currently?" What's the business at currently? How many is that a month?

Brendan (41:30):

So-

April (41:30):

How many is that a week?

Brendan (41:31):

Genuinely understand the commercial realities of the business.

April (41:34):

Yeah. And breaking it down into months and weeks and taking into consideration things like, April is a weird month, people are away. December and January, are weird months. So, I had different sales targets for December, January.

Brendan (41:47):

Okay, yes.

April (41:48):

Because, technically, I had an annual target I had to hit, so then we split it up into months. And then, I looked at it and go, "What months are the quiet months?" Because you can't fight that either. So, you got to make them up in other months.

Brendan (41:59):

Yeah. And then, as a business owner, what's some advice you would give them, who are either, they're probably either stuck in one or two places. They're wishing that they could find someone to do that. In which case, we just talk to all the things that person could do. But, also you could just have that person listen to this podcast.

April (42:15):

I could ask them.

Brendan (42:16):

When you say that, you could ask them, you're suggesting the business owner should just go and ask the marketing manager, "What do you need to do, to hit your targets?"

April (42:20):

Yes.

Brendan (42:20):

Or, are there even targets in the first place?

April (42:21):

What do you think we should be doing right now? What problems are you experiencing that we should be addressing?

Brendan (42:31):

Yeah. So, having a more open and frank dialogue-

April (42:33):

Business conversation,

Brendan (42:34):

Business conversations.

April (42:35):

Yeah.

Brendan (42:36):

Right. And so, a lot of what you just went through and a lot of what you talked about, a part of that was about spending money on advertising-

April (42:42):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brendan (42:43):

And content creation, things like that. But, 80% of it was about solving business problems, well, the same thing.

April (42:48):

Well, marketing solves business. That's the idea of marketing-

Brendan (42:51):

Marketing's a part of business, right?

April (42:52):

Yeah. And it's there to solve business problems. So, the problem of people not realising that we'd actually built houses, that is a business problem. But, we fixed it with marketing.

Brendan (43:02):

And telling story of-

April (43:04):

Telling the story, to tell real stories about real people.That was how I told the story of this particular product. It wasn't about the marketing photos anymore. It wasn't about the editorial shots, because it wasn't compelling enough.

Brendan (43:18):

Yeah. So, April-

April (43:18):

Yes.

Brendan (43:18):

That was a mouthful.

April (43:20):

It was.

Brendan (43:21):

We're going to have to debrief after this.

April (43:22):

I know.

Brendan (43:23):

Is there anything else that you want to talk about? That you've missed? Or, you think would be helpful?

April (43:27):

No, I don't think so. I think, over time, the role that I had changed, because I think, even my ability changed with the role as well. My understanding changed with the role. So, I think, if you own a business, bringing those people in that are showing the initiative, stretching them, not too much, but stretching them to see what they're capable of doing and what they can understand, lean on your suppliers, because that can be a massive cost-saving, but also very efficient at the same time. Like, when I leaned on our agencies, I didn't have to worry about someone being sick, it still happened.

Brendan (44:03):

Mm, good point.

April (44:05):

I didn't have to worry about holiday leave. All my content still went, anything like that. So yeah, I wanted reliability, because I was too busy doing the other stuff. So, that's how I gauged what I should spend money on as well. And I think if you're a marketing manager, just showing interest in other areas of the business, or trying to understand the reasons why things happen and why decisions are made and getting close to those people. So, you can potentially contribute in a larger way-

Brendan (44:37):

Add more value.

April (44:39):

100%.

Brendan (44:40):

April, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for your time.

April (44:43):

No problem.

Brendan (44:44):

I hope you'll invite me back on next week.

April (44:47):

Thank you for having me.

Brendan (44:47):

I hope, everyone enjoyed.

April (44:47):

See you.

Brendan (44:47):

Bye.

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April Ford

Digital AF - Episode 6: What It Really Takes To Be A High-Level Marketing Manager

April Ford
June 29, 2022
April Ford Icon
Podcast

Digital AF - Episode 6: What It Really Takes To Be A High-Level Marketing Manager

Podcast

Digital AF - Episode 6: What It Really Takes To Be A High-Level Marketing Manager

Listen Now

Author

April Ford
May 24, 2022

Listen Now

Podcast

Episode 6

Digital AF - Episode 6: What It Really Takes To Be A High-Level Marketing Manager

In today’s episode of Digital AF, we dive deep into what it really takes to be a high-level marketing manager. Listen to April’s lived experience running a big brand, from dealing with the gravity of multi-million dollar sales targets to resurrecting a brand, managing key stakeholders, a small plane, and even a natural disaster. This is a story you do not want to miss.

Author

April Ford

May 24, 2022

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Episode Transcript

Brendan (00:00):

Welcome to Digital AF. In this week's episode, we dive deep to know what it really takes to be a high-level marketing manager. From dealing with the gravity of multimillion-dollar sales targets to resurrecting a brand, managing key stakeholders, a small plane, and even a natural disaster. We draw on April's lived experience running a big brand. This is a story you do not want to miss. Buckle up people, you're in for a ride.

Speaker 2 (00:21):

Digital AF, the Digital Marketing Podcast that features real conversations from those who live and breathe the digital agency life. April Ford Digital Agency shares their tips, tricks, and exposes the truth about what works and what doesn't. Welcome to Digital AF. Let's get into it.

Brendan (00:49):

Welcome to Digital AF. I'm your host, Brendan Ford and joining me is my better half, business partner, and true brains behind the operation, April Ford.

April (00:56):

Hello, thanks for having me in my own podcast studio.

Brendan (00:59):

You're welcome. My pleasure. So, April, how does it feel to be on the other side of the table?

April (01:03):

It's good. I don't have to write any notes, great.

Brendan (01:07):

So, this week we're talking about what it's like to be a high-level marketing manager.

April (01:11):

Yes.

Brendan (01:11):

And I thought one of the best ways to share that with the listeners, is to maybe go through your past experience. In particular, maybe your last big consulting gig before you started the agency.

April (01:22):

Yes.

Brendan (01:22):

So, do you want to tell me, first of all, what was the company? Or, maybe if we don't talk about companies, what was the type of business, or the type of the industry you were in?

April (01:30):

So, technically I was selling manufactured homes in a manufactured home park.

Brendan (01:37):

Which sounds so sexy.

April (01:37):

Otherwise, known, or marketed as villages, or villages perfect for over 50s living.

Brendan (01:42):

Why are they over 50s villages?

April (01:44):

Well, that's how they're marketed, but technically you can't discriminate on age. So, ours was perfect for over 50s, not an over 50s villages.

Brendan (01:53):

Right, but when you started, was it an over 50s village?

April (01:55):

Yeah.

Brendan (01:56):

And then, you had to change it to be politically correct?

April (01:58):

Well, we had to change it, because you can't discriminate. And technically, the council approval was on paper for an over 50s village-

Brendan (02:06):

Oh.

April (02:06):

But, we can't discriminate for age. So, it's perfect for over 50s.

Brendan (02:09):

Yeah. So, it's a property development. How many homes?

April (02:12):

I think, 270, maybe.

Brendan (02:16):

Yeah. 270, 280, something like that.

April (02:19):

Yeah, something like that.

Brendan (02:19):

But, you can't borrow on them, right? You got to pay cash.

April (02:21):

Yes. So, full cash. There's no option to borrow, because the banks will not lend on it, because technically you own the house, the physical house, but you do not own the land.

Brendan (02:31):

Right.

April (02:32):

Technically, you lease the land.

Brendan (02:39):

Right. So, you're convincing boomers-

April (02:39):

People in their 50s and over. Yes.

Brendan (02:41):

... to buy something where they don't own the land, but they're going to spend what, a half million bucks on a house?

April (02:45):

Yeah. Anywhere from 320 to the 600s-

Brendan (02:52):

Right.

April (02:52):

On a house that-

Brendan (02:52):

That's legally relocatable, but practically, immovable.

April (02:55):

Yeah. I mean, we've heard of home park owners, who have lifted houses up to prove that they can be moved.

Brendan (03:02):

But, we're talking slab on the ground, right?

April (03:04):

Yeah.

Brendan (03:04):

Yeah.

April (03:05):

Specific, so it depends.

Brendan (03:07):

Yeah. And so, this development was in a regional Queensland location?

April (03:10):

Yes.

Brendan (03:10):

Yeah.

April (03:11):

I definitely would consider it regional.

Brendan (03:13):

Obviously, I know a little bit about the story, but if we start at the beginning, you got involved as a consultant for CRM, or something originally.

April (03:21):

Yeah. So, originally I was engaged to help with their lead generation and customer relationship management software.

Brendan (03:28):

Yeah.

April (03:28):

And then, ended up taking on slowly, more and more projects and ended up being their sales... We had a sales manager, I was the marketing manager, but I was heavily responsible, or I was responsible to the board, with my general manager, for the performance of our sales team.

Brendan (03:44):

Yeah. So, you had sales KPIs that you had to manage?

April (03:48):

Yes. I had KPIs, which I had to report to the board and to shareholders.

Brendan (03:51):

So, a little bit of scope creep from going in originally, to put a CRM in place, and then ending up running the thing.

April (03:56):

Yes.

Brendan (03:56):

How long was the contract for? Or, how long was the gig for? How long did you work there for?

April (04:00):

Two to three years, I'd say.

Brendan (04:02):

Yeah, okay.

April (04:02):

Yeah.

Brendan (04:02):

What did your typical day look like?

April (04:05):

Depends, if I was going to the site, or not. So, we went to the site, or me and my general manager would go to site, two out of the five days a week. The other two days we had an office where we are, here on thecoast. So, the other couple of days, sorry. And we'd work from that office. So, we'd work remotely, mainly because my job was dealing with suppliers and dealing with the sales team, for transactions and reporting. So-

Brendan (04:30):

That site was what? Four hours away?

April (04:32):

No. So, a bit like two and a half.

Brendan (04:33):

Two and a half hours drive.

April (04:34):

Yeah, two and a half hours drive. So, we'd drive up there and back, two days a week.

Brendan (04:39):

Right.

April (04:39):

And then, we'd fly sometimes.

Brendan (04:41):

Right. So, just clarity sake, when you say you'd fly-

April (04:41):

Yup.

Brendan (04:41):

Had your own plane?

April (04:41):

We had a plane, yes.

Brendan (04:45):

Right.

April (04:45):

We had access to one of our shareholders.

Brendan (04:48):

So, how long was the flight?

April (04:50):

I don't know. 30 minutes, 20 minutes.

Brendan (04:51):

Oh, good. Four hours in a car, 20 minutes in a plane.

April (04:54):

Yeah, it was more efficient in timing, which meant I could spend an additional say, four hours on-site with my team, rather than travelling, which was very useful for both my general manager and I, because we were both dealing with different things and you'd get there and you'd be on your feet pretty much the whole time, because you had sales meetings, and then you were looking at display homes, and then you were reviewing stages and you were looking at stages and all that type of stuff. So, those flights added just a lot of efficiency to our time.

Brendan (05:23):

Yeah. So, when you arrived with this company, when you started the gig, what was the state of play?

April (05:29):

Oh, so they've just come out of... So, we'd all just come out of GFC and the Queensland floods. So, I am sharing my age a little bit here. They were a couple of years out of those things, but we were still dealing with the ramifications of that. Like we all did in business and-

Brendan (05:45):

Because it was in an area that was heavily affected by the floods.

April (05:47):

Yeah, very heavily affected and still to this day, is impacted by floods.

Brendan (05:51):

So, what was the market perception of the brand when you were there, or the development?

April (05:55):

Well, it had stalled. So, I would have people that would come to my open days and they're like, "I didn't even realise you had houses built here." Because, they had launched in and around that GFC time, or potentially beforehand, or I can't quite remember. But yeah, sales just plummeted from there and I don't know why, and I don't know who the previous people were that would... Like, who the previous marketing managers and stuff. It wasn't an easy product to sell.

Brendan (06:24):

Yeah. Because you couldn't borrow on it. And it was an-

April (06:26):

Yeah, but also just-

Brendan (06:27):

People thought was underwater.

April (06:28):

Yeah. And also, circumstantially, I think, there's so many moving parts to the product that you're selling. So, I think one of the biggest things we did, was brought it all together and it felt like a process and a system, rather than it being, the sales team over here, the builders over there, the admin team somewhere else completely.

Brendan (06:51):

So, if we think of the priorities, when you first started-

April (06:51):

Yes.

Brendan (06:51):

User, so customer experience, and customer journey was a big, big part of that.

April (06:53):

Yeah, 100%. So, my background's real estate and commercial real estate, as well as Residential Real Estate. And I walked into an organization that were receiving leads. So, lead flow was never quite the issue, because of the type of product we were selling. It was a yes, manufactured home parks, or over 50s villages are everywhere. However, we had a really unique point of difference.

Brendan (07:17):

Yeah.

April (07:18):

So, that was never really the issue, which shocked me after coming out of real estate, because they'd get, say, 40 inquiries in a month, or something. I came out of real estate where, you might get two inquiries a week on a property.

Brendan (07:30):

Yeah, this was at a time when the market was depressed as well.

April (07:32):

Yeah, very different to what we are experiencing now. So, to have salespeople sit there going, "The leads aren't worth following up." I was quite shocked. So yeah, so we implemented a CRM system which allowed some automation to happen.

Brendan (07:47):

Yeah.

April (07:48):

And-

Brendan (07:49):

What system did you use?

April (07:50):

We used Infusionsoft at the time, which was my background.It's called Keap-

Brendan (07:54):

Keap, yeah.

April (07:55):

Yeah. Which is one of the first, that had the automation, if you think of the click funnel people that we deal with, it segmented people and it allowed us to send them onto different customer journeys.

Brendan (08:09):

If we pull out all those cliche market speak, automation and funnel and all that stuff. The reality was, is you took a sales process, which was a practical physical process. And then, you recreated that using aCRM in an automated fashion. So, effectively, you automated through a CRM, a practical process.

April (08:30):

Yes.

Brendan (08:31):

For sales management, lead generation, lead nurture.

April (08:33):

Yeah, I mean over time, it turned into sales management. Then, over time it turned into financial reporting as well. But, initially, it was put in place so they could track the leads that were coming in. So, we could do email marketing to them and invite them to events, all that type of stuff. And over time, it evolved how we used it and how we relied on it. So,I'm a big believer in, if you're investing in an asset, how else can it be used across the business? So, I was asked for data for valuations, I was able to pull all the sales prices and the land sizes, so they could pull valuations.

Brendan (09:06):

Yeah. So, you had all that data in there.

April (09:08):

Yeah. Over time, we had all of that data entered. So, my reporting became automated in the end.

Brendan (09:18):

So, when you first started, you put a CRM in place, and you automated the lead capturing. So, hang on, you were saying you had heaps of leads when you first came in.

April (09:22):

Yes.

Brendan (09:23):

Where were they going?

April (09:24):

Into probably some random spreadsheet.

Brendan (09:28):

Right.

April (09:28):

So, it was printed off, and then written again and whatnot, but it wasn't systemised, I suppose.

Brendan (09:33):

Yeah.

April (09:33):

And there was no way for us to know, if someone was away, had they been followed up, or anything like that. And it wasn't just the email marketing side of things, I'm a big believer in physically sending something to someone as well. So, it allowed us to send brochures out to people.

Brendan (09:49):

So, for every inquiry that came in on a property-

April (09:51):

Yes.

Brendan (09:51):

You sent a brochure-

April (09:51):

Yes.

Brendan (09:51):

Out in the mail.

April (09:51):

Physical pack, yup.

Brendan (09:54):

Yes.

April (09:54):

And also, the ability to access that online as well. So...

Brendan (10:00):

And this is some of the mechanical stuff you were doing, but ultimately, if we switched it up a year and just talked about the brand side of things.

April (10:06):

Yup.

Brendan (10:06):

What was the market perception of the development at the time, having just come into GFC and the floods?

April (10:11):

Oh, that, it potentially had-

Brendan (10:13):

Wasn't doing so well.

April (10:14):

Yeah. So, people didn't even know that they had started building-

Brendan (10:18):

Right.

April (10:18):

They didn't know what had happened to the brand.

Brendan (10:20):

There was already what? How many homes? 50 homes, or something.

April (10:22):

There was one stage that was already near completion when I started. So, maybe 20 homes.

Brendan (10:27):

Yeah. So, whilst in the background, you've got all this mechanical marketing stuff going on, and procedures and processes and systems, what were you doing from a brand perspective?

April (10:36):

So, we invested quite heavily into digital.

Brendan (10:39):

Yeah.

April (10:39):

We went all into digital. Essentially, they had been spending money on TV and radio and a lot of-

Brendan (10:47):

Traditional.

April (10:48):

Yeah, traditional media, which has its place. We had directional billboards, which we still had until the end. And I still think, they still have a couple now. Couple of publications, which are really relevant for that industry, which, you wouldn't not advertise in.

Brendan (11:02):

Yeah.

April (11:02):

However, based on that inquiry that was coming in and the type of people that we were marketing to, we invested into digital quite significantly.

Brendan (11:11):

And when you say digital, what do you mean? As in Google ads? Facebook ads?

April (11:14):

So, Facebook ads.

Brendan (11:15):

Yeah.

April (11:16):

Instagram, wasn't a thing then-

Brendan (11:18):

Yeah.

April (11:18):

And Google ads.

Brendan (11:20):

Yes. And content?

April (11:21):

Yeah. So, initially, we started with just advertising.

Brendan (11:24):

Yeah.

April (11:24):

But, I introduced content, because I was sick of people coming to the open day telling me that they didn't know that there were houses built in and whatnot. So, what I used content for, was to tell the story of the brand and what was happening, introducing new residents, "This dog lives with these people at this house and it's playing in the dog park and all that type of stuff." Really nice, touchy-feely, genuine content.

Brendan (11:52):

Yeah, really authentic to what the brand was.

April (11:53):

Yeah. Super authentic to show that, it was a real living thing. And then, we used advertising for more direct sales to generate inquiries.

Brendan (12:00):

So, how many leads a month were you getting?

April (12:02):

Depends on the time of year, I'd go from 350 to 700.

Brendan (12:06):

Inquiries a month-

April (12:08):

Yes, yes.

Brendan (12:08):

And the sales team, how many people?

April (12:10):

Three, with three receptionists.

Brendan (12:11):

Three salespeople.

April (12:12):

Yes.

Brendan (12:13):

Between 350 and 700 leads a month and three receptionists-

April (12:17):

Yes.

Brendan (12:17):

And 280 odd homes over, how long was that? Three, four years, five years?

April (12:21):

I was there for maybe, three. I left just as the last stage was going to sale.

Brendan (12:26):

So, it's a pretty big volume pretty quickly.

April (12:28):

Yes.

Brendan (12:31):

Lots of homes, especially when you can't borrow on them.

April (12:32):

Yeah. I mean, you have a lot of leads that went nowhere. It was the nature of that product and the niche market that we were marketing to there. We were lucky that the type of niche product that we had, was really specific and that industry, as soon as they see someone like something that is relevant to that niche, they just pounce on it and inquire. So, you have a lot of time wasters, I suppose. However, for me I just don't believe in that. I think, every inquiry you should treat with respect and whether they are looking for now... A lot of people would look for two years time away as well.

Brendan (13:05):

Okay.

April (13:05):

Because they had to plan for the transaction, you couldn't finance it, it's not like they were running out of stock, like, we were competing against other villages as well.

Brendan (13:16):

Yeah.

April (13:16):

So, there was a long decision-making process.

Brendan (13:20):

So, you weren't viewing people who weren't ready to transact and called today. You were actually looking at those buyers that are a year, or two, three down track.

April (13:28):

Yeah. Anywhere from six months, to two or three years, because these people were travelling a lot and they'd made life decisions to go do those things. They're like, "Oh, our plan is to go travel here for 12 months, and then we're going to come back and we're going to make a decision." So, that's a future opportunity, or a future lead, or someone that we should be talking to in 12 months' time.

Brendan (13:50):

It's quite a unique belief and attitude towards what most people deem as a time-waster.

April (13:55):

Yeah. I mean, I think I have a different view of future sales than what a lot of people do. I wasn't directly selling. So, what we put in place, didn't rely on the salesperson to make that call in six months, the system automated those tasks. We made it really easy to be reminded to make those phone calls, the ongoing marketing that we put in place, would just churn those people out anyway and turn them over time into active, instead of just, looking at it passively and thinking about it over time, they would basically self-service themselves-

Brendan (14:31):

Yeah.

April (14:31):

Into a purchaser.

Brendan (14:38):

So, you got in, you put the right systems and processes in place, particularly in CRM, lead capture, lead nurture.

April (14:40):

Yeah. And the reporting. So, we narrowed our... I think, the thing that made the most difference was obviously the automation of the CRM, but also our focus and what we spoke about on a regular basis.

Brendan (14:50):

Right.

April (14:50):

So, I put sales meeting structures in place, so I could forecast sales because essentially that was part of my role inside the business with the board.

Brendan (14:58):

So, hang on. So, the board... You had a KPI for how many sales you had to hit, that you were responsible for to the board. Why was it reporting so critical to that?

April (15:08):

So, reporting was critical, because obviously, we had aboard and we had shareholders.

Brendan (15:11):

Yeah.

April (15:12):

We also had to plan for future investment into the development.

Brendan (15:16):

Yeah.

April (15:16):

So, we had to know when to build the next stage, because obviously, we needed to have stock available. So, you have cash flow issues, not issues, but that's just part of our-

Brendan (15:25):

You got to manage cash flow.

April (15:26):

Yeah, you've got to manage cash flow. You've got to manage stock availability. There's no point in having all these purchases, if you don't have stock. And so, part of the role was not only managing the sale, but managing the stock levels, and then the future stock levels as well.

Brendan (15:41):

Yeah.

April (15:42):

When they originally, launched the concept, they thought a lot of people would pull money out of Super to buy these houses.

Brendan (15:49):

Which, no one ever did.

April (15:49):

Which, I did not have one person pull money out of Super, to purchase one of these houses.

Brendan (15:54):

Right.

April (15:54):

99% of them had a family home that they'd lived in for their whole life, basically. And they were coming from regional locations too. So, they weren't coming out of a Metro. Very rarely, were they coming out of a Metro location, nor were they coming from the neighbouring suburbs either.

Brendan (16:12):

Right.

April (16:12):

So-

Brendan (16:16):

Well, there were no neighbouring suburbs.

April (16:16):

There were neighbouring suburbs, but I sold houses twice as expensive as the average sale in those neighbouring suburbs. So-

Brendan (16:23):

We'll talk about that in a second. I want to come back to that later.

April (16:25):

So, one thing that, I like to not control my sales, but I like to do everything I can for my transactions.

Brendan (16:34):

De-risk them.

April (16:34):

Yeah, de-risk it. So, I was ultimately responsible. However, these people would often have to sell their home, before they were able to purchase and sign a contract with us.

Brendan (16:43):

So, subject to sale?

April (16:44):

Yes. Because, like I said, the bank could not finance anything, based on the nature of the purchase. So, we put in a process which helped us, de-risk the subject to sale contract that we would put in place.

Brendan (16:57):

What was that?

April (16:59):

So, we'd run a valuation on their property.

Brendan (17:01):

So, you, as the developer-

April (17:03):

Yes.

Brendan (17:03):

Would get a valuation at your cost, would get a valuation done on the buyer's home.

April (17:09):

Yes.

Brendan (17:10):

For what purpose?

April (17:10):

So, one, the client knew their financial position and also we could work with them in generating a solution. The reason why we offered that. So, it was offered, you didn't have to do it, but if you wanted to sign a subject to sale contract, that was the process to relay.

Brendan (17:28):

Yeah. So, that was a prerequisite of subject to sale?

April (17:30):

Correct.

Brendan (17:31):

And the valuation didn't include any emotional attachment value?

April (17:34):

No, no. So, the reason why we put that in place, was we were relying on local agents-

Brendan (17:40):

Right.

April (17:40):

Who were selling the houses for our clients, essentially. And none of them can appropriately price a property.

Brendan (17:49):

Yeah. Well, it comes with its challenges.

April (17:50):

Yeah. So, I couldn't put the fate of my position and the success of my position in the hands of someone that I had zero impact on and control-

Brendan (18:00):

Mm.

April (18:00):

Which, sounds very controlling. But, it just de-risked it, for the business basically. And so, what we did was we'd offer them a valuation, if they agreed to list within a certain percentage of that valuation, the next step was we would communicate with that agent.

Brendan (18:14):

Right.

April (18:15):

So, we'd essentially sales manage the agent. And the reason why we do that, is so we knew what the activity was like. So, if say they had listed the house, within the valuation price point and they weren't having inspections, we knew that there would be a problem, because what I was able to do then, if they went through that process, I could take that potential transaction, or that contract and put it into my sales forecasting.

Brendan (18:41):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

April (18:41):

So, I knew that I would have an unconditional contract within a three to four month time.

Brendan (18:51):

Yeah. So, when you were cash flow forecasting for the board, based on your reporting-

April (18:51):

Yeah.

Brendan (18:52):

You were forecasting based on fairly, solid deals. It wasn't-

April (18:56):

Yeah.

Brendan (18:56):

Pie in the sky, wishful thinking-

April (18:58):

Correct, yeah.

Brendan (18:58):

So-

April (18:59):

And then, I would pay for professional photography as well. So, I knew if it was priced right. And it was positioned right-

Brendan (19:05):

Yeah.

April (19:06):

99% of the time, the transaction worked. In the three years, I only had one that did not work out.

Brendan (19:11):

So, you did the agent's job for them, basically. You priced it, using a valuer, then you paid to have photography done. So, at least it was priced right. So, the agent just had a properly priced property that was presented well, all they had to do was just close the deal?

April (19:24):

Basically, yes.

Brendan (19:25):

Yeah, right. Which meant you got the deal?

April (19:27):

Which means we got the deal, yeah. So, part of our sales package, our sales meetings and whatnot, we would actually talk about the activity that, that person was having on the sale of their personal property. So, I could make some decisions around, do I take that out of the forecast? Or, do I keep it in there? What's that agent got to say? Have they got people coming through? Have they had any offers? So-

Brendan (19:52):

So, you weren't just managing your own deals. You were managing the deals of the buyers who were buying through you?

April (19:58):

Well, essentially that was managing my deal, but yes.

Brendan (20:04):

Yeah. So, you were managing two lots of transactions, effectively?

April (20:04):

Yeah. Because, one would lead to the other.

Brendan (20:04):

Right.

April (20:06):

And we couldn't ignore the subject to sale buyers, because that was 80%, 90% of the buyers that we were dealing with. So, it was such a big chunk of people to not pay attention to and put something solid in place.So, I could correctly forecast. And so, we're not living in this pie in the sky land, because at the end of the day, the salespeople and God bless them, they will always be like, "Yeah, no, they've said that they'll sell it. And they're going to list it properly and whatnot-"

Brendan (20:38):

“It'll be fine?”

April (20:38):

“It'll be fine.” But then, at the end of the day, I was the one that had to report to the board-

Brendan (20:42):

Right.

April (20:43):

In the end.

Brendan (20:44):

And so, you talk about that, like there's a lot of gravity weighing on the responsibility of hitting those targets.

April (20:50):

Yes.

Brendan (20:51):

And you mentioned cash flow forecasting before.

April (20:54):

Yes.

Brendan (20:54):

Normally, that's something CFO's doing.

April (20:56):

Yes.

Brendan (20:56):

So, what input did you have on cash flow forecasting?

April (20:59):

Well, one, I hated hearing that... I couldn't build a stage, or something along those lines or-

Brendan (21:06):

Because, you wanted to get it quicker?

April (21:07):

Well, I had sales targets to hit. So, if stock wasn't available, then I couldn't hit my sales target.

Brendan (21:13):

Right.

April (21:13):

So, the other thing we put in place... So, not only did we put in place processes to generate the sale and when you generate that sale, it's only half the transaction, because it's just the contract to actually pour a slab and build a house.

Brendan (21:28):

Right.

April (21:29):

Then, you've got to finish the contract and finish building the property as well.

Brendan (21:32):

Mm.

April (21:33):

So, you get that final settle transaction. So, there's two parts to that transaction. And so, the other side of it was pulling back how long it would take to build a house and the part-

Brendan (21:43):

Pull back, reducing the-

April (21:44):

Reducing the time, yes. So, we worked really hard on that as well. And so, if I could change my build time from 18 weeks to 16 weeks to14 weeks, that's quite a substantial amount of time, which impacts your cash flow and your forecasting and your ability to build sooner rather than later.

Brendan (22:04):

So, as your role in marketing management, you're actually figuring out ways to reduce the build time, so that you could then, sell houses quicker and have more stock to sell. So, you could hit your KPIs better?

April (22:17):

Yeah. Because, as far as I was concerned, it was part of the sales process and what was happening was, my sales team were responsible for the whole transaction, from yes, signing a contract to finishing the build. So, you get constantly into... I'd watch them, I'd watch these people come in and ask questions about a tile to my salesperson, who's telling me that they're too busy to call back these leads. So, we split that process out, so we had a customer service person. So, once the transaction happened, the customer service person would act as the liaison between the builder and us-

Brendan (22:50):

Right.

April (22:50):

And them. Though, you've got that extra support, because there was a lot of work that had to be done after the contract's signed. It's not like, "Yes, see you in three months." They've got to make selections, and then selections run out of stock. So, you've got to give them other options. There are always things that are out of everyone's control, that need to be discussed. You've got to sign off on stages, to the point where we were... Because, it was still a build contract, technically. So, we would then run inspections to make sure the builder was appropriately hitting their stages. So, we could invoice on the day of that stage being hit, to manage the cash flow, if that made sense.

Brendan (23:33):

Yeah, to try and bring it forward.

April (23:34):

To bring it forward, yes.

Brendan (23:35):

Yeah. And pretty wild to think, is that someone who originally got involved just to sort a CRM system out, then ends up cash flow forecasting to speed up-

April (23:45):

Well, helping with cash flow-

Brendan (23:46):

Yeah.

April (23:47):

Forecasting, yeah. I mean, I don't want to touch the spreadsheet, but I had someone else do it and I would look at it to go, "Yeah, I need money here, or I need a house here." So, if I wasn't hitting sales targets, for whatever reason, because something's fallen through, do we build a spec? How do we fill that hole? So, it was very important to be able to hit and exceed those targets.

Brendan (24:07):

Cause you were living and dying by those KPIs?

April (24:11):

Yeah. So, that was my focus at all times. So, we worked with agencies to deliver everything else, which was great.

Brendan (24:16):

Yeah.

April (24:17):

Agencies and contractors. So, I was the only end upwards of close to $1 million in marketing. And so, we had agencies that we partnered with, which were great, so I trusted them and we were across everything. But then, that gave me the time as a marketing person who was responsible for sales transactions, to really understand the business and make those little 1% changes that actually had a big impact over time.

Brendan (24:43):

Yeah. And so, I mean, it's a crazy story as it is, but I think it's important to reflect on how that brand came about as well, because you mentioned before, a really unique point of difference. We won't go into the specifics of exactly what that was, but it took a bloke who was really passionate about an element of lifestyle.

April (25:02):

Yeah.

Brendan (25:02):

Travel.

April (25:02):

Yeah.

Brendan (25:03):

Who then came up with this concept to build this over 50s village specifically around that. Who is just a... Obviously, you and I know him very well and he's just the nicest guy on the planet.

April (25:13):

He's a visionary. So, I think the reason why, outside of what I do now, it's the most fun I've ever had. Which sounds weird, when you're talking about over 50s village, but it was actually the most fun, because we were a high performing team, we were cranking.

Brendan (25:28):

Yeah.

April (25:29):

But, to have someone who believes in the product and the highest of quality possible, within budgets and stuff like that. To have that as well, makes you realise that, you are not afraid to ask a question, or you're not afraid to pitch an idea, or you're not afraid to think out of the box, because that's what's encouraged. So, even to the point of, I got there one day and I got sick of looking at the bromeliad, it's in one of the pots. So, we changed all of it to be flowers. And it sounds so simple, but it was such an ethos of the founder and a major shareholder that, that was such a big part of the ethos of the brand-

Brendan (26:07):

Was the gardens?

April (26:09):

Was the gardens.

Brendan (26:09):

Yeah, right.

April (26:10):

And so, if I walked past the garden that I didn't think was reflective of that, I was able to have a chat to the gardeners and go, "Hey guys, can we do something here? Because, it doesn't quite match," which is pretty cool.

Brendan (26:22):

Yeah, it's awesome.

April (26:23):

Yeah.

Brendan (26:23):

And you're right. I mean, a visionary is a really appropriate word for that CEO and founder of that brand. How do you then manage that though? Bigger than life personality, the most passionate person on the planet?

April (26:35):

With numbers.

Brendan (26:35):

You manage him with numbers?

April (26:35):

Yes.

Brendan (26:36):

And so, what happens when they've got a wild idea?

April (26:39):

You bring it back to the sales.

Brendan (26:40):

Right.

April (26:42):

It all comes back to numbers.

Brendan (26:44):

Yeah.

April (26:44):

At the end of the day, that's what we're there for. And we had budgets and we had to stick to those budgets. And often, money was taken out of my budget, to be spent on something that was a wild idea. And that was just part of it. And I had to find that money somewhere. So, to be able to work with someone like that, who thinks differently, that it allows you to think a little bit differently and put your ideas forward for the better of the business and the brand and the customers and the staff and all of that type of stuff.

Brendan (27:12):

But, because you had that unconditional and just, unequivocal focus on hitting the numbers and it wasn't just, "We hit our numbers, our job's done." It was, that's a minimum requirement of my position.

April (27:22):

Yeah.

Brendan (27:22):

That's the way you viewed it. So, that was a minimum not-

April (27:25):

And I think, the other thing is I think, what was really important, which I, on reflection, I really appreciate. And I didn't quite notice it at the time, because I have worked in businesses where it's like,"We want to hit $10 million this year." And as a marketing person, you're like, "How the hell am I meant to get us to 10 million?" There's no tangible step. Whereas, I had an amount of transactions I had to do. So, it wasn't about the dollar figure, even though, we had minimum-

Brendan (27:52):

Well, each dollar figure represented, call it half million bucks, right?

April (27:55):

Yeah. But, we had minimum standards, so it wasn't about cutting deals to get the transaction. But, I had to hit a certain amount of transactions a month.

Brendan (28:04):

Yeah.

April (28:05):

Within a budget. But, it was all about the sales number. It wasn't about the value of the sale. And I-

Brendan (28:11):

So, for the marketing manager, you had a tangible goal of this number of sales.

April (28:16):

Yeah, yeah. Which then, allowed you to focus and where's that next deal coming from? Who are we talking to? What can we do? What do we need to do to help this person move forward?

Brendan (28:27):

And I guess, the interesting thing about that, is because you had such a track record of deliveries. Well, it wasn't like you hit your numbers one month, you didn't the next, and you made some excuses. You hit them month in, month out-

April (28:38):

I had to. There wasn't an option to not hit it. And if I didn't hit it, I had to make it up the following months. So-

Brendan (28:46):

When you say had to-

April (28:47):

Yeah.

Brendan (28:47):

Are we talking legally, financially? Morally?

April (28:51):

Well, I was a contractor.

Brendan (28:52):

Yeah.

April (28:52):

So, as far as I can say-

Brendan (28:54):

You're only as good as your last month.

April (28:56):

Yeah. So, I would live three months in advance, in my sales forecasting.

Brendan (28:59):

Yeah.

April (29:00):

And I was pretty spot on.

Brendan (29:01):

And so, when you then, had to have a hard conversation with the CEO, do you feel that because you'd earned the right to speak up, both in front of the CEO and the board for that matter, you were able to speak with confidence because you had the track record of hitting those numbers and they listened?

April (29:17):

And I knew the numbers.

Brendan (29:18):

Yeah.

April (29:18):

The biggest thing is knowing the numbers. So, you've got to be able to hit the numbers and know the numbers and the reasons why we're not hitting numbers. So, even at AGMs, I was the person that presented the performance of the sales and marketing to all of the shareholders.

Brendan (29:35):

Yeah.

April (29:36):

So-

Brendan (29:36):

And the stakes are pretty high. You had people’s life savings in that thing, right?

April (29:40):

Correct, yeah. So, the first time they did it to me, they told me in the plane, I was giving this-

Brendan (29:45):

Oh, they dumped it on you.

April (29:46):

Yeah, they dumped it on me. Which is fine, because I knew my numbers. I knew what I was going to hit for the year. I knew what my inquiry rates were at. I knew, because of what we did that month, the same month, the year prior, I knew if we were on track, or off track. So, for me, the numbers just rolled off my tongue.

Brendan (30:02):

So, despite reporting to a board, which is obviously a very, C-suite type position, you were extremely hands on though. You were walking around site saying, "Those plants, aren't the right-

April (30:12):

Well, not like that-

Brendan (30:12):

Species.

April (30:13):

But, yes. Well, not the-

Brendan (30:16):

Rip them out and burn them and replace them.

April (30:17):

Well, it'd be more of a discussion with the team.

Brendan (30:19):

Right. Is that a bit like how you and I have a debate?

April (30:22):

No. So, it's a bit more forward-

Brendan (30:24):

Right.

April (30:24):

Than our debates.

Brendan (30:25):

So, as a high-level marketing manager, you are reporting to a board, you are hitting your KPIs as a minimum requirement, month in, month out, you're dealing with millions of dollars in media spend, and you are driving three, or four hours there, three, or four hours back, couple times a week, taking the company plane at other times. How many hours a week were you doing?

April (30:48):

A lot. I lived and breathed it.

Brendan (30:48):

80, 70?

April (30:48):

Yeah, maybe. Yeah.

Brendan (30:48):

Yeah. It's a blur.

April (30:49):

I'd spend most of my days talking to my sales manager and my sales team.

Brendan (30:52):

Yeah.

April (30:52):

Or, I'd be in meetings, or I'd have to run something past my general manager, or we were trying to close out a deal. So, I was lucky I had the ability to sign off on deals as well if we were negotiating on something.

Brendan (31:06):

You also had a really supportive GM.

April (31:09):

Yeah, 100%-

Brendan (31:10):

Who-

April (31:10):

100%.

Brendan (31:11):

Both of you were totally on the same page.

April (31:13):

Yeah.

Brendan (31:14):

What you were working towards.

April (31:16):

Yeah. We had a goal we were working towards and that never really shook. So, to the point where he couldn't not hit his next stage, because it would impact my sales too much. So, just as much as I was responsible for the sales, he was responsible for giving me the stock.

Brendan (31:34):

Yeah.

April (31:34):

And so, every week I would forecast when I need new stock.

Brendan (31:38):

So, you had to rely on each other?

April (31:40):

We had to rely on each other. And I still, to this day, every week I would print off a map of my village and I would mark off, what's sold? What's sitting at unconditional? What's conditional? And then, I would count up each stage. I couldn't work out a better way to do some numbers that I had to put in my head.

Brendan (31:58):

Yeah.

April (31:58):

Because sometimes you just need a visual representation and it was far cheaper than hiring a big development company to build me an interactive map. But, that would be a way that I could actually visualize it and show, it because some people are visual more than anything, or so I could forecast.

Brendan (32:15):

Was it glamorous?

April (32:16):

No.

Brendan (32:18):

You’re talking about planes?

April (32:18):

It was so hot. Oh, my God. I've just never been so hot in all of my life, all the time. No, it wasn't glamorous.

Brendan (32:24):

But, you're saying-

April (32:25):

It's so fun.

Brendan (32:25):

Yeah. So, you're saying, you had the most fun you ever had.

April (32:28):

Yeah, I'd eat McDonald's every time we were up there, because what else would you eat? It's just, the safest thing to eat. And it was just so hot, all the time. So, that was one of my biggest things. I was driving around in golf carts and you're in Hi-Vis and you're wearing helmets and you're wearing closed-in shoes in 35-degree heat.

Brendan (32:52):

Is this where your love of softserves comes from?

April (32:53):

Yeah, probably. He'd get in the car so exhausted. Because, it's so humid. So, you were just completely zapped of any energy. And then, you'd be on the phone, or you'd be talking to each other about work for the two hours on the way back as well, because you hadn't been able to talk to your general manager and run, what your instructions were that day, past him. But yeah, no, it was lots of fun.

Brendan (33:16):

So, it wasn't glamorous, you're working 80 hours a week.

April (33:19):

Yeah.

Brendan (33:19):

Having the most fun of your life.

April (33:20):

Yes.

Brendan (33:20):

Would you do it again?

April (33:21):

Yeah, I think I would.

Brendan (33:22):

So, for those listeners who might be marketing managers, or aspiring marketing managers, coordinators, or whatnot, or they could be business owners even, wondering, "How come my marketing manager can't do that?" Because I think we've got to be fair here. You were remunerated extremely well for that. You had very, very big KPIs.

April (33:42):

I was remunerated, because I was able to ask for that remuneration, based on the focus that I put in place. No one asked me to do that stuff. It was just over time.

Brendan (33:52):

So, all the things... I mean, like I said, you went in there to set up a CRM, but you ended up cash flow forecasting for capital works.

April (33:59):

Yeah.

Brendan (34:00):

And because you knew the numbers. And because, you could report them, because you hit KPIs, you earned the right to ask for what you wanted to be paid.

April (34:06):

Yeah.

Brendan (34:07):

But, you had the runs on the ball to do it?

April (34:08):

Yeah, correct. But, if my CEO-

Brendan (34:11):

Yeah.

April (34:11):

Called me on a Sunday-

Brendan (34:13):

You answered-

April (34:13):

I answer.

Brendan (34:14):

Yeah.

April (34:15):

If someone calls me at 6 AM, you answer.

Brendan (34:18):

So, is there such thing as a high-level lifestyle marketing manager? No? I guess the reason why I asked that, is because I think a lot of people might hear the glamorous side to marketing conferences and being on a plane every different day of the week and drinking wine at lunch and all that stuff. But, the reality is that, if you want to earn the big bucks-

April (34:38):

Yes.

Brendan (34:39):

Then, you work your absolute guts out for it.

April (34:41):

I think, there's plenty of opportunity to earn, as a marketing person. Whether, that's a digital marketing manager, or a social media person, as long as you're adding value back to the business. And I think, somehow it got lost where marketing is responsible for sales-

Brendan (34:57):

But, you took that responsibility on.

April (34:57):

Yeah, but we had to link it together, because it obviously links, one equates to the other-

Brendan (35:03):

Yeah.

April (35:03):

Right? And often, we see marketing and sales are against each other when, as marketing people, we should be talking to our salespeople to know what questions are we being asked? What objections are we receiving? What resources do you need? All of those things, to make sure that they're prepared and able to do the best that they can. And there are no excuses.

Brendan (35:39):

So, in other words, when they're viewed as two separate departments, they get to blame one another. But, when they're viewed as two departments working together, they have to be ultimately accountable to one another?

April (35:39):

Yeah. And I also think, business owners don't realise that marketing should actually, be related to the sales. So, I find it really odd, as an agency owner now, we deal with marketing people and they're obsessed with what a word is in the social media content, which I get it from a brand perspective. But, you know what? It's not going to move the needle for sales.

Brendan (36:01):

Yeah.

April (36:01):

That one word.

Brendan (36:02):

So, they're focusing on the wrong thing?

April (36:04):

Well, they've not been taught to focus on anything else.The expectation's not there, when marketing should be reflecting sales, it should be reflecting leads into the business. There's a place for tone of voice and all that type of stuff. But, at the end of the day, we're here to make money and generate transactions, whatever that is. So, I find it really complexing that the things that people focus on in marketing, when there are bigger problems, or bigger opportunities out there to be chasing, and you can rely on your agencies to be helping you with things. But, sometimes, it feels like an us vs them. Whereas, in my experience when you have the agency and you're working with them and you are being innovative as a marketing person, because what you're thinking is around what you are being told about sales, rather than it being a word you don't like, which no one's really going to notice. It's just a different focus and it's a different way of thinking.

Brendan (37:07):

So, do you think that's one of the differentiators between someone who's almost stuck in this micromanagement of marketing, which is creating limitations on their own?

April (37:16):

Well, I think you've got those people, because they like that. They're not-

Brendan (37:20):

But, compared to a high-level marketing manager, who's literally doing everything, from having a hand in cash flow forecasting, to reporting to a board, to managing a million bucks in advertising.

April (37:33):

Yes.

Brendan (37:34):

I mean, there are much, much bigger picture things, when you've got a GM saying, "I need to find 6 million bucks for the next round of capital works to occur."

April (37:43):

Yeah.

Brendan (37:43):

You weren't bogged down with the spelling of a particular word, because of a-

April (37:47):

Well, I had an agency, who I knew would do the right thing and would be doing as well as they could, in the circumstances that they werein.

Brendan (37:56):

So, to elevate yourself, you brought in the right suppliers to help you do that.

April (38:00):

Yeah, I couldn't do it. I couldn't do all of those things.

Brendan (38:02):

Yeah. And so-

April (38:03):

I was too busy.

Brendan (38:04):

Well, that's an interesting point, right? So, as a business owner, I'm sitting here going, "Well, I want my marketing manager to be just as engaged as April was, when she was running that project. "But, to do that, you've also got to keep in mind the amount of money that was spent on it and the resources that were then, allocated to you, to deliver what you were tasked to do, was obviously high as well. It wasn't given to-

April (38:27):

We had a cost per transaction, for marketing.

Brendan (38:29):

Right. That's what came back to the cost per transaction.

April (38:31):

Yeah. Sorry, that's how our budgets were worked out. And-

Brendan (38:37):

Yeah. So, the owner didn't pluck a figure and go, "You got 50K a month to spend." It was-

April (38:38):

I'm sure it was in the beginning.

Brendan (38:40):

Yeah.

April (38:40):

But then, over time we were actually able to go, "Okay, so this is the cost that I need to generate a transaction and that cost isn't just one Facebook lead. It's all of the events that you have, and the printing that you have, and the ambassadorship that you have, and the gardening that you do, and the parking that you create, and all of those things. So, we had worked out a cost per transaction, which then allowed me... So, the more transactions I was doing, the more marketing budget I had to spend.

Brendan (39:14):

Oh, okay. Yeah, I got you. So, it was almost like reverse-engineered in a way where-

April (39:17):

Yeah.

Brendan (39:18):

There was an agreement on how much you could spend per sale. And then, if you got more sales, you have more money to spend, okay.

April (39:23):

Yeah.

Brendan (39:23):

So, I guess to try and summarise this a little bit and give the listeners a few takeaways. If you are the marketing manager, or the employee, or the consultant, what are your number one, or two bits of advice? If you're in that position and you want to be at that high level?

April (39:39):

So, you have to want to understand the business. So, it's not just about the area that you operate in. So, that general curiosity about how things work, how they link together, how it impacts each other. So, there's that curiosity of why, how, when, whatnot. And then, the conversations that you're having with your manager, or the business owner, or something along those lines. I would love someone to come to me and go, "I've got this lead generation idea. What do you think?"

Brendan (40:10):

So, in other words, show some-

April (40:12):

Initiative.

Brendan (40:13):

Thoughtful initiative.

April (40:14):

Yeah. So, there's understanding the business.

Brendan (40:17):

Yeah.

April (40:17):

And the problems that the business faces and the problems that each role faces as well because each role will face different problems. The salespeople will be sick of leads that are not qualified enough.

Brendan (40:27):

Yeah.

April (40:28):

And the reason why they're sick of it, is they're only paid on the sale. So, they don't care about the people that are going to buy in two years' time. They don't give a shit about it. They care about what's in front of them for the next 30 days, that's it. So, as a marketing person, you go, "Okay, well, how do I generate that person back? Or, how do I look after that person, so they turn into a transaction in two years time." So, you have to understand each role in the business, what happens? How the business functions? To then, be able to provide recommendations and pitch ideas on how to move forward.

April (40:57):

It's not just about going, "Oh, we could just doTV." It's actually understanding, what are the 1% things that you can do, to propel the business forward? Which, will help with your marketing budgets and improve your marketing budgets and improve the outcomes of the marketing that you're doing. And then, also understanding, within reason, whether it's the financial position of the business, or what's the sales targets for the business. So, instead of going 10 million, it might go, "We need 100 sales this year. Well, what are we at currently?" What's the business at currently? How many is that a month?

Brendan (41:30):

So-

April (41:30):

How many is that a week?

Brendan (41:31):

Genuinely understand the commercial realities of the business.

April (41:34):

Yeah. And breaking it down into months and weeks and taking into consideration things like, April is a weird month, people are away. December and January, are weird months. So, I had different sales targets for December, January.

Brendan (41:47):

Okay, yes.

April (41:48):

Because, technically, I had an annual target I had to hit, so then we split it up into months. And then, I looked at it and go, "What months are the quiet months?" Because you can't fight that either. So, you got to make them up in other months.

Brendan (41:59):

Yeah. And then, as a business owner, what's some advice you would give them, who are either, they're probably either stuck in one or two places. They're wishing that they could find someone to do that. In which case, we just talk to all the things that person could do. But, also you could just have that person listen to this podcast.

April (42:15):

I could ask them.

Brendan (42:16):

When you say that, you could ask them, you're suggesting the business owner should just go and ask the marketing manager, "What do you need to do, to hit your targets?"

April (42:20):

Yes.

Brendan (42:20):

Or, are there even targets in the first place?

April (42:21):

What do you think we should be doing right now? What problems are you experiencing that we should be addressing?

Brendan (42:31):

Yeah. So, having a more open and frank dialogue-

April (42:33):

Business conversation,

Brendan (42:34):

Business conversations.

April (42:35):

Yeah.

Brendan (42:36):

Right. And so, a lot of what you just went through and a lot of what you talked about, a part of that was about spending money on advertising-

April (42:42):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brendan (42:43):

And content creation, things like that. But, 80% of it was about solving business problems, well, the same thing.

April (42:48):

Well, marketing solves business. That's the idea of marketing-

Brendan (42:51):

Marketing's a part of business, right?

April (42:52):

Yeah. And it's there to solve business problems. So, the problem of people not realising that we'd actually built houses, that is a business problem. But, we fixed it with marketing.

Brendan (43:02):

And telling story of-

April (43:04):

Telling the story, to tell real stories about real people.That was how I told the story of this particular product. It wasn't about the marketing photos anymore. It wasn't about the editorial shots, because it wasn't compelling enough.

Brendan (43:18):

Yeah. So, April-

April (43:18):

Yes.

Brendan (43:18):

That was a mouthful.

April (43:20):

It was.

Brendan (43:21):

We're going to have to debrief after this.

April (43:22):

I know.

Brendan (43:23):

Is there anything else that you want to talk about? That you've missed? Or, you think would be helpful?

April (43:27):

No, I don't think so. I think, over time, the role that I had changed, because I think, even my ability changed with the role as well. My understanding changed with the role. So, I think, if you own a business, bringing those people in that are showing the initiative, stretching them, not too much, but stretching them to see what they're capable of doing and what they can understand, lean on your suppliers, because that can be a massive cost-saving, but also very efficient at the same time. Like, when I leaned on our agencies, I didn't have to worry about someone being sick, it still happened.

Brendan (44:03):

Mm, good point.

April (44:05):

I didn't have to worry about holiday leave. All my content still went, anything like that. So yeah, I wanted reliability, because I was too busy doing the other stuff. So, that's how I gauged what I should spend money on as well. And I think if you're a marketing manager, just showing interest in other areas of the business, or trying to understand the reasons why things happen and why decisions are made and getting close to those people. So, you can potentially contribute in a larger way-

Brendan (44:37):

Add more value.

April (44:39):

100%.

Brendan (44:40):

April, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for your time.

April (44:43):

No problem.

Brendan (44:44):

I hope you'll invite me back on next week.

April (44:47):

Thank you for having me.

Brendan (44:47):

I hope, everyone enjoyed.

April (44:47):

See you.

Brendan (44:47):

Bye.

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