I first met Stephen in 2009 in Bristol and I was impressed by his approach to helping businesses grow through a combination of marketing basics and new techniques, particularly around international marketing.
Since then he’s been extremely busy with consulting and speaking engagements in the UK and abroad. I caught up with him when he was back in the UK after business trips to China and India, to gain a perspective from his experience.
MJS: In a couple of sentences, what’s your background Steve?
SCC: I bring a range of experiences to marketing, which I believe gives me an edge. I studied Electronic Engineering and Computer Science so I’ve a fairly logical and analytical approach to situations. I worked for some major Blue-Chip businesses including HP, in marketing, sales and channel management roles before moving into consultancy around 2002. And my parents are Jamaican so my upbringing in England was a combination of English and Jamaican cultures, which I find helps me to relate to people easily.
All business is essentially based on relationships and as we continue to live in a world that becomes more connected, this by definition leads to cross cultural business exchange and embracing of cultures. This understanding of and relating to people can very well mean the difference in winning and losing business.
MJS: As you meet business people in different countries what things are challenging them?
SCC: The first challenge I see is companies losing or missing out on sales because people are not listening. Customers aren’t listening to companies and companies aren’t listening to customers. Where there is listening and relationships are working then the sales tend to be stronger.
The second challenge is a question of marketing attitudes and skills. I’m a firm believer that marketing fuels growth, but many people don’t buy this, or if they do they lack marketing skills and current knowledge. Marketing is a skill which needs working on like any other skill. If people running businesses and those working in marketing and providing those services to clients are not themselves improving their skills this by definition means that skills will become outdated. An easy test is to ask people when they last read an authoritative, current, marketing book.
MJS: Do you have any views on why this is the case?
SCC: Many people, especially those running smaller businesses, are not clear on their brand message, the brand promise or brand equity. There is too much focus on features, advantages and benefits , even though in many cases these are unclear, and are not what the buyer wants to hear. They’ve tuned out already. Get the brand promise right, as Apple has done, and the results can speak for themselves. Focus on the experience, not on the words.
MJS: And what are people doing that does work?
SCC: One area that I see working is the ability to segment and to target, and if something isn’t working to spot that and to make changes fast.
For smaller companies it’s more about spotting that things have changed and being able to decide quickly what to do about it. When you’re in a trench it’s hard to look around and see what’s happening.
For larger companies the challenge is to be able to react fast, and turn the fleet in another direction.
This can be simplified by breaking the task down into 3 elements; i) the company products or services, ii) the marketplace and iii) the channels of communication that connect the two.
MJS: Do you see any international differences?
SCC: I see the world is getting flatter as geographic boundaries reduce and people buy global brands and products and companies increase their global reach to match. To be successful with international marketing it helps to have local representation from the local workforce. However it can be a real challenge to translate a brand and communicate it to customers and through local representatives.
I also see international differences in mind-set, where some will ‘tell’ rather than listen and explain on the one side and the receptiveness to new ideas and the thirst for knowledge on the other. In my experience, this thirst for knowledge and openness to new ideas is prevalent in the developing regions such as the Asian economies.
MJS: And can you see one trend that we should watch out for?
SCC: The big one is the Internet as a marketing channel. It is wonderful and adaptable, and is a very easy route for a company to widen and extend their reach, through the Internet channel.
Broadband is essentially becoming freely available, so wherever people settle as they travel; on trains, stations, hotels, coffee shops and so on, they can access the internet.
Mobile goes beyond that as smartphone devices are becoming the de-factor handset. So people can find information, make choices and buy online very quickly, wherever they are.
And this speed of decision-making in the consumer market will have a knock-on into the more forward-looking company purchases where people will research, buy and expect the benefits to follow in a similarly faster turn-around.
And companies who don’t get this will be left wondering what’s happened.
MJS: Thanks you Steve. There area some profound points there that hopefully our readers will find helpful as they think about their situations and developing and growing their businesses.
About Stephen C Campbell
Stephen is a Business Strategy Consultant, Presenter and Entrepreneur with international experience and perspective. He is a specialist in blending the best of traditional offline marketing strategies with using Internet Marketing Strategies to build equity into businesses in many sectors.
Interview by Mark Stonham on 14 October 2011. All rights reserved.