Andrew Smith is chief strategy officer at customer-centric agency, Partners Andrew Aldridge.
What is strategy? How does one do it? And how does a CSO fit into agency life? Here’s Smith to fill us in…
(Remember, if you want to fast track your development, Econsultancy offers a whole host of marketing training.)
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Andrew Smith: I lead the strategy and experience design teams. Our team has a diverse range of capabilities to enhance a brand’s customer experience. We develop business strategies, create digital visions, build products and propositions, design service solutions, devise communication cycles, and plan performance marketing initiatives.
The fluidity of strategy and experience being designed together in one unit means we’re totally focused on delivering a business-winning strategy through the lens of the customer.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation?
Andrew Smith: Within the company I’m part of the leadership team, but when it comes to physically sitting, I try to avoid this as much as possible. I try to sit as little as possible. The best thinking, clearer ideation, the most effective teamwork and moments of inspiration are not found sitting at a desk isolated from others, so I like to move around.
I ‘squat’ at different people’s desks to keep in touch with all projects, work in collaborative teams or spend onsite with clients.
Who do you report to?
Andrew Smith: Our CEO. WhatsApp is our best communication channel. He’s more often to be found spending time with clients ensuring that our work is delivering against objectives, which is great. It keeps the agency focused on success.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Andrew Smith: The ability to empathise with people and understand different perspectives – how people think, what makes them buy, how they consider alternative choices. We’re believers in behavioural science and using proven motivators to overcome our many biases.
Making the complex simple; strategy is about finding the solution and bringing a diverse set of stakeholders on the journey. A strong narrative is imperative. An inquisitive mindset that focuses on the future, whilst appreciating business constraints that need to be navigated.
Tell us about a typical working day
Andrew Smith: Motivating a diverse and talented group of individuals to achieve more – always pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Talking with clients to understand their challenges and determine how change will impact their organisation, researching markets and behaviours, running or participating in co-creation and ideation sessions, understanding tech advancements and their implications.
Download Econsultancy’s Top 100 Digital Agencies report.
What do you love about your job?
Andrew Smith: That positive feeling when you know you’ve made an impact. Anything from the team devising a pioneering solution, to the results that show how much a newly launched experience has outperformed the previous incarnation. The constant learning that’s needed to keep up with change and how this knowledge helps devise innovative solutions.
Andrew Smith: Going again; the realisation that you need to put everything you’ve done to one side and start again. But that’s countered by the extreme sense of triumph when you emerge the other side with a result that exponentially better than where you started.
What kind of goals do you have?
Andrew Smith: To do what I enjoy, to enhance my capabilities and help brands reach their business goals by switching their direction to satisfy customer needs.
What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Andrew Smith: This is totally dependent on the task – greater engagement, higher sales, brand favourability or saliency, retention. Knowing the goal at the outset is the most vital part of the equation.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Andrew Smith: A team with diverse skills working together to uncover and define new possibilities. Supported by great communication tools such as Slack that aid collaboration across sites and territories.
How did you get into agency land, and where might you go from here?
Andrew Smith: An intentional move from the outset so that I’d always be challenged and exposed to new sectors, new ways of thinking and enlightening people. A work placement whilst at college led to a job offer. Where next is always the question when you’re not enjoying yourself or motivated to achieve greater success. So, at the moment – no answer!
What recent work do you admire?
Andrew Smith: The purveyors of seamless experiences such as Nutmeg and Moneybox make you wonder why it’s so hard to achieve success in more engaging categories. Our work with E.ON has shown that being brave with content and creating a complete ecosystem can drive deeper levels of engagement by facilitating self-discovery as it draws people in through relevancy rather than a hard sell.
Then there are the Christmas ads. You can’t knock this year’s John Lewis Elton story – well timed and relevant. Or perhaps you can – enter ‘It’s a Lidl bit funny…’. Together these show that content relevancy to differing audiences is the key to success. That said, I’d suggest both are topped by the smart people over at Iceland – great coverage, a story that deserves support, and solid coverage for minimal investment.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to move into a strategy role?
Andrew Smith: Consider all options- a graduate foot in the door scheme, a paid placement or more formalised events such as the annual Daniel Marks academy which will give you exposure to strategic talent at a number of leading agencies.