Here’s what he had to say.
Econsultancy: What are the main challenges you are facing today in regards to team structure? What keeps you up at night?
Mark Evans: The biggest challenge most marketing teams currently face in a fast-changing world is how to structure for success. At Direct Line Group we have very deliberately re-shaped the team in recent years to maintain our edge. The result is a cohesive team of specialists that fully understand the benefits of integration and embrace working across silos.
Today more than ever, it’s crucial to have a shared sense of purpose and accountability in order to address marketing challenges. At Direct Line we have fused together teams to bridge typical divides: propositions and communications, customer management and customer experience, social and PR, insight and marketing effectiveness.
As a consequence, the heads of each of these four broadened teams have really big strategic roles, which ensures that we can move at greater pace where we previously faced mobilisation and prioritisation issues, ultimately leading to a more dynamic and effective function overall.
E: How have you developed your marketing team to make it ready for the changing digital landscape?
ME: With the majority of our business happening on digital channels, we continue to invest heavily in ensuring everyone in our team (and the wider business) is digitally savvy. Within the marketing team, we’ve already made some significant changes to ensure digital runs through the heart of everything that we do.
Consequently, we now run every campaign in a fully integrated way from the outset. An example of this was our recent Emergency Plumber campaign which stretched from traditional TV all the way through to a number of digital firsts.
E: How much as has your org chart changed in the past three years?
ME: The evolution of the Direct Line marketing team has been extensive over the past three years. We have grown organically into a “full-service” marketing function incorporating accountability for social, PR, customer experience, and proposition development. Digital has also grown in prominence, not least as we have in-sourced some aspects of the model.
More broadly though, we have invested in a progressive culture whereby the structure of the team itself becomes less relevant as we form more liquid cross-functional teams to attack specific challenges. For example, the creation, build and launch of the Shotgun brand which aims to save young drivers’ lives was run as an agile process from the outset.
E: What skills do you look for when hiring senior team members and why?
ME: We are passionate about developing talent from within so the majority of our senior team members come up through promotion rather than being brought in from elsewhere. However, regardless of where our senior talent comes from, the core qualities that we look for are curiosity, collaboration and a desire to take personal accountability.
Broadly, this translates into an ability to spot the gap, the conviction to go for it, and the emotional intelligence to do so in the right way.
E: Similarly, what skills do you think grads and young marketers should look to acquire?
ME: From my perspective, the key for graduates and young marketers is to be voracious to learn. At Direct Line we look to fast track learning by putting our grads through rotations to give them the broadest base of business knowledge.
This was the process that I benefited from at Mars, moving through different functions, different operating units, and even different countries in the early years in order to maintain the steepest possible learning curve. It was a rude awakening working on a pet food production line for my second rotation but gave me a huge insight into leadership at a very early stage.
To state the obvious, having exposure to several areas of the business provides perspective that translates into impact and gravitas. Ultimately if you aspire to move into bigger leadership roles, then you need to build the broadest possible foundations in order to survive inevitable personal earthquakes.
E: What is Direct Line’s approach to training and development? How does your team learn new skills and innovate?
ME: Training and development is a massive focus for us, again a legacy from spending a decade at Mars where personal development was very highly valued. We are committed to long-term development and so are constantly looking for new approaches.
An example of this is that for the last three years every employee has had their own personal training budget (total training spend for the team divided by total FTE) to use as they see fit to improve themselves.
This empowerment leads to greater personal ownership and as long as the money is spent in a way that is coherent with the individual’s personal development plan then it leads to a better outcome for the individual and therefore also for the organisation.
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