Interview: Abigail Dixon: The Whole Marketer
Interview: Abigail Dixon: The Whole Marketer
James Delves, head of PR and Engagement interviews Abigail Dixon, CIM course director on her new book, 'The Whole Marketer'
1. What is the ‘Whole Marketer’ about? And why did you write it?
The Whole Marketer is a holistic view of the technical, soft and leadership skills for a successful career but also the personal understanding to live a fulfilled life, not just for our marketing career but for our life, as a whole. As we bring our whole self to any given situation, all elements of our life need to be working in harmony with one another to feel balanced and fulfilled.
The Whole Marketer isn’t just a how-to (though there is plenty of practical, actionable insight you can apply in your practice). It focuses on you as a whole person, supporting and empowering you - the person behind the brand.
In my 20+ years as a marketer, trainer and coach I have always seen that career development in this industry has focused on technical skills. This is only half the journey, and it is impossible to find true success and fulfilment without the right mindset, soft and leadership skills.
2. Why should someone read your book?
To be the best you can be in this challenging but rewarding industry. It’s my mission to give you what you need to thrive in this amazing industry. There are so many marketers crying out for support. The Whole Marketer helps marketers gain clarity on what they need to be at the forefront on the industry, reflecting the evolution of the marketing profession and the constant new approaches and latest thinking. This includes:
- Practical advice and understanding by not only defining the various skills, behaviours and competencies but also giving clarity on what good practice looks like, and offering practical advice and tips on how to deliver against each of these skills, behaviours and competencies
- Learning in the form of refreshers on tools you know, new learning on those you don’t, and information on the latest tools, techniques and thinking
- Career and personal development plans, including questions to ask yourself to help you reflect on your own understanding and assess where you are and what you plan to do next to develop – these inputs will feed into your career or personal development plans, or you can use them to help other marketers in your team or care
Vitally, it serves as a tool to gain the empowerment needed to take the reins back of your career and life, as a whole. You don’t just want to know how to do your job better. The holy grail is creating a marketing career that’s personal. That is based on your values, your strengths and passions.
3. Who are your marketing heroes?
This is an industry packed full of talent; many of today’s best marketers have contributed their words of wisdom to the book and podcast! But, for me I think it’s less about heroes and more about favourite models. For example, PR Smith’s SOSTAC framework is one of my favourites. I love the simplicity of its approach to strategy and everything we do as marketers fits somewhere in the steps.
4. The book offers practical advice such as how to work with agency partners effectively and how to lead a marketing team. Can you explain some of these ideas and why you wanted the book to be strategic and useful day-to-day?
This book is written by a practitioner for a practitioner. Marketing theory is just that a suggested approach of how you can go about things, it’s not practical advice on how to make these things happen from those that have gone before you. Working with agency partners and leading a marketing team are key areas that marketers aren’t taught. Unfortunately, it’s also where we are often falling down as a profession. These are two key skillsets we need, and which need to be elevated in the marketing profession. Writing strategy and implementation strategy are two very different things. We need to have the whole, rounded set of skills and competencies to do both.
In the book you discuss the concept of the ‘whole marketer’, which contradicts the thinking of becoming a specialist in a field and excelling in it (e.g. digital marketing). You also discuss adding fulfilment to the role - could you explain your thinking?
The Whole Marketer focuses on the core skills we need as marketeer today to be at the forefront of the industry and to reflect latest thinking. If a marketer decides to specialise in a field, for me this in addition to any core skills. I would argue you can’t specialise until you understand the core concepts to choose which you want to specialise in. Marketeers are feeling increasingly overwhelmed and unfulfilled. Mainly as the breadth of role has changed and expanded, with increased commercial accountability. To get fulfilment back we need to own our marketing career. You need to feel empowered to choose roles that allows you to play to your values and your strengths, that edge you closer to your personal and professional goals.
5. Is there a model or theory you are most proud of in the book?
Probably the 6’s, for insight and knowledge management. As it looks to provide a checklist of stages to go through from mining data and ensuring it is utilised, cascaded and stored in knowledge management system and available for the wider business. It addresses the most common mis-practices that I see around insight within organisations and teams.
6. In the book you talk about the value of insight and how marketers can get confused with data and insight. Can you clarify your position on ‘using insight to create competitive advantage’?
Many organisations think just by having insight that it allows you to create competitive advantage and for me this is only the very first step to create competitive advantage. We need actionable insights that our business can use. As many competitors will have the same data sources as you, developing unique insight is difficult without differing data sources. But what drives true competitive advantage, what separates the best for the rest is those that act with pace with the insight they have found to bring to a solution to market quickly. They act with bravery to make the change happen. Challenger brands succeed for this very reason. They identify the pain and gain points in the category for the consumer quickly and effectively bring that solution to market.
7. At CIM we talk a lot about the power of soft skills and why they can be overlooked as people rely on digital communication. Why was it so important to cover them in your book?
As you say they are often overlooked, we always focus on the what we do but not the how we do it. Marketing is about building deep rooted emotional connection with consumers. It’s the marketeers who are able to build that deep rooted connection with the consumers that are the most successful. As well as building that deep rooted connection, the ability to bring plans to life requires another set of skills and behaviours; navigating complex infrastructures and processes to make things happen. The behaviours and skills to overcome these also need to be acknowledged, namely can-do attitude and resilience.
8. I loved the section of the book where you get to psycho-analyse yourself - that’s uncommon in most books of this type. Why was it important to you that the reader reflects on his/her own behaviours as much as developing their knowledge of marketing?
Because what we do isn’t who we are. Having deeper personal understanding into who we are, what we are like to be around, what drives and motivates us ensures that we not only work well with each other but can make choices that bring us fulfilment. I believe in the importance of understanding yourself as a person – what you value, your goals and what is stopping you from achieving them is the first step towards creating not only a career you love, but a far more fulfilling life.
9. Tell me a piece of advice or a story that’s not in the book? Something special for the CIM newsroom readers.
My advice is that you need to own your marketing career, make it yours, it should be personal to you. It’s too easy for us to just go with the flow, take the next role that our current employer is presenting to us, or a role that a recruitment consultant has got in touch with us about. This doesn’t allow you to own where you are going and act on where you want to go. We need to be choosing roles that allow us to play to our strengths, operate in our zone of genius, that allow us development opportunity to progress to the next step or longer-term career goal. Choose organisations and roles that play to our values, within organisations in which we are aligned with their purpose and where the work style fit within our life as a whole. We need to make it our own personal responsibility, to develop holistically. Keep abreast of the changes in the profession, and although investing in our technical development is important, it’s also vital to evolve and develop our soft and leadership skills. Take the time out to reflect and deepen our understanding of who we are and what we bring to this world and adopt the mindset and tools to grow.
10. Many of the readers of this site write themselves. What one piece of advice would you give someone wanting to write their own book or blog?
Write the book that you always wished had existed, as I am sure you are not alone. Write the blog that shares the lessons that you have learned to benefit others.
Throughout my journey I’ve had to piece ideas together, a course here, the odd capability framework there. I always felt like I was missing something… that the answers and advice I wanted were behind some locked door, guarded by experts who put up walls, lacking the empathy and understanding of a real human being who had been through it.
I wanted to hear honestly from those on the front line; who had cried in their car on the way home and had to face yet another round of feedback from those not working on their brand. Quite simply, this is the book I wished I’d had throughout those highs and lows.
‘One day you will tell your story how you’ve overcome what you’re going through now and it will become part of someone else’s survival guide’ Oprah Winfrey.
11. Do you have any new projects on the horizon you can tell us about?
My key focus will be on creating a wave of whole marketers and creating platforms to support and empower the marketeers behind the brand and business. This will include platforms and programs such as mentoring, coaching, training and building a community of passionate marketers, looking to become whole.
The Whole Marketer is available now, click here to buy your copy.
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