I recently had the amazing opportunity to interview an inspirational and outstanding personality in the marketing field, Bryony Thomas, the Founder and Author of Watertight Marketing.
This interview will give insight to Bryony’s extensive experience in both sales and marketing which helped her to create the amazing methodology of Watertight Marketing, published in 2011 and now an award-winning book. Guess what? She’s giving it away for free! Yes, that’s right – you will be able to download your very own digital version of Watertight Marketing to learn first-hand from Bryony!
Getting to know Bryony Thomas:
Can you tell the readers about your background before Watertight Marketing?
I grew up in West Wales with a single parent, my Father who was a builder. I went to University to study politics because I wanted to be Prime Minister and I thought a politics degree would stand me in good stead. I had a bit of a crazy upbringing, but I didn’t realise until I met ‘normal’ people that it was slightly unusual to have spent my infancy living in a hippie commune and going off to Glastonbury from year dot. I think that a hippie childhood makes for phenomenal rebellion as a great capitalist.
After University, you did some work on the sales side of the fence for a while. How did you get your passion for marketing coming from a sales background?
I suppose like anyone who needs the money, I started in sales, I worked at Tesco and WH Smith at the same time so I’d get changed into my Tesco uniform in the WH Smith toilets so I could run up the road and do my shift up at Tesco because I was that ‘glamourous’.
When I was at University studying I needed the money as I was a self-funding student so I took a job doing telephone-fundraising for Action Aid. We used to hit the phones and get standing orders so I did three years there and that’s selling with no tangible benefit to the individual. In my three years, I did about a year on the phone and then 2 years as campaign manager – I used to listen and craft the scripts and I designed what I call a ‘logic sandwich’. If you have read Watertight Marketing the logic sandwich very much came from early calling days and then I did a year in recruitment.
How did you get into marketing and how did you come up with the methodology?
I got into marketing as a result of an opportunity, which came up when I was working as a recruitment consultant. A position became available for a marketing executive at an agency called Mason Zimbler. When they asked me to recruit for this role, I called them and said ‘I’m really sorry but I can’t handle this job for you because I’m applying’. I landed the job as the marketing executive where I was responsible for marketing the agency to technology companies.
After Mason Zimbler, I did an MBA at Bristol Business School and landed a job for a little company called Clarity Blue which later got bought out by Experian. At the age of 28, I became the Director of Marketing – I told you it was a curious rebellion, from hippie commune to business boardroom. In that role, one of the things that I would say has always served me well is that:
- a) I came from a sales background so I always talked sales. I always made sure that the marketing I was putting together helped people to have sales conversations
- b) I’ve always been very good at explaining marketing in the ways that non-marketers get it and see the value.
A real game changer for me (explored in Chapter 9 on budgeting) came from the time I was working at Experian. We had a new guy who had come into the team as the Commercial Director and I knew that he was on a brief for a 50% cost reduction. When looking at cutting costs, I know that the marketing budget is where people always go first so I did a review of everything that had been spent in the previous 6 months. We were half way through the year so I did a review in a highly visual way to indicate where the money was being spent in terms of influencing a buying-decision. When I went into the meeting they were fully expecting to halve my budget however after seeing my review, I left with a 20% increase in budget.
Following on from Watertight Marketing, you now teach other marketers how to use your methodology as a part of a licensee agreement – can you tell us more about how this works?
One of the things I’ve been good at is helping marketers to explain themselves and marketing in a way the rest of the board understands them, which is why we welcome fellow marketers to use our materials. We have 3 levels of license that enable independent business owners to become an Accredited Consultant who can deliver the Watertight Marketing methodology. We also have the Marketing Masterplan programme which is a 12 month programme which enables business owners and leaders to learn the foundations of marketing, giving them the knowledge to make confident marketing decisions.
The methodology is available for anybody to use so if you download the book and go and get the workbooks, which are included. If you want to sit down with a client and be paid to give them advice then we do ask that you license with us.
How did you come up with your analogy of buckets, funnels and taps?
Well everyone talks about funnels, don’t they? I have a love/hate relationship with the funnel. I think it’s a really helpful for demonstrating that there are a reducing number of people through the sales process however as a metaphor it is downright dangerous. Rather than a funnel, most people have a colander (if you had to choose a kitchen utensil!) where you are losing people at every stage of the process, not just the beginning or end. I believe that language is so powerful and the more you start using the word funnel, the more you start believing one exists and there is no such thing.
One of the analogies is around music. When I look at my database I want it to be full of people who love my music. For example, people who like country western like Dolly Parton would love it if they got an email from her but if they got an email ACDC they are likely to delete it straight away. A lot of people place kudos on the number of people in their list and funnels rather than the quality of the individual message. Isn’t this what marketing is all about?
Yes absolutely and interestingly the music analogy is really nice because you’re not saying that ACDC are bad, you’re just saying that they’re not your taste and that you might be better off at a different concert. One of the things about Watertight that I’ve had reflected to me a lot is that it is a very respectful way of marketing, it’s a kind of marketing that means you can still look yourself in the mirror, emphasising quality over quantity. We use the phrase ‘the wrong kind of work and the right kind of work’ and making sure that you are attracting and pulling people through who energise your business because they’re the right fit, they are both profitable and purposeful.
If you have an understanding of the ‘wrong kind of work and the right kind of work’ then when the ‘wrong kind’ of customer comes along you need something that elegantly gets them to see that perhaps they are in the wrong place and allows you to respectfully hand them off somewhere else.
A lot of people seem to get stuck on the idea of having an ideal client because they want ‘anybody’ to have their products and services. How does your book help explain the importance of understanding your ideal client?
There’s a phrase in the book where I say, ‘if you think you’re selling one size for all then you’re probably asking people to wear a potato sack’ and nobody looks good in a potato sack. The idea of one-size-fits-all is just really quite nasty clothing whereas I much prefer something tailored and perhaps in my style. So, I think the reason that people struggle to describe who their ideal client is because when they think about clients they have enjoyed working with, they’re not all the same colour, size, shape and feel. People get stuck on demographics (i.e. that is a man in his 40’s). They think actually I worked with a woman in her 20’s and she was fun which means I could do things for anyone whereas actually if you look at psychographics and the attitude of the women in her 20’s and the man in his 40’s, they probably had something significant in common which meant that you enjoyed working with them. I think the reason that people struggle with the ideal client is because they think they are having to do a pen portrait of the only kind of client they are ever going to work with, Avatars are quite useful for helping you find words to speak clearly describe your ideal client but they shouldn’t be used as a qualification device.
What are your thoughts on people having a niche market and what would be your top tips to teach people to find their niche?
At Watertight Marketing we do a 4 box matrix and if on one side you put the word ‘profit’ and then on the other you put ‘purpose’ or ‘pride’ and then you have low and high. Something is both high purpose and high profit then that has to be a ‘yes’ and you want 80% of the things you do to be there. If they are high ‘profit’, low ‘purpose’ (so they’re going to make a lot of money but it’s going to de-energise you and demotivate you to do the work) I would say that’s a ‘probably no’ – possibly hand this off to somebody else through a referral strategy to monetise it in a different way or systemise it so that it can be delivered without your input. If it’s high ‘purpose’, low ‘profit’ I would say that’s a probably yes which means that you do it with a really good strategy for maximising the PR benefit of doing so, so you study it, you get videos in their tracking their progress, you get them involved on an event like Facebook lives and blogs. So you make sure you get extra value from it that isn’t perhaps directly money and if it’s neither ‘profit’ nor ‘purpose’ then simply do not do it – hand them off elegantly and with respect.
What is the most important thing for entrepreneurial businesses to consider with marketing?
I think one of the things that is really important in entrepreneurial businesses is their energy and motivation. So, if you even flick open the book and see the yoyo diagram it looks like a roller coaster and I’m sure entrepreneurs have faced similar feelings of being on a roller coaster through ups and downs. I think choosing your clients carefully is important because that is where the energy is going from to come to fire your business and drive it forward. You know sometimes when your phone rings and you look down at it and see a name and you go ‘erghh I don’t want to answer that’, that is something you want to try and limit in your business life. This is why your marketing message needs to reflect your motivations.
We also talk about clients and the customers you choose for example, let’s look at yoyo diets for marketing, if you think of that as your exercise regime and you do it consistently, and then if you think about your clients as your diet – there’s the quick win which is equivalent to a bag of chips and it’s fine to have a bag of chips every now and again but not every night. You need a healthy diet that energises and nourishes you and I think if you were to look at the metrics and think you’ve got 80% in that ‘pride’ and ‘profit’ and 10% in the maybe boxes, nothing down in the ‘no’s’ then you are so much more likely to sustain the energy you need as an entrepreneur – do not underestimate it.
Why have you chosen to gift your book to the community and give away it away for free?
I have two answers, both of which are completely true. I’ll give you the bottom of my tummy answer and then I’ll give you the business answer. The bottom of my tummy answer is that I am almost physically compelled to help people who I think are onto something and for whatever reason aren’t breaking through that plateau into sustainable sales growth. Sustainable sales growth is what gets me excited. So, if I see someone and they’re onto something and I know that it could be big, I am almost physically compelled to help them. My Dad, who I talked about earlier, died a few years ago. He spoke fluent Spanish and he only started learning when I was doing my GCSEs when he would’ve been in his 40’s. Just before he died he said, ‘I really wish I could gift someone this language, I wish I could just touch someone’s head and say “have this’’ and that has really stayed with me and I know what he means now. I want to gift this knowledge.
The business answer is that a step towards me in terms of giving me your email address is worth more to me than the 50p I make on Amazon. For those of you who may or may not have published a book in your life, even books that have sold multiple copies every day for 5 years will not make you money, they are a platform. And so, if I gift a digital copy then there is an email exchange and there is a small data exchange in that and I hope that I will be worthy of landing in a few of your inboxes’.
You’ve got a new book coming out, when should we be expecting to see that?
Commercial Karma, I won’t make any promises – Watertight Marketing came out 5 years after I started talking about ‘my book’ and I have been talking about Commercial Karma now for 2 years so I’ve got at least another 3!
Talking about the book, what top tips do you have for anyone who is writing a book about their specialist subject?
As a really practical tip, I would also say make sure that it is a satisfying read in itself but build in a data invitation for people to come and get in touch with you. So for us, we have workbooks with 85 exercises. When you get a copy of Watertight Marketing you can go and get the workbooks so if you are writing a book my top tip is to have something that goes with it, a companion piece that acts as an invitation for people to come and join your community. Because, books in themselves don’t make money, instead they create you a platform, so you should really build in that community-building device
Having read Watertight Marketing myself, I can honestly say that it is a masterpiece and a game-changer and in my opinion, it is the best marketing book ever written! Not only is the methodology clear, it is also highly visual, easy to follow and its especially useful for entrepreneurial business because it’s written in our language.