Sainsbury: What are your priorities for the next 12-18 months?
Cairns: The key focus for us is to better understand customer value so we can continue to differentiate and innovate to meet and exceed customer needs, and to stay ahead of the pack. With the speed at which digital is moving, and in fact the speed of change across the industry, this remains a constant priority.
In terms of a wider focus at GE Capital, it’s about taking our proven and disciplined B2C marketing approach and applying it to our B2B business to ensure sales and marketing can work even closer together to understand the pipeline and improve the sales funnel.
I know it is a cliché, but in this market when you are planning 18 months ahead, you need to plan for change to be the only constant.
Sainsbury: Marketing and technology are becoming increasingly intertwined. How do you see this trend playing out in the future?
Cairns: The way we interact with our customers has changed significantly due to the advancement of technology. As marketers we need to understand the ways in which customer behaviour has changed, and adapt our strategy accordingly. Customers are always ‘on’ and they are dictating the way in which they want to be communicated with. Mobility is quickly becoming the norm, and financial services as an industry has been innovating at an amazing rate, from apps to mobile wallets. An integrated approach to segmentation, CRM and social BI is becoming so much more important in shaping our decision making.
Sainsbury: What marketing benefits has GE Capital seen to date from its social media engagement?
Cairns: Our social media engagement has allowed us increased understanding about the potential of socially powered advertising efforts. This will empower future campaigns to be more relevant through the leveraging of principles of social interaction and the power that a network of 11,000+ connections affords us.
Engaging (listening and responding) with customers via social channels provides the opportunity to interact via the customer’s channel of choice, improve brand perception through publically and authentically addressing negative comments. It also allows us to enhance our customer service through the use of feedback to identify pain points. The voice of the customer has become much louder through the use of social media channels.
Sainsbury: What marketing opportunities does the mobile channel offer as it becomes a major channel for engagement?
Cairns: Mobile offers almost endless opportunities because there are no constraints around the environment in which you can interact with customers. Mobile engagement is a lot more intent-driven as consumer’s actions tend to be inspired by a need that arises from their immediate surroundings. Matching value propositions to real-time, location based motivations opens the door for us to immensely meaningful, and ultimately profitable, engagement.
Sainsbury: As financial services become globalised, and non-traditional competition from Facebook, Google and others enters financial services, what opportunities are there to leverage technology to maintain a competitive advantage?
Cairns: Organisations in the traditional financial services game will need to evolve to meet the challenge presented by technologically savvy businesses like Apple, Google and Facebook. The counter to this challenge lies in the possibilities that the technology built by these same companies enable. I believe the opportunities to take advantage of new technologies are endless but to execute well you need to remain clear on your strategy and value proposition – here are my top three recommendations:
• As new ecosystems develop; social payments, NFC, payments through mobile and so on; identify the place your products can occupy within that ecosystem. They may not look like they do now but explore the opportunity.
• Don’t ignore developments that look like they’re on the outside of your market. As more of your consumers encounter these fringe experiences, there’ll be a demand for the good bits of those experiences in the more traditional spaces. Identify the great developments from what a minority of your users are demanding and execute well; they won’t be a minority for long.
• Take an iterative approach to innovation. This is what technological advancement is all about and you should mirror it within your organisation.
Sainsbury: What do you think are the most effective ways to run a multi-channel marketing campaign?
Cairns: As with any campaign, it starts with your objectives – what is the question or customer need you are solving for and how can your value proposition solve for it in a differentiated way. Then it is about designing and aligning your communications and the customer experience with the channel and sales strategy in a relevant and meaningful way.
Sainsbury: How do you foster a culture of innovation within your team?
Cairns: As a team of marketing professionals, we get pretty excited about innovation, new trends, and finding new ways of doing things at GE. Our team takes time out together on a monthly basis to deep dive a trend or case study that has caught our attention – be it an international marketing campaign or new technology. We also hold a monthly session with an internal or external guest leader to share a diverse viewpoint and provoke us to think differently. At our regular team meetings I encourage debate and brainstorms to collaborate and share ideas. Our team has diverse backgrounds and experiences which proves to be a valuable source of ideas and inspiration.
Sainsbury:What advice would you give to someone looking to step into a marketing executive role?
Cairns: We work in a fast moving world, with lots of conflicting priorities and viewpoints. With a broad role that supports many marketing functions and people, it’s vital to gain clarity on priorities, and to manage stakeholder expectations. Embrace the diversity of your role, but be patient about your next step – just soak up the experience and look for opportunities to be stretched. Be curious – don’t be afraid to ask loads of questions. A good network is also important – you need people you can share experiences with and learn from, both in and outside your organisation.
Sainsbury: Every leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?
Cairns: Life is about growth and evolution. I’d like to think that I’ll be remembered for displaying constant learning and continuous improvement, on both a business and individual level – and always putting the customer at the centre of all decision making. Inspiring innovation by being bold, curious and connected is really important to me, and it’s something I strongly encourage in my team, so hopefully they’ll look back fondly at the way I challenged them in this respect!