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Rich Webley

Rich Webley on marketing strategy and science

By Rich Webley

Fractional Marketing Director

Foreseeing an increased demand for freelance marketing services, Rich Webley diverted his profession in marketing into becoming a Fractional Marketing Director. In doing so, he created the opportunity for smaller businesses to work with an accomplished Marketing Director and CMO on a flexible basis.

Those fortunate enough to work with Rich benefit from his aptitude for evidence-based marketing and a bonanza of knowledge – with a vita of industry experience including CMO at Harvey Jones Kitchens; Global Marketing Director for Gozney Pizza ovens; Head of CRM, Data & Analytics at Southampton Football Club; Managing Director of Dragonfish Consulting (working with the likes of Fitness First, the National Trust, and Fat Face); Head of Brand at McCarthy and Stone and Senior Marketing Strategist at Five by Five (where clients included Garmin and Sony).

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What’s the concept of a Fractional Marketing Director?

Being “Fractional” means I operate as Marketing Director for a small portfolio of businesses on a self-employed, part-time basis.

It provides all the benefits of having a Marketing Director or CMO in a business without the cost of full-time hire or the long-term commitment that comes with it.

The types of clients that I work with typically don't have a Marketing Director; they need one but aren't quite ready to recruit one full-time. For certain businesses, at a certain stage, it works really well.

I operate as their Marketing Director anywhere from a day a week to a day a month, either fully running their marketing operations or on an advisory basis - depending on what their needs are.

I've worked with medium-sized businesses like Whittard of Chelsea, smaller businesses and startups – I helped to launch several brands last year.

I love working with smaller businesses because the same principles apply in building a brand to grow sales regardless of the size and the starting point, but typically, the smaller businesses are under-resourced, so the opportunity for impact is much larger.

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Do you primarily focus on marketing strategy?

It starts with the strategy, but what differentiates me from a typical marketing consultant is that once I’ve built the strategy, I will then help to implement it as well. That could take the form of building or changing the team that’s in-house, bringing on board agency partners or overseeing a group of freelancers; essentially doing the job of an in-house Marketing Director – the key difference being the client only pays for the help they need.

Are there some common challenges that your clients face when it comes to marketing?

Absolutely. One of the things that continues to surprise me is just how much marketing isn’t working: it simply isn’t delivering results.

I enjoy the field of marketing science and understanding what marketing research can tell us about what drives sales and how brands actually grow.

What I find in most businesses is their marketing strategy is mostly based on assumptions or popular marketing concepts that have never been proven to actually work, so comparing what the business is doing against what decades of research tells us about how brands really grow always throws up opportunities to drive better results.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the most creative marketeer; I’ve been described as more of a marketing scientist. Marketing is undoubtedly a creative endeavour, but there are also scientific laws of buyer behaviour that hold true across all sectors and they’re quite often ignored or not understood. Most marketing plans are riddled with assumptions and myths, and I enjoy the process of busting those myths and making it easy for business owners to see what they can do to impact sales.

"Marketing is a undoubtedly a creative endeavour, but there are also scientific laws of buyer behaviour that hold true across all sectors, and they’re quite often ignored or not understood."

Have you got some examples where you’ve put that marketing science into practice?

A common situation I see is brands placing too much emphasis on segmentation and being too narrowly targeted with their marketing. The concept of segmentation has become popular over the last 10-20 years – the idea of understanding who your buyer is, and then narrowly targeting that type of person seems logical, but in reality, research has proven that this constrains growth.

I also come across a lot of businesses that are spending all their budget to target the 1% that’s in the market to buy today and not doing anything to reach the 99% that might be in the market tomorrow. It drives short-term results, but when you take a step back from it, they’re not growing month by month.

Another common pitfall is paying too much attention to competitors, particularly in terms of branding. Often, brands competing within a category end up almost mirroring one another visually, looking and feeling very similar without knowing it. Whereas research has proven that the only way branding drives sales is through being distinctive and making your business easy for customers to identify. So the best thing you can do is have a brand that stands out, looks like nothing else in the category and is therefore instantly recognisable.

Are there any emerging marketing trends on your radar?

The emergence of AI will have a big impact on marketing technology for obvious reasons, but I do limit the amount of attention I give it at the moment; instead I focus my energy on really understanding how people are buying products and services and how that is changing across sectors.

There’s new research published every year around buying behaviours and I think that’s what marketers should pay most attention to. As an industry, marketing can often be too focused on the latest tech, channel, tool, or tactic – it’s a distraction from the fundamental point that you grow a brand through understanding how buyers buy, and that’s the change that’s happening under our nose.

"As an industry, marketing often be too focused on the latest tech, channel, tool, or tactic – it's a distraction from the fundamental point that you grow a brand through understanding how buyers buy."

Rich Webley - Fractional Marketing Director

Can you tell us about your new endeavour Workrun?

Workrun is a business networking event for runners that meets monthly in Southampton and Winchester. It’s for people who enjoy running and want to expand their professional network.

Personally, I’m a classic introvert and I’ve always found the traditional form of business networking quite difficult; and I know I’m not on my own there.

In contrast, I’ve always found running to be a naturally social activity and an easy way to meet new people without really trying – so that was where the idea came from.

The format’s simple, it’s a relaxed 5k at a slow conversational pace, followed by a drink in a pub and none of the awkwardness that comes with traditional business networking. It’s free, suitable for all abilities and lots of fun.

The first Workrun in Southampton was brilliant – with almost twenty people braving -2 temperatures to be part of it. It seems to be an idea that really resonates with people, so I’m excited to see what it can become. If anyone would like to join us, they just need to search for Workrun on LinkedIn or Eventbrite.

Is running the main activity that you enjoy outside of work?

I enjoy many endurance sports, mainly running and triathlons. I run for Alton and compete in the Hampshire Road Race League most weekends. I’m training for the Manchester Marathon, and I’ve just signed up for a half Ironman in September. My wife and I also have a busy home life with three children; a 16-year-old boy, 11-year-old twin girls; and a loving but occasionally mischievous cavapoo called Chester.

Rich portrait