Guest Blog, Richard Fitzmaurice: Who made the naughty list this year?


Guest Blog, Richard Fitzmaurice: Who made the naughty list this year?

Reading time

8-10 minutes


Richard Fitzmaurice, Global CMO, TMF Group


03rd January 2019

We love to share great thinking and so we’re reposting a blog entry from the very talented Richard Fitzmaurice, CMO at TMF Group below (full disclosure; TMF Group is an Agent3 client).  Richard has given an insight into his ‘winners and sinners’ in the marketing world in 2018 and, while we’re hopelessly biased because he calls out Agent3 positively in his post, we just think the blog is too good not to share here.  Enjoy!

As a global CMO , I get to see a lot of great stuff in the world of marketing. It is always energising to discover new (and old!) technology and meet the people that really do add value in the quest for lead generation, brand awareness or colleague engagement.

Unfortunately, I also get to see a load of old codswallop!

Sometimes technology just fails to live up to the hype. Sometimes marketers give other marketers a bad name. And sometimes a marketer’s life is just downright irritating.

Yes, It’s time for the 2018 Winners V Sinners from the world of marketing chosen by none other than yours truly. *Drumroll*


Now, let’s start with the positive and take a look at what has impressed me in 2018. Whether it’s tech, agencies, people or something else entirely I don’t care. My main concern is whether they have helped make marketing better in some way (*bonus points for helping drive lead generation*).

*Disclaimer, I only recommend things that me and my team have used and none of them have paid me to appear on the list. In fact, quite the opposite when you think about it.

1. Influitive

In 1st place this year is Influitive, the Canadian firm founded by Mark Organ (who also founded something called Eloqua) carrying the flag for customer advocacy.

My hands are up, full admission, I was skeptical about this firm when I first heard about them two years ago. I thought it was a waste of time. A piece of fluff.

Well, I’ve learnt my lesson.

You see, they are all about harnessing the power of your existing clients by focusing on deepening that relationship between client and supplier on a meaningful level. Making it a quid pro quo relationship and mutually beneficial.

How? They have built a nice platform that helps you create an, invite only, online community of your advocates. You can set your advocates ‘challenges’, such as helping you write an article, providing a case study, speaking at an event alongside you, providing feedback on your product roadmap or maybe just fun stuff like their favourite movie to lighten the mood. In return, they get points (yes, the gamification is the bit that made me skeptical about the whole thing too). Your customers earn points for every time they help you or contribute to the community spirit. And they can redeem these points for exclusive rewards (such as VIP access to your content and events, signed booked by your brand ambassadors or company swag).

I didn’t think clients would go for it. I was wrong. They love it.

They love to be involved. They like your product and service and they are happy to help as long as you truly do listen. They love the rewards and, like every human being, they love to be thanked, asked their opinion, valued and rewarded. And they love to network with their peers in these communities that transfer into real world relationships. They can ask questions to their peers in these safe environments that they could never do on LinkedIn.

At TMF Group, our advocacy community launched in July. We already have over 150+ members of ‘The Square’ (the name we gave it) that already value it and are heavily engaged.

So, I guess you can call me an advocate of Influitive’s customer advocacy platform. They won me over. I encourage you to take a look whether you are B2B or B2C. Client centricity is always the way to go.

2. Agent3

So, I’ve known these guys for over 10 years. Well, to be clear, I’ve known a company called ‘Continuous Insight’ Agent3 acquired a few years ago for that long.

I’ve always been fans of their work, especially Pete Lundie and especially their capabilities around Account Based Marketing, the area of marketing that really kick started my career. They have an unrivalled experience in using actionable insight to drive growth in your top accounts.

This year, we’ve been using their ‘intent’ services. ‘Intent’ is becoming a bit of a ‘me too’ buzzword in Marketing but these guys nail it.

Any marketer knows the nirvana is to know when a prospect is just about ready to talk to you, before they have reached out to you (or anyone else for that matter). It’s the holy grail and its why we also get doey eyed when we talk about the concept of marketing automation.

These guys understand prospect, market and individual profiling. They get Marketing Automation. They get account development plans. That’s all bread and butter stuff.

But now they are also really good at understanding a prospects intent. They are able to understand the search history of your top accounts (in a non-invasive way) to spot spikes in traffic i.e. “look at that, the HQ of your biggest account in North America has seen a spike in looking at global payroll providers…”

That is extremely powerful if used correctly. And Agent3’s platform helps you not only get that information but react to it in the most beneficial way. Who should you talk to? How best to engage with them? At what time? And what should your value proposition be?

Now they are taking it to the next stage again by utilising social media and your corporate communications library to suggest what content your sales teams, and your client advocates, should be posting to subtly influence your prospects or existing clients at the right time, based on sales cycles and intent behaviour.


3. Datahug

Now this is a company I have a love hate relationship with.

A few years ago, I witnessed some sales tactics that put me right off them. It didn’t matter how good the product was, I told the team that if you can’t trust them, you walk away.

Fast forward a few years and Dublin based Datahug has since been acquired by Callidus Cloud, which itself was then acquired by SAP. My team took another look at the tech and become customers a few months ago.

From my point of view, the tech is extremely simple. I ignore most of the bells and whistles, I value it for it is and what it can do at its core.

Basically, it is a platform that plugs into outlook. It sucks in all the To and From fields, together with the subjects of emails across a selected group of people in your organisation (customisable to the Nth degree to cater for sensitivities). It never goes into the message body.

That’s essentially it.

But it’s what that simple feature enables which is where the value add comes from.

Let’s give you a real example. By using Datahug we are able to see how far and wide the relationships go with our clients. Did the global client director even know the client was also talking to our team locally in Vietnam? Who knew that Carlos from the Brazilian delivery team had such a strong relationship with the global CIO? POWERFUL.

Datahug also helps us see what relationships are dying which could indicate a whole host of issues that are better off addressed ASAP. And it can show you if your sales teams have an over reliance on emails rather than F2F or phone interactions. Really valuable insight to throw into your analysis. And it integrates with our CRM.

So, I now like them again. You should take a look too.

4. Mindplan Productions

It surprises me to include this company on my list. But “credit where its due”, these guys are just damn good at the simple stuff.

They specialise in videos. No cool tech overlay that makes them hyper personalised. No VR or AR rubbish. Just videos. And they are REALLY good at them.

I get contacted all the time from video producers to the spammy “we can boost your demand generation next year by XX% by creating an animated explainer video for you for just $199” BS.

Video producers are two a penny. The world isn’t short of them. But my, my the quality varies wildly. I’ve seen hell of a lot of corporate videos that are just incredibly poor and hurt me down to the soul. I am sure we can all spot the same Shutterstock images being used and reused.

Kate Levy, the Director at MindPlan is a different breed. She can be a bit demanding sure but I like that. She gives a damn. She has never missed a deadline. She has a network of top drawer creatives ready to go and she always delivers something special, that is on the different end of the ‘corporate talking head droning on’ spectrum. From brainstorming, to storyboarding, to v1 and final edits Kate and her team deliver top drawer videos that you cant wait to show off internally and externally.

She’s also SAG registered and has personal contacts with Hollywood A-list which means she can get incredible voice over talent you just didn’t know was a possibility. She was an actress herself back in the day but she’s bashful so I won’t even mention it here.

I know it’s not tech. I know it’s not innovative. But Mindplan make my 2018 list for being reliable and consistently better than the rest.

If you need a video, ask if they can fit you in. But insist she tells you about the Sci-Fi TV show she was in…

5. Mike Winnet

If you’ve already skipped to my 2018 Sinners list you’ll know I cannot stand the plague of self-appointed ‘Influencers’ on social media, LinkedIn especially.

More an ‘influenza than influencer’, not an hour goes by without someone making the ‘best hire ever’

Well, Mike is the antidote and he is helping save social media. I love his work. I love him so much I know his real surname.

Some heroes wear capes. Mike often wears a balaclava and his super powers are a sharp wit, banter, dark sense of humour and a very special way with words. He takes aim at the ’contrepreuners’ and doesn’t hold back. The world needs more people like him to restore balance to the force.

Mike doesn’t want everyone to be entrepreneurs or believing they can be super rich too, he wants the masses to accept being average because as he puts it, he wants his rubbish collectors to pick up his rubbish not start an online business selling fidget spinners.

Mike if you’re reading this keep up the good work. But you’re only number 5 on my list to ensure you don’t think you’ve made it.

Give him a follow on LinkedIn or Instagram. You won’t regret it.

And if you do, we shouldn’t be friends.


1. LinkedIn ‘Influencers’

Notice the inverted commas.

The sheer proliferation of self-appointed ‘influencers’ on LinkedIn during 2018 has been out of control.

More an ‘influenza than influencer’, not an hour goes by without someone making the ‘best hire ever’, making a not-so-humble brag about taking pity on someone (who probably never existed) or concocting a story about how their 3-year-old picked up their work phone, made a sale in perfect Mandarin and started a cryptocurrency business whilst eating all their vegetables and asking for more #inspired.

I am not quite sure what irritates me the most. The people that do this, the people that like their posts and submit grateful, encouraging, comments as if the events actually happened or the fact that all the people involved are of voting age (*shudders*).

Here are some tips for spotting them:

  • Their name is probably Oleg, Brigette, or Tim.
  • They probably work in viral blogging, Blockchain or Recruitment
  • What they write is clearly not true and/or copy and pasted from another ‘influencer’
  • Quite often there is a crude, pretending to be subtle, sales pitch at the end “because marketing”
  • For some reason, they hit the return button twice after every sentence
  • The authors make clear they didn’t get enough attention when they were children

What are LinkedIn doing to combat it? Nothing that I am aware of. If anything, they are encouraging the problem by giving them ‘awards’ at regional event ceremonies which I can only guess take place in asylums during visiting hour.

The world needs positivity, encouragement and inspiration more than ever. It really does. But it also needs substance, integrity and class.


2. Engagement Pods

Now this is a relatively new phenomenon, so you’ll be forgiven if you haven’t come across it yet.

Have you ever noticed some posts get a disproportionate amount of likes and shares? To the extent it baffles you as when you read their content, its banal or self-promoting jibber jabber?

IF you had substance, integrity, and class you could consistently create good content that people genuinely value, follow and engage with. Your numbers would be high through sheer hard work!

But why would you do that when there’s another, easier, way?

What if your currency of choice is faux admiration and you want to be popular now? Actually, scrub that, you want to be SEEN to be popular…NOW!

Well, engagement pods have been created just for snowflakes like this!

All over social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc) these pods are forming with a very basic premise. If you want a guaranteed posse of people to like your comment, even if its about the 17th time you made the best hire ever, then you have to promise to like their posts in return. If you don’t play ball, they will bully you, kick you out the pod and even retaliate and report your posts!

Integrity for the win!!

Again, LinkedIn turns a blind eye. Although to be honest, what could they do?

It all just makes real marketing harder.

3. Awards programs

Now, this seemed to get even worse this year and it really gets my goat.

As a CMO I get these emails every day. Every. Day.

Without fail, I get messages saying that a, nameless, board has surveyed their, non-existent, members and that my company has been shortlisted for an award for ‘Super niche service of the Year in region X, industry Y’ which I am not even entirely sure is a service we provide.

The emails often tell us that to secure the award, we have to jump on a call (ASAP!) to justify our inclusion to the, nameless, board. But don’t worry, the organisers state that there’s no obligation to pay anything at all but if you do want a £3,000 table and an advert in the brochure that will, 100%, help you achieve your demand generation targets next year, you have to move quick!

These awards are worthless.

They have no marketing value. Zero. Zip. Nada. We all know this. But some people just want to be loved god dammit. Even if it’s not real admiration (hang on there’s a trend forming here…).

Whilst I do raise a wry smile when I see our competitors have been suckered in and even have the naivety to brag about it on social media…I do wish us marketers would get collectively smarter or just grow a stronger backbone to stop others in our organisations succumbing to these people and asking marketing to pay for it.

Now there are some awards programs that DO recognise good work and share, new, best practice. Of course, there is. But they are in the minority.

How do you spot the cash cows that are not worth your time?

  • You have never heard of the awards program
  • You have not had to put effort into your ‘shortlisting’
  • The judging panel is anonymous or full of people that look like they’d refer to themselves as an ‘influencer’
  • They time pressure you from the get-go
  • They have emailed a gazillion people across your organisation and those people are also now forwarding the ‘good news’ to you.

Guys, this is not good marketing. Do not respond to these people. In fact, do what I do. Every time I get an email from an awards program I ask IT to block the senders domain from ever emailing my company again.

It’s extremely therapeutic.


I groan just typing those letters. I am sick of the sight of it. That and Brexit.

In fact, there are many similarities between Brexit and GDPR. Both involve MP’s and legislators that you would you never want to sit next to at a dinner table but also people that you wonder if they would ever cope in the real world, where logic, organisation, communication skills and accountability are required to survive.

Now, personally, I take a positive spin on GDPR in marketing. I see an opportunity for the profession to raise its game. To treat clients and prospects, and their data, with respect. And to focus on producing content that either inspires, entertains or educates. If you do that, the sales pipeline will come.

What I find frustrating is:

  • GDPR, and its updates, is written in a different language. I am not even sure its legalese. It is far to open to interpretation. I have had major, Big Four and silver circle law firms give completely different interpretations. When that happens, you know it’s bad.
  • The ‘bad marketers’ i.e. the ones that never cared about where they got your data from and what they did with it and how many times they did so…they still don’t care and continue to do their thing. Surely that is an enormous fail for the legislation?
  • GDPR deals with general personal data. The E-Privacy directive is intended to supplement GDPR, addressing confidentiality in electronic communications and the tracking of web users. Marketers require both and the EU is dragging its heels.

One thing we can all agree on is that the existing ePrivacy rules are outdated and kind of undermines GDPR. The original reform proposal for ePrivacy came out two years ago in January 2017 and I don’t think it’s even a certainty that it will ever come into fruition (oh look, another link to Brexit). Typical piss up in a brewery stuff.

With the data misuse scandals a la Facebook and Cambridge Analytica we need certainty and language that us ethical marketers and normal people can understand and abide by. But we have big businesses lobbying because they are worried about the authorities ‘moving the goal posts’ on the heavy digital profiling they have done for many-a-year whilst you have consumer protection groups campaigning hard to try and get ePrivacy through to strengthen GDPR.

The result? Dithering.

We have a data protection framework that is using directives that have long gone past their use by date. The EU should have done both GDPR and ePrivacy at the same time.

I’d be ok sitting next to that type of person at dinner.

5. Marketing Automation

Now I love the premise of Marketing Automation. What marketer doesn’t?

But I swear not nearly enough marketers actually understand how to use it or have the discipline to stand their ground in the face of pressure from the wider business or sales teams.

The profession seems to get us suckered into short-termism and the wrong side of the prospect/supplier divide. We start to see prospects as fish in a really large barrel and we don’t particular care about skill, or targeting. We’ll just lob a few sticks of dynamite in. A lot of fish will die and but a low % may survive the blast and land in my boat.

Does any marketer worth their salt really think that is good marketing? My personal Marketing Automation guru Shane Redding taught me better than that.

Here’s what I see:

  • marketers relying on re-using old content and not working closely enough with their content teams to create enough new interesting, relevant shiny, useful, info for the people they are trying to impress
  • Nurture tracks/journeys which don’t have a particular flow, story or narrative to them and actually resemble a “lets just drip feed all the content we have for that persona until they do something” approach
  • marketers lowering the scores needed to qualify as a warm MQL due to pressure from sales teams for more, more, more, now, now, now.
  • marketers increasing the frequency of email blasts to boost MQL’s (retailer marketers are particularly bad at this).

As a profession, we shouldn’t have nice toys if we don’t play with them properly or have the backbone to stand up for our values in the face of pressure.

Stand your ground marketers! If you do, the results WILL come!

Finally…the end…

Agree or disagree with any items that made my Winners V Sinners list for 2018? let me know in the comments below.

No ‘Influencers’ allowed.

“These guys [Agent3] understand prospect, market and individual profiling. They get Marketing Automation. They get account development plans. That’s all bread and butter stuff.”

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