7 min read
So excited to be here with you for our 19th inspiring story. What kind of story? As you know, every week we launch great interviews with experienced marketers from both agencies and client worlds. Wins, failures, lessons, true stories for everyone who wants to learn more about this industry.
Our guest today is Mark Francis, an experienced marketer who has led marketing teams in global blue-chip financial services companies, including London Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange. In 1999 he founded a digital agency, Blue Flamingo Solutions, alongside his marketing career. In 2013 he left his marketing position to focus on his agency. Nowadays Blue Flamingo is a successful digital enablement, web design, and development agency with offices in London in the UK and Toronto in Canada.

 

 

What’s your hook as a marketer?

Mark is a very experienced marketer and grew in this industry in times when was less information about it. I love hearing what such amazing professionals would tell their younger selves.
“Any marketer who wants to get ahead in his career should have a hook that differentiates him from other people. I realized quite early on that mine was technical knowledge, an ability to code and design. Having that knowledge really enabled me to get my hands dirty and get the work done.
Also, the marketer should get under the skin of the business quickly enough. When you’re working in a big company, with technical products, there are a lot of very smart people on the product side. You’re supporting them as a marketeer. They kind of take you seriously. They feel that you know that stuff. And it’s pretty clear to them if you don’t. So if I could go back, I’d tell myself to get a much better understanding of the areas that I’m serving. Do a lot more reading, a lot more research. I think that would have really helped.
My last advice would be to keep a better work-life balance. Nowadays I make a lot more time for me, the kids, and my wife. But when I was in the corporate world and the Blue Flamingo, that was more difficult. It was a lot of hours spent working, not enough hours spent on me just relaxing and not doing anything. Now, when I get home after work, I don’t open the laptop, maybe a little bit later when the kids are in bed. But now I spend a lot of time with them, with my wife. I’m going to feel a lot better about mental health because of it.”
I appreciate how he tackled diverse aspects of his career. He pointed different sides of a life in marketing and offered some pragmatic advice.

 

Keep doing what you love

Mark has always been passionate about coding and designing. His role is now more business-oriented, but that doesn’t keep him from following his passion. I admire how he mixes the two sides of his job.
“I don’t have a typical structure for my day to day work-life. New things come up all the time and I like to be responsive to that. As a founder, I have a lot of business stuff to solve. But there is another thing that I do spend quite a lot of time on and is perhaps a bit self-indulgent: the design work. I’ve always liked to actually do the design work for a lot of our projects. I design the homepage, if it’s a website, and then pass it off to one of the designers to finish the site.
In my average day, I reckon I spend two hours designing. I almost see that as a guilty pleasure. I’ve got designers, I’m paying designers, both here in the UK and in Canada, but I still really enjoy doing it myself. Because I’ve had this marketing career, I do tend to look at everything through that lens. I’m able to think through the user journey and let that flow into the design. I’m using my experience and knowledge to help the design process rather than just being totally self-indulgent.”
Normally, founders start a business in an industry they are passionate about. That’s why many times they’re not only great leaders but also experts in that industry. This is also Mark’s case. He runs an agency in marketing but keeps working aside with his employees on what he loves.

 

Tips before building your agency

Before running his own agency, Mark gained a lot of experience working in the industry. As a founder, he faced many challenges and shared the lessons he got from them.
“Before starting your own company, it’s important to have a corporate career first, just to really understand how business works. That’s the first and most important thing from my point of view.
The second one is contacts. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t realize the importance of networking, generating contacts. I wasn’t aware of the fact that those contacts would be really important in the future. If I could go back, I’d tell myself to really build those networks. Build them early, nurture theme because you’re going to need them in the future. I almost regret not making more of my networks when I was in Stock Exchange. I see now when I’m running the agency, that a lot of the business comes through those networks.
The third thing is having a differentiator. For us, it’s this kind of digital enablement thing. We see things through a marketing lens and we are not focused just on websites. We’re focused on a number of different things. So find a niche and explore it.”
Mark has a very impressive experience and I love listening to his insights. It was a total pleasure hearing his stories.
This was only a part of what he shared. For more, you have a delightful episode one click away!

 

 

 

Miruna Florea Miruna Florea, Executive Assistant @Planable. In love with project management and organizing stuff. I use my advertising background to make marketers’ processes and therefore work lives easier.
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