18/03/2019 • Working here

Number cruncher or problem solver?

We sat down with newly appointed Marketing Analyst, Shona Kingsford, to find out more about her role in the marketing team – one that’s at the heart of our obsessively insight-driven approach.

Hi Shona, tell us a bit about you – how did you get into marketing?

When I was very little, I thought I was destined to make it as a fashion designer.  This was very short lived when I quickly realised I wasn’t that great at art. Numbers, though, came easily to me. I did a one-year internship at Mount Anvil while studying for a degree in accounting and finance. That was a game-changer – moving around a few different teams in the business made me realise I could do much more with an accounting degree than I initially thought. My stint in the marketing team really surprised me. I think I was expecting it to be more like going back to my early fashion design dreams… thinking of marketing more as creating beautiful brochures, hoardings and whatnot!  

It was such an eye-opener to see that it’s more about understanding people, making good judgements and spending budget where it matters. The team talked constantly about data and insight, and there were way more numbers involved than I thought there’d be, to put it mildly! The link to the skills I’d built at uni was pretty clear.

Not long after my internship, when Mount Anvil was deep into a project to set up a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, I was offered a role helping shape that technology, which helped me learn more about our business and our philosophy on marketing. I learned that with a decent CRM set-up a business has the basic building block of understanding how customers interact with them, of monitoring and managing how cost-effective certain elements of the marketing mix are… all kinds of interesting things that were new to me. Once those basics are in place and you start to plug them into other sources of insight, like Google Analytics, you’ve got a barrage of data – but the skill is in distinguishing what matters. Data is easy, insight – the bit that helps us do things differently and better – is hard. That’s the challenge for an Analyst, the role I’ve moved into.

What does a typical day as an Analyst look like? 
I’m in the thick of it every day, which is great! It’s my job to bring the insights that help us assess, challenge and optimise our approach to sales and marketing. We’ve just launched a whole new planning regime to help us make faster decisions, so I spend a lot of time fuelling that “machine” with data, working out the story behind the numbers, then getting involved in lively debates about how we fix problems, prioritise stuff or move faster. 

I think we’re a bit unusual in how we try to bring in experience from other industries (our team is a mixture of property experts and out-of-industry marketers) and expect to challenge each other constantly. It’s a lively environment, because everyone’s constantly asking questions, learning from mistakes, doing “pre-mortems” to try to pre-empt what might go wrong and avoid it.  

It’s all about trying to remove bias and create a platform for good judgement that helps us go one better next time. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s a day in the marketing team where you don’t hear “but does it move the needle?”! 

Does that mean you dream of the perfect pivot table?

I’ve got a bit of a confession – I’m a pivot table pro, but that’s not what gets me excited about marketing. I don’t think of myself as a pure-bred number cruncher, honestly. I’m curious about how things work, and I’m a problem solver – it just happens that the best way to see why something is (or isn’t) working, or how it could work more effectively, will involve data. 

So, no, I don’t wake up thinking about pivot tables. Excel in general though… that’s another matter. I do love it when a manual task can be solved with a smart formula!  

What’s next for you?

The coming months are going to be really, really exciting. More Salesforce integrations to make things faster and smoother, a new website is in the works, and lots more little “needle-movers” to help us better launch new schemes to market. I’m excited to see how we combat a tricky market and how we get better as a team. It means an even better journey for our customers – giving them the information they want and need at the right time – and better commercial results for our business.