Author and business philosopher Peter Drucker said marketing and innovation are the only two basic functions of a business enterprise. These products results. The rest are all costs. It’s a phrase Kevin Sellers has come back to again and again throughout his decade’s long career as a mass communications expert and award-winning marketer. Previously at Intel, he dedicated more than 20 years to leveraging his marketing acumen to create lasting brand value and deliver growth. Today, as CMO of Avnet, he drives key demand generation activities, digital marketing, customer experience, brand strategy, advertising, co-marketing and PR efforts.
Kevin joined the SuccessLab podcast to discuss what he does to stay ahead of marketing trends, martech (and his favorite tool for tracking metrics), and why it’s absolutely vital for organizations to be able to explain their brand with five words or less.
Over the years, how have you seen marketing change?
The rise of digital and mobile has created so many more touch points for businesses and markets to reach consumers. As marketers, how do you break through just this cacophony of noise that’s out there when you know your target audience is just being saturated and bombarded with messages? How do you break through? How do you stand out? How do you get noticed? How does your message actually resonate and stick with the target audience?
That’s why there’s the rise of so much of martech. All the tools and technologies to help refine your segmentation and refine your media choice and mix and all the different tools and technologies out there. Digital does give you the ability to get more direct feedback in a more real-time manner, but again, the biggest challenge we all face is how to break through so much noise and so many messages hitting our target audience? That’s a big challenge for all marketers.
How can marketers up level their marketing savvy?
I’ll go to conferences now and again just to make sure I’m staying with my fingers on the pulse of what’s happening, but also to network and talk to my peers. I also subscribe to some channels on YouTube of marketing experts and have podcasts that I subscribe to. I listen to a lot of those just to understand what the latest things happening are, new capabilities, tools and what’s resonating. I’ve got some favorite books that I’ve read and reread, so that’s kind of how I do it, but I find staying close to people in the industry is probably the most effective way.
What are some of your favorite tools for demonstrating marketing ROI?
We’re just rolling out a new tool, Percolate. It’s one that we’re pretty pleased with because it helps in terms of planning and looking at our campaigns, along with backend support. It gives us some social listening capability which we didn’t have before, as well as some metrics around how our content is performing and what we need to do to make it more effective. It helps us understand engagement. I care a lot about engagement and is my message getting through and sticking and are people actually engaging with our content? Those are the things that matter.
There’s so many specialized tools that can sit on top of those and provide a finer-grain level of information that right now is not critical. Just getting those working well and extracting the core information from those and using them in decision making is what we’re focusing our energy on right now and that’s yielding some good results for us.
What is one piece of advice you would give to fellow marketers or even an entrepreneur looking to market their business?
One of the things I tell startup companies is, “Understand the business that you’re in, but focus on how do you describe that business in five words or less.” It is a very hard exercise. It may take days, weeks, months to figure that out. But if you can get to a point where you can describe yourself in five words or less and it’s meaningful, people understand it, you’re on to something. From there you can build a marketing and brand strategy because you’ve learned how to position your company, you’ve learned how to tell it very simply and now you can go forward with the full story. That’s one thing I would have them start with, which is a challenging yet very enlightening exercise.
Are you a coffee drinker? Yes or no.
No, I’m a hot chocolate guy.
How do you get going in the morning?
I run in the mornings. That’s what gets me going.
What’s one business tool you’re geeking out over right now?
We’re just implementing Percolate. I love it because it gives me access to the whole calendar of content and campaigns and everything and I can see in a glance everything that’s happening around the world, and it’s the first time I’ve ever had that capability, so I’m actually very much geeking out over that tool.
What is a favorite piece of technology currently?
My range finder. I love it. I pull it out and I can really quickly click a button and it tells me exactly how far out I am from the pin. It’s a simple piece of technology that I use a lot.
What’s one book you’d pass along to a fellow marketer?
My favorite book is a book called “Insanely Simple.” It’s written by Ken Segall who used to be the creative director at the agency that worked for Apple and Steve Jobs. He writes a book about how Steve Jobs, one of his greatest traits was his ability to keep things very, very simple. It’s probably the most important marketing book I’ve ever read because it helps me to remember that the best marketing is also the simplest marketing. Your message needs to be simple. Obviously compelling and interesting, but we typically confuse compelling and interesting with lengthy.
Who’s one person you’d like to go on a road trip with.
Bono. I had a chance to meet him in Cannes one year in France and he is such a genuine human being and I was so impressed that I would love to go on a road trip.
How many hours of sleep do you get each night on average?
Oh boy. I have not been a good sleeper the last month or two. I’ve done better, but for the last couple years I was probably doing about four (and by the way, that’s not good and certainly not something I’m proud of and I don’t think people should wear anything like that as a badge of honor). It’s just not good for you. Now, I’m in the five range and that’s been helpful. I’d like to get it more consistently in the six range and maybe even hit seven once in a while.
Well, lastly, how can people connect with you?
Kevin.Sellers@Avnet.com, so I’m happy to connect with anyone that would like to.