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The Whole Marketer Podcast – Episode 3 - Labyrinth Marketing
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The Whole Marketer Podcast – Episode 3

Commercial Acumen: with guest Emma Heal

Whole Marketer Podcast - Episode 3

Episode #3. Business Acumen is the key skill explored in this episode as Abby invites the amazing Emma Heal to share her expertise – as the ex Managing Director of Graze (the UK’s no.1 healthy snacking brand) and now MD and partner of Lucky Saint, she knows how to grow commercially successful brands. Emma talks passionately about ensuring commercial and brand teams are united in their purpose, why your team should share your P&L and how to be open about the return on investment (ROI) for short-term payback and long-term brand building.



Resources/brands mentioned in this podcast:


Sponsored by Labyrinth Marketing


FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)


00:00:00:13 – 00:00:35:06

Hello and welcome to the whole marketer podcast. I’m Abigail Dixon your host. And today’s topic is the commercial acumen. I’m shortly going to introduce our guest Emma from Lucky Saint onto the podcast. But before I do, I’m just going to give you my own personal thoughts on why I think commercial skills are so important for today’s marketer. I’m passionate that the marketing should if not already be the function that leads the organization in order to lead the organization.


00:00:35:09 – 00:00:37:13

You have to be able to lead that commercial agenda


00:00:38:28 – 00:00:55:21

Marketer’s roles have now moved from being a support function to one that has full commercial responsibility and therefore we have to have that technical skill that allows us to be able to set the agenda but then also measure against it.


00:00:56:06 – 00:01:10:19

Having full P&L management being able to manage every line within the P&L being able to set key performance indicators and calculate are ROI as well as talk the lead measure of the board are all absolutely fundamental.


00:01:10:21 – 00:01:19:29

So I’m going to welcome Emma Heal shortly to the podcast as my expert today in commercial skills. Emma is partner of the brand’s Lucky Saints.


00:01:20:01 – 00:01:54:07

She’s worked in consumer goods for nearly 20 years across Europe and Africa and in global blue chips namely Tesco’s and Diageo, as well as growing household brands such as Innocent and Graze. Emma found out that she loves working in that gritty challenging world of growing startups and is the main reason she joined Lucky Saint as MD in February this year. She has two young girls is open collaborative and passionate advocate championing women in the retail industry as well as an ambassador for retails week be inspired program, an advisory board for the Grocery girls, set up by the only female CEO in the grocery industry.


00:01:54:09 – 00:02:00:09

Jo Whitfield. I first came across Emma when she was managing director at Graze.


00:02:00:12 – 00:02:31:11

I was geeking out to her about how much I love the Graze brand and the proposition how they started looking at what strengths they had which was about direct fulfilment and then looking at market need broader than where their current skill set lies which was leading to bringing healthy snacks into the marketplace and when Emma and I were chatting and we’re talking about the world of marketing she said, you do know actually that my background’s commercial don’t you and I said No I don’t know that.


00:02:31:18 – 00:02:44:16

And that is why Emma is perfect to be our expert guest today. She manages and leads brands but actually grew up in commercial and not necessarily marketing. So Emma welcome to the podcast. Thanks for having me Abby.


00:02:44:18 – 00:02:51:06

Oh my pleasure. My pleasure. So congratulations on your new role at Lucky Saint. What drove that move?


00:02:52:13 – 00:03:07:06

Well I felt I’d done what I needed to do at Graze. You know we launched a brand within a DTC business, and we grew it to the UK’s number one healthy snacking brand with an annual revenue at retail of 50 million which is bonkers.


00:03:07:09 – 00:03:54:29

Brought it in an incredible team had a massive amount of fun on the way and then sold to Unilever who obviously could take the growth to the next level internationally. So I left on a high. Put it that way. I also left 24 hours just before giving birth to my second daughter in April 2019. So I’d had a very intense five years at Graze. And I’d also go at that point two kids under 2. So it’s definitely time for a bit of a break. So I took the whole summer off to enjoy the girls have a good think about what I wanted to do next and how I wanted to spend my time and had a really clear list of three attributes that I’d sketched out when I left Graze of the kind of attributes that I wanted to the company I wanted to join.


00:03:55:04 – 00:04:16:20

Firstly, the category had to be in health and well-being which I just love cutting edge had to be fast growth. Second part its founder led and of course I had to respect the individual of the team and really importantly see my skillset fitting in, and then size I wanted to start up. I love the start-up world.


00:04:16:22 – 00:04:44:03

Highs and lows but it also had to have a proven concept. So it had to have gone through probably seed funding but not quite Series A and you know proper proper grass roots stuff. So yeah I met a bunch over the summer. I say met. I did a lot of sort of video conference calls occasionally you know with the baby under my top feeding if I had to and I kind of fell in love with a bunch of entrepreneurs


00:04:45:26 – 00:05:19:01

and they all had lovely brands and they were in good positions financially. So really at the end of the day it came down to the brand and the quality and I will just never forget the Lucky Saint arrived at home the brand look cool really quite different. Put it in the fridge. Got it out for dinner poured it out. It looked beautiful really strong really beautiful looking sort of hazy liquid and obviously I just not really drunk for three years because I’ve been having two kids and being pregnant breastfeeding.


00:05:19:22 – 00:05:38:21

So I drunk quite a lot of no and low, taste it tasted the liquid and it was just amazing. And then I won’t repeat what my partner said but it sounded like duck me. That’s amazing. And that was it. And I just knew it I’d just as soon as I tasted it I knew that that’s the brand I wanted to work for.


00:05:38:23 – 00:06:07:11

I love that and I love that you did that whilst on mat leave and then took time out because I really do believe it’s when you take time out to think about what you truly want you achieve. You know you have the time to think about those goals and then therefore go after those goals to really get that fulfilment. And I have to say that’s funny that you describe that experience of Lucky Saints and what drove you to choose them over the others because when you set me a case I actually felt exactly the same as a marketeer.


00:06:07:13 – 00:06:18:05

I mean I love the box arrived I lifted the lid all those I’m going to say Lady birds are they on the top. Yeah. Oh yeah. Sign of luck. Yes. Sorry. Is that what they are? I


00:06:18:07 – 00:06:24:24

I didn’t know that either before I started but they are if they land on you you’re lucky you learn something new every day.


00:06:24:26 – 00:06:50:18

You know this beautiful lady birds that kind of premium-ness of the of the both the packaging and the quality the lifting up and the product itself. And I have to say we are converts here. My husband is now drinking Lucky Saint most nights of the week as he has a bit on the challenge like many guys are and many people are generally to reduce his alcohol content and it tastes awesome. As you say so it’s not a compromise.


00:06:51:07 – 00:06:53:03

Thank you. That’s lovely to hear. Thank you.


00:06:53:05 – 00:07:09:19

Pleasure. So throughout those throughout your career working on those brands what would you say has been your highlights and lowlights and why I think the career highs have always been when work has aligned to my values.


00:07:09:26 – 00:07:43:00

And they’ve involved two elements so I’d say one is obviously the synergistic effects of seeing what a bunch of people can do with a shared purpose that are all driven towards the same goal. But I think also doing something really valuable for others you know that and with the power of the commercial entity. So a good example of this when I worked to Innocent Drinks I think was about 2008 I don’t know if you know every year innocent in this wonderful campaign where they get people to knit bobble hats and put them on their smoothies, yes I’ve seen that.


00:07:43:02 – 00:08:13:11

Yeah. And so the year that year is the first year we took it National and it was just amazing. It was incredible. I mean probably they raised a lot more money now but at the time it was a huge deal. I think we raised one hundred thousand pounds for Age Concern. I met many many people that are part of Age Concern and the members just said you know it’s just been such a unifying experience getting together to have our Knit-athons huge relief of loneliness gave purpose to each other.


00:08:14:19 – 00:08:45:13

We partnered with Sainsbury’s and again I don’t think they do this nowadays but Sainsbury’s you know contributed 50 percent of the money that was raised. Actually we are I’m very much sort of PR internally within Sainsbury’s and people that still work there still remember it. I think 30 percent of all the hats that were knitted were knitted by Sainsbury’s staff. They had knit-athons in stores. Obviously we had wonderful PR raised a huge about money for the time for The Age Concerns and then to top it all off on my birthday.


00:08:45:23 – 00:09:19:15

I was in the Albert Hall and we we won the Prince’s Trust Award. So the marketer and I sort of ran this I was the commercial person went up and had our reward presented by Al Gore and Prince Charles that marketer is Anthony Fletcher who became CEO of Graze. And that’s so that’s how I got into Graze because we we kind of realized that we we did pretty well when we worked together. So yeah highs have always always involving more sort of altruistic stuff you know it’s great that we hit amazing sales numbers at Graze and all the other sort of targets that come with it.


00:09:19:17 – 00:09:31:29

But I think it’s the it’s the personal moments that that really stick out.

Definitely and I love I love how you how you actually manage to get the retailer sharing the same purpose even to the point that they’re letting have.


00:09:32:07 – 00:09:44:09

Oh yeah. I had a knitting needle set on every single buyer’s desk in Sainsbury’s at thirty three Holborn and some of them still have it on their desks you know even now it was it was a very special a very special campaign.


00:09:44:14 – 00:09:53:24

I’m still incredibly proud to have been a part of. 

That’s incredible. And Antony who you mentioned and you introduced me to is actually going to be joining the Whole Marketer here podcasts later on as well.


00:09:53:26 – 00:10:05:26

Marvellous talking about all things convictions. I can’t wait for that coming onto commercial skills. Why do you think it’s so important the marketeers have commercial skills in today’s world?


00:10:05:28 – 00:10:40:15

Yeah essential. I think first things first. We mustn’t label ourselves and I’m you know I’m I obviously do it too but you’re not really you’re not a commercial person or a marketing person. I think to be excellent at what you do and if you have either of those words in your job title it’s really imperative you take the time to understand the other and that involves empathy listening understanding how they see things now the future where the opportunities are. There absolutely will be common ground and if you’re in a business where there is an or you’re struggling I always say to any people that are struggling. 


00:10:40:17 – 00:10:47:28

Ladder Up until you find some common ground. So both both marketers and commercial people ultimately have the same role.


00:10:48:00 – 00:11:36:10

They’ve got to grow a business by the brand and it’s incredibly important to understand the value of the brand. Today tomorrow next week next 10 years both will do well in excel when they understand that actually the value of a brand’s goodwill is normally the biggest asset on the balance sheet. It’s hugely important. I was left to think of goodwill as a sort of savings account. And it’s you know everyone’s job to sort of make deposits into this account over time. But if I think about three skills in particular and especially now during a lockdown and the Covid times I think more than ever very simply knowing your customers knowing your brand knowing your numbers so point number one know your customer who is your target audience?


00:11:36:12 – 00:12:08:09

It’s not okay to say everyone you know brands really fall by the wayside trying to appeal to everyone. So knowing everything about them pick your target learn them inside out learn better than anyone else what do they want. Where do they shop. Where do they already buy. Who from what media are they consuming. How are their behaviours changing. And I always think when someone says no your product inside out that’s a bit of a red herring. It’s understanding your customer and the journey that they’re going through and the entire so there’s no good having a sort of stunning landing page if the checkout process is a nightmare.


00:12:08:21 – 00:12:39:00

I mean I know especially from working at Graze you lose something like 7 percent of the browsers for every additional second you make them wait like it’s a ticking time bomb you know reducing that purchase flow is essential. And then obviously when you know your customers are marketing mix can them can be adapted. So right now we’re in May everything’s in flux and the changes in business model are having to happen in real time. For example at Lucky Saint.


00:12:39:02 – 00:12:50:06

When Boris declared lockdown, overnight we lost 70 percent of our volume just went because 70 percent of our volume was in what we call the on trades like bars pubs restaurants.


00:12:50:08 – 00:13:19:03

It was all shut down. So okay. Right. Pivot. What’s happening. Okay. Some take outs are doing okay. Local bottle shops are driving recipe boxes are flying. You know just understanding whether you have a proposition that you can pivot to the new world. Like obviously we we pivoted hard to DTC and we did it very very quickly. And it’s you know certainly at the moment it’s digitally and socially led. And I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future. This is.


00:13:19:15 – 00:13:50:15

I hate saying it with the new normal. So in a fake-aways recreating that much sort of missed takeaway opportunity at home. A second point obviously is knowing your brand what role it plays in your consumers lives and really really importantly especially at the moment is how you harness it to do good. From what I remember and from the analysis I’ve looked at in past recessions people tend to polarize into investing into either end so the like the go to premium or value if you’re in the middle you’re pretty screwed.


00:13:51:09 – 00:14:23:17

And you really need to understand your position your propositions and embrace it. So we’re incredibly proud of the brand that we’ve created for example it’s a quality brand. It’s a it has a premium price point. We were in in March anyway. Fifteen hundred on trade accounts including Michelin star restaurants Dishoom, Honest Burgers. The brand for us is a huge asset and we’re being very very careful not to devalue it with panic sort of promotions and short-term-ist thinking.


00:14:23:29 – 00:14:56:04

Looking at the latest Kantar data let consumers want to understand the tangible differences that brands are making at the moment. And you’ve got to be authentic. People will see straight through it. If you’re not and there are some brilliant brands out there doing some amazing things. And then I think the third part is knowing your numbers and of course numbers are going to come up when we mentioned the word commercial. But being astute enough to find ways to continue to invest and build your brand even when you’re cash strapped to that is so important to keep investing.


00:14:56:06 – 00:15:12:17

And I know the term zero based budgeting gets bounced around and with most of us sort of getting used to living that as a reality. You have to really really be proactive and thinking about how your money is going to ROI and get comfortable.


00:15:12:19 – 00:15:25:03

I know when I started at Graze it was all like another language CAC, LTV, ROAS it just it’s it’s now become essential and everyone should understand it.


00:15:25:05 – 00:15:58:06

And commercial people should understand it and marketers should understand it the business should understand it. So demonstrating exactly how the activity you’re going to do is going to drive a return because if the CEO doesn’t spend the money in marketing they might spend it somewhere else. So you have to sort of understand be on a level playing field. How is this going to drive the bottom line. And there’s obviously no point spending 50 grand on a marketing campaign or even two grand on a marketing campaign if if you’re going to eat into your profits you’re not going to make any money.


00:15:59:21 – 00:16:19:07

And I think again it’s about building the brand for the long term. So it might it might seem really daunting especially for people that potentially more junior and if decisions are coming down the line that you don’t agree with but I think it’s really important to ask why. Why exactly are we doing this and get to the bottom of it.


00:16:19:23 – 00:16:30:22

Which is often scary. But if you were in more of position of leadership then ask yourself why do we really need to do this. Is this important. Is this going to move the dial.


00:16:30:24 – 00:17:02:00

That’s a really interesting point because one of the things I used to say to my team when I was a client side was if we can’t measure it should we be spending it. So your point is spending 2 thousand or 200 thousand. So kind of planning upfront what the expected return will be whether that’s in volume how much you how much you’re planning to invest and what you’re both for short term gains will be because you know we know when we’re investing in brands sometimes the investment of the activity will not necessarily always pay back in the first 12 week window.


00:17:02:02 – 00:17:34:00

Sometimes it takes you know a year for that. That’s a payback not to fudge the numbers. So you know not to over forecast what this will bring so that it pays back on the application requesting of the funds. But look at it openly and say look you probably won’t have a positive ROI in the first 12 weeks but it will over the next year and we think about the additional consumers that were recruits into the brand. And that’ll be worth X to whichever profit number you’re chasing trading contribution, EBITDA or whatever that may be.


00:17:34:09 – 00:18:12:17

Yeah I couldn’t agree more. I know when I was at Graze we wish it was a completely different way of looking at things because obviously we had this wonderful you know data scientists in the business we looked at promotions for example with Tesco in a completely different way. And yes we looked at year-long ROI. We did things quite differently. And we did promotions quite differently and we looked at return on investment as a DTC brand would and actually opened up many many more opportunities. And you know private equity aimed at the time you had to jump through hoops on all your numbers so everything had to tie up so yeah I couldn’t agree more.


00:18:12:23 – 00:18:37:12

And just go back to the point you made about you know losing 70 percent of your volume almost overnight with Covid due to leisure retail and closing and the hospitality sector I think remedial action plans is is absolutely key. And I like the word to use pivot because we set out the beginning of the year don’t we as marketers, this is the number you know this is what we want to take the brand.


00:18:37:14 – 00:18:53:21

This is our turnover now, this is where it’s going to be we aspiring it to be based on her bottom up assumptions and top down market conditions and everything else that goes into building a forecast and a P&L surrounding that and then we review that quarter by quarter.


00:18:54:06 – 00:19:07:09

And if we’re not hitting the number you know developing remedial action plans or pivoting as you say is absolutely key. What advice would you give for marketeers to be able to build on that pivot skill if you will.


00:19:07:11 – 00:19:47:05

Yeah, I think I think it’s part of building it into the culture of the business. And there’s two points that spring to mind on this. Number one is weekly performance I call it BPN business performance management meetings and being involved in either in those or getting the notes that come out of them but being all over the numbers from on a week to week basis. I know friends of mine that are in global huge FMCG companies on big global roles you know accountability for brands they’re all over their numbers on a week to week basis they understand where the market’s moving and it’s just essential.


00:19:47:23 – 00:20:18:19

And then the other part I think is it’s really really simple model. But I think if you can apply it to everything you do you’re in good stead. It’s literally data insight action. So. Okay. What are the data points that I can gather and they might be verbal they might be in a qualitative but hopefully their quantitative and hopefully you can triangulate a couple and so you can get a really good picture of what’s happening and certain each trends what’s happening over time. How do you foresee that moving.


00:20:18:25 – 00:20:40:23

So you’ve got some data points right. What what are the insights I can derive from those data points. And then the really important third part which a lot of people do too is action. So. Okay. What’s the so what, what are we doing about it. And I think if you can keep drumming that culture in and believe me you know it takes time and it’s got to start, it’s got to go through every single layer of the business.


00:20:41:05 – 00:21:01:13

You can build very action orientated proactive fleet afoot agile ways of dealing with things and you will automatically be opportunistic and start to spot opportunities to improve the numbers or to look. I mean if the numbers are doing well how can we do even better. And I just think it’s it’s about building that mindset into the culture.


00:21:01:20 – 00:21:06:22

Yeah and for everyone’s be talking about the same number that they’re all chasing as well I think is key. Yeah


00:21:08:15 – 00:21:32:00

thank you for that overview. Yeah definitely knowing your numbers I remember someone early in and no actually not that early in my career saying to me you’ve got to know your onions. And yeah it’s it’s massively stuck with me you know knowing and understanding every single line on that P&L and what influences it and how to control it as well I think is absolutely key.


00:21:32:15 – 00:22:05:15

And I think it can be intimidating for people I know and I was at Graze I always said to people coming into the team my objective is in 3/5 years-time when you leave if you want to leave the business you could walk into any V.C. with a business plan and you could raise finance because you understand that everyone’s supply chain, operations, marketing didn’t matter. I shared openly the P&L with the team every single month. They all knew the targets and I think the main thing for me on a P&L and even the term P&L I know that can bring people out in the cold sweat.


00:22:05:17 – 00:22:37:15

It’s literally just about making more money and saving cost and trying to like control your costs or using your cost appropriately and it’s just knowing when to pull which lever knowing when to go on a slightly deeper cut promotion or spend more money ATL understanding you know just just how it all interacts and you’re only like no one should beat themselves up they don’t understand this it’s just start. Start by doing it. If you can get access to the monthly management accounts have a look at them.


00:22:37:17 – 00:23:02:12

I think when I was at Graze to upscale myself on the DTC side which was complete Chinese to me when I joined, and I used to cover up the CFO commentary and force myself with post it notes and force myself to look at the charts and the numbers and force myself to sort of analyse it and bring out my own insight and then check it out and that’s it my homework I’m such a geek.


00:23:02:14 – 00:23:13:08

That was the only way I was ever going to learn is if I force my because if you just you know you read it off but you’re never really going to pick it up so I didn’t always get it right. But I definitely got better at it. So you can find ways to do it.


00:23:13:16 – 00:23:46:17

Definitely. And I think it is one thing learning is theoretically know in academia and there’s a whole different thing applying it you stay to day life. I remember spending time with my finance partner and in a role ages ago but I said make sure that every Friday to hang out with her and just watch what she’s doing. That was one of the first tasks that I had and I remember another situation where I’ve been offered you know my first commercial leading brand role and I was on holiday at a time in Australia.


00:23:46:19 – 00:24:08:28

And I remember saying to my husband pull over I need to go and buy a book all about financial terms. So yeah. Like you say start small start by looking at those monthly reports buy that book. Listen to that podcast hang out with your, become friends with your financial partner or accountant that whoever is internally that’s that’s there doing the crunching.


00:24:09:00 – 00:24:12:23

Just so you can understand all the things that feed into each of those lives.


00:24:13:06 – 00:24:28:01

Yeah yeah. Just ask. Just ask. Ask for help. Yeah. So as your parting words if you will Emma what would you give us your top tip to today’s marketer? Oh I think it’s it’s quite simple.


00:24:28:12 – 00:24:38:06

Understand why consumers are what they want and then figure out fast if you can. Ways to make it commercially viable.


00:24:38:08 – 00:24:44:17

Yeah and I like the fast tape as well because sometimes that you say you know data is about the action isn’t it.


00:24:44:19 – 00:24:48:23

Sometimes we can sit on what we know but not necessarily do anything about it with speed.


00:24:49:04 – 00:25:14:03

Yeah and I mean again it’s about building this agile mindset which I learned at Graze test and learned test and learned test and learn. It’s okay for it to not work. Break it make it if you can. Yeah. Don’t sit on stuff and it’s not about building a 60page PowerPoint presentation. Share your ideas. Bring in other people and move you move with pace.


00:25:14:05 – 00:25:25:23

Perfect. Thank you so much Emma. And thank you for your time today on the Whole Marketer podcast. Thanks I’ll be lovely to talk to you. And you thank you for tuning in to the Whole Marketer podcast.


00:25:25:28 – 00:25:31:15

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