By Chuck Leddy
Rebecca Le Grange is a Managing Partner at Sojourn Solutions. We caught up with the London-based Le Grange recently to discuss her career in marketing operations, her goals at Sojourn, her proudest moments, what she’s learned along the way, and any advice she’d like to share about succeeding in the industry. Most of all, Le Grange expresses clear and consistent pride in her clients, many of whom have exceeded their business objectives and won industry (and company) awards. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.
What do you like most about working in marketing operations?
Le Grange: Personality-wise, I really like efficiency. It’s enjoyable to help our clients work smarter and streamline what they’re doing, including with their data, how they’re using their teams, and then layering on top of that the technologies they may be using. I’m also a people person and love interacting with our clients, helping them better collaborate with and influence other people within their business.
Sometimes those are hard conversations, but afterwards it’s really rewarding to see how a customer gets along better with some of those other teams or other team members, maybe from IT or sales or elsewhere. And then I find it highly rewarding to work with our internal teams here at Sojourn, assisting them in growing their accounts, their careers, and helping their own clients deliver measurable results.
Is there a particular customer experience that you’re most proud of?
Le Grange: Well, I’ve worked with our customer, Vodafone, for the better part of a decade now, even before I founded Sojourn. I’ve been able to see them succeed. I know how hard it was for them even to get started. They were really cutting edge within their organization, going against the grain. They didn’t have a lot of backing then, and now I see how far they’ve come.
I’ve seen their great progression over ten years. They’ve even been able to win industry awards. That’s just so rewarding, to be along for that journey. I don’t take it lightly — customers coming back repeatedly and giving us their business over and over again. I think it’s such a privilege to be able to share in some of those successes, to see the results customers like Vodafone have been able to achieve. That’s one of my favorite things.
What are the ongoing challenges you face at Sojourn, and how do you navigate them?
Le Grange: Finding the right people is challenging. We want consultants who are really going to help our customers, people who are a great fit for our clients and Sojourn too. We’re picky because culture is so important to us. Even if somebody has the right skills but they don’t have the right attitude, we probably won’t hire them or work with them. The other part is finding the “right” customers for us.
Author Simon Sinek [“Start With Why”] says “choose the right customers because they’re the ones who are going to be with you for the long haul.” We work well with customers, or individuals within our customer organizations, who have an appetite for change, a willingness to try out new things. Marketing in its very essence is about experimentation. It requires a willingness to put yourself out there and say, “Okay, I’m going to try this. It might not be exactly the right approach, but I have a hypothesis and I’m going to prove it right or wrong, and then adapt from there.” We partner well with such open-minded customers.
What are your goals at Sojourn Solutions?
Le Grange: In the short term, it’s about concluding the year and achieving results against the targets that we’ve already set for ourselves, in terms of client satisfaction, financials, etc. In the long term, what I’m most interested in is building a sustainable business — one that’s going to be around for years to come, to service our customers as this industry continues to evolve. We don’t know what the next two years will look like, the technology and market changes so quickly these days, so we need to be adaptable as we continue to service the space. But I’m also interested in creating a business that is sustainable for our people. We don’t want to be a flash-in-the-pan type of company. We want to scale in a really responsible, sustainable way with our clients and our people.
What didn’t you know when you began your career that you wished you’d known?
Le Grange: I’ve learned how to improve the way I’ll position some things, the way that I’ll phrase something. Sometimes just changing the language you use is so important. You need to focus the message or idea on the receiver of the message, rather than focusing on you and your needs. You need to make messages even more understandable, to make things clear to others, emphasizing what’s in it for them. I guess those are consulting skills, right?
What changes have you seen in marketing operations over the last decade?
Le Grange: Ten years ago, there wasn’t really a function for marketing operations within even the big businesses. The space has been defined because of the needs that have cropped up over time. Look at all the available marketing technology now, the amount of data that companies are using, the complexity of the skills that marketers are being required to have — more analysis skills, more data skills than they’ve ever needed before.
All of those changes have pushed organizations to define the function of marketing operations. If I look back over the last ten years, we traditionally did projects where we were just interacting with maybe a campaign manager or a marketing manager, but now those people are just one part of a whole group of people that we’re talking to.
What advice would you offer to a female entrepreneur coming into marketing operations now about achieving success in the industry?
Le Grange: Other than developing the technical and “soft” skills I’ve described above, I’d say seek out the right mentors. I’ve had some brilliant mentors. Find people who can identify with the spot that you’re in. Either they’ve been there themselves or they can understand it well, and they can provide you with timely advice and guidance about what the next steps might look like. Seek out those mentors and be really open to them. Don’t just think that you’re going to figure things out on your own. Lean on the experience and wisdom of others.