Helen Normoyle: chief marketing officer, Countrywide
Helen Normoyle: chief marketing officer, Countrywide
A view from Helen Normoyle

Countrywide's chief marketing officer: Take risks but don't get caught up in the hype

Marketing must have respect and credibility up and down the organisation so it can influence decision-making outside of its functional area, writes Helen Normoyle.

Help the business be customer-focused

I’m passionate about what makes customers and businesses tick and putting customers at the heart of business strategy.

For me, marketing has a key role to play in developing a customer-focused strategy that is delivered by the business as a whole.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work for organisations such as Motorola, the BBC, DFS and now Countrywide, which share that philosophy.

From the perspective of the chief executive and the board, this ensures that all aspects of the business are aligned behind delivering a great customer experience that exceeds expectations – from product development to communications.

I look at business performance through the lens of the customer journey and conversion funnel. KPIs are individually meaningful but do not tell you how the sum of your activities are landing with different customer segments.

Spend time out in the business and with customers

Marketing needs to have respect and credibility up and down the organisation so that it can influence decision-making outside of its functional area.

The most effective way of achieving this is to spend time out in the business to understand the needs of key stakeholders and colleagues – and, of course, doing the same with customers.

Over the years, I’ve invested time in getting to know all parts of the business – from understanding the components of a mobile phone to the design of the packaging, from the manufacturing of a sofa to the making of Strictly Come Dancing.

Put customer insights at the heart of the business

If finance is the brains of an organisation, then marketing is its heart. And at the heart of great marketing is great customer insight.

A key part of my roles thus far has been to go beyond data, charts and spreadsheets and spend time with customers – whether in their home as they have their sofa delivered or in the store as they decide which phone to buy.

Understanding customers is at the heart of our business strategy at Countrywide as we look at changing perceptions of the property industry. For most people, buying a home is the biggest investment they will make, so they need to trust the people they are working with.

Last year, we invested in research with several thousand customers and, as a result of listening to customers and colleagues, we successfully piloted a new hybrid model for selling your home. The magic is in the bringing together of great data on key market trends, consumers and customers with creativity, instinct and intuition.

The customer doesn’t always know what they want – or as Henry Ford would have it: "If I’d listened to my customers, I’d have given them a faster horse." 

Know your people

Building a high-performing team is about getting the right talent and enabling them to be the best they can be. I invest time in getting to know the people on my team and what’s important to them at work and at home. It isn’t enough to treat them all the same as they are at different stages of their lives.

Embrace change

The pace of change is accelerating and technology is constantly evolving, so it’s essential to try out new things and take calculated risks while not getting caught up in the hype of the latest shiny new toy.

The emergence of new channels and tools rarely equates to an increase in marketing budgets, so you must be clear on the benefits to the business and its customers, be smart with the budget you have and ensure you create space for fast-paced testing. 

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable

I have a quote from Michelangelo on my desk at home: "The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it, but we aim too low and reach it." It reminds me to constantly challenge myself and what I am doing.

I have spent most of my career feeling out of my comfort zone – the main difference is that now I am more comfortable with that. It’s not always easy but it is rewarding and I am proud of having a career that I am passionate about. 

Say thank you

A simple "thank you" for both the small and big things in life is incredibly powerful because it shows people you appreciate what they have done. It helps people feel valued and part of something bigger.

Helen Normoyle joined property-service company Countrywide this year as chief marketing officer from DFS. She was previously director of marketing and audiences at the BBC.