Case Study: Marketing Expert

Emma Dalzell Marketing Expert
at Bare Bones Marketing

With 20+ years experience in Marketing working at senior level for businesses including Citibank, Vodafone and Eon, Emma has extensive experience in all areas of Marketing and now runs an agency specialising in expert marketing advice for small businesses.

View Emma Dalzell's profile on LinkedIn


What attracted you to a career in Marketing?

I actually fell into marketing a little by mistake! I was studying for my degree in Economics and Business Finance, and as part of that, I was required to complete a placement. I managed to get a great role in the Sales and Marketing team at Citiband Diners Club, where I prepared sales and marketing analysis. Once I’d left university, I was offered a role in their Marketing team, and I found that marketing became something I happened to be good at and was passionate about.

Tell us about your route into Marketing?

It’s quite a long one, having just completed my second decade! My first role in marketing was as a Marketing Analyst, working on competitor analysis and supporting the sales team with their presentations and proposals. From there I became the Marketing Research Manager, responsible for all qualitative and quantitative research, and then into a Marketing Manager role.

I worked with both strategic partners and suppliers and gained a solid background in direct marketing techniques and loyalty programmes. I regularly briefed both creative and research agencies and gained a working knowledge of print and production. With responsibility for the forecasting and management of a budget of several millions, my remit was to have a “strategic” view on the market, research, product development and campaigns.

Focused initially on the consumer market, this further extended to the B2B arena and I also developed a 5 year Strategic Plan, including researching new segments, enhancements to existing card programmes, such as loyalty and product features and benefits. I was also responsible for producing implementation plans for product roll-out, and the development of database marketing options. I was then the first person from the UK to be seconded to the International Headquarters in Chicago, where I developed the Global Partnership Strategy for a franchise network, including the implementation process and a guide for generic development of strategic co-brand and affinity partnerships.

Following this, I became a Marketing Manager for a global telecoms company, working on their postpaid calling card where I was responsible for the communication, internally and externally, acquiring new customers, retaining existing customers through marketing activity and improving customer loyalty.

My next role was still in telecoms, but I moved into mobile communications, again for a large global brand. Here I worked purely in the business to business market, first as a Marketing Manager, Programmes, then as a Channel Marketing Manager. In these roles, I developed usage campaigns and drove existing customer sales revenue, developed and implemented propositions and marketing plans to drive acquisition, retention closely liaising with the sales teams. Latterly, I was responsible for all of the acquisition activity within the Business market (1-250 employees) across all business channels.

My next move was to become Head of Marketing at an independent mobile company, responsible for the marketing strategy, communications, product development, online and PR. This role in particular required a significant commercial focus so my degree came in very handy! I continued working within the group of companies and became Head of Marketing for their fixed line and broadband division. I was responsible for all of the marketing mix for both residential and business, including customer retention, acquisition marketing, new product development, internal communications, PR, brand and the web channel, with a headcount of over 30 and a multi-million pound budget.

After several years as a Head of Marketing, I came full circle back to Citibank as Head of CRM for their UK credit card business, where I was responsible for the Profit and loss marketing for all customer relationship marketing programmes, including direct mail, inbound and outbound telemarketing and statement marketing. My next role took me out of my comfort zone of telecoms and financial services, when I moved into a senior role in a global utilities organisation. As Head of Marketing Communications for their UK retail operation, I held responsibility for all direct marketing communications for acquiring, managing, retaining and cross-selling to over 6 million residential and business customers. I now run my own marketing agency, Bare Bone Marketing, based in Cheshire.

Can you talk me through your career progression in marketing and in particular went from corporate to setting up your own business?

I love marketing and although it wasn’t an obvious career choice for someone who can only draw stick people, I have a fairly unique mix of a commercial, creative, logical and caring mind. Throughout my career I’ve always looked for roles that can stretch me and that aren’t necessarily in my comfort zone, so I think that has helped progress my career quickly, but consistently. I’ve worked with some fantastic global brands and with some pretty shrewd entrepreneurs.

I thought about setting up my own business nearly 10 years ago, but at the time was offered a role that I just couldn’t turn down. With hindsight, the extra time that I had, and the experience I gained, not to mention the friends I made was the right decision. However, when I had a baby and was due to return from maternity, the thought of being able to spend more time with my family, work locally, and help businesses who otherwise would not be able to access my level of experience became more appealing. I started trading as Bare Bones Marketing in October 2011 and we’ve found that there really is the need for down-to-earth marketing support and advice among businesses.

Briefly talk us through a typical day in your current job 

It’s a bit of a cliché, but I really don’t have a typical day! Our clients range from larger organisations to start-up businesses, so we can be writing strategies and plans, looking at an advertising campaign, writing PR, case studies or blogs, designing a logo or brochure, or launching a website at any one time! I’m often out and about visiting clients, and I’m increasingly being asked to speak at business events. One of the things I’ve discovered is that there aren’t many agencies at a local level that can offer all of the marketing mix in a one-stop shop, so our experience is in demand. I also try to balance the “agency” element with giving back to the community: I’ve helped out at school enterprise days and supported sixth formers in trying to develop their personal brands, and I’m also the marketing advisor to the board of a local community radio station, Redshift Radio.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced throughout your marketing career and how have you overcome them? 

I think the biggest challenge has been working in fairly male dominated industries at a senior level – Telecom, Financial Services and Utilities aren’t exactly classed as “sexy” industries. As a fairly diplomatic female, sometimes the male egos that I’ve come across have been interesting, but I’m not a pushover by any means and I’ve found that over-delivering on your goals and targets usually puts people back in their place pretty quickly! I’ve also learned a great deal about people management and I find that surrounding myself with an excellent team is the best way to raise your game and your profile. Marketing is such a subjective discipline, but no-one can argue when you deliver the results.

Keeping up with the changes in marketing is a constant challenge; social media in its current form didn’t exist when I first started out, digital printing was unheard of and email was in its infancy! Developing my knowledge through lots of reading, along with some trial and error, and learning from my teams has been the best way to keep up.

And of course, taking the plunge to set up my own marketing agency has been a massive challenge! I have a very supportive family, which is a big bonus. Having the confidence to trust that everything I’ve learned so far, and the things I’m still learning, is in demand is always at the back of my mind. Starting a business in the middle of a recession was a particular challenge as not many businesses had marketing budget available, but I’ve never been someone to do things by halves. When I won “Best Start Up Business in South Cheshire” in my first year, it gave me the recognition that I had made a pretty good start. Nearly three years on, we’re continuing to go from strength to strength.

What would you describe as your biggest personal strengths and assets that have ensured success in your career? 

I’m originally from Yorkshire, so I’d have to say my biggest personal strengths are grit and determination. I’ve also worked really hard and delivered on my promises. I’ve learned to be a bit more self-promoting, since leaving the corporate world – I didn’t really have a choice if I wanted to be successful on my own. I also think that my commercial background has given me an edge against my contemporaries, as I’ve never been seen as a “fluffy” marketer. I’ve also taken calculated risks and always, always have a back-up plan to the contingency plan, and another back-up plan, just in case!

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone looking to get into their own marketing career what would it be?

Having recently employed two marketing university graduates, I’d say that the biggest single piece of advice I’d give is to get some practical experience at some level, through work experience, interning or even within your degree. Getting good results on paper is no good unless you have something to back it up with.

For people looking to start up a new business, I’d offer this one, most important piece of advice – do something that you are passionate about and that you excel at – you can bring in people to do everything else!