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“The proximity between the agency and client needs to be strong. We need to be, on both sides, very humble, and tell [each other] what is going on.”

Welcome François Martin

Senior Marketing & Communication Manager

BOBST

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François Martin is Senior Marketing and Communication Manager for BOBST, the world’s leading supplier of substrate processing, printing and converting equipment and services for the label, packaging, carton and corrugated industries.

François is working hard to accelerate the digital and sustainable transformation of the printing and packaging industry; communicating industrial innovations that will increase agility in packaging production, whilst reducing waste generation.

In his 30+ experience, in roles such as Head of Global Marketing at HP, Messe Dusseldorf and now BOBST, François has experienced working with many global agency partnerships. He discusses his ideal agency size, set-up and what he thinks is the most important factor in a successful client- agency relationship.

Transcript:

Nathan Anibaba:

We’ve all been significantly affected by the Coronavirus, and while we’re sensitive to the unfolding health and economic situation, we’re also aware that life must go on, and business must continue. We will eventually come out of this thing, and in the meantime, Fox Agency will continue to bring you world class interviews from the biggest B2B brands in the world, discussing their biggest business challenges and how they work with agencies to help solve them. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and well, and we hope you enjoy our latest episode from Francois Martin, senior marketing and communications manager at BOBST. Enjoy.

Speaker 3:

This is ClientSide, from Fox Agency.

Nathan Anibaba:

After 30 plus years, working across multiple selected industries, promoting new and transformational products and solutions, Francois’s current focus is on communicating industrial innovations that enable BOBST to do new things, such as increasing packaging production agility, and reducing waste generation, with a big focus on all things’ sustainability and responsibly. He is currently accelerating the digital transformation in the packaging industry, and evaluating how BOBST brands and converters can take advantage of them, economically, in a sustainable way.

Nathan Anibaba:

Francois Martin, welcome to ClientSide.

Francois Martin:

Yes. So, the packaging industry is transforming, like every industry, by the way. We believe that connecting machines, digitalizing printing, and converting processes, and also automating the entire workflow related to packaging production will enable brand owners and converters to build a more agile, and a more sustainable packaging production. That’s what they are all looking at.

Francois Martin:

The world, it’s not about doing things in huge quantities anymore, it is about doing things, answering the real customer needs, where you need more versioning, you need to do things last minute. Obviously, you need to do things in a more sustainable way.

Nathan Anibaba:

Fantastic. I’m really looking forward to drilling into all of that, in a lot more detail because your history and background is absolutely fascinating. BOBST, as a company, are doing some fantastic things in the space, as well.

Nathan Anibaba:

Just before we drill into those questions about your background, and BOBST, we’re obviously in the midst of a health crisis, globally, at the moment, and an ongoing economic crisis on the back of it. Every business is dealing with the fallout from the Coronavirus. How is BOBST dealing with the challenges of the health and financial crisis at the moment? Talk a little bit about how you guys are responding?

Francois Martin:

So, two questions … I mean, two points in your question. The health of the employees is priority number one. We have put in place specific measures, and they are all different depending on the countries. BOBST is operating globally, so the situation in Italy, where we have two big facilities is probably the most dramatic one, obviously. But, we are also now entering the phase where we are putting the production facilities to their minimum, on the French side of [inaudible 00:03:45]. The same will happen with two facilities in Switzerland. We want to reduce the production to its minimum.

Francois Martin:

At the same time, we want to provide our customers with spare parts and service, because some of our clients are producing food, some of them are producing pharmaceutical goods, and they need to be available. So we are doing all that is possible, respecting all the preventions that need to be provided. We are working on it every day, and we have daily calls to monitor what is going on, and we hope that it will be soon, in the near future.

Francois Martin:

After that, probably there will be some financial tension in the system, but eventually the humanity will find a way to deal with the financial tensions, because the life has to continue.

Nathan Anibaba:

Well said. Just a word on the opportunities here, because even though there’s a tremendous amount of disruption happening across the world, in every industry right now, there are still opportunities that exist, that it’s creating, for business that are wiling to lean into these challenges, and actually see the hidden opportunities that are there.

Nathan Anibaba:

Talk a little bit about what some of those hidden opportunities are? It may be opportunities of working from home, seeing family more, et cetera.

Francois Martin:

For me, with all the experience I made over the last 30 years working in different industries, the only good benefit of that crisis it is that suddenly, you realize that you have been attending so many useless meetings, that you made so many complicated discussion topics, where at the end of the end, seems can be simplified, and things can focus on what matters the most.

Francois Martin:

So this is, for me, the learning, also from colleagues, we understand that sometimes we try to complexify things, where it’s not needed.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really good point. Let’s talk a little bit about your background, because originally you’re from France. You’ve held senior roles in companies such as HP, Messe Dusseldorf, and now BOBST, which have all taken you around the world, from Budapest, Israel, Switzerland, and Germany. Tell us how you got started in the global marketing industry?

Francois Martin:

Very quickly, because I like to be traveling, I like to speak foreign languages, so I moved into European roles fairly soon, at 30. Then, I have been relocated by different companies. You mentioned HP, but also Michelin, the tire manufacturer. They took me in global roles, where you have to plan, you have to bring cultures to work together, and you have to communicate to clients. That’s where I have been operating the last many, many years.

Francois Martin:

It is all about orchestrating communication, and it is all about bringing clarity, to make sure that everyone understand what has to be done, to communicate well the value proposition to clients. That’s what I have been doing, in short, over the last many years. Of course, depending on the products you are selling, or you are promoting, the communication and the marketing mix is different.

Nathan Anibaba:

Well, in researching for this podcast, BOBST, it’s probably one of the biggest companies that people have actually never heard of. You’ve got over 5000 employees, over 1.5 billion pounds in revenue. Talk about some of the main problems that you help your clients solve, and what’s your role and responsibly within the company?

Francois Martin:

Our customers, they are what we call packaging converters. They are the one manufacturing all the pouches, the labels, the boxes that you are touching when you go shopping. That’s what they do, every day. The quantities are huge, because we consume every day, and we consume across the globe.

Francois Martin:

So, these packaging converters, or they need to acquire equipment to produce their boxes, let’s say. Once they do that, they want to pick the best supplier, and they need machines operating 24-seven. They need to understand what is unique in the machine they buy, and in that sense, BOBST has a lot of experience. We are helping our customers to choose the best solution for their needs.

Francois Martin:

My job is to communicate what is unique from BOBST, and to convey our value proposition so that people understand, okay, if I buy a BOBST, that’s what I will get.

Nathan Anibaba:

Interesting. So, you talked about communicating the added value to customers, as to why they should choose BOBST. What makes you different to other global competitors that are on the marketplace?

Francois Martin:

I think that the main reason is that, first of all, BOBST has always been in packaging. For more than 130 years …

Nathan Anibaba:

Wow.

Francois Martin:

We have been dealing with packaging. We made some meaningful innovations, and we continue to do so. We have experience and credibility, but we are also listening to the customers very well, because the world is changing daily. We are listening to their needs, and then we are adjusting the equipment to make sure that the machines they buy are flexible enough to cope with all the different type of jobs that they need to produce.

Francois Martin:

What makes BOBST probably very unique, among all the suppliers, it is something that you can’t buy. This is the integrity, and the responsibility towards employees and customers, this is something that is unique within BOBST. It’s a family owned company, fairly big, but it has great values. All the employees have, as a consequence, passion for the clients, and passion for the products. When you buy a BOBST machine, it is the perfect machine. It has been designed, it has been produced, it has been installed in the most professional way. That’s the reputation we have, and we want to keep it. That makes BOBST to be unique.

Nathan Anibaba:

Talk about some of the biggest challenges the company’s facing today? Apart from the impending Coronavirus, which is dominating every single news channel, and email inbox. Talk about some of the main challenge BOBST is dealing with?

Francois Martin:

The biggest challenges in the industry, in the packaging industry, if you summarize everything, at the end of the end, you have only two. The first one is called agility, and the second one is sustainability.

Francois Martin:

Agility, what does it mean? It means that a client, a brand owner, any company from small to very big, they come to a converter and they say, “Hey, I need that type of box, or that type of pouch. I need that two weeks from now, and I need one million of them. Then, I also need these, and I also need that.” You need to be able to produce, very quickly, what is required by your client, with the highest quality, obviously. You need to have machines that can easily be adjusted to your client’s requirement.

Francois Martin:

Around sustainability, this is now a big deal. Everything that is plastic related, our customers are asking us, “Hey, how can we move away from plastic?”

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Francois Martin:

Or, “How can we produce recyclable plastics?”

Francois Martin:

That’s the big deal today, and that’s what we are working on. We are developing new machines, and we want to communicate the benefits of all these new machines that we have.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. So, you talk about sustainability, and as you’ve said, more and more consumers are calling for a reduction in their packaging on food, which has really lead supermarkets across the world, really, to reduce, and in some cases actually totally remove plastic packaging from all of their food products. That must have a fundamental impact on the business? How has it affected you? Talk a little bit about how BOBST is responding to that?

Francois Martin:

Plastic is, effectively, a hot topic. The fact is that half the plastic we use, or we produce, they are really useful because they are protecting food, or they are protecting specific liquids, drugs, and so on, and there is nothing else than plastic to do it better. For that, we are working on new types of plastics that can be recycled, because the problem of plastic is to have it going through the recycling chain.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Francois Martin:

The other half of the plastics, they can be replaced by carton, they can be replaced by corrugated boards.

Francois Martin:

So today, we need really to have brand owners, and consumers to a certain extent, to take their responsibilities. They need to make sure that we use plastic only when there is nothing else to be used. Until now, we have been using plastic because it’s very convenient, it’s very light, it’s very cheap, it’s very easy to produce. When you go shopping yourself, you will see that in some cases, it’s not logic to have a plastic package around the goods.

Francois Martin:

The entire industry is now looking at that problem, and what we do within BOBST, we are working on what we call … It’s a little bit technical, mono material type of plastic. You know the PET bottles, PET? The PET, you can recycle because it is only one type of polymer. But, most of the plastics, it is made of two layers of polymer but they are not the same type. That means that it is not designed for the recycling chain. What we are working on now is what we call mono material plastics, and once they are mono material, with the proper security barrier, then you can put them in the recycling chain.

Francois Martin:

That’s what we are working on. We made some announcements recently, and we hope that in 2021 … we don’t hope. In fact, in 2021, we will have new machines capable to process new mono material plastics. That will be a major change towards sustainability.

Nathan Anibaba:

Well, we definitely wish you all the best with that. It’s definitely a hot topic at the moment, and more and more consumers, as we discussed earlier, have an awareness of the damage that we’re doing to the planet, and I’m sure they’ll be increasing calls from organizations across the world to increase their sustainability efforts across the board.

Nathan Anibaba:

Let’s talk a little bit about choosing and appointing agencies, because you must have worked with many agencies from around the world, from your time with HP, Michelin, and now with BOBST. Obviously, you’re a client of ours, Fox Agency. Talk a little bit about what you feel, in your experience, makes a good client agency relationship in the first place?

Francois Martin:

You’re right. I have been working with many agencies, definitely some better than others. My learning, it is that the type of … When I am looking for an agency, I need an agency that is easy to work with, and an agency that is listening to my needs, and not selling me what they can do. I need an agency that is reactive and flexible, because business is never a straight line. That’s the key things that I’m looking to get from an agency, easy to work with, really listening, reactive and flexible.

Nathan Anibaba:

For some of the most pressing business challenges that BOBST is dealing with at the moment, what sort of agencies are you working with, and what sort of agencies really are helping you advance and achieve your toughest business challenges to date?

Francois Martin:

Today, we are working with two main agencies. One is what we call a strategic agency, they are more advising us on strategic directions, but they are not dealing with the implementation of anything. They are giving the long term view of what should be done, and main messages that we should convey. That agency is located in Zurich, in Switzerland.

Francois Martin:

The other agency we are working with is Fox, is you. In fact, you and the other one, what is unique is that you are specialized in B2B. We like to select B2B type of agencies, because we are selling expensive goods, in a B2B way. We prefer small medium sized type of agencies. We want these agencies to listen to us, and to understand what is specific to our business, because when you are in packaging it is not something that everyone is aware of. That’s the type of agency that we have today.

Francois Martin:

The combination of a strategic agency, and then an agency for, let’s say, all the rest, all the day-to-day activities, this is a great combination.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. So you talk about the fact that you like to work with small to medium agencies. Why is that? As opposed to working with the larger … either larger, independent agencies, or larger networked agencies? What is it about the smaller to medium sized agencies that you really like working with?

Francois Martin:

My experience, I worked for very large agencies in the past, huge agencies. The huge agencies, of course they are capable of doing great things, but when your business is not huge, when you’re not with consumer goods, the big agencies …

Francois Martin:

The main problem I was facing is that, first of all, the staffing is changing all the time. Every three to six months, there is someone changing in the team. The second thing is you are never big enough, as a client, to get the best people. You are coming, you are the second choice, always. Third, the big agencies, of course they can deliver great things, as I said, but they are very costly. They have huge infrastructure costs. I mean, these are high street type of advertising agencies, we know them well, we know their names. But, for B2B, I don’t see them being relevant.

Francois Martin:

Of course, I don’t have experience in B2C, but I would really recommend B2B companies to work with smaller agencies. It’s much better.

Nathan Anibaba:

When it comes to selecting an agency, let’s say you put out a brief, and a number of agencies respond. Then, it gets down to the final two or three agencies to choose from. Now, to a certain extent, they all have strong capabilities, they all have strong strengths. Maybe they’re specializing in B2B, and there isn’t really much differentiating them when it comes down to the final two or three.

Nathan Anibaba:

What, in your opinion, really makes the difference as to why a chosen agency is chosen, and not chosen?

Francois Martin:

The agency, for me, that is going to be selected is the agency that can show me what they did, so they can show me good campaigns that they have executed. But, it is also an agency that will provide me with an operating model that is, for me, easy to understand and easy to connect within my own team. That’s very important, not only what they do, but how they do it.

Francois Martin:

Then of course, pricing-wise, they need to be reasonable, but this is not the main issue. The main issue is really more, how can I engage with them, every day, in a smooth and repeatable way? Things need to be simple, because agencies, they should not make my life more complicated.

Nathan Anibaba:

So it’s important for them to show you? That’s really interesting. It’s important for them to show you an operating model of how they are going to work with you, and manage you, really upfront, in the pitch process? That’s where they need to communicate what the working relationship is going to be like, is that what you mean by that?

Francois Martin:

Yes, correct. I want them to give me a methodology, I want them to help me do my brief. I don’t want them to be too bureaucratic. I want, really, them to facilitate the discussion between the client and the agency, because the more we talk, specifically the better we talk, it has to be a structured discussion, then I will be able to provide a good brief. They will understand my brief, they will ship it back to me, I will check it, we are aligned. And then, we start working. Then, if there is something not working, then they tell me as well.

Francois Martin:

I have experienced, sometimes, working with very big agencies, and they almost tell me, “Francois, I know nothing about your business, but I’m going to tell you how to manage it.” That’s not what I want.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Francois Martin:

I want someone listening to my needs, and really engaging every day, to make sure we are always, always, always synchronized.

Nathan Anibaba:

Let’s talk a little bit about working with agencies, because one of the common frustrations that agencies commonly share is that the client expects the agency to learn everything about them, the way that they work, their operating models, et cetera. But, when it comes to the other side, the client doesn’t really spend that much time learning about the agency, their charging models, the business model, et cetera.

Nathan Anibaba:

Talk about what’s important for the client to know, in order to get the best work from the agency?

Francois Martin:

The agency has to be easily understood. Basically, who does what? You need to have a simple interface, between you and the agency. Once I understand who is doing what, who is receiving the brief, who is my day-to-day to contact, to whom do I give feedback if I’m not happy with something, if it is all well defined, it is really helping. The agency, obviously, has to learn how to work with the client, but it is more important to have the client understanding the agency.

Francois Martin:

Because most of the time, you don’t have so many bad agencies, to be honest, but you have poor clients, providing poor briefs. It did happen in my own team, I had team members in charge of a campaign. When they did the brief, it was not clear, they did not even know what they wanted. Then, a poor brief is generating a poor campaign. Then, when you have a poor campaign you blame the agency.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Francois Martin:

This is the vicious cycle that you need to break.

Nathan Anibaba:

In that scenario, Francois, shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the agency to push back on the brief, if they don’t feel that the brief is good enough, or it’s clear enough? Surely, a good agency should interrogate the brief, and go back to the client if they feel as though it’s not as clear as it should be?

Francois Martin:

No, absolutely. This is what I expect from an agency, it’s to seek for clarity. Clarity is a word that I’m using a lot with my team, but also with agencies. When things are clear, then, on both sides, the client has made a clear brief, he knows what he wants, which customer cluster he’s addressing. He has clarity on his own product value proposition, everything is well articulated, he’s delivering a clear brief. The agency is learning from it, is acquiring the data, the information, digesting it. Then, the agency play back what they understood. At that time, we need to say, “Yes, we are fully synchronized, on both sides,” and then the work can start.

Francois Martin:

That step is critical. As I told you before, bad briefs, lack of understanding, [inaudible 00:27:28] understanding, is generating major issues for the future.

Nathan Anibaba:

Let’s say a client, or an agency … You’re not working with a particular agency at the moment, but they know that if they work with you, they can deliver tremendous value to you. But, for one reason or another, you’re just not aware of them, they’re not on your radar at all, but they’re really technical, really strategic, very good agency, and they can add value to the business.

Nathan Anibaba:

What’s the best way for an agency like that to actually get on your radar, and add that value to you?

Francois Martin:

It’s a difficult question in the sense that you should not change agency as often as you change socks. You need to be stick to the agency you have, you need to find a good working relationship.

Francois Martin:

But, for me, an agency that will convince me to try something with them, they will show me what they did for another client. They will come to me with a well defined operating model, as I told you before. They will start to work with me on a small project. Then, as we will go, we will invest with them as we go. We start with one project, the project is, in fact, shaping very well. Then, we go to the next project, and then to the next project.

Francois Martin:

When I started working with you, Fox, in fact, it started a little bit like that. I remember, some years ago, the first project where you did a very, very good job. Then, I was convinced, okay, this is what I want. Then, we have been working together much more, and we are now working as partners.

Nathan Anibaba:

You talk about the fact that clients shouldn’t change their agency as often as they change their socks, which I love. I’m going to write that down, and use that again in future. But, we know that client agency relationships don’t last forever.

Nathan Anibaba:

In fact, there’s an increasing amount of turnover. Sometimes, actually, that turnover, in turn, is actually healthy. Talk about some of the reasons why clients end relationships with their agency? And, what can agencies do to defend that?

Francois Martin:

What I have seen over the last 30 years, it is that when there is an agency change, there are mainly two reasons, and only two.

Francois Martin:

The primary reason is that you work with someone you trust, and someone you like. Each time there is a management change in the company, let’s assume there is a new CMO. The new CMO is typically looking at adding his own agency, he likes to work with someone he knows from the past. And then, he is asking for an agency change. Most of the time, if he’s new, he will replace someone, and that someone had already a good relationship with the agency, things were smooth, they designed their own operating model. Then suddenly, there is a new guy, he’s not used to that model, you have some tensions in the systems. Boom, the guys say, “You know what? Let’s do a tender, and let’s go to a new agency selection.” That’s the main reason.

Francois Martin:

The other reason is if you have a big, big clash. The agency is becoming too arrogant, or the client is becoming too arrogant, and then you have a clash where people don’t fit together.

Francois Martin:

My observation is that you don’t have bad agencies, you don’t have bad companies, you have sometimes human relationships that do not fit. This is why the operating model is so critical.

Nathan Anibaba:

Interesting. Is that because as long as the operating model is strong, it doesn’t really matter which individuals you have, they can really change, but the operating model stays the same? People can come in or out of that operating model, but as long as the operating model stays strong, that’s the thing that gives you confidence that the agency can continue to deliver. Am I putting words in your mouth, or is that a fair assessment?

Francois Martin:

Yes, but the operating model is, very often, also linked to individuals, to people. You need the operating model, but you also need the people that carry the operating model over.

Francois Martin:

Sometimes you have individuals, they are simply not good at working with the clients, or the client is not good at working with the agency. I have seen that many times. People in my team, they came and they say, “Francois, I cannot work with that agency.” Then, at the end, I was wondering why, and it was sometimes just that these two guys, they don’t fit together.

Nathan Anibaba:

Interesting.

Francois Martin:

That has been, for me, a big surprise. This is why it’s important to choose the right people at your agencies, and to not have too big turnover, where people are always in the learning mode. When agencies have, let’s say, some experience they typically adjust to the different clients they face.

Nathan Anibaba:

That’s a really interesting point, Francois. That sometimes the individual, the account manager on the agency side, and the brand manager on the client side, they just don’t get on, for whatever reason, and that sometimes can lead to a breakdown in the relationship.

Nathan Anibaba:

What’s your approach to communicating things that you’re unhappy with, with an agency? Often, if an agency knows about that ahead of time, they can change that person, they can do things to mitigate those challenges. Often, agencies find out about those things a little bit too late, those conversations tend to happen behind closed doors, with the client, and the agency doesn’t know about those issues, until it’s too late. What’s your approach to communicating things that you’re unhappy with, with an agency?

Francois Martin:

For me, an agency, it is not the agency and me, and we are in two separated worlds. For me, the agency is an extension of my team. I like to provide them with feedback all the time. When they do good things, I tell them. When they do bad things, I tell them. When I don’t understand something, I am asking questions. But, I do that on a daily basis, almost because it’s not, “They did that, I do that,” it is we are together, on the same boat. If they fail, I fail. If I am not expressing myself properly, they won’t be able to deliver a good job.

Francois Martin:

So, the proximity between the agency and the client has to be very strong, and we need to be, on both sides, very humble, and we need to really tell what’s going on. You are satisfied, not so satisfied. We are talking about business relationships, it’s not about, “I like you, I don’t like you.” It is just, “Hey, the document you are showing me now, or the creative idea, I don’t like it.” Then, I will tell you why, and then the agency should say, “Oh yeah, you’re right, we could have done a little bit better. I never thought about that. Good point, let me rework.”

Francois Martin:

Sometimes, agencies are just like, “Oh, what I’m showing is the best, there is no way we will change it. We have been thinking about it for more than two weeks, we had a big creative team working on it. This is the best we are recommending for you.” Come on, you cannot talk like that.

Francois Martin:

For me, feedback, it has to be given all the time. You should not only rely on the so-called yearly agency assessment.

Nathan Anibaba:

Review.

Francois Martin:

You need both. You need the yearly review, that one is what I call fact driven, this is a global assessment. But, in addition to that, you need these qualitative exchanges, all the time.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. You mentioned a little earlier that sometimes agencies can be expensive, and that, actually, you’re not really sure what you’re paying for, with those larger agencies.

Nathan Anibaba:

Talk a little bit about, how do you know whether your marketing budget is working as hard as you are? How do you know that you’re not overpaying for agency services?

Francois Martin:

Typically, you look at the price when things do not work.

Nathan Anibaba:

Interesting, okay.

Francois Martin:

If things are working, then you are quite happy. Because in marketing, we are not measured on what we do right, we are measured on what we do wrong. This is like electricity. When you enter into a room, you then will say, “Wow, cool. I have light today.”

Nathan Anibaba:

The electricity is working, great.

Francois Martin:

Yeah, but when it is not working, you are complaining.

Nathan Anibaba:

It’s a problem. Sure.

Francois Martin:

Why do I pay taxes? And this, and that. The agency, it’s a bit the same.

Francois Martin:

However, price wise, you quickly can get the feel if you overpay, because, of course, you can compare with other agencies that you worked with in the past. You can always do some benchmarking, informally. Also, it is what is written on the bill that is important for me. Because if I understand all the lines on the bill, each of them has a meaningful name, and the amounts are reasonable versus the salaries I pay to my employees, then I’m fine.

Francois Martin:

Sometimes, you have agencies, they send you an invoice, you have three lines where you need to go into Google Search to understand, what does it mean? Then, when you go to the real meaning it is wow, funky acronyms that agencies are very good at inventing. This is not for any work that was done, it is to pay for the huge infrastructure they have, the beautiful buildings.

Nathan Anibaba:

Right. The annual holidays, sure.

Francois Martin:

These events, the weekends.

Francois Martin:

I have worked with very expensive agencies. Sometimes, it can be worth doing so, but it has to be a for a very, very, very important project. Eventually, it’s worth to try. But, very honestly, the best agencies I worked with, they were quite small, and not so expensive. I don’t think that you need to pay a lot for good ideas.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting.

Nathan Anibaba:

Let’s talk a little bit about B2B marketing, because you mentioned earlier that it’s important for you to work with a B2B marketing agency, who is a specialist. Now, we’ve seen over the years the importance of content marketing and thought leadership, as a way to position the brand, and drive leads. We’re seeing, more and more, the importance of marketing automation, and the technology stacks to help marketers do their jobs better.

Nathan Anibaba:

What trends are you seeing in what the best B2B brands are doing to differentiate themselves in the market, and really drive performance?

Francois Martin:

Marketing automation, for me, it’s a little bit of a buzzword.

Nathan Anibaba:

Interesting.

Francois Martin:

It’s not new, I have seen it very often. But, we need to appreciate what marketing automation means. If you believe in a world where everything is automated, you go the wrong way.

Francois Martin:

What is important? It is the messages that you are passing from humans to humans, specifically in B2B. We all dream about automation, but for communication, I don’t believe os much in automation.

Nathan Anibaba:

Interesting.

Francois Martin:

If behind the word automation, you put easy access to information between the clients and the agency, yes, that is important. We need to define what automation means.

Francois Martin:

For me, automation, it means to work effectively, and in a repeatable manner. That’s, for me, what is critical. But, campaigns where everything is managed by a computer, I don’t really see that as being realistic.

Nathan Anibaba:

Interesting.

Francois Martin:

I know that, maybe in B2C this is different, but in B2B, I have not seen it. We are eventually dreaming about it, at least some clients, some agencies. I had some managers discussing it in the past with me. But, myself, my own experience it is that we need to automate a few things, yes, but don’t dream about having everything fully automated, it will never happen.

Nathan Anibaba:

You can’t automate human to human interaction, and empathy, at the end of the day. That’s something that can’t be automated. Also, just a final point on that, so many people that use automation are using them as glorified email marketing tools, and not using the full capability, also. I definitely agree with you, there.

Nathan Anibaba:

Talk a little bit about … We’re just getting towards the end of the interview now, and I’m going to ask you a few questions at the end of our speed round, which are slightly more personal questions. I’m really excited to ask you a few of those questions. But, a couple more questions, just before we end. Talk about some of the other, either B2B brands that you admire, that are doing a really good job, as far as content, thought leadership, differentiating themselves in the market? Whether they are B2B, or actually consumer brands, talk about some of the other brands that you admire, and that you think are doing a really good job?

Francois Martin:

For me, the brands that are doing a good job, they are the ones that are not using buzzwords, they are not doing, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” They have a very crisp and clear product value proposition. And, they have innovative products, they bring something to the party. It is a combination of the product, and how is the product communicated. Good marketing, good agencies can help a bad product to sell, that’s I’ve been also learning over the past. That’s the way I see it.

Francois Martin:

Of course, there are very nice brands that I like, but most of them, they did great products.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. Create a great product first, and the marketing will take care of itself.

Francois Martin:

They had clarity on what was the great product. Given my age, a brand like Sony when I was a bit younger, I mean, wow, Sony, it was the best you could get for amplifiers, and things like that, and for loud speakers, still talking about music.

Nathan Anibaba:

100%.

Francois Martin:

I mean, Altec Lansing, in the US, they did also a very good job. For the automotive industry, for me, Mercedes Benz, they always had great innovations, great cars, very good products. Their communication was quite nice. Okay, sometimes they went down the hill, maybe they changed agency. The product, and the marketing, it goes together.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really, really interesting.

Nathan Anibaba:

Francois, we’re just getting towards the end of our interview now, let’s get into our speed round. So, I’m going to fire some questions at you, and if you could fire some short, sharp responses back, that would be absolutely fascinating.

Nathan Anibaba:

When it comes to BOBST, and the future of sustainability, what are you most optimistic about, and what are you least optimistic about?

Francois Martin:

I’m quite optimistic that brand owners will design products in a different way, and they will pay more attention to the packaging because that’s, at the end, brand owners, they need to take their responsibilities. I’m quite convinced they will do it, but consumers need to continue to put tremendous pressure on them.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. What changes have you seen in what brands now expect from their agency? And actually, what agencies now expect from their clients?

Francois Martin:

Brands, I think, they expect from the agency to help them to simplify, and to only work on things that matter. Marketing wise, these days, you can do so many things, everything is possible almost. The question is, it’s not because it’s technically possible that you should do it, so an agency should help clients to say, “Hey, among all these things, you should focus on A, and C, and F, that’s what I’m recommending you, according to the objectives you want to achieve.” That’s what I am expecting from an agency to tell me. “Hey, of course I can do everything from you, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, but if you do only these three things, it will help you to fix your problems.”

Nathan Anibaba:

With all the success that you’ve had in your career, Francois, from all of the amazing companies that you’ve worked with, what keeps you up at night now? What are you worried about?

Francois Martin:

I worry about the balance between the rich people, poor people, the globalization. I’d like to see more humanity, in what we do, the way we work, so more proximity. That’s what I would like to see more. Maybe I am a dreamer.

Nathan Anibaba:

You and me both.

Francois Martin:

From a business standpoint, I’m clearly dreaming of having less bureaucracy, and more trust.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really fascinating.

Nathan Anibaba:

Last couple of questions. What’s the single more important thing … Well, what do you actually love about working with agencies, and what’s the main thing that you actually dislike about working with agencies?

Francois Martin:

What I like working with agencies is to have them helping me to sharpen my products value proposition, to help me be more effective, and I see them as an extension of my team, to give me more capabilities.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting.

Nathan Anibaba:

My last question, Francois. What’s the single biggest thing that you have yet to achieve, that you would really like to achieve in your career?

Francois Martin:

Oh, the biggest things I have yet to achieve? So far, I am quite happy with what I have done, and I think it will probably stay with that. I like having people telling me that I was a great manager, a nice guy, and I also like agencies telling me I was easy to work with, I was approachable, I was open. For me, these human values are the foundation of what I do, every day, and not necessarily the amount of products that I have been selling, at the end.

Nathan Anibaba:

Absolutely fascinating. Francois, thank you so much for being on ClientSide.

Francois Martin:

Thank you very much, Nathan, for your time.

Nathan Anibaba:

I really enjoyed it.

Nathan Anibaba:

If you’d like to share any comments on this episode, or any episode of ClientSide, then find us online at Fox.agency. If you’d like to appear on this show, please email Milly@Fox.agency.

Nathan Anibaba:

The people that make this show possible are Milly Bell, our booker/researcher, Paul Blanford, our creative director. Ben Fox is our executive producer. I’m Nathan Anibaba, and you’ve been listening to ClientSide, from Fox Agency.

Speaker 3:

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