CommsCo Catch-Ups: Adam Sharp, Co-Founder and CEO of CleverTouch Marketing

Ensuring your PR and marketing strategies are aligned is critical to maximise its potential within the organisation – so how can the two departments work together? In the first in our series of CommsCo Catch-Ups, we chat to Adam Sharp, CommsCo client and co-founder and CEO of MarTech consultancy, CleverTouch Marketing to discover more. As a UK entrepreneur, Adam’s expertise stretches beyond the marketing industry so we’ve quizzed him on everything from the future of the UK Tech scene to the books on his bedside table.
  • How can marketing and PR work together at their best – especially from the perspective of a UK MarTech company?
Adam: PR activity is just one of the many channels that are open to the CEO and CMO to execute on the marketing strategy. So, from that perspective, PR is really a tactical subset of the overall marketing communications plan to reach and communicate to Press, Analysts and Influencers. Where PR can actually become strategic is in the positioning of the company and products. Typically, tech firms go into too much detail on the features and not the benefits; AI being the latest such example, where start-ups are all about the underlying technology not the actual outcome or benefit.  So, having a PR strategy to simplify the message from the Market-In rather than the Company-Out makes huge business sense and will save you time and will de-risk your strategy. In fact, I should really emphasise that positioning or lack of positioning is as big as a risk to a business success, as is lack of funding or leadership. So, investing in a strategic PR brain to ensure you are more than just ‘on-message’ is key, it is defining what that key simple message actually is.  
  • What would your advice be to a start-up looking to scale in the UK tech market?
Adam: The silicon valley model doesn’t always work to well over here in the UK. In fact, I am not convinced it is working too well over there either at the moment. The process of having a great idea, raising cash and then selling it/checking out ASAP to a trade sale or IPO is probably not as fulfilling as starting a business you enjoy, creating jobs and enjoying a decent life along the way. I once joined a VC backed business and we were all counting the $$’s and the ‘guaranteed exit’ way too early, if you do that it rarely ends well, it didn’t for us. It is why when we started CleverTouch we said we would bootstrap it and grow the funds steadily. This has meant we have probably grown much slower than we otherwise might, but raising cash is just another form of debt and dilution. So, do explore all options available to you; it might be better to bootstrap a business, that way you can maintain control, some VCs and Private Equity are brilliant, really helpful and considered, both Livingbridge and BGF spring to mind, others know much less than you do, and yet they might own a controlling interest in your firm. Ask yourself, are you ok with that?
  • What does the future hold for the UK MarTech Market? Are there any exciting names / companies catching your eye at the moment?
Yes the market is still growing massively. According to Gartner the investment in MarTech is now larger than the investment in marketing resources. And there is a definite swing of budget away from AdTech to MarTech, where marketing organisations are taking increased control on their marketing and marketing technology in house. The challenge for the industry is that there are now 7000 vendors and growing, so it is just a massive cottage industry. With Marketing Automation and Marketing Cloud now established, there are a few interesting categories and companies that we are looking at the moment. Three spring to mind:-
  1. Predictive Business Intelligence;we have played in this space for a long time and the spend to gain additional insight is not going away.
  2. Strategic Content Management;we really like Percolate, too many technologies in the MarTech space are ‘cool features’ only. What is needed is a platform like Percolate to assist CMOs manage their content, resource strategically, empowering marketers but with a little control in place. 
  3. Sales Enablement;keeping salespeople on message and productive is a key challenge, so is Sales and Marketing Alignment. We think sales enablement is going to be a massively fast category within the MarTech space and here we really like Seismic as a company and their proposition.
  • How does being situated outside of London benefit CleverTouch (for example with talent sourcing)?
There is a massive war for talent in MarTech and everywhere else too, in fact in all the Brexit discussions (I won’t go there!) we have missed the good news that we are at record levels of employment. I think many economists argue that the full employment level is 5% or less unemployment and we have been under that for a while.  This means that almost everyone has a choice of where they work and who they work for and this is good as it does drive employers to be better, but it can also drive excessive salary inflation and instability – both of which can kill a company. For us, being near Winchester gives us the best of both worlds, we can be in London in an hour, but we have a little more stability for those enjoying a richer/greener life. The challenge is that we have to recruit really hard to find good people, often that is people moving out of London, who have had the corporate life but now want a 20-minute commute rather than a two hour one.   
  • What would your advice be to a company looking to adopt martech?
  1. Be a change agent. Be brave, drive change and new thinking. Establish the ‘AS IS’ and the ideal ‘TO BE’ within 12-18 months. Never longer than that, you won’t have the luxury of time.
  2. Don’t over-complicate it.Invest in ‘The Spine’ first and get it working for you, before you try and create ‘The Stack’
  3. Focus on the outcomes.With a Spine in place you can deliver always-on predictive dashboard to the Exec team and the rest of the team. The spine is the CMS-MA or MC-CM- BI.
  • We know you’re an avid reader – what are some of the books on your bedside table at the moment?
      1. Lonely Planet Argentina. I always wanted to visit Patagonia.
      2. Team of Teams: New rules of engagement for a complex world. General Stanley McChrystal