Lyn MacDonald

Lyn MacDonald of G1 Group spoke to Lauren Beattie - Managing Consultant - at Michael Page Marketing about the challenges facing marketing in 2016 and her career to date.

Lyn, great to meet with you and congratulations on your new role as Marketing & Sales Director of G1 Group!  How have your first few months been?

Joining Scotland’s largest independent and most diverse leisure operator has been both exciting and demanding in equal measure. It’s been a real whirlwind, and for all the right reasons! The group has over 50 venues, which makes managing the sales and marketing of such a dynamic range of brands an interesting challenge for any marketer.  

You have climbed the career ladder very quickly and have a reputation for turning businesses around, what are your plans for G1?

Thanks, I’ve always been passionate and determined to succeed and I’m lucky to have had some great opportunities. I love what I do, which I think makes a demanding job a little easier.  The G1 Group has been somewhat misrepresented in the media in recent years and part of my vision is to help reposition the corporate brand, revealing the truth behind our eclectic mix of businesses. Additionally, I’ll be developing our digital and customer engagement strategies. The group is well positioned to further expand its portfolio, so as well as adding some stability to the sales and marketing teams, we’ll be focussed on some key new openings coming later in the year. 

What are the biggest challenges facing Marketing Directors in the hospitality sector in 2016 and how do you intend to tackle them?

The role of Marketing Director is an ever-changing one; it’s nice to see more businesses recognise the need for Marketing to be represented in the Board Room.  There is an increasing demand to provide financial analysis for all activity and specific campaigns – and this is great – in the past I have used ROI reporting to significantly increase marketing budgets.  For me, working in hospitality is fast-paced and being so customer focussed brings additional challenges.  Thanks to the development of social media platforms and the increased awareness of digital media, customers hold more power than ever.  This is why, our digital and customer engagement strategies are so important to me.  It’s about being the best we can be as a Company and ensuring our teams are empowered to deliver the best customer experience possible. 

As the leader of a large team, what skills and characteristics do you look for when you hire?

I’m always looking to develop internally alongside hiring the best talent available. I tend to split the skills needed for someone to excel in a role into two parts – 1, the skills you can teach and 2, those you cannot.  There are certain skills you just can’t teach, so for me how a candidate presents themselves is very important.  We have such a strong training team within G1, I’m confident we can teach sales techniques and upskill our events and marketing managers.  However, a positive attitude, passion and desire to succeed, while enjoying how your contribution impacts the overall business, is something that has to come from within.   
I’m also looking for a certain level of commercial awareness. Strong candidates, normally present with a good general awareness of the hospitality industry, how our businesses are perceived and any relevant hot topics! 

You’ve done some great stuff in your time, what has been your key achievement to date?

I honestly think I could pick out at least one or two from every position I’ve held.  Rather than bore you with stats including email open rates as high as 89%, exceeding sales budgets by 39%, Facebook campaigns generating £76K of revenue and website conversions as high as 12%, I’ll give an insight into how I started my marketing journey… 
My first Degree is in Financial Services, when I made the move to marketing, I studied my Professional CIM Degree while working full time.  I remember telling my then boss – Sales Director – “I will make sure I work as hard as I can to smash the supposed glass ceiling (that was a hot topic buzz phrase at the time) and hold the title Marketing Director, and I’ll do it quicker than you think I will too” (at this point I must add, trying to show passion and determination rather than arrogance!).  I was subsequently head-hunted and worked my way up the career ladder and in to the Board Room. 
Joining Scotland’s largest independent hospitality company is another career highlight and I’m looking forward to being part of such a dynamic senior management team working within a business that has strong entrepreneurial leadership at its heart! 

There’s some accepted wisdom out there that part of the reason we see fewer females in senior roles is that women wait until they’re certain they can do a new role before applying. What would be your advice to women looking to reach Board level?

I’m not sure where that comes from or indeed if it is true. I can’t understand why women would feel like this.  Surely both male and female directors feel the need to be truly certain they can do the job before they apply?!  For me, it’s about believing in what you do and doing it well.  Having passion is really important, there is no denying that it takes a combination of hard work and determination to achieve your goals.  
It’s about passion … If you enjoy what you do, it makes the journey a lot easier. I love my job and have even been known to personally use the hash tag #MarketingRocks – one that did cause me some stick from my peers in the board room!  

Do you have any other comments or wisdom to share with the marketing community?

I consider the ‘Board’ an internal customer, it’s my job to present data which shows the true impact of their marketing teams.  Yes, it’s about creating brands, engaging customers, using digital and social channels…but it’s also about showing the true performance of a campaign and reporting an accurate ROI wherever possible.  Too often marketing is not considered as an essential part of a company’s strategy or business plan and can be overlooked in favour of sales and operational focussed strategies. 
Marketers should treat the board as their customer.  Marketing strategies and tactics have a direct impact on the number of customers we attract, while our sales strategies maximise on the revenue generated by our customers. From my experience, I see the best results when marketing, sales and operational teams work in synergy.  And this paves the way for the marketing function of the business to be taken more seriously by the board. 
As the tools in a marketer’s toolkit continue to evolve, our position and strong-holding within the business need to evolve too. We need to continue to expand and develop the tools we use, strive for bigger and better ROIs on our campaigns.  We need to ensure strong foundations are set to provide launch pads for the next ‘game changing’ campaign.  We need to make sure our CEOs and Boards are taking us seriously – this means using data to highlight the sales generated and the direct impact on the bottom line.  
Get in touch with Lauren Beattie for a confidential discussion about your marketing career in FMCG, Travel, Leisure, Retail and Pharmaceuticals across Central Scotland. 
T:   +44 (0)141 331 7961