Sally Yates is the Chief Marketing Officer at Xceptor, a fintech software house and in this interview, Ian Truscott got to find out what makes this UK based marketer in this hot software space tick

Sally has successfully led both in-house and agency-side teams to deliver transformational results, working with Fortune 500 companies to early-stage high growth firms. She is passionate about marketing that makes a difference.


Hello Sally!

What was your marketing big break?

Working agency-side showed me the vast difference in how different firms value marketing across the business – some make you want to run, others inspire you. I thrive in firms who embrace creativity and challenge. Agency -side is where I learnt the kind of company and people that were a good fit for my skills and approach. I work with challenger brands and so marketing is often about the things that catch your attention – a smart, funny or irreverent take on a normal situation, a creative eye, something that makes you stop and listen and repeat. They make you smile; make you tell stories. Like the ads that people remember – be it the one with the squirrel and the Mission Impossible theme tune, the feel-good Coca-Cola ads, the Always #LikeA Girl campaign, or a change in packaging such as the Skittles packs turned white. It’s about companies that keep the creative and challenge juices going, make you keep searching for new ideas, challenging what you are doing already – can it be better? This is really essential when you’re working with a true challenger brand – you can’t do the same as the big boys, you can’t rely on big budgets. I’ve always worked in B2B – there’s more in common with B2C than many people think as it is still people who are buying so it is still emotional for the buyer but we have longer sales cycles, bigger buyer matrices, C-suite sign-offs, and trust is paramout.  

What would be top of your rider for your next marketing gig?

Enlightened CEO – you have to have an enlightened CEO that trusts his hire, an exec team that are also keen to come on the journey with you and, if you really want to scale, a view that marketing is an investment not a cost- it’s a pivotal part of the revenue generation machine. Initially most firms are sales-led or product-led and that makes sense at the outset but there comes a time, if the ambition is big, for a shift in thinking if you want to truly scale. That’s one-to-many, that’s marketing. They have to believe that they hired the right person for the job and be open to learn about the new world of marketing and where it will move the needle and fuel the ambition.

If I was Spotify, what would I play for you first thing Monday morning to get you going?

You Make My Dreams by Hall and Oates or Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics.

The curtain pulls back, you step out on the stage of your new marketing gig – what do you open with?

People, it’s always people. You have to bring the team along with you. Then it’s the programmes – what is working, and what needs changing or fine-tuning. What data have you got and how good is it so you can make informed choices? Find out where you are at and then imagine what could be…

The audience is dancing in the aisles, it loves that track. What keeps the house jumping?

The ability to never stop challenging yourself. Marketing has changed more in the past 5 years than the 25 before it. It’s about embracing the change, making the most of it. The industry you’re working in has probably evolved too – certainly the case for us, it’s had an identity crisis so we’ve had a claim our own identity and not follow the pack each time the industry pivots.

You’re playing a huge stadium; how do you know the audience can hear your tune?

It starts with the beat – that’s our people, our culture. Our chorus is our brand personality –this past year we did a much-talked about party in Houses of Parliament when it was prorogued – branded taxis from the Excel Centre and Canary Wharf, boats and champagne from a private pier, tours of both the House of Commons and Lords, drinks and food in the Private Members’ Dining Room. Our personality is also in how we talk about ourselves – active, punchy, personable.

If there was a billboard chart for marketing trends, what would be your Number 1?

It’s the martech stack – done well. People have changed how they buy, so firm’s have to not only change how they sell but also make sure they look after the full buying cycle, not just the sales cycle. The martech stack enables you to automate, interrogate, and appreciate. But, in reality, I rarely see a proper martech stack in play in firms – it’s remains a dream for most marketers. Most marketers are still having to go old skool. It’s a shame as it’s an exciting time with lots to try and lots to learn.

What would you throw from your hotel window into the Rockstar CMO pool?

Bad data, spotty data, poor or limited data. Without data, you’re shooting in the dark. I want that light shining on the data. I want to really understand what our targets and clients are interested in, what they are engaging with, what turns them off, how else we can build that trust, what we need to do to demonstrate we are the right ‘fit’.

What’s got you rocking today?

Freedom to do marketing well. The ability to make my team rockstars. Working in an exciting sector that has a great future.

If there was a marketing hall of fame, who would you induct?

Winston Churchill for his command of the English Language. CJ Gregg in West Wing for her ability to handle the press room. Shakespeare for how he has shaped language today. Coco Chanel and Jackie O for style. Walt Disney (who my Gran once worked for) for his pioneering work in animation and Steve Jobs for his ability to tell stories.

Any final words before you drop the mic?

Great marketing is about pushing boundaries. Embrace the disruptive, the unexpected, the imaginative. Enjoy yourselves.

Thank you Sally!

You can find Sally on Twitter at @sallyyates, on LinkedIn and you can find her company at https://xceptor.com


Sally also joined in for Episode #17 of the Rockstar CMO Podcast and you can hear that here.

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