Backstage with Christine Bailey

In this series of articles we go backstage with a marketing rock star. We sit at their feet while they share with us what made them rockstars, what excites them and what we might learn on our journey to marketing rockstardom.

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Christine Bailey is CMO of Valitor, an international payment solutions company headquartered in Iceland. Forging a career in the tech sector, she’s led European marketing for Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, and writes frequently for Forbes Woman. Ian Truscott caught up with the London-based CMO to discuss her marketing heroes, the power of experiments, and why your network could be the most important thing in your life. 

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

A company with a strong purpose that I believe in, a visionary leader who gets the value that marketing brings to the business, a talented and diverse marketing team and some fantastic productivity tools (because commuting every day sucks). Above all, it has to be fun – life is way too short to waste on a job you don’t love. 

What or who are your marketing influencers?

At university I learnt the marketing basics from books written by Philip Kotler and Professor Malcolm MacDonald. Then in the late ’90s I devoured Seth Godin’s book on permission marketing, and Don Peppers’ and Martha Rogers’ book on one-to-one marketing.  Professor Moira Clark inspired me to do a doctorate in customer insight. More recently, I’ve been privileged to hear Gary Vaynerchuk, Jay Baer and Brian Solis on stage. The only book I’ve genuinely read from cover to cover was Social Selling by Tim Hughes – highly recommended!

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

It would have to be ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.  This song got me up Kilimanjaro back in 2002. It doesn’t matter how small your steps are, as long as you dream big and keep moving in the right direction.

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

It has to start with the customer. At Valitor I was fortunate to have my CEO’s support to conduct a strategic insights study – starting with internal stakeholder interviews, followed by industry experts, a competitive analysis, and finally in-depth end-user interviews. The second most important thing is the support crew – surround yourself with a diverse and talented team, both in-house and agencies. 

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

Never stop experimenting! Thomas Edison didn’t fail, he just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. As long as your experiments give data points and learning, keep doing them. “Dare to begin before you’re ready” (a key takeaway from Richard Tyler’s book Jolt) – often we’re paralysed waiting for the next meeting, the next budget cycle, that magical new hire who’s going to change the world. Don’t wait for the perfect moment.  Wake up every morning thinking WTF. What’s the future?

It goes without saying that you should always listen to your customers, but keep a check on employee satisfaction. Because engaged employees are your best brand evangelists.

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

Reach, response and revenue – something I learned at Cisco – is really important to demonstrate marketing’s alignment with sales and contribution to the bottom line. It goes without saying that you should always listen to your customers, but keep a check on employee satisfaction. Because engaged employees are your best brand evangelists. And finally, measure your social authority, because what you know and who you know is no longer as important as who knows you and what you are known for.

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

There is a lot of noise out there and attention spans are low. My Number 1 is how to cut through the noise and make marketing more memorable. I like to go for a mix of familiarity and novelty, using engaging content aimed at buyer personas. Everything should be in alignment. For example, I’ve recently worked with a color psychologist to make sure that Valitor’s color palette was supporting the messaging.

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

Personally, I hate interruption marketing and wasted advertising. I went to an exhibition recently and there was a sign in the bathroom: “Please do not throw advertising circulars in the toilets”. Says it all really.

What’s got you rocking today?

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to meet many amazing people who have remained in my life both personally and professionally. This network keeps me rocking, not just today but every day. Always give generously to your network – it will come back to you in spades.

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

Because I value my network over everything, I’m going to induct Ted Rubin, for his ROR (Return on Relationship) philosophy.

Any final words before you drop the mic?

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I’m a big fan of quotes, so I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites:

“The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who’s going to stop me.”

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible.”

“Don’t ask permission, beg forgiveness.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

Find out more about Valitor here, and follow Christine on Twitter.


Asking the questions...

Christine was in conversation with Rockstar CMO founder Ian Truscott, marketing leader, creator of ART (Awareness, Revenue and Trust) and head of marketing for censhare & 360dialog.


More from the August issue...

We cross over to the wrong side of marketing town with STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, as our usual gang of marketing rock stars pound the pavements alongside some new kids on the block - Christine Bailey, Tom Wentworth and Stephen Kelly - exploring profanity, humor, and a slightly skewed moral compass in our marketing efforts. Read more


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Ian Truscott

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