What’s it really like to be marketing director for fast-growing start-up Perkbox?

20 June 2019
By: James Arnall
Marketing Director
Perkbox

James Arnall, marketing director at employee experience platform Perkbox explains why his dog is the best alarm clock, how he’s connecting the marketing dots across different functions, and why it’s better to ask for forgiveness, not permission

 

My alarm goes off…

At 6am, but my dog is my alarm. I got her a month ago and it was both the best and worst decision I’ve ever made. Luckily Perkbox is a dog-friendly office. I’m not normally a morning person, but now I have Mila the corgi I have to be.

I got the job…

By being approached by our awesome in-house recruiter, Damir Latte. I come from a B2B tech background and was approached and hired for a demand generation role, where I built the function from scratch. I implemented Marketo, got a proper content marketing and lead scoring process, and built all of that out – it’s become more and more complex since.

My typical day starts with…

Saying hi to the team – whoever’s in because we have fairly flexible working hours. I make a coffee if I haven’t got my free one via Perkbox that week. I’ll check my emails, usually scanning through them on my way into work to check nothing disastrous has happened. I then look at the publications I’m subscribed to like B2B Marketing and blogs. On Monday morning we have a team huddle over breakfast at 9.30am to go through important updates and priorities, with a Q&A at the end where anyone can ask anything they want.

Right now, I have eight direct reports, but it used to be 18 because we had a very flat structure for a while. This worked because one thing that sets us apart at Perkbox is that we’re all ‘doers’- nobody really needs to be told what to do, however, it did mean a lot of my time was taken up in one-to-ones, and that side of it was unsustainable!

I spend my day…

Connecting the dots across new functions and disciplines such asSEO, growth marketing and product marketing. It’s a new challenge since we went multi-product and multi-national. There’s a lot of expectation from the top down. As a business, we’re very marketing-led, which is exciting but can also be difficult. I feel like I do have a seat at the table, I’m helping make strategic decisions about what our product evolution and narrative should be.

The toughest part of my job…

Is trying to connect somany disciplines and functions within marketingand also explain that externally. Other parts of the business look at our marketing team, which is nearly 30 people, and think that’s a lot. What they don’t realise is a content writer is totally different from an SEO manager or a product marketer. When I catch up with my direct reports I go from talking about something quite operational to something quite creative. It means wearing many hats.

The most enjoyable part of my job is…

Being a generalist and problem-solving. I love it when our team comes together and we’re very collaborative and consistent across multiple disciplines. There’s quite a big pay-off when a creative idea comes together. We’ve done some above-the-line marketing which is not that common in B2B companies, so it’s pretty cool to see ads on the London Underground, radio and TV. That makes you feel proud and excited.

The best thing about Perkbox…

Is the culture. Company culture isn’t free food or yoga – that’s the cherry on the top. We’ve got a great work ethic and it’s a fairly young workforce. It’s a lot of bright people with the same set of values around not being afraid to take initiative and try something new. We’re supportive of each other and creative, and although we work hard, we’re also having fun.

At the end of the day…

I’ll probably leave the office between six and seven, but I’ll check emails and Slack when I get home. I like to keep my finger on the pulse. I don’t feel the need to respond straight away, but I like to know what’s going on.

I switch off…

On Saturday. It’s my sacred day for not doing any work. It’s for walking the dog and not thinking about marketing. On Sunday I’ll often work on a presentation or go through some emails because I want to get ready for the week and get back into the swing of it. When I want to switch off from the digital world, I’ll go for a walk in the park, go for a run, or go to the pub with friends.

James’s team at Perkbox

The best bit of career advice I’ve been given…

Was from the previous marketing director of Perkbox, Des Martin. He was a really good mentor and wanted to help me get to that stage in my career when I didn’t know if I was ready for the step up. His advice was “just do the job”. It sounds quite thankless, but if you can demonstrate you’re already doing it, then the rest will come naturally. Don’t ask, just do it.

I always make time for…

If I can I like to do some exercise in the morning to wake me up a bit, and I always walk into work. That’s my personal time to unwind and get some fresh air (as fresh as it can be in London) and listen to podcasts. At the moment, I’m really enjoying Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale.

If I wasn’t in marketing, my Plan B would be…

Well, my plan A was to be a doctor. I did a year of medical school and dropped out – it really just wasn’t for me. I was doomed to fail from the start because I can’t stand the sight of blood. I always wanted to do something where I could help people, so after I stopped studying medicine, I did psychology and sort of ended up in marketing. With Perkbox, I’ve found somewhere I can use my psychology expertise to actually do something good. It’s nice to be with a company with a mission that’s all about creating happier workplaces and helping employees live better.

James’s dog Amelia in the Perkbox offices. She can be found on Instagram @amelia.the.corgi