RiverTribe Business Correspondent Norman Jackson meets a marketing wizard who
can help you weave some magic into your up-and-coming businesses.
My degree at Edinburgh University was in Business Studies. One day, our Professor
started his lecture with a tripod in his hand. He explained that every company has
three legs – operations, finance and marketing. If one leg is weak, the company falls
Richmond is rich in entrepreneurial enterprise but up to 50% of its small businesses
fail within the first three years. Marketing is perhaps the most neglected area, so with
this in mind I arranged to meet Merlin Stone, Professor of Marketing at St Mary’s
University in Teddington.
Professor Stone was born in Isleworth, educated at Loughborough and the
University of Sussex, where he gained a First Class Honours degree and then a
Doctorate in Economics. His career has combined work as a university lecturer,
researcher, and professor in economics and marketing with roles as a consultant,
manager and director for companies including Xerox and IBM. The Chartered
Institute of Marketing listed him as one of the world’s top 50 marketing thinkers.
At our meeting Professor Stone outlined his top tips for developing marketing
strategies that work.
• Start early. Weekend and holiday jobs/internships can
quickly give you a feel of how business works. It is
surprising how much can be learned this way.
• Making good presentations to clients, peers and board
directors is a required skill, and this includes being
able to summarise succinctly an abundance of data and
information. Being able to do this through storytelling is
a bonus, as stories evoke emotion and interest,
persuade and amuse. They help get people on your side.
• In these days of fake news, it so important to establish
facts and trends. That means challenging some long
held assumptions or dinner party wisdom.
• Making strategic decisions relies on identifying and
interpreting data, but data without analysis does not
work. Data and analysis should go hand-in-hand.
• Innovation and creating new processes are both
critical, so it is always worth remembering Albert
Einstein’s definition of insanity as “Doing the same thing
again and again and expecting a different result.”
In everyone’s career there will be times when challenges have to be overcome. In
Professor Stone’s case, he took five years to complete his doctorate because he
was extremely ill. He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, requiring his colon and
other organs to be removed. The cause of the illness was later revealed to be lupus,
a long-term autoimmune disease, which he has now lived with for years.
Marketing people need to know more than just marketing principles; they need to
know what makes the world tick. This is what makes Professor Stone such an
effective and insightful expert. In addition to his work in this neck of the woods, he is
also Visiting Professor at Portsmouth, has written more than 30 books, published
100 academic papers and many trade features, lectured at around two dozen
universities, spoken at conferences in more than 50 countries, written stories and
poetry for adults and children, all while learning five languages. In other words, he is
a marketing expert who has spent a lifetime studying the way of the world… and that
counts for everything.