Spotlight on… Nick Sladek

Nick Sladek is a versatile player in the field of marketing, being both the founder of his own email marketing business and working as a freelance or ‘virtual’ Marketing Consultant, Director and Board Advisor for a variety of clients and companies. He has a no-nonsense attitude and is determined to ‘cut through the fluff’ and strip back often complex and confusing marketing jargon and techniques back to get to the heart of the matter – how to sell. Nick recently became an IOEE Fellow, and this month we chatted to him to about the Old and New World of advertising, consumer power, and the 24-hour nature of social media and email marketing.

“Selling is often seen as a dirty word,” says Nick, “and these days people don’t like using it. Yet, whilst it might seem obvious, it’s the single biggest thing people are missing – businesses are failing to understand why people actually buy things. And this is usually because they are talking about themselves rather than their customers; they’re showcasing their business as ‘we are a firm of…’, ‘we are experts in…’, ‘we are passionate…’, or ‘we do this differently to everyone else’. When I buy a product or service, I don’t care about any of that! I just want to be assured that what they’re selling me is exactly what I want. So that’s the single biggest thing that businesses miss – they’re looking inward all the time, when they should be looking out.”

Nick first began his marketing career in what he calls the Old World of marketing, cutting his teeth at London advertising agencies in the 80s; ‘the heady days of Lambos and Bentleys parked on double yellows – not quite Mad Men, but not far off!’. Nick is now based in Bristol, where he runs his business, and he explains how much the marketing landscape has changed since he began, and how his early corporate career has given him the foundations to succeed today:

“I think of where we are now as the New World of marketing. These days everyone is a ‘marketing expert’, everyone’s got a point of view and an opinion, and social media is accessible to everyone – so accessible that people often veer off the point of it entirely, and I have to steer them back. Sure, you can put stuff on Facebook or Instagram – but what are you actually achieving? Yeah, you can get an impressive number of Likes on a post, but is that really adding value to your business? I.e. Are you actually making any sales as a result of it? Because that’s what counts. As an ‘old ad man’ I have a really diverse and broad experience of what it means to run a business and make sales under my belt. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs over the years, but it’s given me a great deal of knowledge and wisdom, and taught me exactly what works and what doesn’t.”

Nick runs his email marketing company, Essentiamail, and his consultancy service under the name – My Message Works. He is driven by being able to help businesses succeed, and says that getting people to step back and look at what they’re offering from the customer’s point of view is the jumping off point for their working partnership:

“We’re all consumers at the end of the day, we’re all giving our time or money to products or services. We all buy things. We all know how it works. But when it comes to running your own business, people often forget all of this. With my email marketing company, that’s always our focus – we write all the emails for the Essentiamail clients and we know we need to be humble and look at things from the email recipients’ point of view; people want to know what’s in it for them.”

Nick has recently become an IOEE Fellow and tells us how he is looking forward to being able to use the relationship and new opportunities to help him mentor more companies and individuals over the next year:

“Working as a consultant means I already feel like I’m a sort of mentor already. When people come to Essentiamail, there’s always a bigger conversation about the customer journey; after all, there’s no point in sending a potential client to a poor website. I end up in an advisory and mentoring capacity naturally, and it will be great to be able to do more of that and pass on my experience.”

Whilst Nick has made a successful career in the New World of marketing, he admits that the 24-hour nature of social media can be intrusive, and he has to exercise a certain amount of discipline to ensure that it doesn’t infringe upon his personal life – especially now he’s become a father again, and has a seven month-old little boy. Nick says:

“Of course, it’s totally changed my life. I’ve got three adult children and now I have a baby again – and you know what, you should see how much he loves a mobile phone already! If a phone comes out then his eyes light up, and you can see his eyes following it, darting around the room like a little laser beam! It’s quite scary! But I think you have to put limits on work at home – my partner and I have a ‘no emails after 6pm’ rule that helps keep the work-life balance. I saw a sign in a restaurant the other day that said, ‘we have no WiFi here, so why don’t you just talk to each other?’, which I thought was fantastic. Am I addicted to my phone? Absolutely! Do I need help? Probably! But you have to find that balance so that everything can work together.”