Sir Terry Leahy: ‘Transition from marketer to CEO becoming easier’

Former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy believes it’s getting easier to go from a marketing role to CEO provided that marketers are prepared to take risks. 

Boardroom CMO

Former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy says marketers must take risks and notice innovation to tackle the pinnacle job.

Leahy joined Tesco in 1979 as a marketer and was the 1st marketing director to sit down at the supermarket’s board in 1992, before taking up the CEO role in 1997.

Speaking to Marketing Week on the Marketing Society’s Creative For Commerce conference in London today (21 November), Leahy said that the upward push of digital technology and the following changing needs of customers signifies that marketers are actually better positioned than ever to tackle senior leadership roles. However, he cautions that they need to be willing to take risks, even in a recession, and convey new and innovative marketing techniques.

“If marketing people position themselves on the nexus between digital technology and consumers and spot the opportunities that arise from that during terms of latest services, they’re the folk who can change the trajectory of a business and become the CEO.

“But they must find their as far back as true marketing, beginning with customer and their fast-changing lives, and get away of the strait jacket of just peddling their existing services and products using fairly narrow, fairly old marketing techniques and tricks,” he added.

While at Tesco, Leahy introduced the Clubcard, which he said on stage is more famous around the globe than the Tesco brand. It was the primary time example of the usage of big data by a retailer to administer its relationship with customers.

He admitted that he “stole” the concept from Co-op, where he worked previously and which had a paper membership scheme.  He added that after he first took the theory to his bosses at Tesco, they rejected it, but he kept engaged on it and when he went back with a neater plan they green lighted the project.

He advised marketers now to think creatively and check out to look the area otherwise that allows you to find the following innovation and never be afraid to make mistakes and fail as long it’s leading along the correct track. In particular, Leahy believes using mobile and real-time marketing are areas ripe for innovation.

 “The availability of digital marketing incentives is de facto exciting because businesses for a while has been ready to identify real customers and know something about what they’re drawn to . But we haven’t had an analogous digital ability to reply. You can now.

“Through mobile you are able to bring them right into a loyalty programme, offer them an incentive and provides them new information it is tailored to what they’re inquisitive about. And it usually is dropped at them on their mobile instantly on the right time and inside the right location and that they can redeem there after which, making them rather more engaged,” he told Marketing Week.

With the united kingdom popping out of recession, Leahy believes now could be the time to come back to the “first principle” of selling and reward loyal customers using new technology. Plus he warned against the selling industry becoming too inward and failing to target the client and what they need.

“The development in Christmas marketing this year is a pleasant one because they’re creative and they’re in regards to the brand attributes of the business. But they should be a chunk careful since it is the industry copying one another instead of actually searching on the customer and taking the client because the lead,” he added.