Career Advice Successful High flyers’ story

Market mover

Although she is CEO of the Chartered Institute of Marketing – a global professional body with almost 40,000 members – Anne Godfrey says she is actually an ‘accidental marketer’

Possessing a natural talent for system planning and change management, Anne Godfrey took the helm at the UK-based Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) with plans to shake things up. She calls herself the accidental marketer.

After graduating, Godfrey says she was clueless about what she wanted to do. Her career began in door-to-door sales, where at the age of 21 she got her first job at a publishing house. “I had a successful 15-year career in publishing. I’ve been extremely lucky. I’ve always worked for companies that were incredibly diverse and gave promotions based on the merit of your work,” she says.

Godfrey quickly rose through the ranks to senior sales roles, and then managerial posts, allowing her to realise a gift for leadership.

Before taking on the role of chief executive at CIM, a global professional body with 40,000 members, Godfrey embarked on a second, completely different, career as a change manager in membership organisations. She was recruited to leadership roles in various UK groups, including the Law Society and the Guild of Travel Management Companies, and was successful in bringing about change.

Godfrey doesn’t see herself as a marketer as much as a leader, and firmly believes in working hard and giving credit where credit is due. “I don’t describe myself as a publisher or a marketer as I’ve never had a formal education in marketing. All my training has been in-house. As a change manager, you see what needs fixing and you visualise how you are going to bring about that change,” she says.

Godfrey believes her leadership, talent for adapting new ideas and direction at various membership organisations facilitated her capacity to go in, find the leak, and fix the problem.

“By the age of 40, I realised the things that made me unpopular as a director made me good as a chief executive. As a director, you can see what needs to be done and what needs fixing, but ultimately you are not in control. So I got organised. I decided I could be a more effective change manager as a chief executive, where I can direct strategy and be responsible only to a board of directors,” she says.

Godfrey’s ability to arrange people and things in ways that motivate and inspire others is a unique trait that makes her eminently suitable as CIM chief executive. “Marketing is ahead of the curve and is a great profession for a woman, but I’m disappointed to hear people often still talking about discrepancies, as I’ve never felt being a woman got in the way of my career,” she says.

“Our goal this year at CIM has been to represent every marketer and the skills they bring to business. Hopefully, by being the voice of the profession, by engaging, training and involving marketers, we can raise its profile,” she adds.

As a leading professional body, maintaining, developing and setting industry standards is a key part of CIM’s work. It acts as a support system for marketing professionals, helping them improve their skills via higher qualifications and training initiatives. In fact, Godfrey was in Hong Kong to attend the annual Chartered Marketer’s Night organised by the CIM to help more than 100 professional marketers in the city to expand their networks.

Marketing is a rapidly evolving profession, with companies finding new ways to set themselves apart in a crowded marketplace. CIM, with its regional office in Hong Kong, also acts as a voice to demonstrate the value of marketing professionals to businesses. This is extremely pertinent today, where brands are leveraging new means to communicate with consumers and reach different audiences online and offline.

“The marketing profession is fragmenting, and for managers especially this is a big challenge. Now you are dealing with very demanding customers who have access to the immediate spread of information and you have to act both quickly and responsibly,” Godfrey says.

“Sustainability policies and responsible behaviour have become increasingly important… especially in customer service industries, where marketers have to be extremely aware of responsible marketing when making a profit,” she adds. 

The CIM also recently sparked a debate over the greater need for alignment between sales divisions and marketing teams. The roles of technology and marketing have evolved, especially in customer service industries, with a renewed debate on the role of marketing, online and offline.

It also conducts mentoring programmes to aid professional development and provide guidance to young marketers. Godfrey’s advice to finding success is simple. “Get real! Stand up for yourself and sing your own praises when you deserve it. Don’t go for a promotion until you are ready for it. If you work hard and build your skills, you can attain success,” she says.

Godfrey says she is thankful for her natural propensity to cut to the chase. Her advice to managers? “Set clear strategies and purpose, let people understand what the goals are, and then let them do it. It’s important to be direct about how staff could do better, but even more so to praise them for a job well done.”

Most importantly, Godfrey prescribes a strict attitude to learning to recognise the signs of stress. “One of the biggest mistakes I have had to learn from is understanding and recognising when stress is making you less productive. “Managers should learn when and how to effectively manage stress,” she says.