Eight Questions With: Ron McMurtrie

Sage Group CMO and music lover Ron McMurtrie touches upon the birth of his marketing career in the ‘90s, the Dalai Lama and the City of Lights

If you could teach a college class, what would it be called? And what would it cover?

I would teach “Connecting with the Customer,” and it would extol the virtues of putting your customers at the heart of everything you do. It’s too easy to rush into launching a new product or technology before thinking about the customer benefits. So, the class would explore how to connect with and understand your customers and use that insight and data to create something that solves a problem, saves people time and money, or just makes their lives easier. The best and most successful innovation does at least one of those three things brilliantly.

What is the best business advice you have ever received?

When I worked for MCI in my early 20s, then CEO Tim Price gave me a piece of advice that stuck. Two simple words: “try and trust.” What he meant was to never stop trying new things, because even if something doesn’t work, you’ll always learn from it. And to always put in the time and effort to build trust with colleagues and customers. I continue to live by those two principles, and Tim has since become a close friend who is always available for advice and counsel.

What is your favorite place in the world to visit?

Paris. I can happily go there and get lost for days in the special magic of the city and its people. I’m lucky enough to visit often – sometimes for pleasure, sometimes to visit our Paris Sage offices – and I fall in love with it afresh every time. It’s such a vibrant, culturally rich city, and I find its energy, beauty and charm infectious.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

In the early 1990s, one of the first things I did when starting out in marketing was to launch first commercial internet services. It’s easy to forget what a watershed moment that was, when it’s so ubiquitous today, but at the time we were doing something no one had done before. The learning curve was as steep as I’ve ever known in my career. This also initiated my love for technology and connecting technology with customer needs. I was also fresh into marketing, having worked in finance for 6 years, so this was a new world for me in every sense. I had to quickly master not just the principles of marketing as a craft, but also how to tell a compelling story to consumers about this new way of accessing and interacting with information and what it meant for them.

What is the smartest marketing, communications or PR thing you’ve ever done?

We’re doing it right now! The launch of Sage Business Cloud, and our transformation into a cloud business, has required us to reimagine every part of our organization: from all aspects of the customer journey and experience, to how we design, build, deliver and support our products. The communications challenge around this is huge, internally and externally. Internally, we have had to unite colleagues behind a new vision and common purpose. Externally, the challenge is to reposition Sage as a SaaS company that provides subscription-based cloud solutions, rather than the licensed on-premise software we built our reputation on. Both require a compelling, deftly told narrative brought to life in every aspect we do as a business.

What is your current must-have?

My constant companion is a fantastic app called Pocket. This saves articles, videos and other content from the 20-plus sources that I read from every day. Everything from world news and current affairs to the latest tech trends. And because I travel so much, I use it to read or watch when I’m in the air, in the lounge, or in a hotel room. If I get a little longer to relax, and I’m up to date on the news, I’m not averse to binging on the occasional Netflix series. I can highly recommend “Ozark” to anyone who enjoys a great drama series!

Whom would you most like to eat lunch with and where would you take them?

It would be the Dalai Lama, and I would take him wherever he wanted to go! His spiritualism and lifelong commitment to find peaceful, non-violent solutions is something we need more of in this world. I would love the opportunity to hear him tell his story, drink in his wisdom and learn from his incredible capacity for compassion.

If you weren’t in your current profession, what would you be?

My great passion is music, and if I was going to start over it would be as a music producer. Nothing brings people together like music. For me, it’s the best example of storytelling that we have, and I think as marketers, we can learn a lot from how well musicians are able to take people with them on a journey. It can be incredibly personal, and for me is my single happy place. Equally, it can create moments of pure joy among thousands of people, capture a national mood, or inspire a collective commitment to fight for social change.

 


 

Eight questions with… is an occasional series where we ask marketers to share a little of their professional and personal insights. To suggest someone you’d like us to ask eight questions – or to answer them yourself! – go to https://arketi.com/8questions.

By Arketi – October 2, 2019

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