#3 “Agencies’ biggest mistake – saying “YES” too quickly” Jan Gemrich [Google]

I’m your host Kristjan Raude and you’re watching marketing show called IMPACT 80/20. Today, my guest is Jan Gemrich from the Czech Republic natively. In 2011 he started as an intern in Google in Prague and then he moved to London. Now he is working in Toronto for Google and he is the head of hardware marketing.

This episode is sponsored by “Baltic For Events Forum“, which is the first forum that unites under one roof event professionals from the Baltic States as well as from Northern and Western Europe. Our guest, Jan Gemrich, was one of the presenters on that event.

Starting off, can you just name some of your biggest Google product releases? We all know that Google has released a lot of hardware products lately.

Sure! So, the three releases that are on top of my mind and which people might know are the Google Pixel launch in Canada, which was very interesting. Also, I worked on Google Play Music in Canada. And I’m back in Europe and participating in one of the launches of Google My Business.

What are the biggest lessons that you’ve learned from these big events?

I think that one of the biggest lessons for me is that when working with agencies it’s sometimes difficult to entirely rely on them. It’s important to check on agencies and it’s really rare to find an agency, which is really a partner. So, probably the biggest learnings are that you have to find a very good agency on which you can rely as a partner.

But, how do you find agencies? I mean, what they need to do to win a tender from Google?

Well, as I mentioned today during my speech, I don’t think that there’s a setup of criteria, which an agency has to follow to win. But, I think it’s showcasing that they can go an extra mile. One of the examples is that they’re willing to understand Google’s business or any company’s business for that matter and really connect the dots. So, I don’t need an agency, I think no company needs an agency, which just executes things on my behalf. I need an agency, which thinks on my behalf and brings new information to the table. I think it’s the biggest differentiator between an everyday agency and really great partner in crime.

Why don’t you just hire people in place to have staff on board? Why are you choosing to work with agencies?

I think that’s the question for our HR, but from my perspective, it comes to flexibility and also the extra knowledge. It comes to small things, but if I start doing catering for an event, I need an agency, who on my behalf will say, wait you have no option for vegetarians. Those are small things, but very often, when you’re not specialized in the industry, you forget about it. So, for me, the biggest differentiator is the expertise they bring or they should bring to the table.

How should a good event look like? I mean at the end of today, what makes you happy?

I think whatever the event is, whether it includes food or doesn’t include food. Is it for one hour or five hours, it doesn’t really matter. I think the good event is the one where my guests leave with the impression I want them to leave with. So, for example, if I’m launching new hardware like we launched Google Pixel last year, if they leave, I want them to think that Google Pixel is a really good phone. And if they leave with this impression, that’s what matters. It doesn’t really matter what was around it. The final impression of the audience is what matters.

Actually, I was in Canada last year and I saw a massive outdoor advertising from Google, in subways, on the streets, etc. As well in the US. Why do you do so massive offline advertising, when you have so many channels on your own use online?

While Google is obviously active in media space, you will be surprised, how digital our media plans are compared to a traditional company.

Can you tell me a percentage, how much from your media plan is for digital marketing and how much is for offline marketing?

No, it varies for the product, but it’s very much digital and I can’t go into details, but I think that the main point is that in the end, we need to think what’s best for our product. So, as a marketing manager, if I believe that at a certain point in time offline fits well to the media plan, I will use it.

You mentioned that you’re working with 11 different agencies. What are the biggest mistakes marketing agencies are doing through which they loose your trust as a customer?

I think the biggest one is… it doesn’t come to how they will reply because they don’t need to have all the answers immediately. But the biggest mistakes usually happen at the point where they say “yes” too quickly. I understand that they want the business, they want the revenue coming from the business, and that means they say “yes” very quickly. Only after they have said that they realize they can’t deliver. It happens very often – they just say “yes” immediately, because they see the income coming from my business. What I prefer is, when an agency really thinks about my business. Not in terms how much money I bring them, but in terms how they can help me grow the business, whatever that means. Actually, there have been agencies, who have told me “no”, because they don’t have the capacity. I probably respect that answer much more than I respect immediate “yes”.

You’re telling that the agencies should set the goals first and then start to plan. What do you mean by that?

This is specific to the events and I feel that the event industry overall… a lot of people just do events for the sake to do events. Yes, everyone, in the end, has some sort of goal in mind. For example, when I do internal events for my employees, I want to increase the trust of my employees and our brand. But I don’t really think that the event managers very often define it, which makes it hard for the agency to plan. If I don’t have a goal for the event, I’m just guessing. But, when I know the goal, I’m able to decide based on that.

Can you give us some examples, what are the goals, you’re looking for?

It depends on the event. For example, on one event we did in Prague, the main goal was to share the news about the Google’s digital advertising space with the specialists, but also help to network. So, we based the entire event experience around networking. We really tried to help people network. When designing that event, we asked ourselves “will it help people network?” and “will people feel like that they’re meeting new people?”.

Can you name some specific tools you use when planning these big events?

Maybe people are surprised how much Google is still running as a startup. And that comes with a lot of amazing benefits… we can execute super quickly and we can do things in a very agile way. But on the other hand, it brings a lot of pain. Our process set up system is definitely not as good as you would expect. Usually, we manage our products on Google Spreadsheets 🙂 . Very organic way! The advantage is that we all have an access to it, but it’s not like we use one specific tool. Not even internal. We rely on very organic and random tools. Whatever suits best for the project, we’ll use it.

Is it more by a platform or by email? For example, Slack is quite popular today.

I have no idea if Google is using Slack. But it’s a combination of different ways. Usually, there might be a tracking document, like actually a written document where we track the notes from meetings. The project plan will be usually done as a presentation at a high level and operations on a Spreadsheet. Communication is via calls, emails, and meetings. So, it’s surprisingly simple.

Let’s talk about you as a person. You are so young but really successful in your career. What are the 20% of your personal habits, activities, which actually make the 80% of the success?

One thing is, it sounds stupid, but I found out that my personal life very heavily influences my work life. And I don’t think that there’s such thing as a work-life balance because work is part of your life. So, splitting them doesn’t make any sense. And by personal life, I don’t precisely mean having a happy relationship. I’m in a happy relationship, but I found out that regular exercising really influences my performance at work. So, one of the things, that really helps me survive every day, is actually taking care of my personal life more than I take care of my work life.

What sports are you doing?

Running and squash. Nothing special.

If the viewers of this show want to follow you and your ideas, how can they do it?

I’m not very socially active, I would say. LinkedIn is probably the best way to see, who I am.

Final question. If you have one minute to give all your experiences and your knowledge to your successor, what would you tell him during that minute?

Okay, one minute. I would probably tell him or her that to be successful in my current role, you really need to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I think one thing that people very often do is that they stay in their comfort zone. I think that the idea of pushing yourself to try new things and to places where you don’t feel comfortable is where you’ll grow and that will eventually help you to become successful in this role. So, in one sentence, push yourself every day to do things that you haven’t tried before.