The Marketing Guru- Tim Bishop

Small Business Canada

Vice President, Marketing and Experience at Canadian Marketing Association, Tim Bishop talked to us about the pros and cons of in-house marketing, what areas of marketing should be left for the experts and how marketing is an investment as opposed to an expense.

Tim is a multi-disciplined marketing executive with a proven record over 15 years of optimizing strategic efforts to expand the influence of leading organizations, such as the Canadian Marketing Association, Cineplex Entertainment,, IMI International and Northstar Research Partners.  In September 2017, Tim earned his Chartered Marketer designation. The Marketing & Experience Team is dedicated to optimizing CMA’s strategic brand efforts, technology platforms and live events – including Canada’s #1 Marketing Awards – to create memorable experiences at all touch points in the member journey to drive deeper engagement.


The 2018 Canadian Digital Market Pulse Study was recently released. Were you surprised by the results?

I was surprised by the way results in one respect, which is really around the notion that for all the talk that is going on out in the marketing profession right now, about how agencies and client relationships are changing, the results show that we’re actually still pretty stable in terms of the changes that are going on. That certainly surprised me because again, there’s a lot of chatter, but the research shows that the agency relationship with clients will continue to evolve, but it’s not a matter of having changed exponentially in the last few years. So that was great to see.

What aspect didn’t surprise you?

I was not surprised to see that agencies continue to add excellent value for their client relationships, and we know that there is a broad ecosystem amongst agencies, clients and media providers.  Each of these players is really important for the Canadian marketing profession and we need to make sure that we’re able to provide value for each.  As we see from the results from the Canadian Digital Marketing Pulse Study, which was delivered in partnership with Ipsos Canada, that agencies are adding an essential part of the mix to make sure that client are intercepting consumers in the right way.

Many entrepreneurs take marketing activities in-house to save on costs.  Do you believe that their business can suffer by not having experts to take over the marketing aspect?

There is a risk. When clients are planning campaigns and branding initiatives to go out and talk with consumers, agencies can offer so much value, and it’s important to remember that value, and, yes, part of it is that there’s an investment involved with it.

Like with anything, you get what you pay for. So, there is often a cost-saving component to having things brought in-house that previously may have been executed by an agency. If we take a look at that, what we see from the research gained from the Canadian Digital Marketing Pulse Study, we see that the types of things that are being executed by agencies increasingly are on the cutting-edge side of the business. We’ve got some examples, such as augmented reality, programmatic marketing, and wearable tech, some of the search and online media plus some of the out-of-home components.

As a result, agencies have a role to play, a significant role to play, to help clients meet their objectives. Cost is one factor, but it’s not the only one. You need to make sure that you’ve got the best output in order to have great relationships with consumers and grow those.

However, most of the companies, Tim, they see marketing as an expense… whereas it is not an expense; it’s an investment in business development.

Very much so. I couldn’t agree more. The notion that marketing is an expense is wildly outdated. I agree that marketing is an investment to build your business, to create demand, to create new markets, to create new consumers for your products. There’s also on the other side, a way to learn from consumers to find out what they’re looking for, so they can build new line extensions and new growth for your business. So, if you don’t invest in marketing, you’re not going to be able to understand your consumers and you’re not going to be able to service them properly. That could cost you economically and in terms of your reputation.

In your expert opinion, what marketing areas do you believe that business owners should do in-house and which should be outsourced to experts?

There’s an important role to play for both sides and it’s going to be different for every organization. So, when clients or marketers are looking for what they should keep in-house and what they might want to consider outsourcing – and you don’t need to outsource anything, or you can outsource everything – there’s a strong mix.

It will depend on the business life stage and cycle, how well the business is doing and what sort of expertise is needed. If we look at the results from the Canadian Digital Marketing Pulse Study, we see that more cutting-edge initiatives, such as augmented reality, programmatic, wearable tech, video syndication, programmatic, these sorts of things, many organizations don’t have that expertise in-house. So, it’s essential that if those elements of marketing are necessary for their business, that they’re getting the very best expertise.

If you don’t have that expertise, you’re probably going to be spending more time and more money trying to develop that yourself.  That’s where we see from this research, many client-side marketers are saying, “Yes, I want to go to the experts, I’m going to leverage their insights,” and then what we do see over time is that as those cutting-edge initiatives mature, email marketing, for instance:  think about 10 or 15 years ago when email marketing was still not in its prime like it is now, we see that many clients have now brought email marketing in-house, because they’re comfortable with it, it’s established, there’s a great pool of talent to be able to service that type of marketing and so you can do it often faster and cheaper with your own staff resources.

That’s a certainly a benefit to keeping some marketing elements managed in-house, but again, if you don’t know about augmented reality and that’s important for your business, I would strongly encourage you to take a look at some great agencies because there are lots of them out there.

Canadian SME

Aside from saving money, another main reason why business owners tend to opt for in-house when it comes to marketing is because they get a better turn-around time. Do you believe that this is an issue that can be easily addressed?

If we look at the research, there are pros and cons to outsourcing some of your work. One of the advantages is that you’re able to access that expertise. One of the cons is that, they’re not in-house and so, therefore, the agency may not fully understand all the complications and permutations and different niche realities of what’s going on in your business and so there is an investment that’s required in time and money in order to ensure that your agency is fully briefed, they really understand your business and they are able to drive value for you.

It really is a mix where you want to find that right balance between “okay, it might be more cost effective to keep it in-house, but if I have to spend more time in order to train up my staff and maybe they won’t get to that level of expertise that an agency already has,” that would be something to take a look at because there’s probably some additional value that you could capture there by working with great agencies.

What are some of the initiatives you’re hoping to put in place following these results?

At the Canadian Marketing Association, we’re always interested in supporting both agencies and clients. We represent over 400 corporate marketers and agencies across the country, including the top clients and the top agencies, and it’s worth noting that about two-thirds of our members are SMEs.

At the Canadian Marketing Association, we represent all aspects of marketing and we really have the biggest tent, the broadest representation of the marketing profession in Canada, and we’re always conscious of what’s changing and what needs are out there.  Therefore, we’re continually reformulating our products and services to make sure that agencies and clients are getting what they need from us.

How would you say these results have affected the Canadian Marketing Association?

These results from the Canadian Digital Marketing Pulse Study have given us additional granularity to plan our business, as we are focused on doing four things in the marketplace:

  1. We’re helping marketers and agencies to promote their content and thought-leadership that helps them to grow their business.
  2. We are always looking to ensure that they are getting the very latest learning and development opportunities, including our Chartered Marketer designation.
  3. We’re advocating for and representing the profession and help guide policy to find the right balance between consumers and businesses so that both can succeed and be respected.
  4. Finally, it’s about networking and bringing the profession together. So, we do that through events and different social initiatives plus our online member directory.

Our experience has shown that we’re doing a lot of the right things in order to make sure that we’re offering the latest and most crucial services that agencies and clients need today.


If we compare 2018 to its previous years, will there be any difference when it comes to organizations depending on agencies for their marketing needs, other than saving money and better turnaround times, what do you believe that is?

It’s clear there are some changes going on in the marketplace and there are shifts.  If we look at the research from the Canadian Digital Marketing Pulse Study, we see that it’s like the rising and falling tide, and there is as low evolution that seems to wax and wane like the moon, and as a result, we see that the profession continues to evolve and we should expect that to continue.

The reality is that over time, there is not a significant change in terms of the amount of work that is being leveraged with agency partners and versus what’s being brought in-house. What we are seeing is the composition of the type of work that is being done by agencies is changing, and so again, there are more cutting-edge initiatives, augmented reality and programmatic, SEM and SEO, wearables and virtual reality. These are the elements that clients may not really have a strong understanding of or a strong capability with, and perhaps not even a strong pool of talent to be able to tap and hire to bring in-house.

So that’s why clients are going to these agency partners, because that expertise is readily available there, and so as a result, it’s constantly in flux. I think we should expect to see that continued evolution to happen and I believe that there’s still a strong place for both agencies and clients to work together in Canada.

In your expert opinion, after reviewing these results, do you believe that marketing agencies are in danger of going out of business?

The short answer is no. Marketing agencies aren’t going anywhere and I mean that in a very positive way. They’re an essential part of the Canadian marketing ecosystem to make sure that clients are getting what they need in order to speak with consumers in a respectful, positive and engaging way. Especially now, you’ve got to get consumers excited about your product and there’s a number of ways that agencies can help.

One, understand those customer needs, two, package different initiatives and campaigns in order to make sure that those clients are getting what they need in terms of being able to speak to and listen to consumers, and three, it’s about planning and optimizing those initiatives. So, agencies are a crucial part of the marketing ecosystem in Canada.

Marketing Association

What is the best advice that you can give to a marketing agency so that they can have more plans following these results?

I think the best advice I would give to agencies right now is to keep providing excellent value, and they’re doing this already, which is great to see. The opportunity for them I think in the future is to remain on the cutting-edge of what’s going on.  Continue to develop the core elements of marketing with great strategy, great insights, excellent research and great planning in order to make sure that the clients can win over consumers.

The opportunity for agencies, on top of that great foundation that they already offer, is really to ensure that they can remain cutting-edge and understanding some of the new things that are going on, whether it’s AR, VR, wearable’s, programmatic or new tech. These are areas where they can help and service gaps that some clients might have.

What inspired you to work with this line of business? Why was marketing something that you were passionate about and wanted to go into?

I got into marketing because I’m a politics fan. I love politics and I always was watching what was going on. So, I went to school for that at Queen’s University. That’s why I studied political studies. Politics is very similar to marketing in the sense that politics is selling an engagement to immediate constituents or it’s selling the ideas and positions for a party or for a direction for a country to proceed in.  Marketing is very similar to that.

Marketing is the positioning and engagement with consumers to make sure that products and services are matching their needs. I find a great fit there, between politics and marketing, because it’s about understanding your constituents and stakeholders. It’s about putting a plan in place in order to make sure that they’re aware of your positions and opportunities, and it’s about making sure they remain engaged and excited about being a part of your ecosystem.

From that respect, I think that marketing is a great fit. Specifically to my five years now at the Canadian Marketing Association, not for profit marketing is an important part of the marketing ecosystem, and for leaders and trade organizations, we have an important role to play in order to make sure that businesses can grow and consumers are respected, and that’s ultimately what the Canadian Marketing Association is focused on.

What are some of the programs that the Canadian Marketing Association provides to SME owners that can be of benefit for them?

There are lots of services and again, about two-thirds of our corporate members – hundreds of our members – across the country are SMEs. We’re very focused on making sure that we provide competitive, progressive and advanced programming.  Some of those key options are learning opportunities and if SME’s are looking to increase their capabilities in terms of marketing knowledge and skill sets, we offer many online marketing courses that are available and you can do them 24/7, anywhere you are with an internet connection.

We offer in-person seminars, and we’re able to bring communities together. There’s a content marketing seminar going on as we speak and it’s talking about how you plan for great content – and that program was oversold so we had to add more capacity! There’s a need for further education and professional development in that area for professionals.

Another thing is on our networking and our connection services. So, for SME’s who perhaps may not have substantial marketing dollars, we offer very cost-effective networking events where businesses can interact and meet with each other, and we also have our online member directory where we’ve got thousands of marketing contacts from right across the country, both clients and agency side, SME, all the way up to huge enterprises, and we’re able to offer that as a complimentary service as part of our membership. Between education, events and networking, it’s a big part of what we do.

Last, but not least, I would note there are a lot of compliance guides and resources that are available to our members exclusively, and so whether that’s on CASL, GDPR, cybersecurity, privacy and data protection, new cannabis regulations that have come in over the past few months, trademark changes in terms of what elements of a brand can be protected, these are all very active files for us. All these resources are available for SME’s at a much-reduced investment versus if they were to go to a lawyer, for instance, and approach them to receive the same sort of knowledge.  In this way, it can be very cost-effective to be a member of the Canadian Marketing Association.

So, all of these resources are limited to members or non-members also can register and attend these events?

It’s a mix, and there are resources that are locked down and available only for members – our advocacy, public affairs and regulatory topics – those are exclusive to our members. For instance, with our CASL guide, it’s been downloaded thousands of times over the last few years because CASL affects all of us, and so we need to make sure that we’re emailing in a respectful and compliant manner, including opt-ins and these sorts of things. Some of our events are open, and some of them are for our members only. There is a discount and availability for our members to save money there.

Similarly, our learning and professional development initiatives offer great value. There are incentives and discounts for our members to have more savings and access to exclusive services. The same thing goes with our Chartered Marketer program.

What are some of the top marketing trends that you’re seeing in the business industry at the moment?

I would say the top trends that are going on in the marketplace right now are about change. Consumers are changing, technology is changing, demographics are changing, expectations are changing and everyone’s trying to figure out what’s next. Our advice to business leaders, whether they be SME’s or any other part of the Canadian marketing ecosystem, is to get engaged and understand what’s going on. We would argue that the best way to do that is to get involved with your community.

That’s what CMA offers:  it’s a community of marketers where we have thought leadership sharing sessions where you have networking opportunities, we have professional development, we have our Chartered Marketer designation and we have the resources from our advocacy and public affairs team in order to make sure that you’re able to stay ahead. In a world of flux, lean in and better understand what’s going on so that you can take advantage of changes and get ahead of them.

What is the most common mistake that business owners make when it comes to promoting their brand?

The most common mistake that businesses make when they’re promoting their brand is they do not understand their consumers enough or their prospective consumers. If you go without a strategy – and we see this, especially in SME’s where dollars are tight – and we understand that. We’re a not for profit, too. Making the investments to better understand what’s going on with your consumers, what they’re thinking about, how they want to be connected with, how they want to interact with you and what sort of products and services they need, is crucial.

Many organizations get tempted to take the shortcut and go straight to a campaign because they’ve got a great idea. The challenge with that is that it’s risky, and you might go out and deploy all of these marketing resources to build up this campaign, but if the core insight was never really understood, never really captured, it was never placed into the brief, well, I would argue that you need to “know before you go.” Making that insight-based investment is critical.

If you could give a piece of advice to SME’s who are just starting their business, what would it be?

The most important advice I would give to an SME who’s starting up right now is to get engaged in their community, and indeed the opportunity is there to get connected; it’s the most cost-effective thing you can do, because people like working with people they know, and if you are part of an association or part of a community such as the CMA, it will allow you to get much further ahead and you’ll be able to tap into available resources on a very cost-effective basis.

You’d be able to get the latest professional development that you need. You’ll be able to tap into a lot of the training and guidance in and around compliance matters, which are critically important, especially in this evolving technology and compliance space. I would say don’t try to do it alone.  Get involved. There are a lot of great resources that are available to help, and a lot of great people who want to help you, and so don’t feel like you need to figure all this out on your own. There are many people in many organizations, such as the CMA, who are willing to help and want to help. That’s why we’re here!

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