Alexander Colquhoun and Son – Case Study

Coming out… A Managing Director faces his marketing demons


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The client journey begins

When Robert Colquhoun gathered his team at Alexander Colquhoun & Son together in August 2012, little did he realise he had started a journey that would lead to his conversion from marketing cynic to marketing advocate.

Robert is the Managing Director and 5th generation of his family to be involved in the running of one of Australia’s proudest and most successful importers and distributors of packaging products.

Very few CEOs and senior business owners are prepared to come out and admit to lacking knowledge in any area of their operations. Therefore Robert’s open acknowledgement to 9 Strategic of his doubts and concerns about whether marketing could play a role in generating revenues for his business was refreshing.

“We didn’t actually understand what marketing was. We heard all these wonderful stories about what marketing is supposed to do and what it’s designed to do,” Rob said.

“I’ve been told on a regular basis that I need to do marketing, but nobody could actually tell me what that would involve, what benefit I would get from it and, frankly, why I should do it.

“Certainly I’ve been known to call people in marketing, practitioners of the dark arts.”

According to 9 Strategic Director, Linda Ginger, Rob is certainly not alone.

“Many business leaders do not understand the true nature of marketing. They see it as a website, piece of advertising or some merchandise.

“Few correctly engage with marketing strategically and integrate it into the DNA of their businesses to drive and deliver business outcomes.”

Whilst Colquhoun’s has achieved great success in its long history, Robert is demanding greater growth and revenues from the business to see it thrive in the coming decades. This year’s 125th company birthday delivered the perfect excuse for Robert to gather his team together and discuss how the opportunity could be used to drive business.

Black berets and the black arts

Out of a wealth of terrific ideas came one that deeply resonated.  “Let’s get a professional in to help us”.

In Robert’s mind, that “professional” equated to a beret and black skivvy-wearing practitioner of the dark arts, pouring a mix of advertising, digital campaigns and pretty words into a cauldron to see what magic emerged.

Whilst 9 Strategic has never stoked a cauldron, Linda and the team often refer to themselves as mythbusters.

“9 Strategic is about empowering businesses like Colquhoun’s. We unravel misconceptions and demonstrate how marketing can work for companies.”

Rob’s experience in attempting to recruit an agency led down many dark alleys and on numerous blind dates.

As Robert so eloquently put it: “I felt like all the agencies I spoke to were trying to get to homebase on the first date.

“In my industry I don’t get anywhere on the first date, which is about getting to know someone and forming a relationship. I generally have three or four dates before I get anywhere near a financial commitment.”

Robert recalled attending a 9 Strategic marketing performance workshop, and made a call to Director, Debbie Richardson. The call resulted in the company’s first date, at which Robert was relieved to have a conversation about his company and his customers.

More importantly, 9 Strategic outlined a process. Not an idea, not a grand scheme, not an advertising campaign….a process!

The process entailed an inhouse tailormade marketing performance workshop, followed by delivery of recommendations and a plan. No further commitment required, but plenty of choices available. “Who doesn’t love choice?”, was Robert’s response.

“The thing of absolute beauty for me was that, at the end of the workshop, I was going to get from 9 Strategic a plan. And the plan was going to identify what I was good at…and hone in on the parts where I needed some attention paid.”

9 Strategic’s 9 Boxes methodology, which underpins its workshops and engagement with clients, delivers a simple process to:

  • systematically evaluate your business;
  • identify strengths, weaknesses and gaps; and
  • engage executive teams.

“At the end of the workshop, Robert and his team shared a clear view of what was needed to build their marketing capability. It was a united vision!” according to Linda.

The result was Colquhoun’s signing up with 9 Strategic after two or three dates, which Robert supposes now means they are engaged.

A match made in heaven

Fast forward three short months to the nuptials, which are also following a well prescribed and clear process informed by 9 Strategic’s nine boxes:


According to Linda: “For the past three months we have dived more deeply into those boxes that presented us with both the largest gaps and the greatest strategic marketing opportunities.

“For Colquhoun’s this was primarily around the company’s market position, which is the cornerstone of the 9 Boxes.”

The process has involved analysing sales, customer and product date, interviewing stakeholders and undertaking competitive reviews. This analysis has informed the formulation of a unique market position.

Robert is now very clear about what he sees marketing delivering to Colquhoun’s in the coming 12 months:

“There are a few distinct themes….The best result I could ever see is that we make more money.

“However….it’s [also] going to assist us in developing our culture.  The 9 Strategic way…really calls everyone into accountability.

“[Finally] I would hope, once we’ve gone through this process, that we’ll have a set of definable values that we will use in taking a new product to market.”

The coming three-to-six months in Colquhoun’s journey will see 9 Strategic develop a brand strategy that will influence how the organisation presents itself in the marketplace.

According to Linda: “To do this requires buy-in from every layer of the company. We’ll be helping Robert and the executive team share Colquhoun’s vision, values and plan with staff in quarter 3 this year. This is where the rubber hits the road.”

“Managing change is always the most challenging, yet rewarding, activity for any business leader.

“And once the internal organisation is fit and ready, we’ll implement the go-to-market strategy to meet the company’s objectives, which sometimes aren’t always just topline growth.”

Facing his demons

So why is Robert so comfortable about facing his marketing demons after all these years?

“The first thing, is that 9 Strategic has a methodology that’s clearly defined and will deliver tangible results.

“[Secondly] 9 Strategic is clearly focussed on return on investment, and that’s music to my ears and would be to the ears of any other CEO or Managing Director.

“And number 3 is great people. I’m sure the [9 Strategic team] don’t walk around in black skivvies and berets. They seem like normal people who care….and who give me and my team the feeling we have chosen the right people.”

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Interview conducted on the BeingThere video conference as a service network.