The CMO Files: Sarah Taylor, SmartFocus
Human Resources

The CMO Files: Sarah Taylor, SmartFocus

Name:  Sarah Taylor

Organization: SmartFocus

Job title: Chief Marketing Officer

Location: London, UK

Sarah Taylor has spent her entire career in service to retail and the consumer. As CMO at SmartFocus, Taylor uses her own digital marketing insights and SmartFocus’ technology to drive brands’ business strategy, which allows them to improve their customer understanding and connection. Prior to joining SmartFocus, Taylor led the marketing and communications strategy at Oracle Retail - specialising in international markets.

Where were you born and raised? A small village called Charlesworth, just outside Glossop, Derbyshire. The moors basically. One point of interest is that this is where Dame Vivienne Westwood hails from. Must be a great place to start life!

What was your first job? I was a Saturday assistant at Boots the chemist and loved it. My passion for retail was cemented at 16 and has been part of my career ever since.

What was the first product you got really excited about? Pot Noodle – Chicken and Mushroom flavor. Not necessarily a good thing... my first fast food love affair.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? My ma and pa - both had very successful careers in TV production and textiles respectively. My pa was responsible for flannelette sheets, if you can remember them! They taught me that work can be much more than earning money.

What has been your greatest achievement? Professionally, it has been seeing the people I work with thrive and grow.

What has been your biggest mistake? Professionally, it was probably staying in a role too long because I loved the people I worked with.

What is your greatest strength? Always finishing the job. If I am asked for advice these are my words of wisdom. We seem to be living in a world where the hard slog of achieving has been erased, replaced by the desire for instant gratification… It just does not work that way.

What is your biggest weakness? I do suffer from perfectionist tendencies – This is an inhibitor to speed and at this point in my world the need to deliver fast is more important. It just kills me when things are not perfect.

What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers? Talking to their audience in the way that is meaningful to them. Most B2B businesses obsess about themselves and their story and neglect the needs of their audience.

Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm? Mantra: “Always finish the job” - no surprise here. Squirm: “Cadence” – used in the business context, very annoying.

What makes you stressed? Repeating mistakes. When you are operating at breakneck speed and trying to differentiate at the same time, mistakes are inevitable and to be encouraged actually. But, learn fast and make sure things don’t happen again.

What do you do to relax? Shop, Read, Run, Swim, Garden, Cook, Eat and repeat – not necessarily in that order. 

What is your favorite song? Temptation – Heaven Seventeen

Which book taught you most? Talking of eating, Nigella Bites. Still my cooking go-to.

Do you have a team or sport that you follow? Yes, Arsenal Football Club. Although a little bit of a disappointed fan right now…

Which country would you like to work in? I have worked in few. I loved the experience I had in Japan and it would be great to do that again.

Which company do you think has the best marketing? At the moment one of my favorites is McDonalds. They understand their customer and create innovative and clever ways of attracting new ones… and importantly what they do works!

What do you love most about your job? Building brand value – this makes what we do as a company more meaningful for everyone involved.

What is your favorite book? Paddy Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle

What keeps you awake at night? Snoring. This marketer needs quality sleep.


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