How do you win share of wallet when you’re up against more than 50,000 competitors? Floyd Larsen, CEO at Cure Cancer Australia, knows a thing or two about that…
After starting her career as a successful software engineer for Microsoft, Larsen has now spent a decade in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector as the leader of Australia’s oldest cancer-focused initiative.
With more than 80 per cent of Australians having made a donation to charity in FY2016, it’s a sector that shows much promise for those who can craft their marketing cut through, says Larsen. It’s simplicity, she says, which is key to achieving that.
“The fastest growing area in fundraising is online, growing 19% year on year. Importantly, 13% of those donations are done on a mobile phone,” Larsen says. “It’s what I call the bus stop test. There aren’t many things these days that you can’t do at a bus stop on your mobile phone. We’re really looking to make it easy for people to make donations, even at the bus stop.”
In an industry cluttered with noise, CCA’s latest campaign features Australia’s Paul Hogan driving home a simple message: “Come on Australia, let’s cure cancer”.
Tune in to find out more on distilling your core message, how Larsen’s four pillar strategy could benefit you and why every marketer could use a bit of Hogan magic.
The CMO Show production team
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Participants: Hosts: Mark Jones and Jeanne-Vida Douglas
Guest: Floyd Larsen
JVD: Welcome back to The CMO Show. I’m JV Douglas and I’m here with…
MJ: Mark Jones, and I’m also here with…
JVD: The delightful Floyd Larsen.
MJ: Yes, that’s right.
JVD: Floyd is the CEO of Cure Cancer Australia. Welcome to the show.
FL: Thank you so much for the invitation.
MJ: It’s great to have you with us.
FL: Thank you.
MJ: It’s a hotly competitive space, not for profit… I don’t think people realise just how difficult it really is right? The number of charities that are competing for share of wallet. So, I guess you have a number of different ways that you can apply that data. What’s your thinking there?
FL: Okay, so I think I’ll just also expand a bit on the sector itself, because in Australia alone we’ve got close to 54 and a half thousand registered charities.
MJ: Not for profit.
JVD: 54 and a half thousand?
FL: Yeah. But only 19% of those actually have a revenue more than a million dollars, because there’s a lot of real grass roots, smaller charities that are very much at the coalface dealing with local issues and they are needed. So, there’s a lot of charities out there, and in my sector, in the cancer sector, it is considered a very crowded sector and it’s confusing and we know that at this type of confusion can almost put people off from supporting. But on that I’d like to say about Cure Cancer Australia, and this is where I’m very strong on our own key messaging is that we have a fundamental point of difference in that what we do, at Cure Cancer Australia, we’re the only charity in Australia doing it in funding the pipeline, the ecosystem for cancer researchers. Whereas if you go to and look at the number of cancer charities there are our out there and cancer institutes, it can be very confusing for a donor’s perspective.
The pink ribbon campaign for example, if I said pink ribbon to you, you know what that means – breast cancer, And yet there are so many, there’s hundreds of pink ribbon related, there’s even a pink foundation, which is a fantastic example of how good marketing has worked and from my perspective when I look at the survival rates now of women with breast cancer the early detection.
FL: But there’s also what we call, pink confusion as well.
MJ: Well it’s easy to appropriate it, isn’t it?
FL: I do want to say… Australia is a very philanthropic society. The fact that 81% of Australians made a donation to a charity in FY16 just says a lot.
JVD: And that’s fascinating because we don’t often think of ourselves like that. We often criticise ourselves for not being very philanthropic so…
FL: So back to your point about data. When I look at… And the way I’ve approached Cure Cancer Australia, and I had very clear edict from the board, it really was a… Almost like a re-inventing, and re-launching our charity in its 50th year.
FL: Now, we’re 50 years old and yet we’re not a household name. So, I’ve got to…
MJ: Is that because you’ve just sort of been working behind the scenes as it were? Or…
FL: We have a fantastic history of funding 483 research grants for the last 50 years. And we’re quite specific and well known in our area but we’re in the very competitive industry of fundraising. So, what we need to do now is to be able to grow our donor base, our customer base which we haven’t done through the years, and if we don’t, we won’t survive. So the challenge that I’ve had right from the start is to look at where we sit as a brand, what is our marketing strategy, how we are we going to use technology and really, how are we going to turn the business around because that’s what we’ve been doing.
MJ: You know you’ve got this massive mandate right?
FL: Well, I’ve a four pillar strategy now.
FL: And I’m happy to share that as well. Number one is brand, and coming back to the BarbeCURE campaign that’s actually almost like a reverse brand campaign. If you look at the way we’ve created it, yes the call to action is BarbeCURE with a cure underlined. That’s part of our ongoing strategy. Yes we’ve got…
MJ: I noticed you’ve trademarked it by the way too.
FL: Of course, yes.
FL: Yes. And we’re using the word cure underlined in a few of our products that we’ve got… KokodaCURE track happening with the community fundraising we do…
MJ: There you go. Clever.
FL: We’ve got PicniCURE happening with the whole sailing fraternity and a few other things. So they’re all trademarked as well. So we’ve got Paul Hogan.
FL: Okay. You’ve got the BarbeCURE, but the actual logo is Cure Cancer Australia logo, and we have seen, it comes down to metrics, increased traffic enormously on not only our BarbeCURE website but on our Cure Cancer Australia home site, which we know means that more people are learning about Cure Cancer Australia through the Paul Hogan BarbeCURE campaign.
FL: And that’s how you do it when you’ve got no money for marketing.
MJ: Yes. Yep.
FL: You’ve got no budget. So my first pillar is brand.
FL: My second pillar…
MJ: Well hang on a minute. Wouldn’t you have had to pay Paul?
FL: No, not at all.
MJ: Oh really?
MJ: He gave his time.
JVD: And don’t we love him even more right now?
MJ: There we go.
FL: Paul Hogan was… Oh he was so generous. We literally have a handshake deal.
MJ: Oh right.
FL: He has done amazing amount of work for us. TVCs, radio ads, lots of photo shoots, he’s done some interviews for me.
MJ: You just made a whole truck load of marketers green with envy.
JVD: I’m starting to tear up as I invariably do on this show.
FL: So our second pillar is our alumni. You see, when we look at our point of difference, and everyone needs to have a key point of difference, I always say that my people, our people, our amazing researchers are our brand. And so, a big part of our pillar is, if I’m the business of relationships and storytelling, it’s really bringing to life these amazing researchers, the work that they’ve done, the outcomes that they have achieved which is quite significant in the cancer research space not only in Australia but in the world, but also if it wasn’t for the grant that got from Cure Cancer Australia, the what if. So that’s one of our pillars and that’s another point of difference because then you’ve got human beings talking to other human beings saying, “Because of this support…”
FL: “Because of this I’ve been able to do x, y, z, and achieve this and now we’ve got this breakthrough in this area”.
JVD: And you have those stories.
FL: Exactly. My third, is my multiple revenue streams like all businesses, doesn’t matter what business you’re in you never rely on one or two revenue streams, but multiple, predictable, sustainable. And again, this is where that digital element comes into it because digital fundraising and securing regular givers, doesn’t matter if it’s five bucks a month, having a few hundred thousand of those, gives that sustainability, and just like all businesses need to have multiple products…
MJ: Yeah it’s critical.
FL: Yeah. And so BarbeCURE is purely one more product that we’ve added to our suite.
JVD: Right, yeah.
MJ: Wouldn’t you hope that those people would become regular donors? You know, because once you’ve had that campaign focus you can then go back to the same people right? Is that another tick?
FL: That’s the strategy. Because the thing is, a lot of people don’t know who we are.
FL: And they might hear about us and support because Paul Hogan has so generously lent us celebrity status and this talent to our cause, but then it’s about communicating with them, and sharing with them very transparently, “This is where you’re money’s going. This is the impact that you are having”. Because every dollar makes a difference.
FL: And the fact that the fastest growing area in fundraising is online fundraising growing 19% year on year, just says that this whole digital age really is affecting every industry and ours. But, importantly, 13% of those donations are done on a mobile phone.
FL: And it’s what I call the bus stop test. There aren’t many things these days that you can’t do at a bus stop on your mobile phone. So even in our industry in not for profit we’re really looking to make it easy for people to make donations, even at the bus stop.
FL: But the last pillar, the fourth one, is again where marketers really need to become I think experience now and educated and that’s in… It’s in the whole digital transformation, scalable systems. Now you really need to have an understanding of the power and the complexities and the sophistication of good CRM systems, and they’re all out there now and they’re great, cloud based computing, but that’s only one part of it. And how to capture the data, and how to really be asking the right questions, be profiling accordingly, understanding in a contextual way because the ability to have an ongoing journey and have a dialogue and being able to gauge the preferences… How do these donors want to be spoken to as I said before.
FL: And with all of that… That’s my four pillar strategy. And with all of that we really are already noticing… We’re collecting the data and I’ve been in the role now a year and a half, and we’ve already, multiple times, increased the amount of traffic to our website, our number of donors, our supporters and we’re starting to really turn the ship…
JVD: Shift that, yeah.
FL: …which is so important, you know.
MJ: We should say it from the outset, Cure Cancer Australia has this campaign running right now of course, “the BarbeCURE”, and for people who are listening, you may have heard the radio ads or seen the TV spots, or on YouTube. Hoges, my goodness me. He’s back right?`
FL: In full force as well.
MJ: I was in the car with my daughter, a 13 year old girl, and she’s listening to… Normally ignores ads and then Hoges comes on, and she doesn’t really know him right? Because, she was born yesterday. At the end of it she goes, “That was a good ad”, and I was like, “That is the first time she’s ever said that about any piece of marketing”, and I thought, “That’s pretty significant,” because I think the thing about Hoges is he just cuts through doesn’t he?
FL: Well that’s fantastic feedback. Thank you. And of course, to the point of this whole show what we’re trying to find all the time is that marketing cut through, and how on earth in this very crowded noisy space can we actually have our important voice heard. So, yes, at Cure Cancer Australia we have a fundamental difference in what we do in the cancer space, we just fund Australia’s next generation of early career researchers across all cancer types and all areas of cancer. And when we put the idea of the… Doing a barbecue and making a bit of a fundraiser, which is a quintessential Aussie thing to do, we thought you know why not approach Mr Barbecue himself.
And when I reached out to Paul, and I explained to him what we do, “It’s about our next generation. It’s about young Aussies that just need that initial research grant to start their careers”, he was really interested in helping to support us. So, it’s been wonderful that he came on board, the campaign is so easy. It’s like, “Hey, some time during summer”, because we’re starting a new tradition here you realise, the summer of barbecues, “Some time during summer, make one of your barbies a BarbeCURE”.
And what Paul did was put a really important key message up front when I shared with him the messages about cancer, the terrible statistics etc, and what he really thought was so tragic but he really wanted to emphasise was, “The fact that one Aussie dies every 12 minutes from cancer, means that people should be doing their part. Aussies need to get together and just help us raise some funds and all Aussies can help”.
MJ: It’s the power of a simple idea yeah? And that’s a credit to Hoges that he sort of nailed it right and you explained to us he sort of went away and took your messaging, was able to sort of distil that idea. How complex is that do you think for most marketing professionals?
FL: Do you know I actually think that’s the hardest thing of all. And I’ve learnt a lot by working with Paul on this in fact the fact that your daughter said that is fantastic. I’m going to give that feedback to him as well by the way.
MJ: She’ll be flattered.
FL: Because one of the questions was, “But isn’t he a bit old?”, and yet it’s amazing how many young Australians and a lot of overseas people that hear the campaign that… Especially English people, are really… It gets that attention. So, with Paul, what I did was shared with him a point of difference… We’ve all got our point of difference. All marketers know that… Shared with him you are key messages, and this was the day before, we were filming. Now, I’m sure you can agree no one can script a professional like Paul Hogan…
JVD: It’s a bad idea to…
FL: It’s a bad idea that’s right. And we didn’t even put in the shrimp on the barbie thing, but we did pray that he would include that in his script, in fact we made sure next day on set there was a whole barbecue with lots of big shrimps there…
MJ: Just in case he missed the hint.
FL: Just in case. And he absolutely nailed it by the simplicity of that one terrible statistic and the simple call to action, “Come on Australia, let’s cure cancer”. It was actually him who said to me, “You know Floyd, in Australia we really are very innovative, we’re very creative. We actually performed the first open heart surgery in this country.” So he really believes in the science from this country, and in our scientists.
JVD: And see it’s a fabulous campaign because you’re doing that combination of understanding that your core message of finding somebody who’s obviously already engaged with the idea and who can really carry it. But also experiential marketing which is so important today. Like, this is what everybody’s trying to nail. Tell us though, you weren’t always a marketer. You’ve had an interesting background. Can you sort of take us back to where your career started?
FL: Believe it or not, I actually used to have one of those propellers in my head. I was software engineer.
FL: Yay. I had it amputated a few years ago. No, I actually started my career…
MJ: I don’t think it ever goes away does it?
FL: No it isn’t, you’re right. And it’s a great way of approaching all projects… All roles in life, I think. When you have that analytical approach to things. So I started learning machine code language and also the old days of Cobol programming and Pascal and…
FL: And that’s actually what…
MJ: I think you’d still make a lot of money doing that.
FL: Apparently so. I have to say I haven’t cut code for a long time. It’s definitely a young persons…
FL: Yeah. But I really think that, for me that opened up the opportunity to come to Australia. And I came back to again, an Australian company that was exporting their technology, Robotic Engineering. And that gave me the career path over here. But within a few years I had studied further at night and then a business technology degree and a marketing degree. And I actually found when I did the marketing degree, that it’s almost like the other part of my mind opened up. It’s almost like… Because I love people, and I’m almost like a natural sales person, but the whole consumer behaviour, the psychology of marketing, it really did make me think in another new way, and I love that.
So then I was very privileged to be able to join Microsoft at the time when they were really were driving significant change across the world. And having that combination or working with the best technology company and great marketers, the best in the field really was a… It was like working in heaven I mean it’s a wonderful combination. But to see the power of technology at play, and the importance though, of underpinning the marketing and the communication of any industry and any messaging.
JVD: So do you find that you’re still needing to educate marketers about technology and about the role of technology, or is that a conversation you’re having less frequently?
FL: I actually think the fundamentals of marketing are obviously solid and sound and relevant, but I think with the onset of the digital technology, and the way in which we can now talk to our customer/donor in my case through digital technologies, social media, etc, and the way in which we can capture so much data about our donor, our customer, and the way therefore in which we can convert that data into really powerful knowledge and understanding. We’re in a new paradigm almost. The game really is changing, because we’re now able to really profile and personalise the conversation in an automatic way. And therefore we have the ability to have a dialogue and a conversation with our… In our case our donors, in the way in which they want to be spoken to, in the channel in which they want to, with the frequency and the depth.
JVD: What was that transition like into the CEO role? What was that first hundred days? What did you have to prove and what were you, I guess, observant of in that time?
FL: It was interesting because my first CEO role was at Heart Research Australia and I approached it very much from a very analytical… I looked at the business. And if you say that your database is your business, that’s your starting point. So, it was really getting across… My technical background obviously kicked in there first. It was really getting across well how big is my business, and how well are we walking to our database? What’s the frequency? What’s the response rate? So I went back down to analytics straight away…
FL: To really gauge, get a feel for the health of the business. And then it was a matter of working with the great product, which when you’re in Heart Research Australia again it’s about research, being clear on message and again I went straight back to, what are our core messages? What’s our point of difference? Why would people want to support us with all the other charities out there?
FL: So it was the analytical, obviously being a CEO there’s a huge range you’re reporting it to a board, there’s whole lot of governance issues, there’s a whole lot of very important suite of additional skills…
FL: That need to be part of your arsenal, but that’s fine. Just learn them.
MJ: So, what advice have you got for marketers looking to get into the CEO position?
FL: I think, know your strengths, and know your weaknesses. And make sure that you surround yourself with brilliant people…
FL: Who compensate your strengths and also your weaknesses.
FL: That is… Down to the team. Part of my fourth pillar, which is about the digital transformation and the sustainable systems, is also the high performing team and it really is about attracting, recruiting and really embracing and developing great people but you have to start with where are your strengths, where are the weaknesses and really being honest with yourself about that as well, and then getting great people to work with you.
MJ: So as well as being chief experience officer, also chief employment officer?
FL: Yeah. Yes. Bingo.
JVD: What are the sorts of stats that you think we really need to understand more about cancer and cancer in Australia?
FL: Well the sad stat is that every 12 minutes, an Australian dies from cancer. Now we know that the five year survival rate for cancer has improved enormously in the last few years. It’s gone from 47% to 67% which is fantastic. But, every second man and every third woman by the age of 85 will be diagnosed with a cancer in their lifetime. So we’ve still got a way to go. We’ve made progress but we’ve still got further to go.
MJ: Excellent. Well Floyd, thank you for your time today. It’s been fantastic to get to know you and hear about the story of Cure Cancer Australia. Are you ready for the 21 questions?
FL: Oh dear. Yes. I’ve really enjoyed it too… Just up to this point.
JVD: This is the most fun.
MJ: Yeah, you’ll be right. What are you grateful for?
FL: I’m grateful for the love in my life, I’m grateful for my health. That’s what I’m grateful for. And can I bring this back to Paul Hogan? I actually had to ask Paul this in one of the interviews and the first thing he said was “My health”, again it really is an important part of all of us really.
JVD: Do you like rain?
FL: I love rain. You know why? Because we’ve got a farm.
MJ: There it is.
FL: We love… We’ve actually got a weather station at the farm and I’ll be sitting at work looking at the weather station to see if it’s raining yet. I love rain.
JVD: I totally know that game. I’ve played that too.
MJ: In the movie of your life, who would play you?
FL: Oh gosh. That’s a tough one. I would hope Cate Blanchett would because she’s one of my heroes. She’s such an amazingly talented actress.
JVD: I think that’s a perfect casting. What’s your greatest career fail?
FL: I look back on every single experience and every single role and it’s all been a learning… I’m very much one of those glasses half full experience you know? So, I’ve loved every part of my career, so actually, I don’t see any of it as a failure.
MJ: Beach or mountain?
JVD: Best ever career advice?
FL: Be true to yourself. Be true to yourself in whatever role you’re in. Yeah.
MJ: Summer or winter?
FL: I’m winter.
JVD: Who is your hero?
FL: I have to say Paul Hogan today.
MJ: If you want…
FL: Can I just say though…
FL: I would like to expand on that. I think that Bill Gates’ wife, Melinda Gates, is such an amazing lady the way she has really had a huge impact in philanthropy in the world…
JVD: And inspiring…
FL: So she’s a bit of a… I’ve never met her but I think what she’s done for world health and the way she’s really helped direct such wealth into such a positive human outcome is… You know, she’s a bit of a hero of mine.
MJ: If you weren’t a marketer you’d be a?
FL: A farmer.
JVD: Chocolate or strawberry?
MJ: What did you have for breakfast?
FL: Oh, I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. I don’t do breakfast. Very naughty. Normally mid-morning I’ll have nice piece of toast but never first thing. I’ll have a coffee. Is that allowed?
JVD: Not a coffee… Not a breakfast person. What was the last conversation you had with your parents?
FL: Oh gosh. Happy Christmas.
MJ: Scrunch or fold?
FL: Fold. Definite folder.
MJ: Very important.
FL: Definite folder.
JVD: If you could change one thing about the marketing industry, what would it be?
FL: I think I would like to see a lot more integration and less silo. Technology is now the change agent itself so, a lot more integration.
FL: You throw some deep ones in there with the strawberries and chocolate don’t you?
MJ: We do yeah. Speaking of light ones, can you ride a bike?
JVD: What’s your greatest frustration?
FL: Not enough hours in the day at the moment. Really, realistically in this campaign, there’s not enough hours in the day. Yeah. I’d like to be able to sleep much less, need less sleep.
MJ: So you have the choice of the five senses; touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell. Which would you sacrifice to save the rest?
FL: Probably smell.
[0:38:14] JVD: Dogs or cats?
FL: I’m a dog girl.
MJ: Favourite book?
FL: I was going to say the bible but…
MJ: That’s what I said.
FL: I think it’s a lot to be learnt from the stories.
JVD: And if you could change your first name, what would you change it to?
FL: I already have.
MJ: Oh is that right?
JVD: What did you change it from?
FL: That’s it. Not saying anymore.
MJ: Well on that bombshell, Floyd Larsen, the woman whose first name we – birth name we don’t know…
FL: You’ll never know.
MJ: It will remain a mystery, unless it’s out there on the internet. Thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.
FL: Thank you so much.
JVD: Yeah. Thanks for coming on the show.
FL: I really enjoyed it, thank you.