Interview by Andreea Boyer // Edited by Chris Charles of Idol Features
Deborah Collier is a successful British businesswoman and I congratulate her for all her achievements. She is listed as 82nd in Richtopia’s “Top 100 Most Influential Chief Marketing Officers in the World” and she has 18 years business experience. An innovator, strategist, and digital champion, she is best known for her 20-plus years e-business, marketing, and e-commerce experience. In particular, she has developed and established the reputation of the industry-recognized Certificate in Online Business (COB) certifications, which she founded in 2008.
During her impressive career, Deborah has helped both SME’s (Small and medium-sized enterprises) and large international organizations, such as John Lewis, Seagate, Three, Kenwood, the Omani Government, the South African Post Office, Skype, Delta Airlines, and many more.
Andreea Boyer: Ms. Collier, can you please tell us about your motivation and the reason why you have started working in these fields?
Deborah Collier: Throughout my career, I have worked in digital, IT, and marketing, which has enabled me to combine my problem-solving, creative and strategic abilities. I have always been motivated by making a difference and enabling others to succeed, and so both education and advising business leaders and teams are very fulfilling. As an experienced business leader, I have helped individuals build and market businesses, larger organizations to grow and employ others, and have supported innovation. I am able to see most activities and goals in a visual map, with a variety of options, risks, advantages, and outcomes.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your work which provides the Certificates in Online Business (COB) ?
Deborah Collier: I am president and chief information and marketing officer of educational publisher and global digital skills authority. Within the Certificate in Online Business, I have three broad roles. Firstly, as ambassador and head of the company, I am responsible for all strategic decisions and championing the brands. Secondly, as chief information officer, I have strategic oversight of product (the courses and content) and the systems that deliver that content. As chief marketing officer, I am responsible for both the company, training, and course licensing communications and marketing strategy, as well as brand marketing and awareness. It also includes marketing and developing of relationships with partners around the globe. All with support from my team.
Andreea Boyer: Your hands-on experience spans a number of years, including a career at large organizations such as Fujitisu, JP Morgan, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. It includes extensive multi-channel marketing, startups experience, hand-building a course bookings web site attracting leading brand names around the globe, building a mailing list from zero to 200,000, developing a music portal and a record label attracting 102,000 visitors in month four (with no ad spend), and leading the development and marketing of an online members site with 100,000+ subscribers. At what age did you become interested in creating an online business and how did you start?
Deborah Collier: I was 28 when I started building e-commerce web sites for other businesses. I combined this work whilst completing a masters degree in business information systems. I built what is believed to be the first ever e-commerce enabled art gallery. I am passionate about music and the arts, and after a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in their Global Web Enablement team, I launched my first Internet business, which was a music portal generated revenue from online advertising, a branded t-shirt range, and a record label.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your best experiences and what moments in your career have been the most influential ones for you?
Deborah Collier: I am motivated by both inspiring others and being inspired, and I feel that in almost every experience there is a lesson to be learned. It’s difficult to pinpoint individual moments that have been influential to my career, but I believe a number of things coming together holistically have influenced my career. Aside from the reward from helping others, recognition for the efforts, input and impact on others careers and businesses, has been influential to my career. Whether this be through being asked for an interview on a top UK news channel, being listed as a world’s “Top 100 Most Influential Chief Marketing Officer,” or receiving testimonials and kudos from leaders at globally recognized brands and government organizations around the globe. Being asked to join the board as a non-executive director to a UK government-backed apprenticeship organization, alongside other amazing directors, has also been a highlight of my career, and I hope to join other boards in this capacity in the future.
Andreea Boyer: Ms. Collier, you are also the president and chief marketing and information officer at the Certificate in Online Business. You’re responsible for overall business, digital and marketing strategy, media productization and monetization, marketing leadership, and strategic partnerships, at the Global Digital Skills Certification Authority and the co-founder and interim commercial director for luxury silk fashion label Jesse Sloane. Plus additionally, you are also the director of strategy and innovation, which entails bringing together brilliant minds to work on special commissioned projects, such as at the Institute for Business Advancement. So Ms. Collier, what is your secret in balancing all these working positions at the same time?
Deborah Collier: I actually work part-time across all my roles and projects. 50% of my time is allocated to the Certificate in Online Business, and one to two days per month as the non-executive director for London Learning Consortium. My other activities, which include delivering strategic advice, public speaking, presenting and working on special projects such as the forthcoming fashion label Jesse Sloane and the Strategy and Innovation projects for the IBA, are all project-based and part-time. I allocate specific time and hours to each activity, and compartmentalize, so that I do not get distracted from the activities I am focused on. Much of my work involves work on social media, and so I spend around one to one and a half hours per day conducting my reading and research, working on social media, and preparing my plan for the day.
Andreea Boyer: What advice can you give all young or already established business people or innovators?
Deborah Collier: There is so much advice I could give, but my top three tips are: Firstly, set clear targets and objectives, and focus on those without distraction. Secondly, question the status quo and listen to all points of view and ideas. Thirdly, remain confident, but don’t let your ego get in the way. Identify your weaknesses, seek out and gain the support of relevant experts and collaborators.
Andreea Boyer: Your work is also focused on social media. Can you please tell us about that?
Deborah Collier: Social media and content-led marketing are key ingredients in raising awareness about the companies I work for, but also for my own personal brand building, and operating in an ambassadorial capacity for those companies. My aim is to act as a beacon that supports any organization I work with or represent, as well as initiatives that I value or are important to me, such as charitable or educational issues, for example.
Andreea Boyer: We mentioned you are the co-founder and interim commercial director for luxury silk fashion label Jesse Sloane. When did you discovered your passion for the arts and fashion?
Deborah Collier: I have always been interested in the arts and I love fashion. I studied art at A-level, but chose not continue it as a career, because I wanted my painting to be purely about the love of art, without being constrained by anything commercial. With the fashion label, and in particular. “branding,” which is one of my key strengths, I can enjoy both the artistic and fashion side, while actually working on the commercial and marketing side of things, in line with my skills and career.
Andreea Boyer: You advise leaders and high-profile figures on marketing and communications strategies, and in particular social media. What advice can you give for anyone working in the film industry?
Deborah Collier: Publishers, whether these be educational or others, and filmmakers are all about building the “brand” and “brand awareness.” Whether you are building your own profile as a producer, director, or actor, it’s important to be clear about what you represent, and the values, opinions and ideas that your represent. This has to align with your target audience. Who do you want to follow you, what do you want them to know about you, and how would you like them to engage with you. These things will likely evolve, expand, or alter over time, depending on your role and the goals of the projects or films you represent.
Andreea Boyer: What are your recommendations for overcoming all stressful challenges and to being focused on your goals?
Deborah Collier: Everyone has their own way of coping with stressful challenges and remaining focused on their goals. If I do not have to immediately jump on an issue and re-prioritize my goals, I will go for a long walk, or take a break to gain clarity. I will then again write a list. I am lucky, in that I can put all the things I don’t want to deal with, each in their own metaphorical “drawer” and only open them when I need to focus on them. This is a helpful technique for anyone who struggles with stress and juggling responsibilities.
Andreea Boyer: Are you also teaching classes?
Deborah Collier: I ceased delivering physical courses two years ago, but am helping the Certificate in Online Business with delivery of a limited number of classroom courses, for both PR and supporting and attracting training partners. Two e-learning editions of certification programs: COB Certified E-Commerce Manager and COB Certified E-Business Manager, were authored and recorded by me. So just like the producers, contributors, and participants in documentary films, I am continuing to educate through recording, rather than physical presence in front of an audience.
Andreea Boyer: Ms Collier, which countries have you already been with your work and can you please tell us a bit about your work there?
Deborah Collier: I have worked with companies and organizations from every continent, developing and advising on strategy for business, e-commerce, marketing and digital business. These include Mars, Procter & Gamble, Skype, Seagate, Warner, Oman Government, Schneider Electric, and more. One government example is my delivery of a consultative COB Certified E-Business Manager Program, a course I authored a number of years ago, to the executive leadership team at the South African Post Office in South Africa. At Seagate (in the UK), I conducted research and developed strategy which I delivered through a two-day online selling program that included social media marketing strategy, influencing merchandising and positioning of products to maximize sales on partner retail sites, maximizing efficiency of product information and assets distribution to multiple partner retail sites, effective banner advertising, a study of effectiveness against the competition and effective online merchandising and content strategy.
Andreea Boyer: Ms. Collier, what is your vision for the near future?
Deborah Collier: I am open to any stimulating or challenging opportunities where I can make a difference. As a “portfolioist,” I will continue with COB until partnerships licensing in multiple languages reaches a stage where I feel happy to pass on, and I will continue to take on challenging or interesting projects. I am currently interested in more public speaking, writing, and a career in factual TV and documentary presenting. Now that I have successfully completed one year as a non-executive director for an educational organization, I’d like to take on two to three more non-executive director roles within retail, publishing, film, and entertainment. Thank you Andreea!
Thank you for this interview, Ms. Collier. We wish you continued success.
Deborah’s August 2018 appearance on Channel 4 News’ Infowars Debate