Experts in Spotlight: Josh Trebilcock – Head of Marketing

With great people who are eager to offer their experience and wisdom, we are continuing our series Experts in Spotlight. We believe that these interviews will inspire all of our readers because they are very encouraging. Today’s guest is Josh Trebilcock, the Head of Marketing at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? Let’s see how he handles his daily routine and what makes him stand out.

Introduce yourself, describe your present position, and provide some information about the business you work for. 

I’m Josh Trebilcock, Head of Marketing at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?. We help leadership teams get clear on what they’re trying to achieve strategically, then support them to achieve it.

Our philosophy is shaped around our Co-founder Ben Hunt-Davis’ Olympic Gold Medal winning story. In their quest for Gold, Ben’s GB Rowing crew developed a laser-like focus only on what was going to drive their performance towards that goal. If it didn’t, they didn’t do it.

In terms of how I add boatspeed to our company – I lead our marketing team in creating engaging content, thought leadership, newsletters, social, website, webinars & events and beyond. Our company Goal is “to be world class at enabling our clients and each other to achieve their Gold Medals”. My role within that is to attract the right people who could be a good fit to partner with us and to use our strategy, leadership and team programmes.

What is your background, and how did you get to where you are now?

Before joining the consulting world, I carried out my Master’s degree in Global Media Communication at The University of Melbourne, Australia for 2 years. Before this I studied Geography at The University of Portsmouth for my BA Hons Degree. I’ve always been passionate about learning about other cultures and writing about them too – be it travel-writing, essays, articles, stories, fiction or non-fiction – I was delighted to achieve First Class Honors in both degrees.

Since returning to the UK in 2017 I have enjoyed working in the charity sector for 2 years. I worked as Project Support for Open Doors who work for freedom of religious expression worldwide and in fundraising for UNHCR with the incredible work they do in supporting refugees and displaced people around the globe.

I started at Will It? nearly 5 years ago as a Client Services Manager delivering bespoke client projects. My Eureka moment was when I realized I could write about how our client work has such a big impact for our clients and that that would hugely benefit our business! I discovered marketing as my ‘thing’ and haven’t looked back since. 

What are your tasks/responsibilities at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

I plan our strategy across the year – in terms of what activities we’ll prioritize, in line with our budget, to deliver the most ROI and have the biggest impact for us as a business. A lot of my role is planning, creating and editing content for our newsletter, linkedin, webinars, website and campaigns to engage, delight and attract our clients. I love the variety in that – one day I can be designing webinar content with our brilliant facilitators, or the next I could be filming new content at a local rowing club.

What’s one lesson your job has taught you that you think everyone should learn at some point in their life?

You are not your customer. Don’t pretend to think you know what they are thinking. Peter Drucker once said “The customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells them”. I think a lot of businesses could do with forming a better understanding of the reasons why their customers buy from them. Clayton Christensen’s theory of ‘Jobs to be done’ is a key lesson in understanding this. I feel every business could hugely benefit in spending time understanding what ‘jobs’ people are looking to get done with your product. Theodore Levitt was famously quoted saying “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole”. Understanding the job your customer wants done, holds the key to how you can improve your products and how you position them.

Who has been your most important professional mentor?

My manager Chris Martin (our Managing Director) has been an undoubted influence on me and my development over the past 3 years. Chris has always driven me to focus on what outcome we’re looking to get from a specific activity. In terms of pushing us to think more deeply around – “how is it adding value for the recipient?”, “what pain point does this help solve?”. If, for example, our objective of a campaign is to generate genuine partnerships with prospects, then Chris might encourage us to shape a campaign email with a more conversational tone, perhaps offer them a free diagnostic consultation or engage them in a more human way. In short, to consider what options drive the particular outcome we want to see! (You know I’m not one for brown-nosing Chris!)

I was also lucky enough to have Mark Ritson as my Virtual Professor for my Mini MBA in Marketing course. I’ve therefore had 2 powerful mentors in my marketing career. My main takeaway from Ritson’s philosophy is to be obsessed with understanding things from the customer’s point of view. By forming a deep understanding of what’s important to them and what they value – and crucially letting that be your guide to any product innovation, strategy, positioning, materials and comms. 

What was your biggest mistake, and what did you learn from it?

Not necessarily a mistake but I’ve learned the importance of refining and optimizing your performance to improve the outcome. This is true in many contexts, but particularly in rewriting copy for campaigns and content. By running A/B tests of campaigns for a few years you start to realize that even the tiniest tweaks in emails can have a big impact on the output. Whether just tweaking a subject line, body or CTA – you can impact your open, click and response rates. As such I’d say one of the most valuable learnings was that experimenting works.

We play the game “Beat the control” – In every email mailout we A/B test. For every subsequent email we try and beat the control test result that that last winning email got. No, you won’t always get it right and win. But gradually you build up an idea of what content works where (and crucially, why!). That willingness to keep experimenting means we’ve found a pretty reliable formula for success when running campaigns. One of my favorite quotes that expresses the importance of continually optimizing and refining – “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

What underutilized tools are a need for your work?

Hootsuite – We use Hootsuite to help plan our content every month. Being able to see a calendar view of what posts we’re drafting enables us to much more easily plan content themes, co-create/edit/publish and schedule in advance. Great for posting across platforms too!

Hubspot – I use this daily to help us automate some of our marketing tasks. We create our monthly newsletter, capture new leads through forms, manage our pipeline, align with our sales teams and run campaigns all from one place. Easy to use and makes my life easier as a marketer!

If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to try new things and put yourself out there – you will figure out what you want to do. At that age you have a lot to figure out. I had no idea what I wanted to do that early on in life – as not many do/should! As you’ll have seen in my earlier responses it takes time to find and land on what you want to do. You can get there quicker if you trust yourself and have confidence.

My mantra – “the only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullsh*t story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it” – Jordan Belfort (yes, I just quoted the Wolf of Wall Street!)

What was the one unexpected thing your company/successful venture did?

COVID hit us hard as a business. At the time our team had to take temporary paycuts for a 6 month period. It was tough. When we pulled through and bounced-back financially, our LT at the time decided to backpay our entire team for the full 6 months we’d taken the paycut for. It’s safe to say when they made that announcement that it made for a decent Christmas party! 

At what time of day do you get your best work done?

I’m an afternoon/evening owl all the way. I’m not a morning person, as my team knows! My brain does not work without my morning coffee.


Follow Josh’s writing here via Will It Make The Boat Go Faster’s company Linkedin page here:

Check out their website here: