Interview with Sara Wadsworth​

Experts in Spotlight: Sara Wadsworth​ – Head of Marketing

With 15+ years of marketing expertise across brand, product & e-commerce, Sara is a commercially-driven marketer with a passion for luxury products.  She loves nature, animal-obsessed and constantly works on home renovation projects.

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

I’m Head of Marketing at Northern Lights Ltd, a UK-based manufacturer of bespoke luxury lighting for the hospitality, residential, retail, commercial and marine sectors.  As proud members of Made in Britain, our products are designed and manufactured in-house in our factory in Chesterfield with a focus on quality and artisan craftsmanship.

We work with the industry’s elite interior designers and luxury hospitality brands on everything from global hotel roll-outs to private superyachts, handcrafting bespoke lighting to elevate interior visions and bring spaces to life.  As well as our bespoke projects, we also produce a range of made-to-order products within our Signature Collection.  I look at some of the bespoke projects we’ve been involved with the scale and complexity of some are quite mind-blowing!

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

After completing a BSc Degree in Psychology, I realized I wanted to work in a more creative capacity.  After securing my first Marketing Assistant job with no qualifications or experience in the field, I studied in the evenings and at weekends to obtain my CIM Qualification to give me the foundations I needed to further my career later on. 

Alongside working full time and studying part time, I also ran two separate small businesses – one event-based, one product-based.  I look back now and wonder how I managed to juggle so much at once!  But I was fiercely determined.  I still utilize my Psychology degree within the marketing field, whether that be branding and color choice, or language selection for building content and aligning audience personas with communication objectives.

I joined Northern Lights with over 15 years experience in marketing, predominantly in the D2C luxury homeware markets.  I’ve managed budgets of over three quarters of a million pounds, and held positions as International Brand Manager in a niche bespoke aesthetics e-commerce start-up, Product Marketing Manager for a homewares business managing over five brands and thousands of SKUs, as well as E-commerce, Trading & UX Manager for the one of the worlds largest global manufacturers of luxury cookware.  

The roles I’ve had have all required a balance of creativity, data analysis, and strong commercial focus, whilst mentoring, leading and developing teams for future success.  My varied experience gives me the benefit of a 360 degree approach to my role, regardless of product type or industry, which has given me more flexibility and greater opportunities throughout my career.

What are your tasks/responsibilities at Northern Lights Ltd?

My role at Northern Lights is very varied.  With responsibility across the whole marketing spectrum, my remit is to build the brand and secure its position within the marketplace to drive awareness, identify routes to market, and build strategies for commercial growth. 

I lead on developing our product positioning & launches, website developments, social channels, exhibitions, media, PR and advertising, campaigns & content direction, and materials for our BDMs.  I’ve developed frameworks and standardized marketing processes, as well as ensuring collection, measurement and analysis of information to make data-driven decisions.

What technology is most frequently utilized at your work?

I have introduced Asana to my organization as a Project Management tool for large-scale projects and exhibitions.  It’s a great way to facilitate cross-departmental working and transparency.  I also love its intuitive features, like auto sending email reminders when a task is nearing its deadline, or highlighting overdue elements that will prevent the project from moving forward.

For social, we use Hootsuite for scheduling and Linkin.Bio which has really helped grow website visits from our Instagram channel (@nl_lighting), as well as Issuu to bring our product and project catalogs to life.  

Who has been your most important professional mentor?

I am lucky enough to have had a number of exceptional managers and mentors over the years, and a few not so great ones that have made me appreciate the former even more!  

The majority of my mentors have been strong, inspirational women, not afraid to challenge the status quo or put their head above the parapet.  This in turn has given me the tools to follow suit.

I believe the best professional mentors are the ones who trust and value the input of their teams, choosing to direct rather than micro-manage, and promote the importance of work-life balance.  

What character quality or skill do you believe is most essential for someone to have in order to succeed in your line of work?

You have to be motivated, determined and driven – without exception.  Specific skills can be built over time with training and experience, but to thrive and climb the career ladder without these is almost impossible.  

Thick skin is also required in marketing – everyone has an opinion on how or what you should be doing, as there is no one specific formula to achieve results.  However you have to always be open to constructive criticism, and welcome ideas from other team members – especially if they bring a different dimension.  I love seeing others’ ideas turn into a success and supporting them with this.

With 15 years of experience under my belt I have the knowledge and confidence to push back with solid rationale behind my approaches when questioned, and this in turn has developed trust and respect amongst my peers.  

What is the biggest impediment you are now encountering in your job, business, or project, and how are you overcoming it?

Doing more with less has always been a challenge for marketers, and never more so than now.  I haven’t met a single person working in this field who’s said ‘we have too much budget,’ or ‘we’ve got too much time on our hands.’  

The key is to upwardly manage expectations, set clear goals and objectives, and if in doubt – use the resource vs impact matrix to help prioritize.  Instead of using 100’s of apps and software, choose those with most integrations for less resource demand on your team.

Communication underpins all of this.  Good communication within your team, cross-departmentally and upwards to Directors is critical in balancing demand, budgets and resources.

What is one thing you believe everyone should learn throughout their lives from their job?

I believe calculated ‘risks’ are necessary for future growth and development.  Testing out ideas, concepts, theories or new software could lead to better outcomes, more efficient ways of working, etc.  

People are often fearful of trying something new and getting it wrong, and what the repercussions will be.  Companies need to make allowances for this to encourage staff to experiment.  I’m lucky that at Northern Lights they encourage exactly this.

Not only is this beneficial to careers, but it expands into personal life too.  The more you try without fear of getting something wrong, the more opportunities present themselves and the greater experience you are able to gain.

What keeps you motivated at work during the day?

I’ve worked remotely from home for the last three years, and never really had issues with motivation – usually because I’m so busy I don’t have time to stop! Walking my dogs pre-work, at lunch and post-work gives me an enforced break from my screen, fresh air and a bit of exercise.  

I try to eat healthy and make weekly priority lists so I know exactly what needs to be achieved each week which helps to keep me focused, and not procrastinate about upcoming projects that I need to deal with the following week or month.  

I also use my calendar to set reminders and block out time to work on specific tasks that require a lot of headspace.  

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

Don’t take things personally – it’s all part of the journey and experience-building.

Don’t prioritize work over and above your health or relationships – take a balanced approach to both as they are equally important.

Soak up all you can from positive role models and mentors, so you can bring this to your future teams and inspire the next generation of marketing leaders.