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Interview with Tom Darnell – A Series of posts about The Betsson Team Leaders

Tom Darnell joined the Betsson group in December 2016 as the new Director of Customer Engagement. His Teams form part of the central functions within the Betsson group, servicing and supporting the Brands, a function Tom considers as a ‘super agency’. The central teams are key to the success of the multi-brand model. Their role, and Tom’s responsibility is to make sure that the 17 Betsson brands leverage the multi-brand advantage as efficiently as possible.

Tom calls himself a generalist. His first job as a low-level temp in the Yellow Pages company in the UK turned into a career in CRM, Business Strategy, Product Innovation, Customer Acquisition Strategies, Corporate and Business Development.

14 years later, he left the company as the Global Director of Product Innovation to run a digital marketing agency. He then put together a digital tech startup before being hand-picked by the Betsson Group for the role of Director of Customer Engagement and relocating to Malta.

Amongst other functions, Tom leads the teams responsible for CRM campaigns, which includes millions of emails and sms-es in 16 different languages. These campaigns drive the conversion, churn prevention and win-back journeys, turning more visitors into customers and ensuring those valuable customers are retained.

His focus on improving conversion and retention rates and using the knowledge and success of one brand to benefit all is already yielding wins. This approach is in alignment with Group Strategy; generating growth organically and through acquisitions under the multi-brand strategy.

Alongside the group’s central CRM team, Tom also orchestrates the strategy behind the central Content Team, Growth Optimisation and UX Teams,  The VIP Account Management Team, and the group’s Poker business. All the teams have a central function within the group, multiplying their results across all the Brands, ensuring efficiencies across the group whilst scaling capabilities and sharing best practice.

Tom talks about the importance of finding balance. It’s important to look at the UX (usability) element of the customer experience to offer the smoothest possible journey for the customer whilst keeping optimisation reasonable so that commercial gain is not compromised. “There is often a tension between building the perfect customer experience and delivering commercial results,” Tom says. 

Data, just like in every leading business, is central in making our business tick. However (Tom smiles) “data can often overcomplicate and blind the process of good decision making”, data is only useful if it used to create actionable insights which drive prioritisation, focus and strategic decisions which enable better products, better customer experience, better processes and ultimately commercial results. Data for the sake of having data is pointless.

Tom started his career in the UK as a Data Analyst but was always more interested in the summarising masses of data into key headlines which enabled action and progress. He understands the importance of marketing and customer data and believes that “Marketing is an art form that never reaches perfection – there’s always room for improvement, you’re only ever 85% correct. Everything needs continual iteration. If you spend your time trying to turn that 85% into 100% you’ll never getting anything done, a pragmatic approach is crucial.”

Businesses that are nimble and can move with emerging channels, products and approaches to get the maximum value as fast as possible will be the winners, not the ones who obsess over the latest fad in ‘big data’.”

How does a large company like the Betsson Group stay nimble? Through great governance, a clear vision everyone believes in and a team that acts and thinks as one.” A team that doesn’t fear change and can reprioritise fast when new elements come into play.

Managing 5 large teams, each with demands from multiple internal clients is not an easy feat. Tom says that making sure that everyone understands the long-term goals, is key to success. “Defining your visions and goals are vital, but just as important is clearly stating what you are not going to do. It takes the fear out of manoeuvring around the obstacles that present themselves along the way and it vital in prioritisation.” Tom calls this defining the edges of operation which allow his manager’s freedom to execute whilst having complete clarity on the end goal.

He says he is excited when all the Teams work as one. The core value of One Betsson constantly requires the re-focus of the organisation, it’s a most important value in achieving success. It is sometimes difficult to take decisions that benefit the group as a whole instead of the individual brand. There can be healthy competition between brands, which is required for the energy and the momentum, but if this is balanced with a strong One Betsson team spirit we will manage to be even more nimble and more successful as a group.

Tom has a bird’s eye view of all the teams and understands that communicating effectively is important and it’s something that everyone can play a part in improving. All the teams make up one team. We are the Betsson team, with common goals and ethics. Communication is key to effective execution and prioritising the governance around effective communication flows is vitally important.

He is a strong believer in the fact that “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” though sometimes the parts may conflict, it is that conflict and ‘healthy tension’ that often drives the most successful results. When all the Teams co-operate magic happens. We reach our goals more easily and more effectively. Directors work together to create a stronger more nimble One Betsson and empower our teams to win.

Tom believes that the Groups’ strong Vision, Good Leadership and collaboration are the wind in the sails of the group. They are the key elements of our success.