As customers find themselves in the digital era, their expectations and demands have evolved when purchasing products or solutions. They are better-informed, digital and social media savvy and seek innovation. In such an environment, marketing managers across vendors, distributors and partners need to constantly conceive innovative ways to capture the mindshare of customers in an increasingly competitive IT space, which is challenging to say the least.
Over the last five years, the marketing function has had the most innovation and change, mainly due to digital, says Yasmin Khaliq, marketing director, Equinix MENA. “The change continues, tactics and strategies used by marketers becoming more cutting-edge and honing in on precision targeting of end – customer base.”
According to Carlos Robles, head of Brand and Communications, GBM, today customers are seeking brands that can understand their needs.
“They are looking for those firms that can deliver an experience that goes beyond the initial ‘product’ pitch.”
Technology brands should also keep in mind that customers now have the means to engage with them on a regular basis on social media platforms.
“This has shifted the way brands think and deploy their strategies. Today if you don’t think about the customer first, your brand could be ignored or can become irrelevant,” adds Robles.
Marketers should look at engaging with target audience through digital tools. Think Software Services’ marketing manager Kavitha Advani says immense creativity is key.
“Irrespective of which industry we focus on, high resolution and high definition creative videos form core parts of any marketing campaign success. Digital marketing tools like Instagram have a great impact across UAE.”
Those marketers who shy away from using social media platforms are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with relevant customers. According to a 2017 HubSpot report, 74 percent of people say they use Facebook for professional purposes while a 2016 eMarketer report revealed that one-third of the world uses social networks regularly.
If you are not using social media tools for marketing strategies then you are out of the market, says Sakkeer Hussain, director, sales and marketing, D-Link Middle East and Africa.
“The biggest change from traditional marketing is that today social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, are playing a vital role in creating effective strategies to reach relevant customers within a matter of seconds,” he adds.
Shankari Gnanadesikan, marketing manager, Gulf, Aptec-An Ingram Micro Company, says, “Digital and social media is also a boon for marketers as they provide ready to use analytics and dashboards to measure ROI for every dollar spent.”
eHosting DataFort’s senior marketing executive, Gunika Arora, points out that a well-planned social media marketing strategy can bring remarkable success to businesses of all sizes.
“This is because it helps in increasing website traffic and conversions, enhancing brand awareness, creating a brand identity and positive brand association and improving communication and interaction with key audiences.”
It is interesting to note that a distributor’s role in marketing has also evolved over time. It is no longer just about organising partner enablement sessions, managing agencies for vendors and running promotions.
Aditya Puri, senior marketing manager, Redington Value, explains that value-added distributors (VADs) had functioned as vendors’ extended arm to manage executions as per their centralised marketing strategies.
“Today incremental business for vendors is dependent on how VADs successfully run ROI based campaigns. Apart from traditional platforms, digital marketing has taken off in a big way,” he adds. “As a VAD, it is no longer possible to sit back and drive vendor strategies, we have to be instrumental in creating customer-centric strategies to drive incremental sales.”
Agreeing with Puri, Gnanadesikan adds, “We are seeing a growing importance and relevance given to marketing function in the channel business. There is a significant increase in the investment allocated to channel marketing initiatives driven by distribution.”
All the marketers are in consensus that ‘innovation’ should be at the centre of their strategies, no matter how daunting it might be. However, Equinix’ Khaliq says this doesn’t mean that it needs to be big.
“Innovation success is measured, not by the magnitude of the change, but of the results. The question for all regional marketers is what are the outcomes of all that we do?” she says. “Moreover, marketing needs to help create an innovative DNA and culture in the core organisation.”
“Innovation is a much-needed ongoing experiment. We need to have our eyes and ears open to sense it and then quickly act upon it,” says Avinash Kagava, manager, Corporate Marketing and Communications, ManageEngine.
This is only possible if marketers have a deep customer knowledge and knows what will be effective as per unique characteristics of the market.
“Understanding the market and the target audience is imperative for successful marketing in any region. Language and culture in the Middle East region is so rich and diverse, we continuously seek assistance from our local partners and vendors to align with our customers, and to get our products to do the talking,” says Kagava.
While communicating the brand message successfully to customers from diverse backgrounds is a challenge, another big one that Puri sees is that the majority of the marketing execution is often left to agencies who have limited knowledge on marketing technology. Also, marketing budgets are being consumed for creating extravagant events, which may not be always necessary, unless it is a major launch or announcement.
“Technology selling in a B2B environment is more about understanding customer pain points and building solutions to solve them,” he says. “While organising heavily branded events surely attract attendees, marketing managers should keep in mind that it is also a myopic strategy. Customers are more interested in solving their business problems rather than attending glitzy events.”
Marketing is all about the way you communicate and tell the brand’s story. The onus is on marketing managers to ensure this is done as sophisticatedly as possible, without diluting the brand image. And it is also about relationships. Over the next few pages, we have featured marketing managers and how they have played a critical role in building positive perceptions for their firms.
What got you interested in marketing? My interest had always been in what makes people take decisions. As marketers, we can drive consumer behaviour using marketing initiatives and then analyse buying patterns to develop future strategies. The entire process fascinates me and drives my passion as a marketer.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep being what you have always been.”
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: The lack of marketing services agencies, which have a clear understanding of technology, is a challenge. I believe there is a big difference in having a heavily branded event and a ROI-driven demand generation activity.
What got you interested in marketing? The whole concept of storytelling and getting people inclined to your stories is an amazing feeling. This piped my interest into marketing. It’s a play of words and strategy and it’s addictive. Beware!
A marketing wisdom you live by: Run your ideas with your closest peers before you share them with the outside world, but execute your gut feeling.
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Understanding the market dynamics, language and culture when carrying out a marketing activity in a new region is challenging. This requires detailed preparation and learning as each region is rich and diverse in its culture, and it’s essential to understand these nuances in order to be in tune with the market.
What got you interested in marketing? The ability to bring people together and to get people from differing backgrounds to share your passion for an idea or a brand and feel like you are part of something so much bigger than yourself, got me passionate about marketing.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Learning to say no.
What got you interested in marketing? Ever since I was a child I’ve always had passion for brands. That passion later developed into an aspiration to better understand how many brands emotionally connect with their customers.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “Branding adds spirit and a soul to what would otherwise be a robotic, automated, generic price-value proposition.” – David A. Aaker.
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: I believe my biggest challenge until now has been pinning down how we communicate the value proposition of our solutions and technologies in a language that is simple and digestible to the business leaders outside the IT department.
What got you interested in marketing: Creativity and people – there is the constant challenge to think differently, therefore there is no limit to creativity. To complement this, the most prominent industry currently driving market disruption is the technology sector, hence makes life exciting for marketers like myself. One other remarkable aspect of marketing is the amazing people that you meet along the way – customers, partners, colleagues, agencies.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “Dare to be different.”
Biggest challenge you have faced in the role: The prime objective when I joined the organisation was to create awareness for our brand and to shake-off the incorrect perception that SAP was only for large enterprises. With limited spend on branding, this challenge was a chance to think beyond the traditional marketing mix and gave me an opportunity to be immensely creative.
What got you interested in marketing? Its constant evolving, fast-paced nature.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “Don’t settle: Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.” – Chris Brogan, American author
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Providing the ROI on marketing activities was a challenge in the past. However, with analytics and other tracking tools, this can now be managed. Another challenge is the highly competitive market, and constant innovation is the only way forward.
What got you interested in marketing? The power of marketing to influence buying decisions and things at large is what fascinates me. I am also attracted towards the storytelling aspect of marketing.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “Consumers do not buy products. They buy product benefits.”- David Ogilvy
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Every marketer at some stage faces two major challenges – how to increase recall value of your brand among your target audience and how to measure brand equity.
What got you interested in marketing? Creativity, experiences, various market exposure and everyday challenges in today’s growing market got me interested in marketing.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” – Beth Comstock
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Understanding and keeping up with the fast-growing technology and how to efficiently strike the market.
What got you interested in marketing? I have always loved doing things that are impactful and unique. Also, I have always been a people’s person and this quality has been a catalyst in helping me be a team player and ensuring everyone’s objectives are met within an organisation.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “Marketing is a race without a finish line” – Philip Kotler. As marketers, we set benchmarks with great work but the fact is we have to keep evolving.
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Ensuring ROI is delivered for each campaign for all our vendors has always been a major concern for me. To cope with this, one has to be detail-oriented and simultaneously ensure it’s a win-win situation for us along with our vendors. Additionally, I also believe managing people is an art.
What got you interested in marketing? Marketing is a realm that requires constant brain storming and there is so much room for creativity. The dynamic nature of the industry makes it exciting with limitless possibilities and greater rewards.
A marketing wisdom you live by: If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Keeping up with constant changing trends that marketing goes through.
What got you interested in marketing? The majority of my background is sales. I slowly integrated marketing strategies into my pitches and realised I was pretty good at it. My degree is in photography and I have a passion for design and customer experiences, so it was a natural path for me to take.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “If you’re a good marketing person, you have to be a little crazy.” – Jim Metcalf. Dig a little deeper into the meaning and it’s also about creating stories and showing personality through your marketing initiatives. People buy from people.
What got you interested in marketing? I call myself an ‘accidental marketer’. Even before I completed my PG in computer applications and management, I knew that I did not want to pursue a career in software development. During my internship with a small software development firm, there was an opportunity to take on marketing along with the project management role I held – that opened up the best of both worlds for me, a career in IT and applying my gift as a storyteller.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “You can’t sell anything, if you can’t tell anything.”- Beth Comstock
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: I strongly believe that marketing is everyone’s job. When you cage marketing to just one department, we diminish the impact that every department has on a customer’s experience with us, as an organisation. This challenge is not unique to me – most marketers often mull over the prospect of inculcating a ‘culture of marketing’ across their organisation.
What got you interested in marketing? With good communication skills and a knack to understand the consumer mind-set, I believe in making things happen and get excited when put forward with a new challenge. This motivated me to deep dive into marketing.
A marketing wisdom you live by: All good thoughts and ideas mean nothing without action.
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: For most of my career, the marketing campaigns I have worked on was targeted directly to end customers. At Linksys, I had to adapt to marketing to the IT channel segment. This required deep understanding to tailor my marketing campaigns for each channel segment in each Middle East region. Although, it was difficult to change my thought-process initially, I adapted and learnt the game quickly.
What got you interested in marketing? While doing my Masters at London South Bank (LSBU) University in the UK, I was working as an international student ambassador as a part time job with the marketing and student recruitment department of LSBU. As an ambassador, I had to support a range of University activities, which included outreach and student recruitment, mentoring and ‘buddy’ schemes to support other University students and potential applicants. The role required high-level of energy and enthusiasm. That is how I generated my interest in marketing and decided to make it a career.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “Don’t deliver a product, deliver an experience.”
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: Quick analysis of the data generated in multiple fast-moving digital campaigns is a challenge.
What got you interested in marketing? I love devising creative strategies, which have to cut across cultural and language barriers, so that users can grasp it well.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” – Tom Fishburne
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: As the market is dynamic, it is important to constantly be on your toes and stay updated on current developments in the field. Another challenge is that it is difficult to convince a customer to look beyond the pricing and consider factors such as product features, quality and after-sales services.
What got you interested in marketing? I was fascinated by the power of marketing communications to capture the imagination of the people, influence their feelings and trigger buying decisions.
A marketing wisdom you live by: “Whether B2B or B2C, good marketing essentials are the same. We all are emotional beings looking for relevance, context and connection” – Beth Comstock
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: It has been quite a challenge to move away from traditional B2B marketing and embrace the new wave of digital marketing techniques. It was a rewarding experience to bring all our stakeholders together and chart out the digital strategy.
What got you interested in marketing: When I was in the crossroads of choosing a sound career, I was highly fascinated and impressed to see how an ordinary product transforms into an extraordinary brand with the assistance of the creative engine of marketing. This inspired me to pursue my dreams of becoming a successful marketer.
A marketing wisdom you live by: Marketers should be visionary and creative with a constant thirst for knowledge to adapt and be updated on the market developments.
Biggest challenge you have faced in the role: A good challenge that I constantly try to overcome in all my marketing initiatives is to develop accurate metrics to measure the outcome of the marketing activities and the direct sales/revenue generated from such marcom activities.
What got you interested in marketing? I studied Economics, the discipline of analysing market trends and dynamics to develop strategy, took me into my first role as a market analyst. With my childhood passion of storytelling – it was just a question of time before I was fully immersed in the world of marketing.
A marketing wisdom you live by: Stay ahead of the curve, keep it simple and integrated, and execute with speed and a big dash of passion.
Biggest challenge you have faced in this role: As the MENA marketing lead for Equinix, the challenge has been to increase awareness in the region, across all enterprise verticals and talk about the barriers and the opportunity digital disruption brings.