Maximize Capabilities And Minimize Waste

Mandisa Ntloko-Petersen’s advice to overcome the risk of martech complexity is to build competencies around technology, content and workflow that enable technology to support marketing strategy efficiently. An interview with the Chief Marketing Officer at BCX.

Mandisa Ntloko-Petersen, Chief Marketing Officer at South Africa’s biggest information and communications technology (ICT) company – BCX, spoke about the challenges brands face while establishing martech stack solutions relevant to business and how changing consumer behavior affects the B2B software industry. She stressed that if the customer relationship is weak, no loyalty program can fix that. Thus, marketers should create customer engagement opportunities to build deep, meaningful relationships.

Excerpts from the interview;

Tell us about your journey.

My information and communications technology (ICT) journey started in 1995, after six years of working for NGOs focused on youth leadership and entrepreneurial development. I joined Text100, a global communications agency specializing in ICT. This is where my love for technology was formed because I worked on the Microsoft Windows 95 PR campaign and Motorola, among other accounts. 

After four years with Text100, the transition to be on the client side was smooth as I joined Nokia Networks in South Africa as their marketing communications manager. When the office was closed in 1999, I was given the opportunity to relocate to Finland to work at the Nokia head office in Espoo, Helsinki, as the marketing communications manager in 3G applications within Nokia Networks, and later, Nokia Mobile Phones because of the organizational restructuring. While at Nokia, I witnessed the exponential growth in telecommunications and the convergence of telecom and IT. 

I returned to South Africa at the end of 2003 to join MTN South Africa as their head of communications. I expanded my marketing communications skills at MTN, especially in brand management, sponsorship, and events management. 

My formative years at Text100, Nokia and MTN subsequently gave me a solid foundation to occupy senior leadership roles as a marketing executive at Dimension Data, Accenture, MTN Business, and BCX, where I am currently the chief marketing officer.

What is the biggest challenge ahead of Martech teams today? And what is the possible solution?

The biggest challenge ahead of Martech teams today can be categorized into three: 

  • Evolving from traditional to digital marketing skills 
  • Leveraging the proliferation of data to drive relevant client-centric marketing initiatives
  • Enriching marketing with non-traditional marketing talent

This is not to say that there is no value in traditional marketing. One needs to be discerning of the new digital way of consuming information leveraging various digital platforms while mining the data and complying with privacy and data sharing regulations. This means sourcing talent from non-traditional marketing fields like data science, artificial intelligence (AI), business intelligence (BI) and industrial psychology to develop new client acquisition tactics across the ever-changing touchpoints.  

How has consumer behavior changed in the B2B software industry? How have you evolved your approach to keep pace?

The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely impacted consumer behavior in the B2B software industry. According to a McKinsey study, in October 2020, more than three-quarters of buyers and sellers preferred digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions – a sentiment that has steadily intensified even after lockdowns have ended.

Safety is one reason, of course. But self-serve and remote interactions have made it easier for buyers to get information, place orders, and arrange service, and customers have enjoyed that speed and convenience. Only about 20% of B2B buyers hope to return to in-person sales, even in sectors where field-sales models have traditionally dominated, such as pharma and medical products.

As BCX, we have evolved our business into a fully digitalized environment that improves operational delivery, making it easier for our employees to deliver operational and client service excellence. Operational excellence is one of the founding principles of BCX. To this end, we have implemented internal operational excellence digital programs that span various aspects of the business: HR, billing, customer engagement, and ease of doing business – all enhanced through digital technologies.

How can enterprises achieve maximum ROI from their martech stack?

Enterprises’ biggest challenge is establishing which martech stack combinations are most relevant to their business and aligning complementary technologies to maximize capabilities and minimize waste.

Gartner published a report in November 2020 titled: Improve Marketing Technology ROI With Strategies From Top Brands. The report highlighted that the disconnect between technology adoption and return on investment is a persistent challenge for digital marketing leaders. Taking cues from high-performing brands (Genius brands) can help drive greater martech utilization. Genius brands rank highest on the Gartner Digital IQ Index (DIQ), which scores more than 2,000 brands on four digital competency dimensions: site, digital marketing channels, social media and path to purchase. Each brand is classified as Genius, Gifted, Average, Challenged or Feeble based on its score.

Many large vendors offer integrated solutions to meet a multitude of marketing capabilities. Genius brands do leverage these products, but point solutions — software designed to solve specific business problems — account for nearly three-quarters of their martech stacks. By comparison, less digitally proficient brands install more integrated products from large vendors at a higher rate. Acquiring all the essential components of a martech stack from a single vendor is uncommon: only 29% of brands have more than one product from a single vendor. 

Gartner’s research finds no correlation between the amount of marketing technology investment and its effectiveness. Not every brand achieves its outcomes in ways that the number of technology solutions alone can explain. For example, about 20% of brands in the Gartner study have swelled in martech complexity yet failed to add sufficient ROI. Just 18% of brands display business performance that correlates with their stacks’ complexity.

The Gartner report further highlights that to overcome the risk of martech complexity, build competencies around technology, content and workflow that enable technology to support marketing strategy efficiently. Assess capabilities to determine if sufficient depth in talent, training and organization is available to utilize the products in your stack.

Genius brands extend their technology with complementary tools and build capabilities that advance their maturity. This combination of tools and work processes may explain the improved returns of brands with greater digital intelligence. High-performing brands are more likely to invest in technologies such as analytics and business intelligence, data science, mobile marketing platforms, demand-side platforms, and digital asset management.

No single technology product is a key to top-performing martech. Instead, brands with high digital intelligence and complex martech stacks combine several linchpin technologies for analytics, data management, advertising, personalization, and multichannel marketing.

How can marketers work to identify and engage their most loyal customers?

There are many tools out there to engage the most loyal customers. These include rewarding customers, offering discounts, encouraging referrals, creating a point system, setting up a subscription service, etc. The list is extensive. It boils down to one fundamental factor most companies overlook – relationships. In the B2B environment, this is imperative. People buy from people; if relationships are weak, no loyalty program will fix that. Thus, the focus for marketers in driving loyalty should be creating customer engagement opportunities to build deep, meaningful relationships.

What advice would you give young professionals joining the marketing and technology workforce?

Young professionals joining the marketing and technology workforce must be intentional about developing their marketing skills across all marketing disciplines. They must strive to be “generalists” by ensuring they get an opportunity to specialize in each discipline and evolve with technology. They need to read and expose themselves to technology and understand how it fits into the business and the value it brings to their customers. Never be afraid to raise their hand for projects they have little experience or knowledge to do. Continuous learning is the key to success!  

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