Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m a Marketing Director at Ricoh, UK and Ireland and have been with Ricoh for about 15 years. Day-to-day, I’m responsible for providing the right leadership, aligned to the company’s strategy. When I joined the organization it was very much a print-centric business. While that’s still an important part of the business, we have a greater focus on digital services such as IoT communication, outsourcing, and cyber security. We’ve made a lot of acquisitions over the last 15 years. When I joined, it was a 130 million pound business. Last year, it was a 500 million pound business. So as you can tell, it has diversified and changed a lot over the years which, of course, has brought new challenges from a marketing perspective.
So how has Covid impacted your business and team?
A few years ago my team and I did some formal agile marketing training, so we considered ourselves to be quite an agile team. What lockdown showed us was that we needed to be even more agile than we already were. We realized that we had to act very, very quickly to stay ahead of the game. So we put a plan together, establishing five key pillars that we felt were important. We quickly invested in some technology platforms to help us engage with our customers in a more virtual capability and by the end of April we had two full-blown webinar streams running, which enabled us to continue to engage with our customer base. We also launched some new campaigns which went out in April.
We were pretty lucky I guess that physical events were not a huge part of our strategy prior to Covid. That said, over the years we have created a lot of platforms to physically get in front of customers. So for instance, we have a very nice office in Broadgate in London where we often would present to customers, give them tours…this would happen on a daily basis. Obviously that had to stop. So we needed to add something different to our marketing mix.
So we created this campaign, designed around one of our five pillars, called “Work together anywhere”. It was all about helping customers to solve their problems very quickly. And hopefully from that perspective, they will look to us as someone who can guide them through these challenging times.
Unlike many other companies, a big advantage we have at Ricoh is that a lot of the solutions we offer, help organizations today with challenges they are experiencing due to Covid. So at the start of lockdown, we were able to start talking about how we can enable smart home working through our IT services business. We spoke about process automation and how to make information, currently stuck in your office, available to your remote working teams. And how you can help people to be more collaborative through the use of tools such as Microsoft Teams and Office 365.
Now of course these conversations are turning to: how can we help you return to the office smartly? How can our software help with room booking, thermal cameras and digital signage. I realise for a lot of organizations that perhaps are selling things that didn’t meet pressing needs of their customers, they may have had to switch to more of a long-term relationship building strategy, but from our perspective, we addressed a lot of challenges businesses are facing today, while of course also focusing on that relationship building element as well.
Ultimately I see marketing’s job right now as creating conversations for our salespeople. If we can create those conversations, understand challenges that individuals and businesses are facing within the current circumstances, then somewhere in there, there will be value that Ricoh can add to that company.
And how are you guys making use of data for the purposes of enhancing your marketing activities?
I think the challenge with data at the moment is that there’s so much of it around and therefore finding the right data to make meaningful decisions can be hard.
From our perspective, one member of our team has done some great work this year investing time into developing a PowerBI platform so that we can see what customers are doing in terms of their engagement with us. So now, we can bring together multiple touchpoints such as webinars, social, emails, blogs, ebooks, and the website, to see patterns in behavior.
I think it’s a challenge for all organizations to get the right data at the right time and in the right format to help you make the right decisions. We’ve definitely taken some big steps forward this year because now we’ve got a dashboard that takes feeds from all of our inputs, our customer touchpoints, and it allows us to segment that data in a much more scientific way.
Ultimately the end goal of all this is that when customers receive communications from us, they feel that it’s extremely pertinent, timely, and relevant, almost like the communication was made especially for them.
How does Turtl fit into the context of what you’re doing?
Turtl is probably our prime content hub in terms of delivery to customers. We’ve created, probably, a dozen ebooks during the last 12 weeks as part of bringing our five key pillars to life. We are currently trying to create a virtual showroom using the platform as well. It’s basically become our de facto platform for us to present our story online.
What’s the relationship like between marketing and sales at your organization?
Well, I actually come from a sales background, so I came into marketing with a very commercial view. I often say that if you go and buy a book on sales or marketing, you can’t get a good one without talking about both functions because they are one – they should have one common goal and if they don’t, then something is going wrong.
We’ve always had good sales and marketing alignment. I think over the last few months, it’s actually gotten even better. Ironically really, since we’re not meeting face-to-face and we’re doing more virtual meetings. But because of the strategy we took, we’re a lot more focused – we know the role marketing has to play in generating content and topics that will create conversations, and our sales team then engages with those customers to find where we can add value to those topics. So yeah, it’s probably as good as it’s ever been.
There are always going to be points of contention, for instance where everything is urgent and needed tomorrow. What we do is that at the start of a quarter, we create a document outlining what we are going to focus on for that quarter and we share it with sales and ask them if they have any problems with it. If there are no problems then when people start knocking on the door two weeks later asking if we can do this and do that, we have the ability to say “yes we can but which of the things from this document are you going to take out or delay to allow us to do that thing you want us to do?”
For pretty much all of the activity we do, we have touchpoints with sales. We say, for instance, “we’re building this, would you mind validating it for us?” So we take selective input all the way through the journey. What we don’t want to do is to go off and create something in isolation and then at the end of it find out that it’s not fit for purpose. So we work highly collaboratively in that sense.
What can marketers do to ensure they stay relevant within their business now that everyone is working remotely?
I think it’s important to find replacements for the way we interact. One of the things we’ve been doing, probably for two or three years now, is that every Wednesday at 8.30am, we run a 30 minute sales enablement session. And the subjects change week-to-week. It could be launching a new product, it could be launching a new sales tool, or it could be reminding them of a value proposition. It’s just a 30 minute time investment to learn something that will be pertinent to a conversation they’re going to have with a customer today, or a tool they might be able to use in the future. What’s been amazing during lockdown is that it hasn’t just been sales people joining, we’ve seen different parts of the company joining because they want to understand the content we’re presenting. The interaction and questions have been growing all the time. We’re also using tools like Microsoft Teams to create chat rooms around different topics, where people can leave comments or share useful links and information. So while of course we’re missing face-to-face, it’s about finding other tools to do things to maintain that relevancy.
What would you say are the biggest challenges for marketers at the moment?
Probably the first one to touch on is the risk of individual burnout. What we’ve seen this year is basically three years of acceleration in three months. The demands on marketing over the last few months have been huge. It’s gotten a bit better now, maybe because we have brought some people back from furlough or maybe because we’ve got the balance a bit more right now. But certainly we had to work really fast at the start.
I think the pressures on marketing are high, particularly with less resources available and tight turnarounds expected. The irony of course is that everyone is working from home, so no one is commuting anymore. So that time that was spent travelling has been sucked into working more hours. I do believe that this is going to continue to be a big challenge moving forward.
Another challenge we have to face is around relevancy: how do we make sure that the conversations we’re having are relevant? A lot has changed this year, as we all know. The environments people exist in today are very different to those before Covid. In the past when working from home, I was not set up like I am today at my desk, with multiple screens and a comfy chair. Looking ahead, will I be going to London three or four days a week in the future? Almost certainly not. I’ll be going to London maybe one or two days a week. I don’t need to go there. I’m equally productive here. So my point is, we’ve got to make ourselves relevant given the environments our customers exist within. And external factors play a part in that, whether it be Brexit, the economy, or digital transformation. And we need to constantly be asking ourselves that question: are we still relevant. We may be relevant today, but what about tomorrow? Next week? Next year?
Are there any opportunities that you think marketers could be exploiting right now?
I think given everything going on in the world around us, this is a great opportunity for marketers to become more front and center of transformation within their businesses. Companies are looking to marketing right now to add even more value than they normally do. I think the opportunity exists to help organizations to become more customer centric. We’ve got to be more relevant, more timely, and do it faster than ever before, and marketing is in a perfect position to drive this. So that, I think, is marketing’s biggest opportunity right now.
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