Making the dots connect

Natasha Sandoval

An interview with:

Natasha Sandoval – Marketing and communications expert

Experience:

Vice President Marketing – Scandit
Head of Content and Digital Marketing – DXC technology
Manager, EMEA CxO and Digital Programs / Field Marketing Leader for Northern and Emerging Markets – HP

Sectors:

Information Technology

In your current or previous position as a marketer, what experience do you have in communication and explaining a complex business, subject, product or service?

NS: Plenty of experience due to the nature of our company.

I have been working for the last 6 years for Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services Group which has recently merged with another company called CSC, we are now called DXC Technology.

In general, we are in the IT services business – we help our clients manage their IT and guide them through the process of digital transformation. The portfolio of services that we offer to our clients is extremely broad and can be very complex. From a marketing perspective, it is imperative for us to find focus and clarity in communicating our value proposition to the clients.

Can you give an example of a project where you have successfully communicated a complex subject in a simple way to your primary audience? Tell us about the approach you took and your successes?

NS: I’d like to use the example of the Smart Connected Manufacturing campaign that we rolled out to the market about a year and a half ago. Essentially the campaign worked around our value proposition and messaging for the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing industry is generally perceived as quite traditional and not the one that’s been at the forefront of digital transformation. However, things have changed relatively recently due to technology advancements, fierce competition and in particular very demanding customers. Customers are expecting smarter products and more intuitive services and manufacturers need to adapt.

First of all, we started by firmly putting a ‘stake in the ground’ in terms of our point of view and value proposition for manufacturing clients. However, looking into complexity of our portfolio and technologies that we offer i.e. cloud services, security services, analytics and data management, applications etc, then trying to put it into context of a particular industry, makes that job even more complicated.

As a marketeer, my first question to my business stakeholders was and always is, “what is our value proposition to this particular market segment or this particular client?” This is what we started with, we said “what is it we have to offer to our clients that is relevant and valuable to them?” This is how our point of view “Smart Connected Manufacturing” got started.

When working in a particularly complex industry, how have you gained insight to your audience’s knowledge and understanding of your business, subject, product or service? What approach have you found most effective?

NS: Looking into all the sources available to us, we would usually start with research done by industry analysts, like IDC, Gartner, Forrester and many others. We certainly talk to our sales and client executives as they have particular insight into what their clients are dealing with. We also look into what our competition is doing in the market, so really doing a 360-degree research, and that is exactly what we did for this campaign when we got started.

Customers are expecting smarter products and more intuitive services and manufacturers need to adapt.

Again, when thinking about working in a particularly complex industry, how have you tailored communications to multiple stakeholders? How did you tackle this, what techniques did you apply and what did you find most effective?

NS: A particular challenge that we had was clearly defining the target audience for whom we are creating the message and the campaign. Our traditional audience are IT people, but when you are talking about an industry or business transforming, it concerns the whole company including the factory, R&D, distribution, marketing and even the customers, you really need to put it in the language of the business and be very diligent making sure that we continue to speak the language of our target audience.

What we have done in terms of trying to bridge the distance between IT and the business, is to look from the perspective of the clients we are trying to address. I really think it’s the first place anyone should start with. So if I am a CEO of a manufacturing company, what are the issues that I am dealing with right now, and as a matter of fact this is where a lot of research comes in, so you can actually look at the published interviews with those executives, the information that they are posting on their company’s website and social media. You can understand their business priorities and you work your way backwards from there.

This is the language they’re using, these are the issues that are relevant to them, these are the things that we need to address, hence this is the language we need to use when speaking to them. And for us, it is also important to bring our perspective into this – what is our view on this industry transformation, what does success look like, what technology can help them solve their problems, and how we as a services company can help. The educational aspect of sharing our knowledge, experiences and use cases is what people find valuable.

How have you measured the success of your communications? What measurement methods have you found most effective?

NS: The most effective has been taking this point of view and presenting it to our clients. We have done it at various events and one on one meetings, and of course, internally with our own client-facing community – we’ve conducted several educational sessions, recorded them and shared the messaging very broadly in the company. We also asked several client executives to present it to their clients and sourcing advisors. We also tested it with Gartner, Forrester and other analysts before we went broadly to the market with it. At the end, we got a lot of feedback on an individual basis from our key stakeholders.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a fellow marketer working in a complex industry?

NS: Make it simple and be consistent!

When planning a marketing program or campaign, first ask “what is the target audience?”, “what is our value proposition to them?” and “why should they listen to us?” It sounds maybe a little too simplistic or academic, but I see many cases when people jump straight into marketing execution tactics without considering those factors. And you cannot create effective and relevant communication without thinking of it first. The rest becomes simple once those key questions are answered.

And once you define your message, document it and share it in the most effective manner. It has to be simple and short, with as many visuals as possible. Your audience will remember the core message if it’s communicated clearly, repeatedly and consistently over time. Research shows that we remember only about 25% of what’s presented to us. In fact, we tend to forget from one-half to one-third of it within eight hours. So keep repeating the same message until it sinks in.

The rest of the content and marketing assets that you develop for a campaign will vary depending on their purpose and use, but they should always anchor to the core value proposition story.


Thanks Natasha. It’s great to talk to you and hear your thoughts and experiences of making complex simple.

View the Connected Manufacturing project that Natasha talks about