Today’s Pro Interview features Greg Owens, a veteran in the information and communications technology sector, holding various marketing and communications roles. He is also the founder of Owens Communications Group.
Pagezii – Greg, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Greg – I’ve been working in the field of marketing and communications for more than 20 years; mostly B2B and for information communications technology (ICT) companies, including Corel, Nortel, and Newbridge/Alcatel/Alcatel-Lucent. I love learning about new technologies and helping others to understand it. One of the best parts about working in a hi-tech marketing environment is getting to translate complex ideas into material that’s compelling and accessible for others. I have an undergraduate degree in political science and I’m currently completing a graduate degree in organizational communications, which I’ll finish in 2017.
Pagezii – What got you started in marketing?
Greg – I have the gift of the gab. Ask anyone who’s ever met me. I started my career as a technical writer, writing user manuals and coding on-line help files. After about six years, I got an opportunity to make the switch to technical marketing writing. Don’t be fooled by the similar job titles. That extra word – marketing – made a world of difference to me. Thanks to a couple of very patient managers…they know who they are. I learned the ropes and spent the next five years in marketing communications – writing white papers, brochures, articles, blogs, web content and press releases.
Pagezii – How would you best describe marketing in a Tech environment?
There are many opportunities for personal growth
Greg – Well the three words that come to mind are ever-changing, opportunity-rich and guilt-free. What I mean by ever-changing is whether it’s the twice-yearly organization updates or the near-daily technological advances, you need to embrace change if you want to survive in the hi-tech industry. Personally, I enjoy the occasional shake-up. They tend to challenge convention, inspire analysis, and present new opportunities.
Now for opportunity-rich – because of the constant change in the industry, there are many opportunities for personal growth. I’m living proof of this. I spent nearly 15 years with Alcatel-Lucent (now Nokia) and held positions in a variety of roles, including marketing communications, media relations, customer marketing and product marketing. Although I have a degree in political science, I led teams of marketing professionals who – for the most part – were engineers or computer scientists. These opportunities only presented themselves because I was a known commodity.
And finally guilt-free, I think that this one requires a bit more explanation than the other two. A former colleague of mine summed it up perfectly when he once told me that he preferred to market and sell products to people who understood what they were buying. What he meant by that – and what I enjoy most about hi-tech, B2B marketing roles – is that you are dealing with an intelligent, well-informed audience. For the most part, you are not utilizing tricks or slight-of-hand to sell them something.
Pagezii –What has been your most memorable marketing campaign?
Greg – For me, the most recent work is always most fresh in my mind, so I would have to say that it was a three-part video series that I worked on with my team in the Motive division of Alcatel-Lucent. Motive was the ALU sub-brand for customer experience management (CEM) software. In a nutshell, we designed interfaces for help desk agents that troubleshoot and resolve issues with telecommunications equipment, like the Wi-Fi router that you have in your home that lets you connect to the Internet. We wanted to give the topic a fresh and entertaining spin, so we created a series of three 2-minute videos that revolved around a character named Lily.
We measured the success of the videos using a variety of metrics, but one of the best stories that we heard was from one of our sales colleagues. She was attending an industry conference that was sponsored by one of our main competitors. One of the presentations given during the conference was given by a Motive customer; a prospect for our competitor. The presentation began with one of our 2-minute “Lily’s World” videos.
The marketing team took a lot of satisfaction from seeing the photos from that event, showing our video being played, with the Alcatel-Lucent logo featured prominently, alongside posters and signs of our competitor. They had spent a considerable sum sponsoring the event and we didn’t spend a penny for that particular piece of publicity. The video series was also recognized by our CMO and received an award from an industry organization whose membership includes a significant number of our best customers.
Pagezii – In your opinion, how has the role of marketing changed in the last decade?
We act as an interface between the organization & the outside world
Greg – Content has become more targeted and personalized. I don’t think I’ll shock anyone with that news. You don’t see a lot of generic e-mail blasts being sent out these days. In the B2B space, marketing is more focused on the customer than ever before. For me, I feel like I know a lot more about their pain points, goals, and aspirations.
That being said, I continue to be amazed by the level of narcissism and self-absorption that continues to permeate many marketing initiatives. Social media posts continue to highlight executive appointments and other internal concerns. As marketers, our job is to act as an interface between the organization and the outside world. Typically, this means finding the right balance between the competing demands of the organizations that we support and our audience.
Pagezii – What must tech marketers do to stay competitive in 2017?
Greg – If marketers want to guarantee their job security, then they must build a close relationship with sales. I know that a lot of people are talking about measuring the effectiveness of marketing efforts. This isn’t new, but measuring the “ROI” of marketing efforts is difficult. On the other hand, an endorsement from a salesperson – especially after a big win – can’t be beat. But how do you do this? Simple. Find out what they need to win those big deals. I could go on at length about this, but I’ll be as brief as I can.
First get to know the salespeople. All of them. Make a list of who they are, what accounts they’re responsible for, what has been successful for them and what challenges their customers are dealing with. Communicate with each of them as often as possible. Bi-weekly phone calls are a good start.
Secondly find out what they need to sell. In one of my recent jobs, the checklist was simple: thought leadership materials, competitive information, a good customer presentation, customer success stories and product collateral.
Pagezii – Thank you, Greg, for a very insightful and comprehensive view into marketing in the tech industry. Our readers are sure to appreciate your candid views.