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Interviews/ General Management

The Interview: Ricoh Marketing SVP Dominic Pontrelli


by Anoop Sahgal
Partner Marketing
Adobe Systems

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Article Highlights:

  • "We must look at every targeted customer segment and vertical market and tailor our messaging and content."
  • "There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t deal with our CIO on many topics."
  • "I see marketing playing a much larger role in communicating changes, enhancements, how business issues will be solved, etc."

Marketing is one of the fastest-changing professions in the world. Strategic marketing initiatives must extend and align globally. New social technologies give consumers more control than ever in the ways a company and its products are perceived. And personalization must extend not only to channels, but also to different vertical markets and even individuals.

Adding to the challenge, other C-level executives expect marketers to lead the charge and be more accountable in today’s new marketing landscape.

Dominic Pontrelli, senior vice president, marketing, Ricoh Americas, has taken these challenges on in ways that exemplify leadership in the world of digital marketing. On's behalf, Anoop Sahgal, industry strategy & marketing, Adobe Systems, had the opportunity to sit down with Pontrelli to discuss his views and tips for marketing success. Could you provide some background on your leadership role at Ricoh?
Yes, I am responsible for the Americas in terms of marketing. I report directly to the CEO of Ricoh Americas, and am closely aligned with all our C-level executives: COO, CFO, SVP HR, SVP legal, SVP sales, and so on. The biggest challenge for me in leadership is that the role of marketing is expanding as we launch our new fiscal year. We have traditional marketing activities to look after, but we’re also more tasked with overseeing development of solution alliances--alliances that ensure our solutions work seamlessly with other vendors’ [solutions]. Given the new world of digital marketing, what are some of your top priorities?
Pontrelli: There are two crucial things to consider as digital initiatives take hold. First, put together a cohesive digital marketing platform that includes social, email, Web, and other facets (all with analytics); and second, emphasize demand generation. We must look at every targeted customer segment and vertical market and tailor our messaging and content so that we are speaking to every customer personally about the problems they must solve every day. We must know what keeps people up at night, and communicate with them in a relevant way to genuinely help solve their problems.

We need to be and are creating vertically focused content, such as whitepapers about electronic patient records or content about being effective as a virtual office worker in an SMB. Marketing is now engaging the customer directly through a variety of campaigns and then monitoring that activity--whitepaper downloads and so on--so that we’re filling the sales funnel for more targeted, qualified follow-ups. What are some of the metrics you use when speaking with other C-level executives?
Our parent, Ricoh Company, Ltd., is global, with $23 billion in revenues. We have one of the largest sales forces and direct customer relationships when compared to our competitors on a global basis.

Given that our focus has shifted more to demand generation, we are constantly asked to communicate clearly how effectively our campaigns are performing. We must have a specific value proposition targeted to each customer’s requirements. Each tagline gets more precise and relevant given the vertical market and the customer segment. And then we use solutions to monitor activity, such as when customers download whitepapers or attend webinars and request that Ricoh call them to discuss the issues in more detail. We have three specific metrics in terms of pipeline growth, revenue associated with leads, and revenue associated with campaigns. Given the new demands on marketing, what does the new marketing organization look like? What skill sets are required?
We now have to map the appropriate technologies and skill sets against the new marketing requirements--that’s a given. So we’ve invested in providing value-added services to our customers, and we’ve put resources toward vertical subject-matter experts to build knowledge of those markets’ specific needs. We are putting more emphasis on analytics so we can take full advantage of big data and customer relationship management systems so that we can ensure we are speaking to our customers properly, and describing and offering the right set of solutions to solve their problems.

We’ve also started working very closely with our information technology group. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t deal with our CIO on many topics. There is a strong alignment and a high level of collaboration. Going forward, I don’t see the sales, marketing, and IT bond ever changing. If anything, it will only get stronger.

[pagebreak] How do you approach social media?
We are highly engaged in social media and have a number of sites on Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogs users can follow. We’ve also centralized our social media platform so we can monitor all social activities in one place and hear the voice of the customer and their peers--whether positive or negative. We know we have to respond in a way that keeps us connected, responsive, and positive as a brand. Like most companies, we are still in the early stages of what’s possible with social media, and we are learning as quickly as possible and continually devising new approaches. How do you see the marketing function evolving, and what’s next?
Technology is changing so quickly--for us, and for our customers. We believe it is up to marketing to keep up to speed with these changes. When it comes to our customers, they face the same rapid evolution as we do every day.

I do see marketing playing a much larger role in communicating changes, enhancements, how business issues will be solved, etc. Studies show that up to 57 percent of companies spend their time researching companies and technologies to solve their business issues before contacting a sales rep. So that’s marketing’s new job: communicate in the proper ways--whether it’s a Web site, email, white paper, customer story, or what have you--with relevant, meaningful messaging.

Our job as marketers is to have a clear understanding of customer requirements and communicate these relevant topics and details to impact sales. When customers call one of our sales reps, the customer should already have a solid idea about how and why we are the right company to solve their challenges. Sales closes the deal, of course, but hopefully the customer is more than halfway there in the decision already. This is crucial now, and will be even more critical in the future for marketers.

About Anoop Sahgal

Anoop Sahgal leads global marketing programs for Adobe's key agency and system integrator alliances. Sahgal has global experience in leadership roles that span marketing, product management, and business development in high technology, and has spent time time working in both the SI and agency worlds. Follow Sahgal on Twitter: @anoop_sahgal.