Katherine Nguyen knows sales. Starting out at the age of 10, she sold fresh produce in her backyard in war-torn Vietnam to help her family survive.
Now head of marketing for Australia and New Zealand at Acer, the fourth largest computer retailer in the world, Nguyen combines the street smarts of her childhood with the cultural sophistication of a woman who has held senior executive roles at some the region’s largest technology firms, including Nokia and Samsung.
Read on for our recent conversation.
CMO.com: What are the most important consumer trends you are observing?
Nguyen: It would be the power that the Internet and technology have given the consumer.
I call them the “i-consumer,” with “i” standing for both information and the individual, because there is a strong “me” factor at play.
The i-consumer has immense power–the power to voice their opinion through social media, forums, and communities. They have the technology, they have information, and they have the platform to share it on.
Such a trend is supported statistically: In the B2B space, 75% of buyers research the seller before meeting or agreeing to engage in conversation, while 72% of shoppers in-store already know which product they want to purchase.
These i-consumers walk into a store to buy a product while price comparing on their phones as they browse the aisle.
CMO.com: What is the opportunity for chief marketing officers?
Nguyen: Such trends have created new challenges as well as opportunities for marketers.
Big data and technology provide marketers with the biggest chance to embrace the conversation with consumers even before they know they need to buy a product.
The CMO will have to know the technology and be able to work with technology people. That may be an IT manager or a CIO, or it may be a very tech-savvy agency or a CRM system that captures consumers’ interest and is able to start a conversation with them. It’s an opportunity to partner the business and the technology and to remove silos.
The importance of getting marketing and technology on board the same train for the journey is what I learnt early on, and I think that’s going to be an important lesson for years to come. The technology will change, but the need to work together will remain the same.
CMO.com: What are the basics marketers need to focus on in the current environment?
Nguyen: Analysing, planning, and measurement.
Marketers need to address the disruption driven by changing consumer behaviours, media consumption, and device usage. Technology has changed how people interact with a brand, and the way we market has to change as a result.
Measurement is one of the elements many marketers miss. They throw one big idea out there and hope it’s going to work. That is why effective planning is so important–better planning to deliver ROI by effective targeting and eliminating the waste in marketing spends.
It has to start with understanding your database and going through it to filter and classify people–by their needs, barriers, or desires, for instance–because then you can talk to them about the subject that matters to them. Tailoring your message with an offering to meet that demand and talking to them on that level really drives ROI–because when you give them what they really want, their propensity to interact with you increases.
This makes a strategy both powerful and effective.
CMO.com: What are some of your wins in this area?
Nguyen: The Acer Inner Circle App initiative is a branded “sales partner” rewards mobile app. It is built to acquire members, engage via product training and sell-out tracking, and reward partners through a point system.
Retail sales staff are one of the most important influences on a consumer’s purchase decision. Getting product information, sales tools, promotional, and marketing messages echoed and amplified at stores is critical to winning at the last three feet. With a wide retail store network–over thousands of stores across Australia–it is challenging for brands to reach out to sales staff as fast and direct as needed.
The more we are able to engage with sales staff, the better they know the ins and outs of all the products they sell–given they are required to sell [computer] hardware from a number of different brands.
CMO.com: How did you know marketing was the right profession for you?
Nguyen: I’ve always had a marketer in me busting to get out. I opened my own “shop” in my backyard in Vietnam as a 10-year-old selling fruit and other bits and pieces.
I started my proper career working as marketing manager for Nokia in Indochina countries, and as marketing manager for Samsung in Vietnam.
I arrived in Australia in 2010 with no job and no contacts, but I am determined, if nothing else, and worked my way up through the ranks to be named the head of marketing for Acer Australia and New Zealand in 2014.
I love the mix of analysis and creativity marketing requires. I’m not only suited to marketing, I’m particularly suited to technology marketing–I love technology and what we can do with it. I’m one of those people glued to a mobile device from the minute I wake up. Our motto is “powering your next adventure” and that’s what I thrive on doing every day.
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