Moving from task-based marketing to customer-centric marketing is not an easy feat. It’s not just about educating your team or digging into the intricacies of who your customers are, but a matter of revolutionizing the entire culture.
We spoke to Vittoria Gambirasi, Marketing Director at IMD Business School, about her career journey as a consultant, the changing nature of the economy, and how to become a customer-focused marketing machine.
Vittoria’s Career Journey
I haven’t had a classic career in marketing. Working in different roles over the past couple of decades made me realize that I don’t want to be stuck in one field. I’ve always been a bit of a polymath with a variety of different interests.
Though it was difficult in the beginning, marketing is now one of my biggest strengths. I started working at Shell. This is when I realized my passion for working in consumer goods, so I joined Kraft Food to help Italian brands expand into eastern markets.
It was a pretty entrepreneurial role where I worked across both the marketing and sales departments. My division was sold, so I moved on to the Bolton Group. Working in Bolton was intense. I learned a lot during my time there helping brands penetrate Hungary and Poland. I was managing both the distribution, advertising side of things and negotiating the deals.
I always felt like I was in a sink or swim situation, but it forced me to get comfortable with learning new things on the fly. This skill has been invaluable in shaping my career and ensuring I’m always making the most out of my potential.
I moved to Nestle in 2003 before becoming the Global Marketing Lead 9 years later, in 2012. I spent a lot of time building “The Nestle Way”. Defining the company’s approach towards content, branding, understanding customers’ pain points, be the guardian of the global brand’s architecture, defining customer journeys frameworks and global digital implementations were my main responsibilities.
From MBA to Marketing Director
My journey with IMD Business School started when I moved to Accenture as a Digital Transformation Executive. My role entailed pitching, educating, and consulting. It was incredible to gain a behind-the-scenes glimpse into businesses as an outsider.
After my time with Accenture, it seemed natural to do an Executive MBA. I did it with IMD, and halfway through, the President asked me to join them as a Marketing Director.
So I finished my Master of Business Administration (MBA) while working there. Sometimes it felt like juggling a lot. To be honest, the MBA was almost the perfect business school. It set me up nicely for my role as IMD’s Marketing Director.
I found the leadership stream to be particularly insightful. I always thought of leadership as a ‘you either have it or you don’t’ kind of thing. This module showed me that anyone can become a leader, but it takes a lot of concerted effort and learning as you go.
Moving towards the customer-centric approach
IMD is a business management school and a nonprofit foundation and a match of two seemingly different mindsets – academia and business.
As Marketing Director, my role is to focus our team’s attention on customers’ needs. I found that our team was very focused on their tasks and responsibilities forgetting that these tasks were aimed at helping our customers.
I think this has been my main achievement: helping our team move beyond their task-based focus and progress towards a more cohesive, customer-focused approach.
3 steps to create meaningful customer-focused marketing
There are 3 main steps to move from task-based marketing to customer-focused marketing.
1. Define the brand purpose
This is a huge task: define it and align all the organization and the business around it. And then stick with it!
2. Define your target customers
We did a mixture of interviews and general research to understand who we were currently serving. We asked a ton of questions, such as “What is your main motivation for attending?” or “What are your career goals and how will an MBA from IMD help you achieve these?”.
I don’t think you can ever ask too many questions. You don’t want to bombard customers and annoy them, but gain amazing insights by asking them simple and straightforward questions. It’s often overlooked by marketers who prefer to focus on fancy strategies.
Once you have understood the current situation you choose your target customer based on the attractivity of the segment and the ability of your brand to win with that particular target.
3. Educate your team and change the culture
Workshops are a great way to do this. They’re a fun way of getting everyone to work together and think outside the box. It instills a positive spirit in the workplace and helps people who may not usually work together to form a relationship.
Over time, different areas of the business start collaborating more regularly. It ensures greater company-wide alignment.
There is also a question of hiring the right people. You need employees who have a true “can-do” attitude. You need people who are comfortable assuming ownership, always focus on goals and outcomes, and ultimately get things done.
Transparency is another crucial factor in ensuring you have the right internal culture. Teams shouldn’t hide what they’re doing. Everyone should know what each team is up to, and how this translates to achieving the ultimate shared goal.
These concepts are obvious, but surprisingly hard to achieve. Changing a culture can be awkward. You may end up alienating certain people who don’t share your views. But if you get it right, the result is rewarding.
I’m lucky. My team is extremely bright and trusted in the process right from the get-go.
No matter which industry you operate in, or how big your team is, culture always boils down to asking the same essential questions:
● What is your brand purpose?
● What problem(s) are you trying to solve? What is customer insight?
● How can you make people’s lives easier or more enjoyable? How you can engage them in a branded rewarding experience?
Once you have your answers, focus on building a culture and customer experience around the organization’s goals.
In the shoes of a leader
Leadership is about knowing yourself, honing your communication skills, and working on how you interact with other people. You should be brutally honest about the person you are: your quirks, what people like and dislike, and how to do your job better to get the most out of people working with you.
This is tough. We all like to think that we know best and our opinions are right. It’s quite a challenge to stop and consciously reexamine yourself.
Being a good leader requires self -transformation which begins with the awareness and the recognition of the hard truths of you. You need to go digging into yourself, learn how to be adaptive in order to lead the change!Vittoria Gambirasi, Marketing Director at IMD Business School