McKinsey: Uncertainty’s growth opportunity
The events of 2020 presented many businesses with a stark choice: transform or regress.
The pandemic threw many of us into a world of chaotic change where big shifts have completely altered market dynamics. A massive acceleration of digital penetration occurred during 2020. Consumer digital growth jumped ten years in a matter of just three months. Businesses too adapted to remote selling and working at a global scale.
For all the pain and many difficulties the global pandemic has created, it has also provided clarity on the urgent need for a new set of digital marketing muscles. While the impulse to retrench in a time of crisis is understandable, our experience and analysis shows that now is the time to invest for growth. New tools and capabilities now allow marketers to identify changing patterns in every category (and geography) to understand exactly what is happening now and what purchasing behaviours will stick in the future. This new level of technologies and granular insights allows businesses to cope with the unprecedented pace of change that simply hasn’t been seen before.
Whether large or small, and regardless of the sector, organisations face greater competition, alongside the need to stabilise and grow revenue.
Reset for growth opportunities
Every organisation should be thinking about what it can do to get to a position where it can gain a granular understanding of its business, so it can seize growth opportunities. Here are some of the key considerations when moving forward:
- Look for new value – Where companies have historically found a long list of reasons not to evolve, many are seeing that courage and bold moves are required to shift with the market and be successful. Organisations need to invest the time and mental energy to develop a clear picture of where they need to evolve, and plan for the change.
- The race to digital – Businesses should prioritise how they can adapt to new digital and remote working and shopping patterns – because where and how customers are buying is changing. Our 2020 B2B Pulse Survey revealed that 97 percent of UK B2B companies shifted their sales models either partially or fully to remote selling. Some 58 percent of UK company decision makers said the remote model is equally effective or even more effective than what they were doing before the pandemic hit. Because many of these models have proven to be so effective, they are likely here to stay. The best companies are particularly thoughtful about the omnichannel nature of digital, understanding how various channels play off each other, and what combination of them drives the best results.
- Place a premium on understanding the customer – More than 70 percent of consumers tried new shopping behaviours and new brands since the onset of the pandemic. That enormous switch has renewed the focus on understanding customers at a much more granular level than before, and on figuring out how to build stronger relationships, whether through better personalisation or through different offerings. Where data and analytics can provide detailed pictures of customer behaviours, the pandemic has upended old algorithms and companies need to invest in creating new ones, and training them. This is fundamental to gaining a competitive advantage. Organisations should think about how they can close that gap by understanding the drivers behind their changing needs.
- Use technology to empower teams – Technology alone is not a silver bullet for success—businesses can be trapped into investing in great new technologies that actually don’t match their needs well. New processes, possibly even teams, need to be developed to review and act on insights that the data and technology deliver. Teams also need much more autonomy (where appropriate) to take decisions at speed. Good data and guidelines can be helpful in establishing guardrails and providing good tools to empower teams. This reality of how teams use data and tech is all too often forgotten in transformations, and can doom even the most promising initiatives.
Organisations need to consider how they can evolve their use of technology, so they can capitalise on the growth opportunities ahead. It is a new chapter for the business world, and a unique opportunity for businesses to evolve so they are ready for the recovery.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.